The simple monosyllabic question is the bane of many a toddler parent. It seems to be the only question my son has been capable of asking for years.

“And Jack and his mother lived happily ever after with all the golden eggs the magic hen laid for them.”


“Because gold is worth money.”


“Because it’s shiny and doesn’t scratch.”


“Because it’s a metal. And metals are hard.”


“Dude, metals are hard because…because…” and then comes the inevitable finale to his prying investigations, “because God made them that way.”


I close the book and try to turn out the light.



“Why did God make metal hard?”

His curiosity is a bottomless cave that I stumble through in dreary attempts to find a light.

Depending on my mood, I can be either patient or irritated. It’s like how driving a car can tell me exactly where I am spiritually by my level of road rage. A good barometer for my spiritual wellness is how I react when he asks, “why?” If his whys make me irate and threatening, I should probably call my sponsor.

He’s right, though.

Why is the most important question we can ask. Machines can be programmed to work all day. They can handle whatever routine you preset them to handle. The human element is the why element, the self-examination that sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

I’ve taken whys too far.

“This is the third step,” said my first sponsor.


“Because it’s the third step we take.”


“Because we must turn our will over to survive.”


“Because we’re willful pricks, that’s why!”

Now who needs a spiritual adviser, I think before asking, “why?”

“Christ, dude, it’s just a decision.”

Decisions were hard to come by with a barrage of introspection and doubt in early recovery. And I thought, much like my four year old, that I’m asking them for good reason. I mean, honestly, who can possibly give their life and will up to the big ether? The boogeyman? The long shadow of night? The big bold elsewhere? The supreme and mysterious why? Not me, no sir.

I wasn’t always the willing sponsee I’ve become.


In truth, upon reflection, my daily solution, or reprieve, to my addiction and alcoholism exists outside of the why.

I don’t know why I haven’t thought about a drink or a drug since my friend died a year ago and I saw an ad where a bottle of Corona, beading savoringly, sat in the hot beach sand.

I don’t know why I haven’t ingested a mood-altering substance in nine and a half years. I can tell you all about the how. I talk with my sponsor on the reg. I go to meetings. I write. I blog and connect with others in the recovery sphere. I pray. I meditate. I exercise. I show up every day for the people who expect me to be there.

I listen for spiritual nuggets that will give me patience when my son asks why Superman was born on Krypton, or why one show a day is all the show he gets to watch.

I can tell you why I do these things. That’s an easy why. I do them because I don’t ever want to go back to the misery I knew as an active alcoholic and addict. Next question please.

What I can’t answer is why these things work. It’s the intangible nature of our brains that has classified alcoholism (and maybe one day addiction) as a mental illness rather than a moral failing or criminal act. The same intuitive nature can make bold and valid claims that the opposite of addiction is connection. But I don’t care what biology textbook you shove under my nose or Ted Talk you link me to, the why of this thing is a baffling and mystical adventure.

Ain’t life grand?


“Because life is filled with mysteries that are better left unsolved.”


“Well, maybe our creator, who gave us minds of immense cognition wanted a few things to be unknowable.”


“Because not being able to know everything is actually a huge fucking relief.”


“Because trying to know everything or acting like we know everything is an exhausting exercise in futility.”


“Because that’s not our job.”


“Because…because…because…God made us this way.”

20 Responses to “Why

  • My verse this year has been Proverbs 3:5. Trust God in everything and lean not unto my own understanding. Hard to do because it goes against our human nature to ask why of everything. Great post Mark.

  • Why?


    You got to it, though. Great post.

  • I’m working on a post about unasked questions. Maybe “why” should spend some time in that bucket. But then again…

  • Great analogy with the toddler!

