It was a difficult decision for me to leave AA, even though I was questioning what was going on in meetings and its effectiveness. Other people seem to find this is a problem as well so I am always glad when people are prepared to share their experiences. This new blog looks good and has been started straight after leaving AA. I waited a few years and have a different perspective as a result. I hope this helps those who are struggling in the rooms at the moment and who want to take charge of their own recovery.
I went to my last meeting last week. I am already feeling better, I am less anxious and the near depression I was feeling is already starting to fade. I also noticed that I was frustrated and I don’t know how long I’ve felt that way, thankfully that is fading too.
I told some trusted friends what I am doing, I don’t know why because now I don’t care who knows.
At this point I’ve also decided that from now on even when someone probes my answer will be that I am someone who chooses not to drink. I don’t feel the need to disclose why I don’t drink anymore, I have done my part and given much more than I have taken. I’ve probably also put up with too much over the years too since I chose to live a principaled, virtuous and honest life long before I was in aa and in hindsight, my risk was I chose to be around a lot of people that were not.
Out of my own volition I chose to be around people that told me time and again what kind of person they were. They were usually in almost direct conflict with my personhood. I’ll have to forgive myself and not do that anymore.
All in all, just a few days in and I am feeling better. I am pretty much relieved every time I turn around. I have found gratitude again in most things that were just about driving me crazy.
Here is a great piece – SMART Recovery is waiting for you! This was kindly written for the blog by Heather Valsan.
SMART Recovery is waiting for you!
So.. You have decided you need to enter a rehabilitation program. But which program is the best option for you. There are inpatient rehab programs, AA, SMART recovery and more. Every program is different, and the needs and wants of each patient should be identified before beginning treatment.
One of our favorite programs is SMART recovery. Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a program that offers support while teaching individuals how to manage their addictions. The program targets negative/unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that can arise during recovery. SMART-recovery is considered a self-empowerment program, and that truly helps the individuals going through the program feel like they are in control.
SMART recovery is based off a four-point program. These four points all work together and help the individual reach the sobriety they have always dreamed of.
Point One: Building and maintaining motivation:
It can be exciting to start a new program. You realize how bright your future is and how much potential you possess. It is vital to build and continuing to fostering this motivation because there are moments that will require this kind of strength. During point one, it is common that you will have to reflect on your “bottom point,” and reflect on how far you have come. After you reevaluate your rock bottom moment, you will make a list that helps you visualize all of the benefits that being sober has over your addiction.
Point Two: Coping with urges:
Cravings can come out of nowhere. They can be extremely overwhelming and tempting to indulging. One of the best ways to avoid cravings is to understand what causes them. When you can identify what triggers your addiction based behavior, it will help you avoid falling off the wagon. When you are aware, you can avoid situations where your triggers can arise, and you will be better prepared to say no next time an urge comes along.
Point Three: Managing thoughts, behaviors and feelings:
Addictions and use behavior do not occur on its own. Our brain plays a large part in our attitudes and actions towards our substance abuse. Irrational thoughts are covered during this point of recovery, and individuals learn how to recognize and stop distorted thinking that allows individuals to fall back into old habits. One of the biggest things to learn during this section is to understand why we think the way we do.
Point Four: Living a balanced life:
Taking care of your mental health is essential when trying to maintain a balanced life. In this last step, members learn skills that will help them throughout their future, and long-term sobriety/recovery. Some skills that are highlighted are coping skills, relapse prevention tips, and community resources that can be utilized to reach their long-term goals of living a happier and sober life.
Compared to other programs that utilize a 12 step program, or focus on God being the higher power, SMART recovery allows the individual in treatment to focus their power towards whatever they want. While SMART recovery does have four steps, they are concise and easy to understand, so there is no confusion for the individual trying to reach their long-term goal.
Every individual is different. For instance, some may prefer inpatient drug rehab in Louisville, KY, while some may prefer SMART recovery. It is important to research different types of treatment to determine which program is best for you, or your loved one in need. Recovery is possible, and with programs like SMART recovery, they are helping more individuals reach their goal of sobriety and long-term happiness.
Heather Valsan is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Grand Canyon University. Heather has always been passionate about helping people struggling with mental health disorders and worked in the psychiatric and substance abuse field for 10 years. With the growing need for education on addiction resources, Heather combined her nursing knowledge with two of her great loves, communications and writing. She is the host of Recovery Radio, a podcast about substance abuse that provides expert advice from industry leaders in the addictions field. When Heather is not working she enjoys spending her time with her two young children and binge watching Netflix documentaries.
