What are the best alcohol addiction articles on the web? If you do some searching around you can find quite a bit of information out there, and in fact you can read the entire Big Book of AA online as well. You can also visit various forums (including one here at Spiritual River) and various chat rooms where people are talking about recovery.
Are there any new ideas out there? Sure there are. But you have dig a little bit in order to find them. If you just do a quick search then you are likely to find mostly the same old ideas that you have heard before in traditional recovery channels.
Most places that you look everyone is regurgitating the same old tired ideas about recovery
When I first went online to read about recovery and how other people were trying to overcome alcohol addiction, I was a little bit disappointed in what I found. There were not a ton of original ideas to be had. In fact most of what I read was basically the same old ideas that were just being mirrored from traditional recovery. This was mostly based on AA and NA and the 12 steps. Most articles that I found on the web seemed to encourage the traditional route of going to meetings, working the steps, and getting a sponsor.
As I dug a bit deeper I started to find some more interesting stuff online. For example, I ran into websites such as:
* Anti-AA and anti-12 step philosophies. Now at the time I did not really take these websites seriously but I started to read what they had to say. At first I took them to be total crackpots but then as I read more and more I realized that they had some valid points. At the very least my eyes were slowly opening to the fact that there might be a different path in recovery. At the time I was still under the impression that I would have to go to AA meetings every single day for the rest of my life if I was going to have any kind of shot at sobriety (turns out this presumption was false, at least for me).
* Alternative methods of recovery. For example, I found a group of people who were recovering from drug and alcohol addiction based entirely on exercise and competitive racing. If you do a bit of searching you can definitely find who I am talking about. Again, I did not really know what to make of this group but then later in my recovery I realized that exercise had indeed become one of the cornerstones of my recovery.
But for the most part when I looked up articles online about alcohol addiction all I found were the same old tired ideas. These few examples stood out briefly but there was not really much further analysis beyond that.
This is about the time that I started exploring my own methods of recovery and what I was willing to do in order to stay sober for the rest of my life. In short, I was not willing to just follow the traditional path. It was not good enough for me when the old timers told me to go to meetings every day and just be grateful that I had a meeting to go to. I could not accept that as a long term solution for my recovery. I wanted more. I wanted to overcome my alcoholism without just shifting my dependency on to daily AA meetings (which seemed to be the example I was being given, for the most part).
So I started to dig deeper. I questioned everything and every person I met in recovery. I started to look at what people were actually doing with their life (not just in their “recovery” when they are at AA meetings, talking the talk), but in their actual life. Then I started to look at the results that people were getting.
It took some time to do this. You can’t just assess everyone overnight and start drawing conclusions. No, this was a process of observation that probably lasted at least a year or two. But the gears were turning in my mind and I could not go back to the old solution of “just go to AA for life and be grateful for it.” I had caught a glimpse of an idea, that there was another path to recovery.
The part that was perhaps most infuriating for me was “how it works.” Not the reading in the Big Book that they read before each meeting, but more than that…..asking the old timer in AA to explain how it worked rarely resulted in any meaningful discussion. I was told to show up, shut up, and listen up. Not always in that snippy of a tone but the basic message was “It works so why question it?”
This was not good enough for me. It just wasn’t. I had to know how it worked underneath all of the slogans and group hugs and even underneath the spiritual conversion. These explanations were lacking to me because I saw too many inconsistencies. Too many people who did all the right things but still relapsed. Too many people who seemed to be breaking the rules but doing just fine. And everything in between, with no one really able to explain it all.
And so I wanted to reduce the truth down to the bare essence of recovery. What is really keeping people clean and sober?
What was the real secret of recovery?
This was what I wanted to find out. And I finally realized that I was never going to find it in AA or NA. They had their solution, as incomplete and unsatisfying to me as it was. They would not look any deeper. To them, looking deeper into the solution was blasphemous, because why try to screw up a good thing, right? So they did not want to hear about my ideas in AA. They were done rewriting their book.
