Once in a while, I’ll come across someone who got sober without the help of Alcoholics Anonymous or any other program. Often it was a book that they’ve read, a show they watched, or someone’s really good advice – even the smallest inspiration can work for those who are ready. Recently, I learned of a woman who tried AA for most of her adult life with very little success. She would get a year max and always relapse. She had great relationships within the program but ultimately, she would always get stuck on the steps somewhere, she was uncomfortable with having to share intimate information with strangers all the time (and then was accused of withholding and keeping secrets), and she would rebel in spectacular ways and drink. Suddenly, in her early 40s, she came across the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, a wonderful account of one woman’s journey to sobriety and after reading found herself uninterested in drinking. For good. I’ve read this book as well and it had a great impact on me (it didn’t get me sober as I was there already but it strengthened a lot of my beliefs about alcohol, especially what an incredible hold it has on professionals and how ingrained it is in our daily lives).
I found it curious that despite all those anti-alcohol teachings, AA was unable to keep that woman sober, but a little book did the job just like that. It only shows me that each of us is wired differently and that we can’t apply the same techniques of healing to everybody because some of us are square pegs that just don’t and won’t fit into round holes.
There’s nothing wrong with being different. Sitting in an AA meeting and feeling miserable because you’re not getting what everybody else is getting is a terrible way to be sober. I mean, I remember meetings that might’ve as well be conducted in Cantonese that’s how confusing the words and teachings would get. I sat through many meetings like that feeling that there was something wrong with me, again, which was not an unfamiliar sensation. I grew up with shame and grew up feeling that I was apart from people. But did I want to spend the rest of my life compromising my own sanity to fit in? No. So I made a decision to leave and approach my own recovery differently. Just because I don’t go to meetings every day doesn’t mean I don’t have a practice. I meditate, I read, I listen to podcasts, I talk to other people in recovery and I do occasionally attend a meeting. I make sure I do something toward my recovery at least a couple of times a day. This is because I know I can’t afford to just rest on my laurels and relax about everything because it’s been so many years that I haven’t had a drink. You see, I try to see even normal events as situations where I can further my recovery—so relaxing on a weekend by the water is a meditative practice to me, being with my loved ones is a practice in compassion and love… everything in my life revolves around recovery and feeling better, or at least I try to make it so.
If you’re trying less conventional ways of staying sober – by reading books about it, running, meditating, being with likeminded people (outside of AA or therapy context), you’re still on the right path. Your recovery is your recovery and you have the best tools within you to make it a good one. Reach out to others and connect and trust yourself when you’re doing something that feels good and healing. Don’t beat yourself up just because it’s not what everybody else is doing.
#newreality #mentalhealth #sober #soberlife #sobriety #health #addictionrecovery #addiction #alcoholism #substanceusedisorders #recovery #adoptee #adoption #trauma #traumainformed