2018 has just begun, and hopefully it will be a good time for people in recovery from addiction. There is certainly a wider range of solutions out there, than have been available in the past, and attitudes are slowly changing away from the old traditional solutions towards more modern, effective answers. The internet and online book selling outlets have been a real game changer for those looking for solutions. In the past it was difficult finding answers.
When I finally gave up the drink 11 years ago, pretty much everybody just went to AA. I did for about a year and a half, but I was not looking for a religious solution. I used AA as a sort of sober collective to be part of, and the social side really helped me along with inspiration from people who had been stopped for multiple years. However, although I found some of the ideas of AA helpful, I did not look at the steps as a valid solution.
I was lucky enough to be able to afford to have some private therapy and CBT became part of the solution for me. This lead to me finding out about Smart Recovery which offers some great ideas that were really helpful for me. I also discovered The Sinclair Method, and it is this solution which I feel has the most potential to really help a huge number of people who wish to commit to dealing with their issues with alcohol.
It does take time for a new solution to get properly recognised and TSM has a long way to go. Because it does not demand abstinence many traditionalists are against it, especially those who make money from the 12 step rehab industry. TSM is cheap and allows an individual to detox safely and with dignity. It does not require the patient to be locked up for as long as their medical insurance allows.
I have experience of many people doing really well with this solution. There are online communities forming such as http://optionssavelives.freeforums.net or this Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingalifeofchoice These are great places to ask advice and learn from other people’s experience. The regulations about the supply of Naltrexone or equivalents, vary around the world, but most people can find a solution after asking advice online. Dr Eskapa has written a great book called The Cure for Alcoholism which explains how TSM works and provides a background on all the research.
As I wrote earlier, it will take a long time for the new solutions to real get a foothold in the recovery world that has become very set in its ways, and is sadly old fashioned. Here is a new site about TSM that spreads the world in Dutch. https://www.sinclairmethode.com It is a beautifully designed site and contains much of the same information as https://www.the-sinclair-method.com.
It is great to see more people talking about this solution especially this month, as many take their first steps into the world of recovery during January. They often find it harder than they think, and TSM may well be the most effective solution out there for them.
Anyway, congratulations for anyone who has decided to do something about their drinking or drugging. Welcome to the world of recovery. The best piece of advice that I can give is to be open minded and do a lot of your own research about the different ways of beating this problem. It is not always easy, especially in the early days, but there is a lot of support out there. We are all different, and need different solutions and support.
I will add the odd piece to the site but also have a few other people who are going to contribute and hopefully I can do a few more podcasts. This site just got a mention here https://freepigeonpress.com/2018/01/06/my-liebster-award-nomination, so thanks Gary! He writes a lot about his great experiences with TSM and also gives advice to people starting out. He is in the film One Little Pill.
I got an email from Ashley, who wrote this great piece on https://www.detox.com and invited me to post it here. I had a good look at the site and thought it had some really useful information and would certainly recommend you have a look, especially if you are starting out on recovery. Thanks again for sending this to me! I hopefully have some other guest posts coming soon as well and hopefully some new podcasts.
PARTICIPATING IN DRY JANUARY? HOW TO DETOX SAFELY FROM ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
As a way to recover from drinking over the holiday season, many Americans are starting their New Year by participating in a public health campaign called Dry January. For light and moderate drinkers, Dry January is often approached as a “reset” that helps them save money, lose weight, and improve their overall health. For heavy drinkers, Dry January can be an ideal time to overcome alcohol dependence, and get back on track with sobriety.
Quitting alcohol is one of the smartest decisions you can make for your health. But detoxing from alcohol cold turkey comes with many risks if you suffer from alcohol use disorder.
Are you participating in Dry January to become sober this year? Here’s what you can do to overcome alcohol dependence safely and with fewer risks and complications.
WHAT IS DRY JANUARY?
Dry January was created in 2013 by a group of 17,000 U.K. citizens who vowed to quit drinking that month. The campaign was registered as a trademark in 2014, and is now widely practiced by other countries including the U.S. and Finland. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Sussex found that 72% of participants who practiced Dry January were able to abstain or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption six months following the New Year.
In the U.S., roughly 15.1 million adults suffer from alcohol use disorder, but only 6.7% receive treatment. Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and is linked to an estimated 88,000 deaths every year. But those who struggle with alcohol use disorder and decide to get help as part of Dry January can significantly lower their risk for health problems including liver disease and cancer, and improve their overall quality of life.
