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You know, I think this might be the ideal time to start a thread that I've been considering for quite some time now. I see it as a parallel to the on-going debate over the merits of various alcoholism recovery programs.

I'll start out by saying that I don't know jack about alcoholism or recovery programs. But I have read most of the debates in here about which program is "best". What strikes me is not the quality of the arguments presented (yes, that's sarcasm), but the level of intense emotional involvement from the participants (and that's not.) Clearly, surviving alcoholism is an intensely personal, emotional struggle. The experience is probably unique to each individual who has gone through it. I would imagine that that struggle would leave anyone feeling passionate about what they went through.

That experience is not something that people can debate. It happened, and it happened differently for each of you. You can't help but have experienced it in your own unique way. It changed you, and the meaning that it holds for you couldn't possibly be affected by anyone else's opinions or experiences.

Moreover, that experience, in itself, is valuable to a community like ours. People come in every day wondering whether sobriety is even possible for them. I think it's important for them to hear from people who have achieved it, by whatever means.

I realize that it might take courage to share that experience. What's more important is, I realize that it might take more courage, in the environment created by the ongoing debate we have had. That, in fact, is my largest problem with that debate: simply that the level of acrimony that it has created has made it more difficult for people to share their personal experiences instead of statistics.

So, I wanted to suggest an alternative to the debate, though it could also serve as a constructive adjunct to it. I suggest that this thread be used to record people's personal experiences of recovery. I would not expect such stories to include attacks on others, nor would I consider them fair game for attack. Each experience is bound to be different, possibly quite often contradictory, but each one has its own value, that it resulted in a sober person at the end of it.

I believe such stories would contain a lot of inspiration for the rest of us, whatever we're struggling with. So I put it to you all:

Anyone care to share their own recovery story?

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Mark and Julian,

This is a perfect parallel thread to the one discussing the merits of the various alcoholism treatments. My hope is that this will be a considerate, soulful and mindful thread-- one where we all respect each others' personal "recovery" experience in a safe setting of ongoing support and encouragement.

Thanks so much Mark for starting this very important and timely thread,


By the way Julian, I get the uniform, the big bucks ($000,000,000), the name tag and badge-- Julian just gets to be an excellent guy here!

Edited by David O
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I agree. Statistics often prove nothing. And it this discussion they are probably useless at best.

If people could stick to the 'treatment' then we can share and learn from each other. That sort of limits it to 'treatments' we have tried.

I got sober in AA. I tried the 'just don't drink' treatment (is that diy ?) many times. I never matured out (unless by coincidence it was after joining AA, but I kind of doubt that).

I also tried to moderate and I tried a sort of religious cure at one point. No dice.

So, what are the benefits of AA to me ?

It's cheap. (or free)

It's available.

Most professionals are familiar with it.

For me the 'fellowship' or social aspect has been good and the 'spiritual' way of life has alot of advantages (if I have the discipline to follow it).

So, besides just not drinking. Which I would have settled for, I also found a way to mature and grow and develop life skills that I probably never would have. Even minor things like public speaking. I was scared to death to speak in front of a group. Now I can do it no problem. There are hundreds of little things like that I got from the AA method. I couldn't list them all here.

I've also found a way to be of service to my community and my fellow human beings. I haven't found my complete niche in AA, but certainly part of it is there. It has made me a much better man than I ever could have been without it. Now, that might not mean too much to some of you who know me, but you didn't know me before.....trust me.


Originally Posted by xenophon

That is not impossible. There are some caveats:

One, none of these groups have a publicly presented success rate. There may be an internal number. But, nothing public.

There fore, what we are presented with are personal memorials. Those, perforce, must taken as what they are: personal memorials.

What 'works' is a personal judgement. What did I want this involvment with a group to accomplish? Did it, using my own personal criteria, accomplish those goals? With those in mind, something useful may result. There are no guarantees.

For myself, I would like to read something about: SOS, Life Ring, WFS, MM, Harm Reduction. And, DIY. Do it yourself is the the most commonly used option.

Edited by David O
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Wow, you guys almost got me.......

I was actually going to open up a bit.

Encouraging someone to open up while your sticking him in the back doesn't create a 'safe environment' for me. (David)

And since I've been advised that I'm a threat to this community, I suppose the only thing to do is find a place where I fit in.

I'll let all the 'poor victims' of my abuse be at peace now. I've kind of decided that the anti-AA folks deserve each other anyway. I'd rather have them here then at my meetings, for sure.

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I can't talk about my recovery experience without talking about AA, some will call it bashing. Although I only attend sporadically for 19 years, I was walking around with AA thinking in my head.

