Recovered, Not “In Recovery”

Many people are unwilling to give up an alcohol-focused life, whether they continue to drink or not. These are the people who refer to themselves as being “in recovery.” It’s one of the biggest upsides to AA – you continue to use alcohol (yes, or drugs) in the form of “meetings” as an escape from responsibility and as a passive (or actively) aggressive punishment against those around you. Except now it’s even better than active drinking because no one gets to complain since you “are working your program” not to mention that you are powerless over your “disease” should you periodically return to active drinking. Talk about a win, win, win for yourself and a stick to beat everyone else with.

Of course, we often hear from spouses and other family members with a note that reads roughly the same as a woman who wrote saying, “I’m glad he’s sober, but when am I going to get my husband back?” The answer is, of course, NEVER!

That’s one of the conditions of AA membership – you must leave everyone else behind.

The second theme in the questions we get is, “I have less of him/her now than when he/she was drinking and I’m lonely as hell, so what am I supposed to do?”

AA teaches members to say, “I have a disease! You can’t leave someone with a disease!”

Yes, guilting others, instead of feeling justifiably guilty themselves, is a new aggressive weapon AA teaches its members.

As I often mention, that’s a lot of advantages to gain and a steep price to pay for actually recovering.

For those of us who have fully recovered, the price is taking responsibility for our behaviors: past, present, and future. That is a steep price when we may have spent years evading responsibility.

But for most the benefits of stepping up far outweigh the cost.

So what does the cost/benefit analysis look like?

Recovering means you are not “powerless” and you do not need a dime (“flipism” for those of us to remember Donald Duck comics of the 1950s)) or a doorknob to make your decisions for you. Nor do you need to mindlessly follow along with the other sheep to the dictates of a predatory “sponsor.”

Recovering means you need not label yourself (even AA says that if you can quit or modify your drinking without AA then you aren’t a “real alcoholic”).

Recovering means you can join the ranks of ex-smokers and take pride in a tough accomplishment – an accomplishment that makes you both more powerful and more human than a lot of people get to be.

Recovering also means that you have been brave, and stubborn, enough to face and solve whatever problems you have been medicating.

If medicating is the symptom, what the real problem?

No shortage of problems for most of us. The usual collection: anxiety, depression, trauma, personal passivity, loneliness, boredom, and so on, and on, and on.

But usually, these real problems have real “cures.” CBT, assertiveness training, diet, exercise, and self-awareness among them, both individually and in combination.

“Damn! You mean I’m going to have to start paying attention and do stuff?”

Yes, I’m afraid so, though “doing stuff” isn’t always a negative. Think about what you lost when you chose medication over intimacy, for example. Or spending money on alcohol rather than flying or dance lessons.

One last thought. I’ve noticed over the past 40 years that there does seem to be some correlation between excessive alcohol use and a degree of self-destructiveness. I don’t mind saying that that was certainly true in my case. And alcohol became a problem when I switched from life-enhancing self-destructive behaviors (motorcycles, rock climbing, living in rural Alaska, spelunking, etc.) and went for the easy life-diminishing alcohol ingestion.

So, again a choice presents itself: the easy, mindless, self-destructive escapism of the “in recovery” cult; or a really enhanced life of doing, being, power and intimacy? I chose the latter, mostly, and you can too – if you couldn’t you wouldn’t be reading this Newsletter, would you?