THE DANGERS OF QUITTING ALCOHOL COLD TURKEY
Quitting alcohol cold turkey is risky and dangerous, and can cause a number of serious complications. Those who withdraw from alcohol at home without medical care are often putting themselves at great risk for dehydration, malnutrition, and heart attacks. For some, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and life-threatening, and lead to seizures, relapse, and death.
Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can occur in those struggling with alcohol dependency, and is most common in those who have been abusing alcohol for more than 10 years. Symptoms of delirium tremens can begin as soon as 48 hours after the last drink, and include confusion, tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. Fortunately, delirium tremens and other alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be minimized and safely treated at an alcohol detox center.
GETTING PROFESSIONAL HELP FOR ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
If you or a loved one plans on quitting alcohol as part of Dry January, get help at an alcohol detox center to lower your risk for complications, and to improve your odds of staying sober long-term. An alcohol detox can help you overcome alcohol dependency while being attended to by caring, experienced nurses and doctors who monitor your vitals, and prevent complications before they arise. Some alcohol detox treatments even include the use of medications that can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms to make your recovery from alcohol use disorder more comfortable.
Nobody deserves to overcome alcohol dependence on their own without help — including you. For help with finding an alcohol treatment center, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193 to speak with an experienced drug abuse counselor. We’ll help you find a nearby alcohol detox center ready to guide you along the path to lifelong sobriety.
Ibogaine and the Benefits of Alternative Addiction Treatment
Over the last decade, drug overdose has become one of the leading causes of death in America. And, with the US declaring a state of emergency, it seems that the opioid crisis isn’t going away anytime soon.
Addiction is not a form of weakness, nor is it something that people actively pursue. Many individuals are seeking help for their addiction with traditional rehabilitation models, but they don’t always work. Holistic methods, like Ibogaine, are helping many addicts break their addiction cycle and move forward in a positive way.
The Current Drug Problem
Opiate addiction is on the rise. But our current system of treatment is not evolving to address this problem.
This means that many addicts get caught in a cycle—in and out of treatment—that doesn’t seem to get them anywhere. Many addicts are left looking for alternative options that can offer new approaches that work for them.
Ibogaine is just one of these holistic alternative treatments. But Ibogaine treats addiction differently by addressing the physical withdrawal symptoms as well as the underlying causes of the addiction.
What is Ibogaine?
Ibogaine is an alkaloid extracted from the Tabernathe Iboga plant (and other species in the Apocynaceae family) found in Africa. The Iboga plant has been used for centuries to induce a dream-like state and promote spiritual healing.
The Bwiti in Africa have long believed that consuming the Iboga plant allows them to get in touch with themselves and reach a deeper state of being. Rituals, spiritual rites of passage, and other ceremonies are a big part of the Bwiti religion, and they use Iboga as the key ingredient in their spiritual growth and development.
Ibogaine as a Drug Treatment
Recent use of Iboga has its roots in 1900s Europe, where Ibogaine was first extracted from the Iboga root bark. At first, it was only taken in very small doses and classified as a stimulant—mostly being used by athletes.
In the 1960s, a young heroin addict named Howard Lotsof was exploring psychedelic drugs He was given a dose of Ibogaine by one of his friends. However, he did not expect the Ibogaine to affect his heroin dependence.
After only a few hours, Lotsof no longer felt the need for heroin, nor did he experience any withdrawal symptoms from not using. This was an astounding byproduct of what he considered to be one of the most spiritual experiences of his entire life.
He found that Ibogaine had completely freed him from his heroin addiction, and so he began testing this outcome by giving Ibogaine to his friends who were also heroin addicts.
He went on to study Ibogaine and scientifically research its effects on addiction for the rest of his life. His tests repeatedly demonstrated how profound an impact Ibogaine could have for the world of addiction.
So, what was this impact?
How it Works
Losof, as well as other psychedelic scientific associations, have shown conclusively that Ibogaine has a great deal of promise in targeting heroin and opiate withdrawal symptoms.
While not everything is known about how Ibogaine works, it has been shown to essentially rewire the brain—renewing neural function and minimizing, if not eliminating, the negative effects that opiates have on the brain.
When we become dependent on a substance, the chemicals in the substance replace many of the ones our brain produces naturally. This means that the brain is dependent on a higher volume of chemical intake than it can normally produce.