I was diagnosed with depression before I started drinking. I went broke trying to get professional help, antidepressants of the 70s didn't touch it, but I discovered amphetamines did. I started drinking in order to sleep.

A few years later, I quit amphetamines, but continued drinking; it took just enough of an edge off of the depression that I wasn't suicidal. Folks in AA were always upset if I mentioned quitting amphetamines on my own.

In 1982, the woman I was living with for 4 years gave me an ultimatum, quit dealing and quit drinking or she was leaving.

I was drinking a couple of quarts a day. My eyes and skin suggested jaundice. I woke up after 4 hours of sleep with the DTs, I threw up until I could keep enough alcohol lessen the shakes. My doctor suggested a hospital detox.

While in detox, the staff convinced me and my lady friend that I needed rehab afterward or I just just throwing away the money for detox. It was in rehab I first experienced AA.

I am an atheist, in Avon Park I learned that AA was the only way to remain sober and in order to work the program of AA, I must find God. None of this stuff that your Higher Power could be a tree, GOD. I left after two weeks of verbal abuse and intimidation. I paid cash, no refund.

I tried a few AA meetings, asking how an atheist could work the program. Same deal; I quit going. I went through a period of major depression. I stayed sober for nine months, but during that time a family friend who was big on AA told my mother and my lady friend that not attending AA meant I wasn't serious about my recovery. My mother severed all ties, tough love, and the lady left. I lost my natural supports and relapsed.

I was convinced that if I got help for depression, I could stop. I had quit amphetamines cold turkey after taking them daily for 2 & ½ years. It was unpleasant, but I did it. Every mental health professional I saw said that in order to be treated, I must first attend AA and quit drinking for several months.

Everyone dismissed the idea that atheists couldn't find help in AA. With doctors, therapists, friends, and family all claiming to know that atheists could find help there, I figured I must be wrong, the problem must be with me. When seemingly everybody tells you that you are wrong, you begin to believe them. I stopped listening to myself, I gave up on myself. People said I was crazy about AA and since I was already diagnosed with and suffering from depression, I questioned my sanity. So I'd go back, ask how an atheist could work the program and get abused again. I did stay around long enough to find out I had a disease that I was powerless over, always a good excuse to relapse.

I decided that if the only way to stay sober was to become one of those people, I'd rather die. After seeing the way suicides were talked about in the rooms, I didn't want my death used as an AA cautionary tale: "He left AA and committed suicide." It would be ammunition for them and I didn't want to give them the pleasure. I figured drinking myself to death might take enough time for them to forget about me. Because I had been programmed to believe that I couldn't stay sober without them.

I saw that the people in the rooms didn't care one bit about the people that passed through. They were either people who found God, recited dogma, stayed sober, swelled their ranks, and were beneficial to the AA story or they were outsiders that they claimed would die without them and they would claim these deaths proved that AA worked. Either way, it fits the AA dogma.

In 2001, I went to Social Services trying to get help for depression. They told me I must agree to rehab, 6 months of alcohol/drug treatment and a halfway house, all 12step of course. No matter how I explained that if it weren't for the depression, I could quit on my own, that I had several times but the depression always drew me back, they wouldn't listen. I explained I had been though 4 rehabs already, that I am an atheist and the program would not work for me. I was told that they are professionals and know better than I did what I needed. I did get them to promise that I could get mental health help if I agreed. (I later discovered that there was a more appropriate dual diagnosis program within walking distance of the apartment I gave up.)

Two months after rehab with no mental health help in sight, armed with my new Medicaid card, I walked into the local mental health center and demanded to be treated or locked up, that I was a danger to myself or others. "Especially others" was how I put it. It was a gamble that paid off. I got a sympathetic therapist who was able to talk me through most of my issues and supported me while system I was in tried to break me. He became a fierce advocate.

After I was done with the treatment and halfway house, I moved into an apartment program. The apartment program manager and I butted heads; evidently, sobriety doesn't count if you're not doing it the 12step way. I took computer classes and got online where I discovered I wasn't the only one who had gone through this sort of thing and that there were other approaches. I kept looking around at the other methods looking for one that would fit just right. I never did, but it kept me busy and before I realized it, I had almost a year clean & sober.

About this time, I developed an earache, the doctor prescribed Claritin. Claritin contains pseudophedrine, which showed up as amphetamines on my random drug tests. Despite my protests, I was tossed out on the street 5 days prior to one year of sobriety, my benefits canceled.

As I sat in the park where I'd be sleeping that night, across the street from where I used to buy beer with $50 dollars in my pocket, I thought, "Nobody would blame me if..." and I stopped. I realized it wasn't about blame and excuses but about responsibility, my responsibility to myself. From that point one, is was easy.

