Even though I haven’t been sober for that long (as you may have noticed, I like saying that a lot lol) nevertheless I am already developing the sense of what recovery tools I like. I think that when it comes to sobriety, it’s important not to be a follower, but to be an active seeker instead. If you’ve ever been in Alcoholics Anonymous, you probably have heard people bashing about how everyone thinks they are special, but they’re not – you are the same, you’re just like everyone else, they say. In my case, I encountered this bashing while in rehab. It was in a peer support group where the addicts who have some sober time would come in from the outside to tell their story. They’re simply trying to make you become a follower, they tell you that if AA worked for them it has to work for you too. Wait, what does it say in the AA meetings “How it Works” guideline? “Rarely have we seen a person fail.” Actually, not long ago, it used to say: “Never have we seen a person fail”… As long as you follow everything you have been told, you will not fail; but if you do, AA won’t admit that it might be because the program isn’t perfect and might not be the right thing for you. They’ll tell you that you just didn’t follow directions correctly, because AA is a perfect system. It comes down to a mindset that is all too familiar to me as an addict: “all or nothing” thinking, where there is no middle ground or so-called “wise mind.” (Wise mind is the understanding that two opposite things can coexist so you take them both into consideration before you make a decision.) Unlike other recovery programs, like Smart Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t willing to admit its own faults.
I am glad that the era of Alcoholics Anonymous being the only option is over. It has helped millions of people, and it still does, but personally I find myself using totally different strategies to stay sober. I honestly doubt that I would have became sober using AA. Even though I do still go to their meetings. Yes, I am in some sense a faker or what they call a “dry drunk.” God I hate that term. I find that what keeps me sober are a number of totally different methods in combination. I am a recovery whore, I do everything. I love Smart Recovery, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, and Alcoholics Anonymous is in the picture too. My favorites have been rehab and intense outpatient program. Currently I am moving down to basic outpatient due to being sick of going there 4 times a week for 3 hours a day. Although I have over-completed intensive outpatient program program by staying longer than you’re supposed to.
I will not argue that we are 95% alike and that it doesn’t matter what’s your drug of choice, we are the same. We may be largely the same, but that 5% of being different can be what’s standing between you and your next relapse. I am not willing to take that chance, so no, I will not follow blindly in someone’s footsteps, no matter how long they have been sober. Nevertheless, I will take their suggestions just to see if it’s something that I can adopt.
I craft my personal recovery strategy by exploring and getting to know my 5%. I think that keeping an open mind is important because I know there will be a lot of things that I might not like, or that I might be too judgmental about at the beginning, but I can’t let my judgement rob me out of something that might be the next thing to stop me from relapsing. That doesn’t mean that I will accept everything that comes my way and let someone else enforce their ideas on me without first giving a thought as to whether it’s right for me personally. If you don’t know where I am going with this, it’s called being assertive. Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication. For me, as someone who’s been dependent on alcohol for six years, it is important to learn this skill because I am inclined to be passive, and it’s often easy for others to enforce their beliefs on me, or for me to shy away from expressing my opinions. I think this issue applies to many people, especially those who are coming out from their addiction and are psychologically vulnerable. They are desperate for the solution that will solve all the pain that their addiction caused in their lives. I remember I was like that. Right before I even had a chance to go to rehab I was looking for the solution to my problem. I turned to Alcoholics Anonymous. My first meeting ever: I must have been extremely desperate, because alcohol abuse made me feel like I was insane; and I was scared of other people. That was actually what prevented me from asking for help of any kind. I was scared of myself and who I had become. I thought my problems were insane and that I was mentally ill. Who wants to be mentally ill? When there’s so much stigma about it, just like about addiction. Now I understand that isolating yourself for 12 years and drinking for 6 can indeed make you go insane, even the healthiest, sanest person would probably go bananas if put in the same situation.
My first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting made me realize how inferior I was. I already hated myself, so it wasn’t hard to accept that. I went there to find a way to help myself, I didn’t know how to stop drinking. AA is such a nice manipulation to make you feel guilty, it certainly would have been beneficial if I had had a big ego and was forced to go there while being in denial about my drinking, but that wasn’t the case. That’s why you need to develop your own unique recovery. Adopting the wrong ways at the wrong time can just serve to damage you even worse. I heard stories, this and that, but never how to quit, besides the magical 12 steps. The solution was God, but it never seemed to be about coping skills. How is mystical power going to help me quit? I needed practical working steps. I know it sounds crazy after me bashing AA, but what I am trying to say is that I am not bashing AA at all, it’s just that at that moment this program was not right for me. If not for rehab, I would have continued drinking till this day and going to AA without recovering. The people in rehab and in the hospital are the ones who gave me what Alcoholics Anonymous couldn’t. Instead of trying to force God on me as my savior, they showed me simply that I am not insane, nor inferior. That was what I needed to build my momentum. I needed to learn about coping skills, mindfulness, how to deal with my cravings, how to tell someone all the stuff I had been holding on to, how to write my trigger&escape plan, etc.
As I give myself more sober time, I realize how important it is to have confidence and self understanding. Being a seeker makes me discover the things that have stuck with me till this day. It’s easy to reject other people’s ideas because they are not yours, but once you find something that is yours, it sticks with you forever. Following is easy. Most of the time easy fixes are not worth pursuing, so why not take your time and embrace the journey of self discovery, that’s what recovery is all about. Why not try all the possible recovery solutions, and see what really works for you instead of chasing the opinions of others? Your recovery needs to be as unique as you are, otherwise it simply won’t work.