If we stop taking the addictive substance, the brain’s chemical balance is thrown off, and, while the neurological pathways in the brain adjust, we go into withdrawals.
Heroin and opiate withdrawals are some of the most severe. They can include things like vomiting, nausea, fevers, and extreme body aches—not to mention depression, anxiety, and other major negative emotions.
However, with Ibogaine, the chemical functions of the brain appear to completely reset. This means that receptors are returned to their normal state and there is no need for the brain to adjust. This drastically reduces, and often completely eliminates, withdrawals symptoms.
But Ibogaine goes even a step further.
Ibogaine’s Psychedelic Effects on Trauma
While Ibogaine is targeting the physical withdrawal symptoms, it also puts most addicts in a profound psychedelic state. This is often referred to as a “dream-like state” that allows addicts a unique type of introspection—often directly related to their lives and their addiction.
During this time, addicts often confront decisions they have made regarding their addiction. They also can find therapeutic benefits from facing trauma and other negative experiences in their lives. In this way, Ibogaine can often address the root of the problem, reasons the addict has become an addict in the first place.
No other drug treatment can work on both of these levels to treat addiction.
Is Ibogaine Safe?
Just like with any other treatment, there are risks associated with the use of Ibogaine. The safest way to undergo Ibogaine treatment is with a trained and licensed physician in a modern medical facility.
Proper prescreening and medical testing are necessary to lower the risk of negative side effects associated with Ibogaine. It is never recommended that anyone use Ibogaine without proper medical supervision and prescreening.
Doing What’s Right for You
The most important thing to remember is that achieving sobriety is possible. Every individual is different and will need to find their unique path to recovery. Ibogaine is considered a very extreme treatment, and may not be for everyone. However, it has shown promise in treating withdrawal symptoms and has successfully helped many addicts stay sober for extended periods of time.
Ibogaine is a detox, and an effective one. Combining Ibogaine therapy with proper aftercare and success planning will help increase the chances of success for any addict. Take the time to educate yourself on the options available to you and discuss them with a professional.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up hope. Success and long-term sobriety are possible. Take the time to find the treatment that works best for you or your loved one.
This piece was kindly written by Aeden Smith-Ahearn, thanks so much for contributing to the site!
It is always good to get an email from somebody who has found the site helpful. I got permission from Tim who wrote this to put this on the site. I also used some of the ideas from Rational Recovery http://www.rational.org/index.php?id=36 in my early days of recovery when I was looking for alternatives to AA. I read the Rational Recovery book http://rational.org/shop/index.php and found a lot of the ideas linked in with many of the things I was taught in CBT counselling.
I think Rational Recovery really helped those of us who were not interested in the religious spiritual side of AA, and who did not think that God was going to do anything .
Thanks again for the email and if anybody else wants me put a piece on the site please get in touch. I really do not have the time to do that much these days and would really be repeating myself on many issues if I wrote about the same things. Most visitors to this site are thinking about leaving AA and are searching for alternatives.
Like your site! Thank you for your work and efforts in addressing this important issue. I’d like to get involved. I’ve latched on to Rational Recovery: Hope we can connect.
I was diagnosed at age 15 as an alcoholic. I’m now 52.
That diagnosis has been an ‘evil and corrosive thread’ in my life. It’s hard to admit I allowed myself to accept the disease concept but I did. It’s embarrassing – but it is reality. Here’s what I accepted and continued to believe for 37 years:
• I am afflicted with an unprovable, incurable, fatal and progressive disease
• I am powerless to treat it on my own
• The only prescription to treat this disease is constant support from:
A Higher Power
The AA fellowship
An AA sponsor
Consistent application of the 12 steps in my life
• This disease inexplicably causes me to reach a point where there will be no mental defence against the first drink.
• Unless I hand over my life to an unqualified sponsor, a God of my understanding, and the 12 Steps, I am guaranteed a life of jails, institutions, and death.
• If I do relapse, it can only be because I didn’t apply the above formula well enough or perhaps failing to disclose a deep dark secret somewhere in my life that I can’t identify or am unwilling to admit.
• If I do what I’m told, shut my mouth, and blindly follow my unqualified sponsor’s advice and AA’s program my reward is… wait for it…
• A good chance to stay sober for 1 Day!!!!!
