How to Live Without Drugs and Alcohol

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A struggling addict or alcoholic might ask: “How do I live without drugs and alcohol?” The proposition can be mind-boggling for someone who is still caught in the grip of addiction. Typically, the addict or alcoholic cannot even picture their life and what it would be like without self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Furthermore, even if they could imagine such a life without chemicals, most of us do not want such a fairy tale existence. The idea of sobriety repels us, because we imagine that we will be miserable without our drug of choice. I know this because I once stood at this very jumping-off point: baffled by how I had become so dependent and miserable using drugs, but unable to picture a positive life for myself in the future.

So how do we strip away the drugs and alcohol, how to we manage a life with this apparent “emptiness” that is sobriety?

First of all, that emptiness that is so dreaded by the newcomer is nothing but a huge mountain of fear (one that is paper-thin, to borrow a great quote). It is only by walking through this fear and giving your new life in recovery a chance that you can begin to understand how that “emptiness” without drugs and alcohol was nothing more than an illusion, and anyone who stays the course in recovery will reap the rewards of a rich and full life. Understand, however, that you probably cannot convince a struggling addict or alcoholic of this. They must accept it on blind faith that their life will get better….just as I did.

Using a program of recovery as a guide for living

They say that recovery is an action program. This is absolutely the truth. You can see evidence that any recovery must be an action-based program when you start looking at the success stories and comparing them to the countless people who tend to relapse over and over again. The main difference can always be measured in terms of action and follow-through. The people who relapse often talk a good game. But that doesn’t keep anyone sober. Living without drugs and alcohol requires action on a daily basis, and that means discipline. Why discipline? Because the actions that carry you through each day sober have to be repeated, over and over again. That means you need to find and carefully evaluate what works for you in maintaining sobriety.

A program of recovery (such as the 12 step program) is supposed to be an objective set of guidelines to instruct recovering addicts and alcoholics on how to live their life on a day-to-day basis. Now this is all well and good, and can certainly help many people to live without drugs and alcohol. But remember that a program of recovery is nothing by itself, it only becomes useful after an individual interprets it. And after it is interpreted, it is no longer objective. It has now become part of that person’s direct experience.

The subjective program of recovery

Each program of recovery, regardless of who is working the program or what steps they are following or what book they are reading, is subjective. Any program of recovery must be first interpreted by an individual and then implemented in that person’s daily life in order to be effective.

In the beginning, we have to be told what to do, and how to stay clean. There are a number of programs out there, and an infinite number of interpretations of those programs. But we come into recovery in a sad state, out of control and afraid to even make decisions about our own lives. We know that we are beaten and that we need help.

As we grow in recovery, we start to see that the program that we have been following all along has several interpretations. There are many winners in recovery: people who have achieved a meaningful, long term sobriety. And among these winners, we see that their exact implementation of recovery varies by quite a bit.

For example, there are winners in recovery who never meditate. Some of them have never even tried. They might pray to a higher power, or find meaning within a spiritual group, or do other things that they consider to be spiritual exercises, but they never meditate. This is not good or bad, it simply is.

On the other hand, there are winners in recovery who base their entire lifestyle around meditation. They are meditation fanatics, and this becomes their core spiritual practice. It becomes a lifestyle for them. Is this good or bad? Of course not….it simply is. The point is to illustrate that recovery programs are truly subjective. They are not etched in stone and only open to a single interpretation. Just look at the wide variety of success stories in recovery…so many different people, achieving meaningful sobriety in so many different ways! Don’t shy away or be afraid of this diversity, as it is cause to celebrate. This brings hope for the addict or alcoholic that thinks they will never fit in to a recovery program.

So back to the question: How do I live without drugs and alcohol?”

There is a great saying around the tables of AA: “Take what you need and leave the rest.” This is to be taken literally as sound advice. You have to find your own path in recovery. No one can show you the exact way, because so much of the journey is about introspection and finding out who you are and who you are supposed to be becoming (i.e. what God’s real work for you is).

Yes, you are on a journey, and you’re going to have to navigate at least some of it on your own. Others can help you with much of it, but in the end, you will find your own path. Everyone eventually finds their own path–this means that they can look back at their recovery “program” and say “yes, I can see now how I tailored these ideas to fit in to my life. And it worked for me!”

Good luck to everyone out there who is working a program of recovery. Don’t be afraid to find your own path.

If you know of someone who is seeking the path, please share this with them.


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  • http://Howtolivew/odrugsandalcohol Rickey Torres

    Please mail any information about staying sober

  • michael holcombe

    Thank you. This is just how I have come to feel.

  • Anonymous

    dont judge me fool

  • anonymousReply

    whos standing over you as a judge ‘anonymous’?

    whos acting, foolish?


    Dear sir or Madam. I m addicted of drug. I want to leave this thing from my life. without taking medicenes is it possible? I want to make my body. fit and healthy. So please give me an advice. how to get out from this addiction?
    Thank you.

  • WeeMan

    Wow……….I have lived clean and sober for the last 16 years.I am health concious and exercise (weightrain) every second day.I have few friends and am not religious,although i live like i am (have no sex life either….celibate) and have rejected invites to church (i was brought up in the church) because i don’t “buy it” so to speak and if one has serious doubts…why sign in? (religion)
    Anyway i am utterly BORED and quite frankly sick of the ‘fitness trend’/health freaky movement seemingly sweeping the west at the moment………sick of it.I don’t even look that great for it (the weight training).I don’t see why fitness is so important anymore,unless your a PAID athlete,porn star,model,like working hard manual labour (yeah right!) for minimum wage…so you can wolf whistle at the girlies or twinkies…whatever! I’m over it and plan adopt some of my youthful drugging activites again and ‘feel alive’ once again…………IRONIC isn’t it! i mean after all ‘they’ tell you.Anyway on another note,what sort of people are drug/alcohol free lifers? hitler,stalin,saddam,extremist personalities/suicide bombers..etc…..just some thoughts

  • pawan mandhotra

    please help me live the wine

  • damien n

    i am 19 days clean today after finally admitting i needed help about 21-22 days ago. i relapsed hard multiple times and very nearly killed myself. i can finally admit that, yes, i am an addict and will always be one. but, it’s ok. since i had admitted this i’ve seen god work in my life like never before. i admitted myself into a 21-day outpatient rehab and have one day left of it. i truly feel blessed that i found help and have been introduced to NA/AA (narc. anon. and alcoholics anon.). it definitely is not easy, but i can tell it is truly worth it. by taking it ONE DAY AT A TIME, i plan on remaining sober from all mind altering substances for the rest of my life. will i miss them? sure. but i can’t enjoy life if i’m dead… and even something as “innocent” as weed will still eventually send me down the path of eventually getting back to the harder/deadly stuff. everyone must find their own path and their own reason to quit, but as for this guy.. i did find my reason. life is just too beautiful to waste away. i’m glad i lost control, because then i would’ve never gained control.

    -newly recovering addict/alcoholic.

    btw, alcohol IS a drug. period.