Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

downloadAfter 4 years of Alcoholics Anonymous, and yet another relapse over this summer, I feel that I have very little to show for all my efforts. And I have made a gargatuan effort in my eyes. I have attended over 1,000 meetings of all different types. I attended Hazelden’s 30 day inpatient program which is 12 step based. I go to 5-7 meetings per week. I have a home group. I’ve made coffee, and swept floors. I have a sponsor. I’ve worked the 12 steps with a men’s Big Book step study group. I did a long and comprehensive 4th and 5th step with my group and sponsor. I also see a private therapist, and do boxing several times a week for exercise.

I’ve had over 1,000 days of sobriety, so it’s not as though I’ve been a total failure. But in the eyes of AA, I’m at day 1 and have to get a 24 hour coin.

Is it time to switch to SMART Recovery up and leave AA? Maybe.

As an atheist (and otherwise intelligent, educated, and logical human being), I have never bought into the dogmatic foundations of the AA program — that you need a Higher Power (preferably God) and have to pray everyday to get sober; that you have a multitude of “character defects;” that you are powerless and have to surrender your will to God, and that if you slip, you have to humiliate yourself, head down, shoulders sunk, in front of a roomful of people by getting a “24 hour” coin (which I’ve done several times much to my chagrin). I’ve written about these struggles here.

Indeed, at virtually every AA meeting, I often cringe at what I hear from people and read in the literature. I just cannot relate and buy in to AA’s fundamental principles. I feel that a lot of people, especially the old timers, lecture the newcomers or people who are struggling under the guise of “these are only suggestions” (which is total b.s.) And no, I’m not going to take the cotton out of my ears and stuff it into my mouth, as they say. I have a right to speak my mind and say what I want to say. I’m also not going to accept a Higher Power as a tree or “Group of Drunks.” That makes no sense to me.

If addiction is truly a mental disease (as it has proven to be) on par with any other mental disorder, why would someone need to accept God to recovery from it? Makes zero sense to me. Do people with bipolar or OCD need to accept God in order to get better. Show me a peer reviewed study which shows that. In fact, show me a real study which proves that AA has a higher success rate than spontaneous remission? On second thought, let’s not go there.

Often, I leave AA meetings feeling worse than when I came in. I often spend half my time at the meetings disputing what I’m hearing, and that’s not very productive. Granted, I often feel better too at certain meetings.

I consider myself a fairly educated and intelligent person, and truth be told, I believe in science over God. I believe in facts, research and data over the Big Book. I’ve always felt that over the last 4 years.

Now I’m not saying that AA does not work. In no way am I bashing AA. It definitely works for people. I’m just not sure it has worked for me. I’ve given it 4 years now.

It’s my program and my life. I want something that’s going to work, and yes, I’m willing to put the work in. I also take full responsibilty for my relapses. I’m not blaming AA. I’m simply looking for the best solution.

This past week I attended the local SMART Recovery meeting. I went to this same meeting a few years back when there was only a handful of attendees. At that time, I concluded that it was too small and could not replace AA. Well, to my delightful surprise, the meeting had grown to about 40 people. It was a fantastic meeting.

We did an actual whiteboard exercise (right up my analytical alley) about triggers and cost-benefit of drinking. I still have the image of the cost-benefit analysis in my head, several days later.

During “check-in” no one was forced to first “admit” they were an “alcoholic” or “addict” or other derogatory description. People just said, “I have a problem with alcohol and I’m here to get help.” (Ironically, I did identify myself as a alcoholic out of habit!). Where the meeting got interesting was during this discussion, where a certain level of cross talk is allowed. One woman fresh out of rehab had relapsed and people were asking her questions about it, what triggered it, etc. Anyways, after several back and forth’s, and peeling back of the onion, it turns out that the woman had been abused and that’s been the root cause of her drinking — she never really put one and one together. That could never happen at an AA meeting.

After the meeting, I was talking to another AA ex-patriot who has been transitioning out of AA from SMART. We both commiserated about the same issues we have with AA, and he said he has never felt so much relief now attending Smart.

All I know is that I felt great after the meeting. I didn’t spend half the time arguing in my head about how illogical the principles were (because…wait for it…they are based on actual science and research) and most importantly, I felt a huge sense of hope and relief, that I’ve found a program that will work for me.