While I admit that for some people, AA does help them stay sober. The issue for me was whether it was helping me achieve total abstinence. Evidence (repeated relapses over 37 years) suggests it didn’t help me then and won’t help me now. I actually believe AA kept me sick by providing an ideal setup/excuse to relapse. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry at AA and the Recovery Movement for the fear mongering that is so prevalent. The good news is that 37 years after that ridiculous diagnosis, I am free. Further, AVRT has allowed me to recognise that the anger I feel toward AA, albeit justified, can be a weak point for my addictive voice to target in hope of preventing me from flawlessly executing my Big Plan. That’s not going to happen. I’m on to my AV and look forward to showing it absolutely no mercy going forward!
Bottom line, it’s time to put on my big boy pants and take full responsibility for my past decisions to continue to ‘relapse’ – I don’t think ‘relapse’ is even the right word to use since it implies some force beyond my control caused me to resign abstinence and resume drinking and using. I drank because I love the effect produced by alcohol. Same thing with drugs. They worked. They allowed me to effortlessly change the way I was feeling. There really are no free passes left for me when it comes to drinking and using. The solution is 100% abstinence for the rest of my life. I’m 32 days in and the hope I feel is indescribable.
I actually went through an exercise of listing the 12 steps out and comparing what AVRT and RR’s alternative.
Here’s what I came up with for Step 1.
AA Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable
The truth – I admit that I love the pleasure of being intoxicated so much that despite clear and indisputable evidence of its guaranteed negative impact on my life – I continued to drink/use.
Let’s be honest here. I drank and used drugs because I wanted to feel pleasure. Alcohol and drugs have always immediately improved the way that I felt. Some of my most pleasurable moments of my life have been under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This is the ‘great fact’ for me. Drugs and alcohol work in that respect. They always have and they always will. History has shown me that the pain created by drinking and drug binges significantly outweighs the brief pleasure I experience when high and the escape I seek is always temporary. The after effect of drinking or using drugs is increasingly more negative and severe. I can no longer safely drink or use drugs. My addictive voice has been a cunning and powerful force in my life, but it has never had the power to compel me to drink or use. Those decisions were mine and I am responsible for them. Most of the problems in my life stem from my unwillingness to address the challenges that come up in life and face them effectively. Not addressing them has created pain and pressure to build up. When the pain or pressure of not effectively dealing with life became greater than the fear of escaping with drugs and alcohol, I decided to take the easy way out to change how I felt with substances.
Anyone who follows this blog will be aware that I am a huge fan of The Sinclair Method, TSM, for controlling drinking. You can see posts about it here. I have seen many people do really well using this method, having had no success beating alcoholism previously. The NBC News programme, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly showed a decent piece on TSM last Sunday. This caused a huge number of people to get in touch with TSM based websites, searching for information. I hope this becomes a regular occurrence.
Here is the piece from Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly
Claudia Christian has also done so much work to promote TSM. There are many related pieces on this blog about her work. She was also interviewed for the Saturday Night piece but it was heavily cedited and just published online. You can see it below in some regions. http://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/1005541955509
I am not generally a fan of The FIX recovery website as it tends to have lightweight contributors. At one time it had an appalling comments section where people were free to attack others, but they seem to have woken up to the fact that this is not appropriate for a recovery based site. They have done a couple of pieces on TSM fairly recently, and the first reflects the TV broadcast.
Dr Eskapa commented on this piece via email so I will put it here:
— In the Fix article Joe Ricchio managed 9 months abstinence – but then the Alcohol Deprivation Effect kicked in while on a trip to Italy — triggers …
In the The Fix article he goes off naltrexone and reverts back to heavy drinking…. this has happened to many ‘patients’ but just at the compulsive drinking behaviour was learned so it can be re-extinguished. Just as one can have the same infection more than once it can be re-treated medically.
Joe Ricchio speaks of ‘hard work’ in remembering to stay on course (adhering to the treatment plan which meany always and only take the medication 1 hour before drinking and only on drinking days) – but a good question might be: is taking diabetes medication, high blood pressure allopathic or herbal medicines, anti-biotics for TB, the 3-in-1 HIV medication every day ‘hard work’…..
Another error so many make and I made at first, and caused David Sinclair much angst, was the automatic assumption that naltrexone or nalmefene are pleasure blockers… the P = PLEASURE WORD. They are not – and people on TSM and naltrexone or nalmefene can still ‘enjoy’ a drink safely.
Most AUD’s (new term for old somewhat pejorative ‘alcoholic’ or ‘drunkard’) – Alcohol Use Disorders do not want to be addicted and do not ‘Get Pleasure’ from drinking especially those daily drinkers…
So in the end it requires motivation by those with medical conditions to adhere to treatments-of-choice which in the case of ‘alcoholism’ ….
