Good luck on January the first

Good luck on January the first if you are giving up drink!

Hello it is January 1st, 2014 and I was just thinking of all the people who are trying to give up drinking today. I tried many times on January 1st in the past. I was never successful. I would manage a few days and then it will get too much for me. I tried to do everything on my own, I do not want to ask for help, or join a group. I did manage some periods of sobriety. I did a year on my own and had several smaller periods as well. I always ended going back to the drink for one reason or another. Sometimes it was stress at work, other times it was because I felt like drink at a social occasion. Once I had a taste of drinking, I would find it hard to stay stopped. I used it as a form of escape.

I did not know about many methods of stopping drinking. I did not fancy Alcoholics Anonymous is conjured up images of tramps sitting in church basements. I did end up going, sometime later, when things got really bad. It helped by giving me some way to go, and some fellowship, which is important in those early days. However, with reflection, it was probably not the environment for me, as a lot of its methods, rely upon religious principles which don’t interest me.

I just tried to stop on my own, on most of my attempts. I did not think, to sort out the problems in my life. I mixed with the same people, mainly drinkers, I did not exercise, and although I felt better physically, I did nothing about the issues that had driven me to self medicate, with alcohol for many years. Putting down the drink, is only part of the problem. In the last few years, I have read many books about addiction, and done a fair amount of research on the Internet. I have followed blogs, joined forums, and discussed methods with other people. I’ve come to the conclusion, that there’s many ways stop drinking, and that the method used, should be chosen by the individual.

 

discarded bottles

 

Many in AA, state that Alcoholics Anonymous and the steps are the only way to stay sober. I believed this at the start, but I saw so many people run into problems, and relapse, to realise that they were not telling the truth, and the program did not work for everybody. It is a faith-based program, that tells you are powerless, and that you cannot find sobriety on your own. I felt this was true at the start, as it reflected my own experience, but then I realised that there are other methods, that concentrate on building self-esteem, and dealing with the issues we face in life, so that somebody can move on, which would’ve worked better for me. I also found a lot of it completely boring!

I may have been better off, starting with the program like the one suggested by the HAMS network. They did not try to get you to stop completely at the start. They do not tell you your powerless, but try to encourage you to drink in a safe way. I was a big binge drinker, and I feel this approach, may well have worked for me before things got too bad. If I have cut down for a bit, and done some work on myself, I may have avoided many problems. Here is a link to the HAMS network http://hamsnetwork.org/

Smart Recovery is another great program, and it uses many of the techniques that I found from, alternative sources and therapy to change the way the person thinks and reacts to situations. It is a much more rational solution than that offered by Alcoholics Anonymous. It does not have as many meetings though. Some of the people on anti AA sites disregard the lack of meetings and say just go to Smart. I think different things work at different times in recovery and it is up to the individual to decide. I don’t think I was in a fit state, to understand a lot of things, and to change much, when I first stopped. I was very confused, and the most important thing for me was to have somewhere to go, where there was no alcohol, and I could mix with people, who were fighting similar problems. AA did provide that for me at the start and I would not have had that from Smart, which would probably work better when you have a bit of time under your belt.
Drunk girl

That was a positive Side of AA for me, however, it is easy to start believing some of the crazier beliefs that you’re told in meetings, that are repeated so often. There are many overzealous sponsors, who are more interested, in talking dogma, than dealing with recovery. Many of these people, would be considered crazy in the real world. They can thrive, in rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, where there are so many new people, who are confused. There are some, long-term members of AA and other 12 step groups, who could be considered dangerous, or predatory. There are many, that hold up the big book, as the answer to everything, and do not acknowledge, that the world has changed, since it was written, in the 1930s. They take an anti-medication stance, and believe everything can be cured through prayer. These are very unbalanced people, and this is why many feel that they had been in a cult when they go through AA. This is especially true for people who spend a long time there and who find it hard to walk away. The majority do leave quickly.

Of course, if you like AA, then carry on, if it keeps you sober. However, if you do not like it, I suggest you find something else. Many find themselves going around in a circle, where they get a few months of sober time and then relapse. They have programmed themselves, with a belief that they are powerless and often go on a dangerous binge. This is not the reaction, of most people, who work other programs. They tend to have less guilt, about a relapse, and don’t beat themselves up so much as those in the 12 step world.

In recent years, many support groups have sprung up to help on the Internet. They are not as big as Alcoholics Anonymous, but they offer a safe alternative, to people who do not want to go to meetings. You have to bear in mind, that in countries like America, many are ordered to attend AA, by a court, and maybe of dubious character. Many people who abuse substances are criminals, but AA gives the impression of being safe, which is not always the case.

Groups like soberistas offer support and fellowship, without being as judgemental or formal, as many in AA. It is also more suitable, for those people, who feel they have a problem, but are not drinking all the time. The chat room is a really good idea. Many believe, that addiction is caused by bad decisions and a reaction to events in life rather than the disease, that is talked about in AA. These people, and I count myself, in this category, need a more rational solution, than is offered by the 12 steps. Internet support, is a good way forward. Smart recovery, also has online meetings and these are very useful for those looking after children or people who wish to preserve their privacy, which can be hard in AA, where anonymity is often not taken seriously.

I see a lot of people, have started blogging, about their experiences in early sobriety. They are linking up through the WordPress’s network, and offering each other support. This seems to really help them. Some do this alongside more formal groups like AA, while others rely on fellow bloggers for support. I think writing stuff down, helps you focus on what you’re doing, and can make you more determined. It is good to feel part of a group, of no one wants to let others down. A lot of these blogs, offer good common sense advice, compared to what you may find in some AA meetings, where many treat the group as a congregation to a type of religion. This is not true of all meetings, but there are quite a few, that are a bit cult like.

Many who are commenting on the web and living healthy lifestyles are doing very well. They take at sport and other pursuits such as yoga to make them feel better. Doing this, may even help people in the first few days, as it is important to fill the time you spent drinking, with other activities, otherwise there is a danger, that you can sit around and worry. Other people may not be ready for this, and so finding a meeting, maybe a good approach for them. It is important to fill the time, as you are going to think about drinking a lot! Being with others or doing something really helps.

Whatever method people choose, it is best, if they can get some encouragement from others, and if things don’t go right at first, they do not feel too discouraged and try again. This is what I had to do, and I think that goes for most people. I made the decision to give up my old lifestyle and never drink again. I then looked for methods that worked for me. I did not expect a recovery program to do the work for me, that was down to me. A recovery program can offer support, or tips, and encouragement and advice, but it is important to find a group that is not dysfunctional and where there is a good mixture of people. The online groups are often more balanced although some people are drawn to those that are simply critical of a method and do not really move on.

I wish everybody luck, who’s starting out today. A lot of people have been signing up on the Soberistas site in the last few weeks, and many have started their journey today. The site has grown from 1000 members this time last year, to 19,000 members now and is going to be upgraded tomorrow so that people have some extra facilities. Is great to see people who did not get much, from traditional methods such as AA, using new technology to reach out to others and help. I really respect people for trying this, compared to those in the 12 step world, who refuse to change anything about AA, including the literature, which is out of date, and bringing in  safety measures, which are really needed in modern times.

The most important thing about recovery from addiction is commitment. It is easy to blame the program you’ve attended, or the circumstances in your life if things don’t work out. It is up to you, to try and find suitable support, and make the effort to change things. This is a difficult thing to do, and won’t happen overnight, but the reward after a period of time is really worth the effort.

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  1. Here is link to a piece in the New York Times by Gabrielle Glasser http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/opinion/cold-turkey-isnt-the-only-route.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1&

    She talks about different ways of dealing with problem drinking.

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