Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Many Roads to Recovery

posted by Beyond Blue

Thanks to reader Eddie who wrote the following on the message board of my “A Dozen Addiction Zappers” post:

This all sounds good, but when you are as depressed as I am, it sounds just like a bunch people talking crap that ain’t true in my world. I’m an alcoholic and I hate AA. I have been through literally 14 AA based treatment programs, countless meetings, sponsors, a 167 page 4th step which I did with one of my sponsors. The Big Book says that many people feel a sense of relief after taking their 5th step. I felt like I did something I really shouldn’t have done. I have been there and done that. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked the program and please no idiotic AAisms. Just because it works for you don’t mean it works for everybody. I can honestly say that I gave the AA program 15 years of my life, and I’m still drinking to this day. Now I don’t even try anymore, because it’s a waste of time for me (going to meetings, calling the sponsor, etc.). Folks, I want to quit drinking bad, real bad, but AA is not the answer for me and does that mean I have to suffer in my life and die an early death because of it?

Eddie, trust me, I am not an AA knight. I even hesitate writing those two vowels given the eleventh tradition: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film.”
I have had my share of issues with the program, one being the fear of God they put into people who think for themselves: “No one is too dumb for the program, but many people are too smart.” (However, in hindsight, I sort of understand where they are coming from, because my brain was a real liability the first three years of sobriety, and thinking for myself would have most definitely lead me back to too much vodka.)
At any rate, I no longer take ALL my directions from their book anymore. I believe that I have enough recovery behind me to begin experimenting with my own program, which is based on the wisdom of their steps, as well as the invaluable teachings I have learned from different kinds of mentors along the way (two important ones being my writing mentor, Mike, who has never stepped foot in an AA meeting, and my guardian angel, Ann, who has taught me the basics of how to survive depression).
So listen, I’m all for creating your own program—whatever works for you!


I thought you might be interested in the following article “Many Roads to Recovery,” written by Dan Wakefield. He mentions several alternatives to AA as ways to stopping alcohol abuse.
And please know that I don’t judge you in anyway. We’re all just doing the best we can to find our way, a chunk of peace and serenity in this world.
You’re in my prayers!
Here’s the beginning of Wakefield’s piece. For the entire article, click here.

I never went to Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), but 20 years ago I underwent a lifestyle change that involved an exercise and diet program (lowering my resting pulse rate from a rocketing 120 to a healthy 60 that I’ve maintained ever since), and a return to church and a spiritual path.
From a daily dependence on alcohol that periodically turned into binge drinking, I went for long periods of abstinence to times when I have a glass of wine with dinner or at a social function or celebration.
My friends in A.A. still refer to me as an alcoholic, since I’ve never done the 12-step program and still sometimes have that glass of wine.
One evening over dinner, I asked one of those friends if she’d mind not calling me an alcoholic, explaining that isn’t how I define myself. I quoted the definition of alcoholism from my American Heritage Dictionary: “the excessive and habitual consumption of alcohol.”
My friend wasn’t comfortable with that definition and suggested we call a doctor to get a “medical definition.” I said the dictionary definition was good enough for me, and if she saw it differently that was fine too; I simply wished she’d stop calling me an alcoholic. She suddenly said, “Screw it,” picked up her purse and books, and stormed out of the restaurant.
One of the drinking buddies of my boozing days is an Irish fellow who also stopped drinking 20 years ago and has never had a drop since though he never asked for the help of AA, therapy, religion, or any self-help or spiritual programs. His friends in AA lament that he is, nevertheless, what they call “a dry drunk.”
In my non-AA layperson’s view, a “drunk” who doesn’t drink is a contradiction in terms.