But who can argue with this: AA itself claims a 5 % ‘success rate’ meaning zero alcohol at 1 year, other data from NIH, NIDA, WHO, UK Health authorities range from 95 % to 85 % relapse within 1 year.
By contrast, there are over 125 trials published in medical journals such as JAMA, NEJM, Alcohol, Addiction, BMJ and others showing that, only used correctly, always taking the medication 1 hour before drinking for life – but never on no-drinking days or with abstinence – opioid antagonists such as naltrexone or nalmefene can reach around 80 % ‘success rates’ — which means abstinence because there is no craving and no thinking or rumination about the next drink.. a loss of interest .. or WHO safe drinking limits per session and or per week – to the point where the brain is restored, more or less, to its pre-addicted state .. say before the individual walked into a pub and had his or her first drink…. no one has a first drink and becomes addicted. It takes many drinking sessions for the opioid system to be established in the brains of those who are genetically predisposed to alcohol and other addictions.
This was demonstrated in Sinclair’s Finnish government sponsored Alko Labs (now part of the Finnish National Public Health and Welfare Institute, Helsinki during the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s )
There is a long way to go with all of this. I don’t think that rehabs will be able to pretend that the spiritual solution of the 12 steps is the most effective solution to this world wide problem. It is time for proper medical treatment for this issue and TSM can certainly play a huge part.
I try not to be critical of other people’s recovery solutions. I feel is a private matter for the individual to decide which solution is best for them. I have been critical of those who call themselves anti-AA. I feel that they often exaggerate the problems in the fellowship. However, I chose to leave the 12-step world, because I did not feel it was the best solution for my recovery, and also because I was wary of some of the members. It is certainly not perfect.
Today I was sitting in a cafe in London and I witnessed both the good side and the bad side of the fellowship from my table. I was reminded why I left AA, and felt sorry for one of the group, I could overhear, who clearly had issues with working the steps.
I was sitting on my own, when three middle-aged women sat at the table next to mine. They seemed in good spirits and it became apparent that they had come from and AA meeting. Two of the group had obviously been members for sometime and seem to have done well. They were offering encouragement to the third member, who had not completed the steps, and had some concerns about step six. They were talking about this in a low-key way, and not attracting attention. I would not have heard their conversation unless I was sitting right next to them. They were helping each other, which is what the fellowship should be about.
Their little chat, and privacy, was broken when two men sat down next is them. One was obviously the Sponsor of the other. The Sponsor type instantly butted into the ladies conversation and offered his wisdom. Despite the fact that the ladies were obviously not impressed by his intrusion, he offered to drive them to another meeting. When they declined, he carried on, and suggested they attend a different meeting in another area later in the week that he thought would be good for them. This meeting was one of the cult type meetings that I remembered from my time in the fellowship, where are people go to impress others, rather than help them. He seemed to think going to one meeting after another was the norm.
They were saved by Mr Sponsor’s phone ringing. He answered it very loudly, and it was obviously a call from another sponsee. This gave him a chance to show off. He certainly took the opportunity. Instead of being subtle, he answered as loudly as possible, and made it’s obvious he was talking about AA. The whole cafe could hear him including the waitresses who are pointing at him, making comments in Romanian and laughing. He started talking about the steps and God, as if they were the only solution to alcoholism, which is often what devout members of AA actually think. He was making no attempt to emphasise with the other person on the phone, but just talking to impress the other members of AA in the cafe.
He was precisely the type of person that annoyed me during the period I went to 12-step meetings. He was somebody that likes to perform to a group, but does not have the sensitivity to really help others. All he can do is quote the big book, and tell people to go to meetings. He is critical of anyone who does not work the AA program in a strict way. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like this in London meetings. He had completely ruined the ladies conversation with his intrusion. They were the ones helping each other and it was ironic, that it was the hard-core stepper that ruined things.
I certainly don’t think recovery groups are for everyone, but many do benefit from membership of a sober community. Unfortunately it is important to be on guard for people who want to dominate and control others, in these groups. I think this type of behaviour is more common in AA due to the sponsorship part of the program. I certainly felt a relief at not having to deal with the self-righteous critical types, who are often horrific gossips, after leaving AA. I valued my privacy, but people such as the man in the cafe, do not. For them AA has become a way of life, and they love to tell others that they are members, even anonymous people sitting in a cafe. They feel blessed to be members of AA.