Social Services wasn't ready to let my supposed relapse go. (Turned out that my case worker and the apartment program manager who railroaded me were buddies.) They ordered more treatment which my therapist got changed to mental health treatment. They wanted me back in the same 12step halfway house for another 6 months. My therapist got that changed to a 30-day transitional home for the mentally ill. (Although I did get lost in the system and spend nearly 6 months there, my guess is purposely. During this time I lost my window for vocational education, something I was counting on.)

I finally got an apartment of my own, but my Social Services case worker wasn't done making me jump through hoops. I found myself without benefits a couple of times for no reason, had to pay for my medications out of pocket, but I survived.

Because I had been through the system, stayed sober and had my mental health in check, I was asked to help out with a dual diagnosis group at a local ACT program. All their clients were dually diagnosed, all had been through 12step treatment unsuccessfully. I was the only outspoken AA-critical, dually diagnosed person in town with more than a year of clean time. I volunteered there for over two years, during that time I received some valuable training, some of it under pioneers in the treatment of dual diagnosis. I went back to school on my dime for awhile.

Once my life was in order, I tracked down an old flame that I had lost due to depression and alcoholism. We were married in 2005. I now have a life that I don't want to lose, I believe that's the real trick to me staying sober. A program based on the fear of "jails, institutions, and death" would be too anxiety provoking.

AA taught me that I wasn't responsible, that I was powerless over my alcoholism. They tried to teach me that I couldn't possibly do it without them. They taught me to constantly second-guess myself, not to trust my feeling and emotions, to ignore the cognitive dissonance. They lied and robbed me of myself.

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It appears that AA can do both: help and hinder. It, also, does neither.

The questions are, to me, these:

Who are the people that it helps? What are their important traits? What do they do, and what does AA do in cases of helping?

Similar questions for those it hinders: Who are the people that it hinders? What do they do? What does AA do?

I have some ruminations on responses to these questions. But, these are pretty murky right now.

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I had hoped this could run freely, but I feel compelled to interject again. {For some reason, I also feel a need to use big words, which sometimes means I'm annoyed.}

I want to thank Ray for his contribution, which was just about exactly what I was going for. I also look forward to the possibility of hearing Tony J's, despite his misgivings. I would see to it that it received the same respect as anyone else's, providing the guidelines were met.

So, I would like to ask again for people's personal experiences; there are other places where we can post our conclusions. I ask for that separation not to deny anyone a right to speak, but to attempt to avoid the muddying of people's personal stories with other people's opinions. I feel like there is a time and place for each, but that they don't belong together.

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My personal experience is with SMART Recovery. I related elsewhere at this place; but, I shall once more. After my father died and my first wife died, I had a difficult time. I began to drink heavily - and eat too much. I did that for a year, along with other things. Such as: not reading newspapers and letting them pile up on the chair; letting unread mail pile up on the table; not getting dressed until four PM; etc.

That went on for a year. I decided to get a grip. I quit drinking. And, taking better care of myself. I checked out recovery groups on the internet: SOS, LifeRing; AA; SMART Recovery. I chose SMART Recovery.

I found it useful. I recall providing a link to the tool box.

I remarried; moved 1300 miles. I saw a REBT therapist. He told me that I am OK. And, that it is OK for me to be OK.

I presume that this will suffice.

My interest here is that people are aware of their options and have the opportunity to make a logical choice.

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I realize this thread is Alcoholism specific and I hope I'm permitted to deviate just this once and talk about drug abuse, since this is an area in which I have much personal experience.

As a product of the 60's and having been a 60's-70's love child, inclusive of the 3 feet of long, curly, flowing, black hair (now replaced by short, platinum colored/white hair with a very thinning top, a white shirt and tie), I began abusing weed at first (by age 16). I went from a weekly "joint" to daily. At that time we didn't have many of the current designer drugs (and also b/c I was short on money), so I expanded my adventures, along with my "friends," to huffing gas, engine enamel, and airplane glue. We included mescaline (from the peyote plant), hash, acid, psylosybin (sacred mushrooms) and other hallucinogens, all the while still smoking weed nearly daily.

For almost 10 years I went to bed stoned nearly every night and would wake up in the morning not to vanilla flavored Latte or coffee and a newspaper, but a joint or the remaining roaches in the ashtray. It got to the point where I was buying nose-spray bottles, emptying the liquids and putting drugs we could snort in there w/o being noticed.

At that time, several of us worked in a psych facility and one of our daily outings was to take the patients on a hayride down a long country road on the premises. The staff all colluded and we would all go as a group and pull out the weed or whatever we had and abuse it while on the job. We would at times be gone for 1-2 hours and would radio in just to let folks know we were safe and everything was OK.