  • eileen

    I, too, found difficulties with the AA Program. I have been sober almost 11 years now. I did not attend meetings long-term as so many do. I did do the 60 meetings in 60 days, or 30 in 30; I forget now. It has been so long. I think I attended meetings religiously for the first 6 to 9 months. It may have been longer. The one thing that helped me a lot was the fact that I recognized my problem and wasn’t in denial. I was lucky. I am sure others recognize their problem and yet have more difficulty. I wish I could be as successful with quitting smoking. Still working on that. We are all so different as you say.
    I remember being really fearful of the holiday season that first year. I was only 3 months sober and so much of the season is tied into toasting and cocktail parties. I was on hyper vigilance that first year. And, yes, to this day I avoid some alcohol related gatherings. Not family celebrations or gatherings but hanging out with those having a few drinks. It may be limiting my life, my socialization but that is what I’ve chosen to do to stay safe.
    The biggest problem I had with AA, however, was the inflexibility of the sponsors I had. The problem wasn’t with the program. They just weren’t willing or didn’t know how to adapt the methods to the individual. That was a major frustration for me. I was a single parent, working full time and going to meetings. My job was highly stressful. When I came home my time was my child’s until bedtime. I was not a phone person. Checking in every day or running every decision, plan and thought by someone wasn’t either. I was chastised for taking a weekend away with my child without running it by my sponsor. I was criticized for sharing something in a meeting that I had not confided in my sponsor. It made me feel like a recalcitrant child… a child again who could do nothing right. Another sponsor’s own issues kept intruding. I didn’t have the energy for that at the time. I had enough issues of my own. So I ended up doing the program solo as I have so much of life. I am sure it would’ve been more congenial to travel with a mentor and friend but that was not to be for me. And, that’s okay. I am sure they were just as frustrated with me as I was with them. They tried the best they knew how and for that I thank them.
    Another big frustration was the claims by so many members that once they stopped drinking their lives became better, happier and more peaceful. It seemed to be a required part of their testimonies. I did not experience that euphoria. My life was unraveling. Finally, a dear soul confided in me it wasn’t so much that their lives improved as their attitude, their way of dealing and coping with life. Now that I could wrap my mind around. Anyway, I know now that AA was just the first step in my Recovery process. I had to adapt it to myself and my needs,to the consternation of a lot of people. Oh well, such is life.
    The one thing I did discover is that so many alcoholics have such wounds and anguish buried deep inside of them. Like me, they were using alcohol to salve their pain and heartache. It was a novocain. I have come a long way in the past 11 years and hope someday I redis- cover joy in my life. I miss it.

  • scribe_fairy

    Hear! Hear! I commend you on taking back your life. Seems I’ve been dealing with a lot of guys who use AA as a crutch so they don’t have to get on with their lives. I’ve been a drunk, and a drug user as well, can’t say I’m proud of either — but — relinquinshing the ability to make my own choices is not something I’m willing to give up. And, as far as I can tell, that is what AA is centered around; give your life over to another. In other words, it’s not your fault, you have no control. I don’t see it like that and I’m glad to see another shares this attitude.

  • Nancy

    I am 51 years old and have been smoking pot since I was 16. At first it was occasionally; for the past 20 years it has almost been daily. I have tried quitting. I went to rehab. I attended meetings. AA doesn’t work for me. I found no one I could trust. No one would be my sponsor. I’m sure the issues were more mine than theirs. If I ask someone for something and they say no, I withdraw and internalize, and “konw” I can only count on myself, and quit trying to reach out.
    I recently had a major depressive episode and am working my way back from that. I went on medical leave and since then they have decided not to allow me to return. I have had no money coming in for 7 months now, and don’t feel I can go back to work anywhere at this time.
    Eight weeks ago there were several drug busts in town and it has been dry since then. Or at least I think it is. I ran out a week later. I made one call, was told nothing was for sale, and I have been sober ever since. During that time I made 2 other attempts early on, and nothing came of those either. I have not had the desire to try anyone else. For some reason the obsession is gone. I know it may come back, but I can’t help feeling God was behind all of this. He knew it was time. I knew it was time. I was just tired of not living my life. I was tired of wasting my money. I was tired of being in a fog. I was tired of a lot of things.
    I can’t and won’t go to AA or NA. I have to do this on my own, with God. Years ago I was addicted to amphetamines – one day I just stopped. Then I became addicted to LSD – one day I just stopped. Has my day to stop smoking pot for good finally arrived? I can only hope and pray it has, and I am strong enough not to fall back into that hole, where I end up self-medicating, and that causes my depression to deepen, so I smoke more, and become more depressed, etc.
    If there was ever a time I felt I needed pot, it would be now, what with all I am going through. Suddenly it just isn’t a possibility to me. I would rather be clear headed and feel the depression and everything that goes with it, than live in a fog.
    Pray for me. Hugs to all!