This brought back a memory for me, as the first time I was embarrassed by a member of AA in public, was in this very cafe over a decade ago. That person was my sponsor, and I realised he was very similar to the man in there today. He would have used the same phrases, and was equally tactless. I had chosen him as my sponsor, as he had latched onto me at meetings and told me about other meetings that he felt were good. I realise now that I was being guided to hard-core 12-step meetings, rather than the more laid back meetings that I later found helpful. It was odd to experience this again. It made me realise how far I have come. I realise now that I was never going to fully fit in to AA. I’m not religious and I’m not spiritual. It suits some people, but is not the only way and as I value my privacy, I am better off not doing recovery in a group any more.
Here is a quick post about a couple of interesting things in the last week you may have missed. I watched a fairly good documentary on BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p053f013/rehab-lives-addicted called Rehab: Lives Addicted. It showed the state of treatment in the UK, for addicts suffering serious addiction issues, where there is not much funding. There is not much on offer except 12 step and a detox. I felt very sorry for the people involved and it certainly showed the need for a more modern and effective system rather than what is on offer here. It is either comply with abstinence or you are out, and this can lead to overdose for those who have been through a detox as soon as they get outside. There did not seem to be much CBT or other counselling taking place.
This is from the BBC site
Going behind the doors of the private world of a residential rehabilitation centre in Somerset, this powerful documentary uncovers what is done to help people beat their addictions and start rebuilding their lives, through a series of intimate encounters at Broadway Lodge.
From Phillip Wood, the film maker behind the acclaimed documentary Chasing Dad: A Lifelong Addiction, we meet people who come from different situations and parts of the UK who all have one thing in common: to seek a new beginning here. Observing the relationships formed between staff, clients and their families, the film explores how desperate and difficult it is for people to transform themselves when funding is scarce and emotions are running high.
Explaining how he ended up in AA himself, Stewart said: “The thing that led me to seek help was the same thing that leads any alcoholic or addict to seek help. It’s that you’re broken in your core. I went to a meeting and got help, I met a lot of nice people, some of whom had had much much bigger records than I had ever had with Sleeper. You know, we had one platinum album, at my first AA meeting there was a guy there who had seven. So that was pretty impressive. I realised I was no longer special and different. And that saved my life”.
With AA he eventually got sober, and also found God through the spiritual side of the organisation. Becoming something of an evangelist for the group – an “AA Taliban”, as he described it – Stewart attended meetings for fourteen years before deciding to leave, after questioning his faith and becoming and Atheist again.
“After fourteen years, I started to feel like I was in what seemed to be a cult”, he said. “Of course AA is not a cult, I want to be very clear about that. But it uses methods that parallel with the ‘thought reform’ methods that have been studied by sociologists. And they work, so AA uses that for good outcomes. I had a fairly spiritual sponsor who encouraged me to pray, so I did it and I had a spiritual experience as the result of working the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Which is the point”.
“I stopped going to AA meetings and started attending some CBT [Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy] groups instead, which were similar, but also different in some ways”, he continued. “I wanted a different kind of recovery based on real world experiences. So while I’m very supportive of AA – I really believe in it – but at the same time the narrative is that a lot of people leave it and move on and I wanted to understand that phenomenon”.
It is always sad when somebody passes away but even more so when it is relatively early in life. It is a real shame when addiction is behind death, as it is something that can be beaten. It is always a reminder to us in recovery, of how serious drink and drug problems can be. It is a hard reality check for those of us who have struggled in the past and managed to stop. Recovery is not easy, especially at the start and some people just don’t manage to change. They cannot face life without drink.
An old friend from my drinking days, died recently, from substance abuse related issues. He was under no illusion that he had a problem and had been in hospital before, after a drinking related stroke. Many people had tried to help him and he was introduced to different support groups and medical treatment, but nothing really helped. He would tell his friends he had stopped, but we knew that this was not the case. His drinking cost him a couple of marriages, and destroyed relationships with his family. He was amazingly talented but was not nearly as successful as he could have been, because people realised he had problems and would not employ him. He lost a huge amount of money feeding his addictions, and the stress of this caused his problems to accelerate. It is the type of story that I used to hear a lot, when I went to AA meetings.
It is strange to know he has gone. We had some great times in the past and were very close for many years. He did some great things and could be very generous and kind, but the was always a wild side underneath. He was generally well liked amongst the drinking community, but that was part of the problem, as he was always surrounded by fellow abusers. We drifted apart after I got sober. I knew it was not good for me to hang out it drinking environments in my early days, and by the time I had a couple of years of sober time, I had moved on, and had no real interest hanging out with people who were drunk. It was no longer something I wanted, I had started viewing drink as poison rather than something I craved.
