12 Steps

TDA’s Secret Spell of Sobriety

August 19, 2010

The Discovering Alcoholic uses Waterhouse’s Magic Circle to make a point

Inevitably I have someone come up after a recovery meeting to ask me what is the secret to long term sobriety and recovery. It is usually someone new to the program, that has attended meetings routinely on the weekends for a while, and has decided that now they are “really serious” about recovery. I know I did the same thing many years ago, asking my temporary sponsor as he explained his thoughts on the twelve steps, “but how do you do it for the rest of your life?” Apparently I didn’t get an exactly inspirational answer since I can’t remember his response. Neither did I stay in AA after I had finished my ninety meetings in ninety days after rehab, but I still credit much of my successful recovery program to the things I learned in those meetings.

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The TDA Abbreviated 12 Step Program for the Spiritually Challenged

May 25, 2009

Step 1 – Admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2 – Admitted, said out loud, and meant, to ourselves and to many others our nature and the warped reality of our existence

Step 3 – Decided to act upon this predicament and stay sober at all costs, getting professional help when necessary

Step 4 – Made a deeply introspective list of all things stressful, worrisome, embarrassing, or pending that required action so that recovery becomes a priority

Step 5 – Made daily and measurable progress on correcting items on this list, also identifying those items which were honestly beyond our power to change

Step 6 – Reflect, refine, and repeat

Do I have a problem with the 12 Steps? Absolutely not. Did I have a problem with the 12 Steps? You betcha! While still drinking and in even in early recovery I concentrated on the reasons why the steps would not work for me, the religious aspect, the spiritual aspect, and the many logic traps I spent hours/days creating. I still worked all the steps diligently, yet deep in my heart lacked faith in many of the steps.

Over time it has become obvious to me that the 12 Steps have two purposes, one is to help people quit drinking and the other is to learn again how to live without drinking. The latter can not happen before the first, and I think this is the cause of many abandoning their program in frustration.

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Big Book Birthday

April 21, 2009

Big Book Birthday at The Discovering Alcoholic The famous blue “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous turns 70 this month and will probably pass the mark of 30 million copies sold later this year.

In addition to discovering that the first edition copies were actually red, with a little research I found out that books from the original first printing of 5000 are going anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000 depending on the condition. One of the rarest copies is kept in a safe by the Alcoholics Anonymous archivist in Akron, OH; it is actually signed by both founder and author Bill W. and co-founder Dr. Bob and rests along side the original manuscript.

The forward of the first edition printing reads:

”We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.”

I wonder if Bill W. and Dr. Bob had any idea from those original one hundred men and women AA would grow into an international organization with over 2 million members and that the Big Book would become one of the most influential books of the 20th century? Now that’s a big 12th step!

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12 Steps: Not How Many, But How Much

January 30, 2009

The 12 Steps are Free at The Discovering Alcoholic

There’s little I can disagree with in a recent Time article titled Battling Addiction: Are 12 Steps Too Many? 12 step recovery plans are not the only path to sobriety. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other secular psychotherapy treatments are also very viable options. Some drugs have shown promise like naltrexone and even though adding virtually unproven baclofen in the “serious” category is a stretch, there is a whole host of other drugs out there that may prove to be effective as tools in recovery.

It’s what has been left out of the article that I feel is important. 12 step programs for the most part are convenient, numerous, and… free! No prescription needed. No advanced degree therapist necessary. No asking time off for appointments during working hours. And best of all, no money is required. AA, NA, and other 12 step programs have plenty of detractors but no one can deny the fact that they are almost universally available. Sure there might be more effective treatments out there, but it doesn’t really matter if they are not accessible.

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Recovery Wisdom by Earl

November 1, 2008

I cut the idiot box out of my daily routine over a year ago but have found a loophole with full episodes and movies offered by Hulu and others on the internet. It’s usually during breaks in my business travel that I’ll decompress with one of my favorites; these include Lost, Bones, CSI, Fringe, and tonights’s topic, My Name is Earl (MNIE).

The whole storyline of MNIE should be familiar to alcoholics, it’s about a man who has made a moral inventory and is intent on making amends to recover his karmic balance. Similarities end there since Earl is neither an alcoholic nor into teetotalism, however the lessons he learns while working his list I often interpret to have great relevance in my own recovery. The embedded episode above is a great case in point.

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Strip Club Safe Haven for Recovering Alcoholics

October 7, 2008

photo by PinkMoose From my time as an alcoholic college student, soldier, and adult bachelor, I can speak from experience that a strip club is not conducive to sobriety. Working as an advocate and volunteer, I now know that many performers also suffer from substance abuse issues.