  • Rebecca

    Thank You!!! I always felt so strange that I was the only one who had an issue with AA. I hated it. Detested going there. I went through a divorce and became depressed and started to self medicate with alcohol. It got pretty ugly and my 20 something year old daughters started to freak out that I was going to hell in a handbasket. They had never seen me drink or do anything improper. I went into rehab primarily for them. It was a good thing but part of the program were these AA meetings. I began to get the feeling that since I was now labled an “alcoholic” I was being sentenced to spend the rest of my life emersed in this AA world of meetings, phone calls, sponsoring etc. What I wanted to do was get past this dark time in my life and get the heck away from all of it. The last thing I want to do is spend every day talking about alcohol. I don’t want to carry around my 12 step book and see what meeting I can go to next. I don’t want to talk about it 24 hours a day. I want to go back to school and finish my Masters degree. I want to go back to the gym. I want to go back to my normal routine. They told me I couldn’t! They told me if I thought that I could go back and be the way I was before I was in denial of my disease and I will never get better. Don’t tell me that! At first I believed what they said and it made me far more depressed. The thought that I could never be normal again. I could never be me? I am sentenced to AA the rest of my life? No way. I refuse to buy it. I have done very well for the last 2 years on my own. I have an occasional glass of wine but never have I been the slightest bit drunk. I still have my life problems, my sadness, etc. But when I need to hear some encouraging words or get some information I can visit this website or call someone, whatever makes me better. But when things are going well and the sun is in my face I do not need to revisit those dark days of my life. I don’t put anyone down if living the AA life works for them. I just don’t want to be judged by those same people if the AA life doesn’t work for me.

  • Janet

    I am a recovering alcoholic. I am in a 12 step program. The key word there being “A” program, not “THE” program. Thanks to my program, I dont feel the need to be critical of anyones method of recovery. I feel its wonderful that AA is there if you want it, and its there if you dont.

  • Geraldine S. NY

    WE ARE ALL OVERCOMERS IF WE WANT TO!
    Life is to precious & short.
    What works for one person, might not work for another.
    God Bless you all on your journey of life.
    Lets just continue to put our hands out to each other if we see we can help another. Whoever they may be, a old lady, alcoholic/addict, physcial changed person, whoever. I believe we are here on earth to help one another and love each other.
    Yes, it can be a very hard at times, but things in life do pass.
    Grace n Peace, Geraldine S. God Bless, go with God, For me I do believe and know all things are possible with Him!

  • Sue

    I too have had the AA experience and found other people’s view interesting. My own experience is after 3 plus years of sobriety is that AA was, and still is priceless to me. I was committed by a frustrated husband that was bitter about pending divorce papers and my out of control behavior. When they talk about a higher power, it can be a little overwhelming for some to be so spiritual – but I tend to make things very simple and know that something bigger than me was there to hang on to and the people and experiences I had were all part of some great big picture for me. I had treatment, sometimes 3 meetings a day, 2 angry teenage sons and a husband that wouldn’t talk to me. I did a lot of blaming and being angry myself, but all those little bits of wisdom from others and the things we shared in common helped day by day to move me to a place in my life that I can tell you is full of joy every minute even when life is full of absolutely incredible struggles.
    I don’t feel the need to advertise alcoholism but I know that drinking represents a whole other life that was the ultimate misery for me, and it has taken lots of changing everything about myself to get me to this place. The people I have met in AA just share a bond of finding a new way to live their life. It gives a guideline to follow much like basic religions but there is no judging in your beliefs and that is the key for me. Everyone that is serious and truly heads in a different joyful and powerful way has some sort of deep spiritual sense about them.
    Sponsoring to me is just someone being there to walk you through the basic things that help you get your life on the right path. Drinking was a way to be powerless and be in misery, finding God or a Higher Power to believe in, something to have faith in so you can trust that everything is going to be alright. Figure out what you haven’t dealt with in your life that is holding you back and share it with someone so it isn’t so scary anymore and you can let it go. Realize you have the power to be who you were meant to be in this world. We are all part of one big world and everyone has something wonderful to offer. That is one of the reasons I love helping others overcome their addictions. Many people have been there for me and now I can share some comfort and wisdom, too. There are many ways to gain this in your life, but AA offers a support group and structure that has been in place a long time and for many it’s a good life foundation that works if you let it.