Over the last 10 years a few of my little group have thankfully managed to change their ways. Not all are in recovery, as some have just changed, after middle age has played its part. A few others are still pushing the limits and sadly they do not look well. It is quite odd bumping into them again, as I realise I have changed. I don’t feel I have much in common with them any more. It is almost that getting smashed was the most important part of our friendship and nothing deeper which is what have with people today.
A death, does bring into focus how dangerous the drinking lifestyle is. You can get away with it most of the time when you are young, and many would consider it normal behaviour. Some people just can’t get to a stage where they are motivated to stop. No matter how hard they suffer, or how chaotic their life becomes, they cannot find a solution. I don’t judge them badly, I realise how hard it is to stop. Drink and drugs are all around us and in the UK, there is a big binge drinking culture. It is not glamorous and it is not fun. Although I certainly partied hard in some great nightclubs and other trendy spots, that was not what I was doing by the end. I was drinking in dumps that stayed open late or chains such as Wetherspoons that sell cheaper pints that attract people with drink problems. there is nothing glamorous spending the night in one of those places and you always run the risk of annoying the wrong person as closing time approaches and many pints have been sunk. Some people say AA is rough, but they should try Wetherspoons near a south London Council estate one evening, if they want to see what drink does to people.
Who is next?
I think more of my old drinking friends will pass away over the next few years. We are over fifty and our bodies cannot take the pace any more. There are always exceptions to the rule such as Lemmy, or Keith Richards, but most can’t take that pace. It is a shame and I hope that things will change in the future and people will value their lives more. The problem is acute in deprived areas, and sadly, I think, that thanks to the actions of our government, there is more deprivation on the way. I understand the effects of unemployment and lack of opportunities. Life feels very unfair at times and this drives addiction. Other people like myself and my friend were party animals, who let things get out of control. He used to tell me, I was boring for stopping that lifestyle, and I hoped he would change and stop as well. I thought he would do it at one point, as he seemed to be ready. He was influenced by one of our acquaintances who had managed four years of sobriety and this was somebody he looked up to. Sadly, despite having a stroke the still could not stop, and the effects of long term cocaine abuse added to his problems.
I feel very sorry for him, and was shocked when I got the news. I had to tell quite a few people it had happened and they were also shocked. It is a strange feeling, as I was expecting this to happen. He looked awful the last time I saw him, and he wanted a lift to score drugs. I have given him lifts in the past, but refused this last time. He looked too frail and I did not want to feel responsible, if anything happened. I bought him lunch, but it was not what he wanted. I recognised his hunger, as I used to have the cravings and wanted the safety and anonymity you can get in some sleazy pub.
Life can feel so overwhelming at times, especially when drugs and drink add to your paranoia. It is a horrible place to be and people who have not experienced the desperation do not normally understand it. I read a lot of crap about beating addiction, from people who have no idea how hard it can be. I respect anyone who tries to change, especially those whose lives have really fallen apart. I have heard some amazing stories of recovery I the past, especially in the sort of rough recovery meetings that I preferred. I had no time for the posh meetings and the trivial sharing. Most people have many attempts at stopping and have a few disasters along the way before they make it. Others just seem to give up and can find no peace without drink or drugs. Nothing seems to make them change their ways. I can understand that as well. There was a time when I did not want to recover and had really had enough of life. I did not want to kill myself but did not want to live a long life. My existence had become meaningless and I was suffering from bad depression. At that time I felt that drink was the answer, but it was only after I had spent some time with others who were attempting a sober lifestyle that I realised many of my problems were driven by drink. My whole perspective on life was wrong.
Relief at getting Sober.
I am glad I got away from all that, and am thankful for all the people who have supported me. I would not have done so well in the past, when there no suitable books and no internet to find help and solutions. I keep the blog going as it allows me to keep a little bit of contact with the recovery world, without taking part in formal groups. I feel comfortable with my sobriety these days, but it still brings you down with a thump when you find out about somebody who has passed away. It is very sad. I wish there was some way of stopping this happening. The drinking and drug culture in the UK is bad, and not enough is being done to change this. It is no good waiting for people to get into problems and then offer them a few counselling sessions and a pack of antidepressants. We need a big change in values, in the way that people have gone against smoking. There will always be some that get into trouble, but many could be helped.