Maybe there are exceptions, but for the most part I see little good come out of these joints. So when I saw this story pop up on my news feed my first thoughts were extremely negative, a racy recovery program sounded ill conceived. My initial reaction was unfounded, it turns out that Screamin’ Meemee’s is now an ex-strip club that is being renovated to serve as a meeting place for recovering alcoholics. The building was turned over to its higher purpose as part of a plea bargain by the owner who was busted for running a prostitution ring as a sideline to the exotic dancing.

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Goodbye Old Friend

September 16, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend

I said goodbye to an old friend today and laid to rest my cat, companion, and confidant of thirteen years. He is survived by his brother/littermate and a host of fond memories that will keep him forever in my thoughts. I thought about posting a recent picture but decided he would have appreciated it more if I showed him off in one of his favorite poses, with exposed belly and splayed legs viewing the world through the slitted eyes of lazy contentment. This often displayed, blatantly immodest mode of sleep never failed to make my wife and I smile and I can think of no better way to remember my old friend.

But this is a recovery blog, and as a sober cat he would have expected a relevant tribute. So in honor of Thing 2, I would like to tell you about what he has taught me about the second step.

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Powerless: A Definition not Exactly Set in Concrete

September 12, 2008

Powerless- A Concrete Definition- picture by leighblackallI am an ardent supporter of the twelve steps and especially admire AA, but I rarely attend these types of meetings even though they have greatly influenced my personal recovery program. There is not a conflicting interest or cloaked animosity, just a recovering alcoholic that has found his own way, “and works it because it works.”

So it is rare that I will post a “step” topic, but I ran across a piece that I really liked over at Sober Mojo on the first step, particularly the definition of powerless. Now for me, this is the one step that leads little open for interpretation.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

It takes very little effort for me to recall how helpless and ineffectual I had become while consumed by alcoholism. Totally dominated, I needed to drink to live and every waking moment was spent in pursuit of sustenance. In complete servitude, I had been beaten down physically so that I shook and bled internally yet still I worshipped my master. My addiction to alcohol taught me what true and complete power really was… and I knew without a doubt that I had absolutely none.

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The Disappearing Alcoholic

May 10, 2008

photo by carbonNYCBeing more by becoming less would be a good way to explain my definition of spirituality. Helping others without any ulterior motive other than the fact it makes one feel good, yeah its sounds easy but for the diseased selfish mind of an alcoholic or addict it is a very foreign concept.

Even after years of sobriety and good deeds, the “becoming less” part of the equation can be elusive. By this I mean taking oneself out of the picture totally, becoming the disappearing alcoholic. Doing something without looking for a reward from the person helped or those that notice- instead generating that reward, good feeling from within. That’s spirituality… something I had replaced many years ago with alcohol. It’s a huge part of my recovery process now, but still something that for me comes less than naturally.

Those who work the twelve steps would consider it the last, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” For me it’s less about carrying the message (even though my name tag reads Discovering Alcoholic) as it is following through with the practice of selfless service. I know selfless service may sound like an awful lofty goal, but for those of us who battle addictions it should be considered one of the benchmarks for recovery. It’s evolution, moving from the quest of seeking reward from external substances and sources to enjoying a spirituality that we personally create through our thoughts and actions.

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How Can You Judge All Twelve When You Don’t Understand the First?

July 11, 2007

It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of time and energy some people will expend attacking Alcoholics Anonymous and similar 12 step programs. It’s kind of like picking a fight with Gandhi since the anonymity issue guarantees you don’t have to worry about any spirited public rebuttal. Some of the attacks are from alcoholics themselves rationalizing the tall boy in their hand and others are transparent in their self serving motives (Rational Recovery’s founder calls his program the "antithesis and irreconcilable arch-rival of Alcoholics Anonymous."). What brought this topic on was a post today by someone who commented that AA’s program shut down the critical thinking portion of his brain. In this post he cited a recent article in the Canadian Reader’s Digest that bluntly states that AA is “useless”.

The article is entitled 12 Steps to Nowhere and is written by J. Timothy Hunt. Near the end of his harangue of carefully picked statistics and off-topic shots at AA’s founders the author describes himself as a “highly functional drunk”. Immediately the warning bells sounded and just got louder as I read the following passages including “I made it a point never to drink when I was on duty” and when referring to his motivation to quit drinking as a funny look from his doctor he states “then one day, I stopped… It took one step, not twelve.” Now whatever credibility this guy supposedly had was eradicated with me with these two statements.

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Warning: Laws of the Universe Not Suspended Because You’re Sober

March 20, 2007

It may feel like the laws of the universe have ceased to exist once you have a month or two of sobriety under your belt after a lifetime of drinking. Be warned though, although it may seem like a brave new world to you, the rest of the world goes on as if nothing has changed.

A forty-one year old Las Vegas resident working through AA's Step 9 recently found this out the hard way. Click here to read the whole story in the Las Vegas Weekly. William Nottingham Beebe found sobriety "sobering" when he learned that just because he's ready to make amends doesn’t mean the victim he allegedly raped in college is as ready to forgive him!

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