Support in Alcoholism Recovery.

Reflection on my recovery from Alcoholism.

I have been reflecting a bit on my journey so far in recovery, as I have the opportunity to be part of a new online recovery community, and will be looking at the non 12 step world of addiction and alcoholism recovery. I will put more on here when everything is finalised over the next few weeks.

Recovery has been really good so far, a lot better than I ever imagined! In fact I thought recovery would be horrible and although I was certainly under no illusions that I had a major problem when I was in active addiction, I found it hard to contemplate life without alcohol and drugs as being meaningful or enjoyable. This was one of the things that stopped me from getting help. I was a hard drinker from my mid teens and started using drugs by the time I was sixteen. I was rebellious, but intoxication simply became a way of life and was my normal state, when I was not working, or having to be responsible. It was also a way to bury feelings. I looked at people who did not drink as boring or strange. This was partly because everyone I knew was a drinker and my social life took place around pubs and clubs. I had many attempts at stopping drinking and could manage a few months at a time, and also had some CBT counselling, but I still continued to go to the same places and hang out with the same people. It was only a matter of time before I got sucked back into the drinking and all the problems that brings.

Drunk on Table

I only really managed to change when I found the support of others, and this has been important over the years. I would say that the type of support I have now, is different to what I needed in my early days. I need far less support these days to deal with drinking issues, as I have been a few years alcohol free now, and I practice complete abstinence, which is the easiest way for me. I do not wish to drink at the moment which makes the whole thing simpler, but this was not the case at the start. I still need support in other areas of my life and this is something that I have realised that I have changed, after going to recovery groups. I used to try to do everything myself, but there are times when using the support of others really helps, and I have got better at asking for help when I need it.

Asking for help and discussing things was certainly a problem in the old days, and one reason why the original CBT treatment I had, about 10 years before I finally stopped, was ineffective for me at that time. I was not prepared to open up to a therapist and they were not a mind reader! I only discussed a few things that bothered me, and missed out a key part of my background and my issues with trusting people, which I have since resolved. I did not feel they were relevant at the time. This changed during my attendance at AA, because it becomes the norm for people to ask for help in AA meetings and share things. I think there is a lot of good, about being able to share problems with other people and learn how they have found a solution. It is also very motivating, to find people who are now doing well in life despite having had similar issues to me in the past. I also found it helpful to be part of a sober community and liked going to places with other sober people and take part in activities. I suppose this is what you would call the bridge to normal living, I still needed support to keep me sober, yet I was not simply spending my whole time in recovery groups. This was a healthy way to change for me.

There are those who say that AA has no effect, and go on and on about the God side of things. I agree that the religious side of AA will limit its effectiveness for those who do not believe, and there are are other parts of AA which are out of date, but it does provide a community, and I think that it is this that does most good. One AA critic (who calls herself a counsellor) tried to imply that my recovery was simply spontaneous remission and pointed to the 5% success rate that detractors of AA, often point to, when they are going to bash AA, as being the same as spontaneous remission for alcoholism. I don’t believe that my recovery was spontaneous remission, especially as I have stayed sober the whole way through this recovery which includes my period in AA. This was not something I had managed before, and the key difference was that I had joined a support group and really made recovery a priority. Being involved in a group really helped. Although I no longer attend AA, and have not done so for about seven years, you could still say I am one of the tiny number (about 3%) that has never had a drink after going to AA. A musician friend of mine who also has not attended meetings for a similar length of time, is the same in this respect.

 

Moving on from AA

Things changed with time, and after a while I became fed up with a lot of goes on in AA meetings and felt it was actually holding me back. I was no longer living “a day at a time” and had decided to stop for good. That did not mean that I simply walked away from recovery, as I had the support of therapists and had now made some good, strong, sober friendships. I started to make different types of friends after taking up new activities, and quite a few people have no idea that I have had a drinking and drugs problem. I don’t define myself as being in recovery in the same way that people in 12 step groups do, but I have my own support network and people who I can trust around me.meditation

When I look back, I don’t think I could have done it on my own. This seems to be the experience of many others who I have met, including many who have moved on from AA, but who are capable of looking at the fellowship in a rational manner. Humans are social creatures and are drawn towards groups with aims or beliefs that are appealing to an individual. People do seem to do well if they have a social side to addiction recovery and make it a priority. Being involved and feeling part of something can certainly motivate many people to try harder at recovery, and there will be people there to help when life gets tough and things go wrong. Recovery is really about striking a balance between self empowerment and independence, and also allowing others to help when needed. This took me some time to adjust to, but I believe that still being loosely engaged in the recovery world by blogging and having sober friends is an important thing for me to do. The great thing about today is that there are many groups available for those seeking support. They vary from peer type support from groups such as www.Soberistas.com to more formal groups such as Smart Recovery  . In the past it was AA or nothing, but thankfully things are changing and these new groups can attract and motivate different people to the standard 12 step solution. The thing I regret most about my recovery is not getting serious and stopping earlier. I probably spent a whole decade in turmoil, when I could have been living life. Having said that, recovery is never perfect, and most people wish they had done things differently, especially in the early days!

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  1. Such a good article! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I, like you, attended AA for a couple of years and was frightened of the aspect of leaving as they really pounded it in that I’d surely drink if I left! Total garbage.
    I also think the ability to stay sober comes with reaching out to others with the same problem. There are so many more online communities now than when I first quit. It really shows how far we’ve come!

    • Thanks Patti, I think that it is important to tell people that there are alternative solutions to AA as well as things such as CBT that can help you and may work along side AA for some. I think that things will change over the next few years as more people read information on the web, and look for modern solutions.

  2. A great piece, Mike.

    Just re: ” I probably spent a whole decade in turmoil, when I could have been living life”… yeah, I can relate to that completely.

    So much time and energy wasted… but still, looks like you’re doing well, mate – keep up the great articles!

    Best wishes,

    Gary

    • Thanks Gary, reflecting on the drinking days is almost surreal now. It is like looking at a different person. I certainly don’t wish to go back to all that.
      Never mind, the main thing is getting life together and growing in new ways.

  3. Hi, I just came across your blog and I wanted to check in and say hello. My name is Mike and on May 3rd of this year I’ll celebrate 3 1/2 years of continuous sobriety. I’m glad I found this blog, especially after spending so much time in the usual anti-AA blogs like Orange Papers. You sound fair, thoughtful and considered, something sorely lacking in both AA and anti-AA arguments. Personally, I use SMART Recovery and have been much more happy with their scientific and rational approach but I don’t begrudge anyone their own feelings and experience. I don’t think everyone who has a legitimate criticism of AA is “bashing” AA (such a weird term to me) but there are definitely those who go overboard in their criticism and characterization of the 12 Step process, just like those who swear that every and any problem can be solved by the “spiritual principles” of the “program”.

    Oh, well. Just wanted to say hi and good luck to you.

    • Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. I agree that the extremists go totally over the top on both sides. I think all recovery groups have some good qualities. AA has many meetings and is assessable for many which helps in the early days, but Smart is certainly a more modern approach, and is much more in line with the things that have helped me long term.
      A lot of what is written on the internet about recovery is quite crazy, especially on some forums! There are lots of conspiracy theories that some people lap up. I think most people can see through it, but some are gullible.

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