    I’ve always felt that alcohol put me in a permanent angry adolescent age. That hostile age when you question everything with the full intent of rejecting it, just because you can. So, at the age of 30 or 40 something, when hearing a commercial for say, MADD, I would internally cringe and roll my eyes, like any 13 year old anywhere. I see that same look now when somebody asks why I’m not drinking. They don’t want to hear the answer. They want to continue. If they are especially belligerent-feeling, they will argue with a few whys of their own: “Why not just moderate? Studies show small amounts are really good for you.”

    Actually, studies do not show that, but by that time, I know what I’m dealing with. Myself, just a few years earlier. And I felt this unwillingness internally as a not good at all sponsee. So it’s the urge to rebel no matter what that has had to be overcome or ignored in me. I’m no longer 13.

    Thanks for this elucidating post, Mark. ; )

    • A relate to the “arrested development” that alcohol gave me. I’m 33 going on 10. 10 being my sober age. Those why questions are bullshit. The moderation one, at least. That also remains a painful mystery to me. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      • If you’re only 10, I’m closer to 5 or 6. That seems about right. I crave ice cream and stay up past my bedtime. ; )

  • stepsherpa
    11 months ago

    Interesting post. I like everybody’s thoughts. Thanks.

    I am born of alcoholism, self centered to the extreme so the Book suggests. So I am always questioning my status, controlling my outcome, I am afraid so I constantly struggle for validation. I am forever questioning my life, asking why. Why do I need a cosigner? Why do I seek my emotional security from others? Why can’t I rely on the spirit of the universe as a creative intelligence underlying the totality of all things. Believing this I still need the stranger to accept me to feel worthy of my existence. Why the jockeying for position literally or emotionally, creating for my self with the help of answered questions of others an acceptable level of esteem. Why if I totally surrender do I find myself in the selfish bondage and once again simply a people worshipper, again with the Book. Why can’t I seem to keep up?..There is always why, a measure of give and take to validate myself. Give my self reliance a security boost. Why? Because I am in constant need in my ever changing world. Why does the Big Book mean something different every time I read the same text. Why? Because everything changes, everything is constantly changing.

    Is this the end or beginning. Why has the stimulus changed? How do I act now? Why can’t I do as others do and enjoy the same effect? Why do I insist on making decisions based on self. Why can’t I simply be a participant, a piece of a puzzle without borders, a part of a spiritual realm without boundaries , without question, without why.

    I am letting go of why, looking for answers, stealing my answers. I am giving and in giving I don’t ask why or question who takes, I only give.. I have purpose, a reason for living and being. I have no interest in why. I know why. I am a part of it all, that is why.

    • Moving beyond the why! And into the how. Always in the how it will work!

      Let’s me and you leave the whys up to he theologians and philosophy majors!

  • stepsherpa
    10 months ago

    How and why. Yeah, I have found out today’s big secret this morning with “upon awakening” 86 thru 88. The willingness needed for me to begin to participate in my Spiritual daily reprieve. Eh..The formerly undisclosed location of the hall of the mountain king? Not really. The place of all understanding and effectiveness? Not even a blip on that screen, no.. It was right there in front of me under a rock. It was there all along it was just not apparent. It may as well have been in another dimension.

    The big secret? I’d like to solve the puzzle ? Is willingness, a simple willingness to believe there is everything, there is everything and there is me and I am a part of everything. I am love and support, I am sediment on the ocean floor. I am all in.

    When I am independent, apart from it all I am limited, my self reliance tops out and I become afraid, I rely on the arrangement of my fear now. As an extremist my ceiling is low. I will seek security more often than not, I am outside looking in at others security. I am always running out of room. I will believe their security will come to me also in the answers to the right questions, the right why.. The need for emotional security will be filled, the selfish need to make myself a part of, desperately force myself as part of, manipulate my surroundings so I can fit as I am? rather than let myself be that part, grateful for my part. Selfish self-centered, same as it ever was…

    When I am willing I have my answers. Everything I need to be a part of this life is revealed. Not always fast enough, not always in my time but it is there for me if I am willing. I may wish to control it. Selfishly arrange it. I may be obsessed with why as if why has already been answered with my selfish need to know and not what the answer is to the question. It is my selfish need that is my answer to the why question. My need to know why, my driving force, my self will run riot. The selfish need to be validated is the why of it all for me.