So I set off to explore my own ideas. I walked away from the fellowship of AA. I started to explore my own path in recovery, and to find out what really kept me clean and sober when you stripped away all of the AA stuff. In fact I was not even sure that I would stay sober. Turns out I did. That was over ten years ago now.
I believe that I have learned a great deal.
Exploring the creative theory of recovery at Spiritual River
Here at the Spiritual River I have written much about my philosophy of recovery. It is really just one person’s account of how to stay clean and sober without the 12 step program. Take it for what it is worth. If it helps you then that is great, if not, walk away and go to a meeting. That is the beauty of recovery, we get to evaluate what helps us and what does not. We can “take what we need and leave the rest.” I choose to apply this very principle to a program of recovery that I felt was lacking for me. Instead, I went on to explore my own ideas about recovery.
What I discovered in my writing was that certain ideas in recovery are fundamental. What that means is that, for example, you are not going to have significant success in recovery without abstinence. I believe that abstinence is fundamental to recovery. There may be some successful moderate drinkers out there but I think they may be on borrowed time (or they may be deceiving themselves about their alcoholism status to begin with? Not sure). Either way I think you have to detox in order to get a fresh start in recovery. Detox is fundamental.
In much the same way, surrender is fundamental. This is not unique to AA or NA. It is a universal recovery principle. Before AA existed, someone surrendered to the disease of alcoholism and found a way to stop drinking. AA did not invent the concept of surrender. It exists in any recovery, including those that predate AA.
And I believe there are other fundamental principles as well. A great example of this is personal growth. I think this is the essence of success in recovery. I believe that the people in AA and NA who are successful are able to stay sober because they keep pushing themselves to grow. They keep learning. They keep reinventing themselves. This is personal growth. And I don’t believe that you need to follow a certain 12 steps in order to experience this growth. Certainly it is one path that can, in fact, lead to growth. But there are others.
So these are just examples of some of the ideas that I have discovered in my writing here at Spiritual River. I have also discussed many of these concepts at length in the forum.
I call it the “creative theory” of recovery because I think that you have to create a new life for yourself in recovery, one that you actually want to live. If you are bored in recovery then this will lead to relapse. If you cannot build and create something meaningful in sobriety then eventually you will go back to your drug of choice. Achieving this new life is an act of creation. It takes work. It takes action. You must create the life that you want to live.
I think that there are many different ways to go about doing this. If you look at some of the alternative approaches to recovery then you certainly see evidence of this (like the people who run races and triathlons in order to stay sober). There are many ways to build this new life. I have found one for myself and it is somewhat unique in that it does not rely on daily meetings in order to keep moving me towards personal growth. I have found an alternate path.
Trying something new that actually works and applying it in your life
The best article you might stumble upon is one that suggests something new that you then apply in your life.
If this gets a positive result for you then you might take it a step further and see even more benefit.
For example, this happened to me when I started exercising in my recovery. It also happened again when I quit smoking cigarettes. And it happened again when I started writing about addiction and recovery online and exploring new ideas. And finally it happened again when I started focusing on personal growth as a method of recovery.
In just about every case I had to try something new in order to move forward and make progress in my life.
Addiction was a daily practice. You must establish a new, more positive daily practice
Drug addiction and alcoholism are a daily drag on your life. Even if you do not drink or abuse drugs every single day, most addicts and alcoholics eventually wind up at the point of daily consumption. In the long run, all addicts become daily users (given enough time).
Seeing that addiction is a daily practice, what do you think recovery is going to be like? It must be a daily practice as well. It is not possible to just “cure” addiction with a single event. This is not how the recovery process works at all.
Everything is process. Recovery is nothing if not process. If you want to change your life then you have to constantly be changing your life, from now on. You don’t get to stop. You don’t get to attend rehab for 28 days and then leave treatment and never think about recovery again. That would never work. You would relapse almost instantly. They have not yet managed to cure addiction, but this is what most people are expecting (or hoping) for out of a trip to rehab.
