What is the first step to freedom from alcoholism?

Do I need to admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life? “Yes” Do I need to admit to myself that I have created messes in my life? ‘Yes” Is my whole life a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess? “My whole life” Can I admit this to myself? “Yes” Can I stop playing the game alcoholic? “Yes” Can I realize that my life has become unmanageable in many ways? “Yes” Do I continue to do things that I later regret doing and tell myself that I will not do them again, but I do? “Yes” Do I keep on doing things in spite of my regrets, my denials, my vows, my cover-ups and my facades? “Yes” Is my addiction still under my control to stop? “Yes” Has my addiction become bigger than I? “No” What is a “Big Plan” for recovery? A big plan for recovery is “I will never drink/drug again, I will never change my mind. I am now free to do as I please Soberman


d0gmatic's picture

Good questions, Soberman. Do I need to admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life? “Yes” I knew long ago that I could not consume alcohol without mostly negative consequences. I also had to face some mental/emotional stuff and work through it. That is an ongoing process. Do I need to admit to myself that I have created messes in my life? ‘Yes” The evidence has been overwhelming at times in my life. I'm no longer creating messes. Well, maybe some very small ones. Is my whole life a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess? “My whole life” I've had some good lengths of productivity and relative happiness, punctuated by messes large and small. Can I admit this to myself? “Yes” Absolutely. I knew I was in trouble when I was 16. Can I stop playing the game alcoholic? “Yes” Certainly. AA is what made me an 'alcoholic' and I no longer buy that label. Can I realize that my life has become unmanageable in many ways? “Yes” It was when I was drinking compulsively and daily. Not now, though. Do I continue to do things that I later regret doing and tell myself that I will not do them again, but I do? “Yes” Not so much any more. I still get mad at bad drivers. I can lash out at others if I feel I've been backed into a corner psychologically. Do I keep on doing things in spite of my regrets, my denials, my vows, my cover-ups and my facades? “Yes” Yes, I procrastinate quite a bit. Case in point: I have to file a tax extension because I didn't get get my act together in time. Sometimes I am very conscious of using my public mask to fool people into thinking I'm Mister Nice Guy when I'd rather spit in their face or wring their neck. There are other things, of course. Is my addiction still under my control to stop? “Yes” Absolutely. Like you Soberman, I don't ever plan on drinking again. It is simply not worth it. Has my addiction become bigger than I? “No” It was much bigger than me at times. It is now a quivering mass of jello in a deep pit. What is a “Big Plan” for recovery? Do whatever is necessary to keep liking my sober self, continue to examine options for growth, make use of myriad resources for help of all kinds, accept myself fully and irrevocably and remember life is not a bowl of cherries. Oh, and fully own that AA does not run my life, I do!

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"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ~ Nietzsche

What is the first step to freedom from alcoholism?
Quit drinking. That is all.

Works for me. I do not think that I am an alcolic. I have in the past and all it did was mess up my life, people were willing to help me out with it. If you do not believe me go to an AA meeting. Or talk to one who has and will not clean that crap out of their head. If you do not like what alcohol does to you, don't drink it. But that does not give you permission to bother other people about it. It is up to them to find out fro themselves. There is not great wisdom in this, you are not telling me something that I do not already know.
Orange's picture

I think that your first line pretty much says it all: "Do I need to admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life?" That was one of the key things for me. When I got so sick that I couldn't work any more, so I had no money to pay rent or utilities, and got evicted and became homeless, I had to conclude that "this routine wasn't working out so well." I agree with OpenlyHostile when he/she says, "Quit drinking." That is the whole ball game. But there was an event before that: deciding that I had to quit drinking. Concluding that I really had to do it. And accepting that I had to do it. Before that, I went through a lot of changes like bargaining. "Maybe if I just cut down, things will be okay. I don't really have to quit, do I? Maybe if I just quit for a few months, and get myself back together. That will work, won't it?" I notice that the stages of quitting drinking resemble the stages of death: 1) denial 2) anger 3) bargaining 4) depression 5) acceptance I recall going through all of those stages before concluding that the party was really over and I really had to quit drinking, for real. And I don't think that it is a coincidence that old Lizard Brain will insist that quitting drinking is death — the end of life, the end of fun, the end of all good times, a fate worse than death.
Rolf Ankermann's picture