    Damn, heavy again… Sorry. I’m trying to behave, I like you and I like your site. I want people to see me as I am and not as I see myself.

    • Dear Step Sherpa. I want to thank you for putting your thoughts out there. I hope you find the writing process helpful. I always did. It gives me all sorts of purpose and drive I never knew existed, especially when I was in the selfish throes of addiction that you described so well.

      Willingness. That’s it! That’s all that is needed. I know when I was in early recovery, I didn’t have all that much else. But willingness is the key. What’s not the key is bickering and arguing about what exactly the power is. Just admitting that there is a power and we are not it!

      Keep it up, friend! Thanks for stopping by and giving the post some thought. That, truly, makes it all worth it.

  • very eye opening. I think I have thought of the why to my own recovery, but I don’t think I gave it as much thought as you are giving it. I really should try to look more into my own why 🙂

  • Amazing post Mark. Questioning is how we get to the truth. and when the thruth shows up as ‘what is’ there is just peace. Bryron Katie talks about the ‘don’t know mind’ the ‘I know mind’ being the ego. The ‘dont know mind’ being devoid of ego. xxx

  • Great post, Mark. My oldest should be the smartest kid on the planet for all his Why questions. But like you I do the best I can before the goodwill runs out (or the answers). I have long stopped wondering why this whole deal works. Why some people make it and some don’t. Why I am still here and not interested in booze. I don’t know. I just like it. And I am satisfied with that. Love this piece, man.

  • stepsherpa
    10 months ago

    Yes..My God is bigger than your God. Jockeying for total control of a metaphor. A question of faith. You must understand me here, I REALLY believe! I am searching for validation in others, always the people worshipper, bickering over the special attention my God provides me. Nobody knows what I know? What I think I know, what my God has given me personally. I’m sober? My life is good? I help people? I am Big Book 12 Steps? I am one of the chosen few….

    A sibling rivalry as Gods chosen child I create my own emotional security as I believe my God would, by judging my surroundings. God is everything and yes I accept the role, the script written for me and me only by none other than me.. Disciplining my children as a dysfunctional father is all I know. All my experience offers. Unaware of the intolerance I myself am expressing as I focus on the intolerance in others. I am the producer of confusion as I speak and act out my presumed Gods will for me with the best of intensions. Do as I say not as I do. The Spiritual power of example I see myself as is merely an example of power. Control. I become a frustrated dictator in my arrangements, my efforts to make others believe as I do. As the God police I survey AA meetings and am quick to book another on a chapter 5 offence. Failing to thoroughly following MY path. They will of course drink again for not following Stepsherpa’s Anonymous to the letter.

    Yes I have tried to live with my selfishness and self centered fear. I have struggled in the Spiritual realm until I mustered the willingness to surrender. Upon my surrendering I have been transformed or reborn if you will. A new attitude and outlook. A freedom unknown to me. I am free to see others as they wish to be seen. The Catholic, the Protestant, The Christian who follows their own drum. The man who changes his belief, his faith, his total direction? I support him where I can. I am not afraid of others religious beliefs, other Spiritual concepts. I have found what works for me and it’s called willingness. A willingness to believe. It’s what I see in others as I see in myself.

    Anyway, I found myself so Godly I was no earthly good. I saw my fear. I prayed for direction and understanding. I let it go. It was then I could open myself to a world of service. I no longer need a key to the kingdom, the door is unlocked. Today. so far all is good.

    • It is all about the progress you described. Great work, man! Keep it up! Sometimes quickly sometimes slowly we get there if we work it.

  • I answer a lot of ‘why’ questions. Maybe I should start asking some ‘why’s.

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