  • jeanne

    I have been in and out of aa,rehabs,.finally diagnosed with being bi-polar.my deep depression started at age 11 when my mom died.6 months after she died,my dad died. it seems after this traumatic time in my life,i just could not cope.i did’nt have the skills.i never really was able to grieve my losses.now,40 yrs later i know not to stuff my feelings and medicate myself. yes.i admit i became an “addict”of sorts,but i am now in daily recovery.i do not go to meetings anymore.i am 2yrs clean now.i thank God everyday for His blessings He has bestowed on me

  • CAROLYN

    I FEEL SORRY FOR SOMEONE WHO SPENT 15 YEARS IN AA AND STILL DRINKS.
    FOR ME AA HAS SAVED MANY OF MY FAMILY INCUDING MY HUSBAND AND MYSELF.
    IT DOES SAY THERE ARE THOSE UNFORTUNATES WHO SEEM TO BE UNABLE TO GRASP THE SIMPLE PROGRAM ETC… I MYSELF DON’T DO EVERYTHING THEY TELL ME TO DO. IT’S MUCH TO MUCH WITH YOUNG CHILDREN. I ALSO BELIEVE PEOPLE USE AA AS A CRUTCH AND GET ADDICTED TO AA IT BECOMES THIER
    WHOLE LIFE.
    I LIVE THE SPIRTUALITY PART, YES IT’S GOD TO ME, MY FAITH
    IS SOMETIMES ALL I HAVE, I TOO STRUGGLE WITH BI-POLAR. LIFE
    IS A WHOLE DIFFERENT BALLGAME FOR PEOPLE WHO DEAL WITH DEPRESSION.
    AT TIMES JUST SHOWERING IS DIFFICULT FOR ME,
    GETTING UP JUST WALKING TO
    ANOTHER ROOM IS A CHORE. EVEN DOING THIS IS I HARD HA HA!!! OBVIOUSLY
    1
    ENJOY YOUR LIFE WHATEVER YOU BELIEVE THE JOY IS IN THE JOURNEY. I HAVE TWO BEAUTIFUL KIDS A GOOD HUSBAND NICE HOME. WHEN I’M
    WELL. I ENJOY IT EVEN MY DARKEST TIMES I LOOK FOR THE GRATITUDE OF
    WHAT I DO HAVE. YES I HAVE BI-POLAR I MADE A MISTAKE EARLIER SAYING
    I AM BI-POLAR. IT DOESNT DEFINE ME. I AFTER YEARS OF SOBRIETY AM
    ONLY ON 66 DAYS RIGHT NOW. THAT’S OK TOO. I HAVE MANY GIFTS, SO I
    GUESS MY POINT IS ENJOY LIFE MAKE THE BEST OF IT. DON’T SIT AROUND
    FOCUSING ON EVERY THING THAT’S WRONG IN YOUR LIFE. IT’S TO SHORT.
    GO WATCH SOME KIDS PLAYING IN THE PARK GO FOR A WALK SMILE AT PEOPLE
    WHATEVER YOU ENJOY JUST DO IT. I MYSELF THANK GOD FOR ALL THE MIRACLES IN MY LIFE.
    FROM,
    ONE MEETING A WEEK