I soon met someone in my late 20's and the love came fast. She placed an ultimatum on me, ".. either they [drugs] have to go or I will, but you can't have us both and I won't share you with your habit. So choose now!" I obviously chose her... we got married... had two wonderful children... and the rest is history. It's now been 25+ years since I've touched anything

I'm not convinced I was "addicted" or dependent, but I certainly was a frequent user/abuser. In a word, I was MOTIVATED, and this was the underlying theme to my remaining clean for this long.

Once again, I apologize if this is a break from the thread and will gladly move my post if it disrupts the flow.


Edited by David O
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My addiction experience is one thing; my recovery experience is another.

I started drinking at age 12 and smoking weed at age 14. By age 15 I was smoking and/or drinking daily, but I quit smoking weed at age 17 or so simply because I didn't like the stuff (imagine that!). Drinking really became a problem, though, and by the time I was of legal age to drink (18 in those days) I was drinking myself into a stupor every night. I kept doing this for a couple of decades, and by the end of that time I was a mess, to put it mildly. I was drinking around a quart of liquor a day. Maybe a little less, but in that ballpark. I was a drunk, pure and simple.

I quit because I couldn't stand the pain (hangovers, shaking, blackouts) anymore. I put myself in rehab--outpatient--which was basically little more than me paying to go to AA, and they told me I needed to keep going to AA or I'd relapse. I went for several years and did what I was told, most of the time anyway, and I appreciated the fellowship. What I didn't like was the program. From the start it was clear to me that I'd stopped drinking because I wanted to, not because God gave me a daily reprieve from my malady. I continue to believe that readiness to change and motivation are critical.

It did help a lot to work with a counselor. She helped me more than anything else. But I don't see her anymore, don't go to AA anymore...now I'm a mere nondrinker.


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Good morning Irmajean,

This is absolutely classic-- most people quit on their own, absent any treatment. Some more slowly than others, and others thru a shocking event, some when they hit bottom, or they wake up, or that have a wake up call (as you describe), or they simply age out.

Good for you for having the strength and wisdom to put it on the table! Too many partners suffer alongside their spouse or mate w/o having the emotional energy or courage to confront what may destroy their marriage. And, too many become co-dependent where they develop maladaptive and compulsive behaviors to survive in a setting where there is great emotional pain and stress.

Incidently, some research shows people who live with an alcoholic take ten times the amount of sick leave than individuals who are not exposed to alcoholism. Four-fifths of them also claim their productivity on the job is reduced as a result of their living situation. And if you have children, a staggering .5 million US children aged nine to 12 are addicted to alcohol at any given time.


Edited by David O
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi David, JP, Et Al,

There is no one way to recover and, in that way, I agree with the AA critics. Some need a program, some do not, some need psychotherapy, some do not, some need both, some need a non 12 step program, etc.

It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug. I do not believe there is any need to differentiate in terms of what is being discussed here.

One more thing: Recovery from an addiction can be complicated by psychological and psychiatric issues for those who have those issues, and that is NOT everyone. However, for those with a personality disorder, or with Bipolar Disorder, etc, recovery can be more difficult. For them, and others, I advocate Psychotherapy.


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I initially stopped drinking and drugging when I finally figured out that I was going to die if I continued. It became a choice between quitting drinking and death. I choose to quit. I was lucky in that it was the 80's and treatment was 28 days. My employer sent me using my health insurance so I got the counseling I needed plus the time away from my life which was full of drinking buddies. I have not stayed abstinent since then but I am 'ok' with that. I feel I needed the lessons and experiences that my relapses have taught me.

I wanted to comment on what David O. mentioned about the effects of living with an active alcoholic:

"And, too many become co-dependent where they develop maladaptive and compulsive behaviors to survive in a setting where there is great emotional pain and stress."

My father was (when he was alive) what I would call an alcoholic/rageaholic. When he got drunk, he got full of rage and violent. That was a difficult challenge to live with especially for a child who looks to their father for love, support and strength. Over the years of going to AA meetings I would guess that at least 90% of the stories I heard started with the same message "I came from a disfunctional home, my father/mother were alcoholic..." IMHO most alcoholics in AA also have the "maladaptive and compulsive behaviors" associated with "co-dependency". This is why AA is incomplete in treating alcoholics as it does not directly address these issues...one has to go to Alanon to get that side of the coin and most AA members do not go to Alanon. Most AA members I know consider Alanon the "enemy camp". These are the AA members who, I feel, are the most dangerous to newcomers.

One of the easiest ways to help AA would be to have it join forces with Alanon. The Yin and the Yang together, so to speak. That is my opinion.

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