Instead it is a process. A lifelong process at that. You must live in the process of recovery for the rest of your life. You must practice taking positive action every day in order to build the life that you really want.
We talk about creation. How do you create something? You put effort into it. You become willing to take action. Then you follow through.
Now imagine that you are building something truly enormous that will take several decades and it will only get completed if you work on it every single day.
This is the scale of the true task that you face in recovery from addiction.
If you are to stay sober for the rest of your life then you must be prepared to make an effort at this every single day for the rest of your life.
This means you need to establish healthy daily habits.
In addiction your habits were unhealthy. They were killing you. If you want to stay sober you must reverse this trend. It is not enough to merely stop the old bad habits and eliminate the drugs and the booze. You must take it a step further and also reverse the trend entirely by establishing new, positive habits.
Think about recovery and relapse along a continuum. There is a long line and at one end is “blissful recovery” and at the other end is “relapse and death.” If you are not moving towards the bliss then you are automatically moving closer to relapse. I have watched many alcoholics and drug addicts try to escape from this simple truth but they have failed to do so every time. They say it in AA like this: “You are either working on recovery, or you are working on relapse.”
But remember when I said that certain principles in recovery are fundamental to success? This is one of them. Doesn’t matter if you are in AA, completely against AA, or working some strange program of recovery that you dreamed up on your own. Either way, this principle cannot be ignored. You cannot stand still in recovery. If you do then you relapse. You must be moving forward, you must be making progress, you must be pursuing growth. If you are not then you risk relapse.
So what we must do in recovery is to cultivate healthy habits. You become what you do every day. You must find a way to challenge yourself to keep improving your life over time. If you are not improving your life then you will eventually fall victim to relapse. It is tricky to explain how this can come about because our addiction creeps up on us in so many different ways.
The key is to take a holistic view of your health. I have had friends in AA who have NOT taken a holistic view of recovery and (for example) one of them died young due to being overweight and a chronic smoker. What good is sobriety if you are dead? If you doubt the answer to that then I would urge you to ask the question to my dead friend. That may sound harsh but it does not dismiss the fact that the disease has many different ways to sneak in there and trip us up. You don’t want to be sober just to be miserable or unhealthy. You want to get sober so that you can grow and learn and thrive and be the person you were meant to be. This is real recovery, when you are pushing yourself to grow as a person and improve yourself and your life every day.
How relapse can creep into your life if you do not stay vigilant
Complacency is the biggest problem in long term sobriety. Many people who were once stable in their recovery find themselves relapsing due to complacency. How does this even happen? How can a recovering alcoholic suddenly transition to the point where they are willing to sacrifice everything and take a drink?
The key to staying vigilant in recovery is not in any specific recovery program. It is a function of two things:
1) The daily practice. Keeping your mind, body, spirit, and emotions healthy. Taking care of yourself in every way on a daily basis. Putting your health first (not just physical health).
2) Striving to improve your life and your life situation. Note that these are two different things. One is internal and the other is external. Both of these things matter to your recovery. The external things are mentioned frequently in traditional recovery as “changing the people, places, and things that led you to drink or use drugs.” The internal things are stressed in traditional recovery as being something that you change through working the steps. You can do this inner work in other ways so long as you are willing to get honest with yourself and take a deep look at your life. This is hard work whether you do it through the 12 steps or outside of the traditional path.
At one point I had to realize and admit to myself that I had a problem with self pity in my life. I had to figure out how to eliminate this self pity if I was going to stay clean and sober. I clearly saw this for myself because I could tell that it would just give me an excuse to drink some day if I kept engaging in self pity.
So I came up with a plan to shut it down for myself:
1) I practiced gratitude every day, and made gratitude a part of my routine. I wrote about gratitude (and still do at times).
2) I worked on my awareness of self pity so that when I noticed it I could redirect my thoughts and thus eliminate it.
This approach worked for me in very early recovery. After succeeding with remapping this thought pattern, I realized that I had control over all of my “diseased thinking” if necessary.
This is just another example of how someone can approach change in recovery without it being based on traditional recovery teachings.