  • CAROLYN

    MY GOODNESS I NEVER HEARD SO MUCH NEGATIVITY WHY DOES ANYONE HATE A
    PROGRAM THAT SAVES LIVES MAKES FRIENDS AND STOPS THE PROGRESSION OF
    A EVENTUAL DISEASE PROCESS THAT KILLS YOU. IT BRINGS FAMILYS BACK TOGETHER IT SHOWS PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE GOOD HONEST LIVES. WHY KNOCK IT
    IS IT HURTING ANYONE. I HAVE HAD MANY YEARS SOBER WITH PROGRAM AND WITHOUT.
    I NOW GO TO ONE MEETING A WEEK ONLY. I ALSO HAVE BIPOLAR IT AND MY ADDICTIONS TO ALCOHOL DON’T DEFINE ME. I FOLLOWED THE PROGRAM AS BEST AS I COULD. AFTER HAVING YEARS HERE AND THERE. I JUST GOT OUT
    OF REHAB I KNOW HAVE 67 DAYS SOBER. I STILL FIGHT HARD AT TIMES. I ALSO HAVE CHRONIC REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME AND LIVE WITH THAT EVERYDAY.
    I FOCUS ON BEING AS SPIRITUAL AS I CAN BE, IT’S SAD PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE LOVE OF GOD IN THERE LIVES. IT’S SOMETIMES ALL I HAVE THAT KEEPS ME GOING. LIFE IS DIFFICULT. WE ALL HAVE ARE CROSSES TO BARE. I FEEL TRUELY SORRY FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE THAT PUT A PROGRAM
    DOWN THAT SAVES LIVES. ONE DAY AT A TIME! YEAH OH NO AN AA SLOGAN
    HOW ABOUT LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD. IS THAT TERRRIBLE I PERSONALLY LOVE IT.
    LIFE IS WONDERFUL WHEN WHERE GRATEFUL FOR THE LITTLE THINGS
    TODAY IS SUNDAY FATHERS DAY, MY DAD IS GONE AND MY STEP DAD TOO. MY CHILDREN’S DAD IS HERE AND THAT’S MY FOCUS MY HUSBAND.
    ENJOY YOUR LIFE IT MUCH TO SHORT TO SPEND IT IN MISERY. HAVE FUN LAUGH DO WHATEVER IT IS THAT MAKES YOU AND OTHERS HAPPY.

  • John M- San Francsico

    I liked all the articles, I really related to the woman’s article about chronic pot smoking. I haven’t had alcohol or cocaine for over
    4 years, I have succumbed to marijuana use. It’s everywhere and legal
    in Northern California. I don’t get arrested or fired from jobs,
    I attribute this form AA.
    Keep going to meetings, recovery starts in the rooms, take it leave it.
    God Bless

  • candelaria

    A “drunk who doesn’t drink” by AA definition is a ‘drunk’ because a drunk is a person who is not SOBER, and sobriety is not a just a state of not drinking but a state of well being. Being sober and just ‘not drinking to drunkeness’ are two different things. Sobriety is complete abstance and spiritual peace. Even if you dry out and don’t over do it your still an alcoholic. You can take a hundered horses away from a horse theif, but he’s still a horse theif.

  • Debbie Egan

    Hey Ya’ll,
    I use everything I can to stay sober. I certainly did use all available resources when trying to stay high. I have been clean and sober since October 1984. It is very nice to remember the last 22 years of my life. My grankids have never seen me messed up. I have lasting relationships with people on a spiritual path and many who think they are. Who am I to judge. Drugs and alcohol are not allowed in my home. If I go out I am the one that can leave if I am uncomfortable. I did not do this alone. Many friends, family and yes sponsers. I have outlived three. I sponser others, some times it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Happy Fathers day to all. I think I am trying to say to each his own and whatever works. I am happy joyous and free most days. I still have life problems but there is nothing in my life that a drink would make better. AA worked for me and millions of others. By the grace of God I am free of most of my addictions. I am still working of tv and overeating but if I wasn’t sober I probably wouldn’t even be aware of the “soft addictions”
    Everyday I pray to stay clean just for today. I also meditate to listen. Life is good. Serenity & Simplicity to all. Debbie just this side of paradise, by the Silver creek in Oregon.

  • Anonymous

    What works for me is the spiritual practice of yoga. The answers one
    seeks is from within and not from within the bottle. There is a wonderful book entired the Tao of Sobriety by David Gregson and Jay S. Efran,PHD. As well as taking what you get from a.a. like people, places and things. Some of the steps worked for me and with the ones that did not I replaced with the other teachings.