You need to overcome denial to reach acceptance (from pages 20-22 of The Freedom to Recover) If we can agree that acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery the next logical question is how do we get there? In Elisabeth Kubler’s book, On death and dying, she identifies five stages of grief, starting with denial and ending in acceptance, that one goes through when experiencing a terrible loss. In the case of an alcoholic or addict, the loss of their coping mechanism, be it the bottle or drug of choice, is a very traumatic experience. In many cases they have alienated just about everyone in their life and their abused substance is the only friend they have left. Again, the first step in this process of grieving is that of denial which is simply the opposite of acceptance; the rejection of reality and the truth. In the case of an alcoholic, mountains of evidence proving their dire condition are usually painfully clear to see, yet the individual either outright refuses to recognize them or he or she attempts to rationalize and justify them. Alcoholism is a slowly progressive condition in that it only gets worse over time and never better. Because of this gradual progression, many people can trudge along for many years as what has come to be known as “functioning alcoholics”. The ramifications of their drinking have not yet caused the calamities that will inevitably make denial impossible. They haven’t yet lost their jobs, friends, families or been involved in any automobile accidents. The key word here is yet, because as sure as the sun will rise, these are just some of the negative results that await every addict. Anger, rationalization and justification Denial also manifests itself in varying degrees. In its mildest form one might actually “admit” that there is a problem but with the caveat that it’s not their fault. Here is where “powerlessness” becomes a convenient excuse. On the next level they again might admit there is an issue but state that they can stop whenever they want to. The most blatant form is outright denial in which the person flat out angrily states that there is no problem. Regardless of how severe the denial is, in all cases short of outright denial, there are always rationalizations or justifications given for why the obvious just can’t be true. Quite simply, denial is a defense mechanism. It is the only way in which people can blind themselves to the impact or harm that they are causing to both themselves and those around them. They are in effect out of touch with the real world. It enables the alcoholic to avoid having any feelings of guilt or remorse and enables them to be oblivious of the truth. People caught in the web of addiction are in an extremely immature state in that they are not living life on life’s terms. In early stages, before life has become “unmanageable”, the individual may justify their behavior with such excuses as “it’s legal and everybody does it” or “I’m not hurting anybody”, etc. The list goes on and on! More often than not they will lie to themselves and to those around them without even realizing it. As the evidence starts to mount, they either don’t care or have crossed the line and simply can’t stop. When asked why they drink so much the answer is usually that it feels good and that they like it. Sadder still, some will say that they don’t know why and don’t even question why they consume alcohol in such a reckless manner when the rest of society can somehow do it in a moderate, mature and responsible way. At a certain point in time, the ramifications of one’s alcoholism become so glaringly apparent that denial is no longer viable. It just doesn’t cut it anymore because even the individual can no longer buy into and justify the behavior. At this juncture one often moves to the next step in the process, which is that of anger. There is a saying that the truth will set you free. While this is undoubtedly accurate, it could also be said that the ugly truth will piss you off! Now that you are no longer able to lie to yourself and deny the truth, the emotional floodgates are opened wide. Your coping mechanism has been stripped away and rendered ineffectual. You know that you have to change and you don’t want to. Change is hard and it goes against basic human nature. It requires difficult work, discipline and developing a whole new way of living. “It’s just not fair!” Here is where the blame game usually comes into play. Now the justifications are directed at outside factors. My parents didn’t love me, I was raised in a poor and underprivileged situation, it’s not my fault, etc… It is a uniquely human belief that life is supposed to go your way and when it doesn’t you become angry. The rest of the animal kingdom doesn’t suffer from this delusion. When the temperature plummets below freezing the jackrabbit doesn’t lament that it isn’t fair, it seeks shelter and deals with it. Life can be hard and that’s just the way it is. You have to accept life on life’s terms and accept reality. It’s all a part of becoming mature and growing up. Frustration at this point becomes intolerable and one will usually try to go back into denial. The revealed truth of the situation, however, makes this a short lived endeavor and so the next stage, that of bargaining, comes into play. Let’s make a deal For the alcoholic this may take the form of convincing oneself that he or she can cut back and drink only on weekends or to switch from vodka to beer. Maybe they will attempt to hide the problem and drink in secret telling themselves that they will be able to get a handle on it. None of it works, because as I mentioned previously, you have crossed the line and moderation is no longer an option. An even more important reason for its futileness lies in the fact that you still haven’t discovered or addressed any of the underlying causes that contributed to your becoming addicted in the first place. Desperation will lead one to beg and plead for forgiveness and to try to bargain for “just one more chance”. Loving spouses, children and hopeful employers will often do just that in the hopes that the addict is sincere and really will get it together. This process can be painfully long and the results are almost always a failure. I myself was stuck in the bargaining stage for years until my family had finally had enough and threw me out. Every time I made the impossible promise to put down the bottle it inevitably failed. Sometimes I would last several weeks or even months before my discontent drove me back. The saddest occasion occurred as I was approaching one year of sobriety. We were vacationing with friends on a beautiful lake in Maine and I was driving up separately after work to meet everybody up there. Somehow along the way I began justifying in my own mind how I somehow deserved or earned the right to pick up a bottle along the way. After all we were on vacation and I had been good for so long. Having arrived an hour or so before everybody else, I helped myself to several nice gulps and then proceeded to hide the bottle in the woods close to the summer house. Shortly after everyone arrived, the obsession for another shot reared its ugly head and took over. I snuck into the woods, on my hands and knees so as not to be seen, found the bottle and took a nice big slug. Unknown to me was the fact that my wife had gone back into the house to start unpacking in the bedroom that faced the woods and she saw the whole pathetic scene. She had actually baked a one year sobriety anniversary/celebration cake that she was going to surprise me with that very evening. Talk about blowing it big time. Time after time I picked the most inopportune times to fall off the wagon.
Rolf Ankermann's picture

Yes, some people do eventually learn to moderate but certainly not when you first put the damn thing down.....
SimonTemplar's picture

When indivual sees=Oh so this behaviour comes from mommy saying over x infinity you're worthless don't deserve happiness/should suffer when breakthroughs happen Often therapist has shown client/victim why behaviours began Lets stop blaming the victim and recognize how many abusers were created by abusive parents/priest/families/teachers Victim ceases to be victim upon realiazing why this behaviour began When therapist unlock subconscious mind factors and undeerstanding happens,freedom to recover begins Being freed from GUILT is major part o reovery seeing similarities between own situation and countless others who've ben through same same /person then lets go of GUILT and recovery becomes something person DESERVES TO HAVE w/o understanding why/often is impossible to recover AA hides reasons for behaviours with racist BS born broken.god did it to you When genuine caring genuine knowledge becomes enters abusers consciousness=changes happen Learning why can be powerful weapon to fight ones own self-destructive patterns light shines in darkness and then person sees alla round him/her. goota get lit/then off to hospital/ Lighthouse in mtns/always waking up more.


I am thinking? Soberman