  • Al

    Giving myself completely to the simple program of AA was the only thing that worked for me after 35 years of alcohol addiction. Key factors for me are continuous trust in God ,attending meetings daily, and love for myself and people regardless of hurts, habits, and hangups.

  • Marian

    I don’t know how I started getting “BeliefNet” e-mails, but I gratefully stumbled on this string of messages regarding pros/cons of AA and different paths to “recovery”.
    I’ve recently been struggling with my own inability to quit drinking for my own good. I quit a year ago for a short time, having gone to rehab and lost a good job (which I realized later I actually wasn’t happy with). I lost my job due to the drinking and one would think that would be stopping me now, but no. Strangely, had that humiliating incident causing my job loss last year not happened, I would not now have this job I love. However, something is still missing and except for feeling extremely alone (even though I have a loving daughter, son-in-law, and 14-month old grandson), I should be quite content. My new job pays the rent and most of the bills if I don’t overspend otherwise; I live alone and no one tells me what to do, etc. I’m overweight and hate my appearance and feel quite ugly, but I know nothing will help that without diet and exercise, etc, etc.
    It’s really difficult to understand my sense of “weakness”, to the point of “stupidity”. I’m feeling so worthless, and have been tempted to go back to AA meetings, but they leave me feeling even lonelier when they’re over and I have to go home to only myself. I’ve never been one to “depend” on others, such as a “Sponsor” – I was the oldest of 9 children, and pretty much raised myself, past my teens. AA has it’s place, and may be truly helpful to many, but not necessarily for me. I never quite “absorbed” all those benefits the AA “converts” seemed to have gathered. I attended the meetings, took numbers, called and was called (occasionally), never had a faithful sponsor (maybe didn’t ask enough), and even went to conventions, meeting many “successes” from past rehabs, making me feel even more of a failure.
    Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m headed right now since I’m truly in the throes of a powerful struggle for my future. I left the AA meetings, after celebrating a fellow-AA member’s 31’st sobriety b-day. Freaked me – I don’t want to go 31 yrs. w/o a drink, glass of wine, holiday cocktail, whatever. I may have become an alcoholic drinker over the years, but I don’t believe I have to give up the stuff until I stop breathing!! I just need help figuring out how to stop this depression drinking and appreciate life for what it is, even if it stinks occasionally.
    Sorry for rambling. Any hints for help. Please pray for me. My daughter loves me, and her son is beautiful – I don’t want to lose them, but have trouble caring for being alive. Thanks for listening.
    M ~

  • Anonymous

    I CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR DIFFICULTY IN QUITING THE DRINKING ROUTINE. I HAVE A DRINK WHEN I FEEL THAT A DRINK WILL DO THE TRICK…WHATEVER THAT IS. THE ONE SUGESTION THAT I RECOMMEND IS:
    1. IN ORDER TO QUIT A HABIT, YOU MUST REPLACE THAT HABIT WITH ONE THAT IS CONSIDERED A GOOD HABIT.
    2. THIS CANNOT BE ANY OLD HABIT…IT MUST BE ONE THAT YOU CAN HAVE EASY ACCESS TO.
    3. ONE THAT YOU FEEL THAT YOU CAN ENJOY.
    4. TREAT THE OLD HABIT AS IF IS “LIFE THREATING>” IT IS.
    5, THIS TAKES A LOT OF WILL POWER AND TRUST IN GOD THAT HE WILL
    DELIVER YOU.
    6. WHEN YOU DECIDE TO PUT YOUR TRUST IN “GOD” IT MUST BE COMPLETE TRUST…NOT PART TRUST BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT QUITE SURE THAT HE WILL DELIVER YOU…HE WILL! THE KEY TO THIS WHOLE THEORY IS PRAYER. GOD WILL DELIVER YOU NOW! YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT HE WILL DELIVER ON HIS PROMISE. ALL OF THESE OTHER SUGGESTIONS AS GOOD AS THEY ARE. TRY THIS ONE AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

  • dia

    openmindedness is the way for me. I see we do not get a life on harm reduction. I am over 5 years clean, and with the help of my HP, my Program (12 Step), My family, prayers/meditation ,a lot of sprituality, fellowship, I can stay clean a day at a time forever

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