I don’t know whether I’m going to quit AA cold turkey. I have so many friends there and there are some “liberal” meetings I attend where people aren’t so dogmatic–it’s almost like a SMART meeting without the whiteboard. But I’m going to start attending more SMART meetings and getting into their workshop materials, website, etc. Hey, maybe some day I can apply to be a facilitator. I think I would really enjoy and get a lot out of that!

Anyways, I would love to hear any of your thoughts and similar (or different) experiences.

{ 71 comments }

Program-Spotlight-Relapse-Prevention-Program-RPP-Summit-HelpsI’ve been in recovery for about 4 years now and have dealt with several relapses, even though I’ve done the Steps, go to 5-7 meetings per week and see a therapist.

Fortunately, my relapses have been very short lived and I’ve gotten right back into the program. However, each relapse has caused major problems and most importantly they have destroyed the trust I’ve worked so hard to build with my wife and family. It’s like taking two steps backward for every one step forward. It sucks. Big time.

Why did I relapse? Why do people in recovery relapse? Addiction scholars have written books on this subject. There are no easy answers to the question.

For me, I’ve usually relapsed when I was feeling very good, and often to celebrate and reward myself for some job well done — usually after a big win in court or a big closing deal. For normal people, this sounds completely insane, but for alcoholics and addicts, they understand. I’ve relapsed because the cravings to drink have taken up way too much space in my brain, and I did not “rat myself out” to my AA group, sponsor and therapist, allowing the cravings to become overwhelming. I would try to ride them out myself, and “out-think” them, but eventually they got me. I’ve relapsed because my disease tried (successfully) to convince me that my drinking wasn’t that bad and that I did not deserve to be an alcoholic. We call that the “built-in forgetter.” I’ve relapsed because I’ve slacked on meetings and didn’t make my recovery program the #1 priority in my life. I’ve relapsed because I made the conscious decision to pick up a drink, despite all the negative consequences.

People in meetings often say that at some point the obsession and compulsion to drink has miraculously gone away. Well, that has not been my experience. The craving to drink has never gone away, and I can tell you that I think about some aspect of drinking just about every single day. But it’s not like the craving itself is going to kill me. Yes, it’s distressful and frustrating, but it does go away eventually (and returns as well).

The most important thing about relapse, in my humble opinion, is to learn from the mistake and try not to make the same mistake again. It sucks big time to have to get a 24 hour coin (a topic for another post), but you don’t lose all those days of sobriety, and your foundation, while temporarily cracked, can be rebuilt, even stronger. Keep on getting back on the beam. Don’t quit!

I would love to hear from any of you who have dealt with relapses. Why did you relapse? And how have you come back and learned from them?

{ 4 comments }

Mixtape2

Use This Popular Recovery Slogan Next Time You Think About Drinking

“Play the tape forward” is a popular recovery saying. It means that when you are romanticizing the drink or remembering the “good old days” when drinking was fun, go ahead and play the tape forward and think about what has happened the last few times you drank or used or how your life got completely messed up by your drinking. My guess is you probably didn’t have that much fun at the end.

I know how easy it is to slip into that daydream-like thought pattern where I envision a pristine Caribbean beach and sand and those two frosty Coronas sitting on a bamboo table topped with limes. Jesus, it’s making my mouth water just writing this!

People in recovery say that alcoholics have a “built-in forgetter.” Meaning that we are quick to forget the bad times, but always recall the good times. Some people say that’s your disease or addiction talking to you. It wants you to drink, to feed the monster.

For me, there’s a ton on the line if I were to pick up a drink. Literally my life, my marriage, career, relationship with my kids, everything.

Would you be willing to give up everything in your life for just one drink? Think about that question the next time you are at a crossroads.

{ 3 comments }

holiday-drinking1

So here we are two days after Thanksgiving. Did you make it through in one piece?

For many people in recovery and who are actively drinking, this is the hardest time of the year to get through. Thanksgiving — Christmas — New Year’s. Hey, it drives “normal” people to throw punches at Walmart over big screen TVs, so we can only imagine how hard it can be for people in recovery! That said, here are some of my thoughts about getting through the holidays sober:

  • Load up on recovery meetings. Now is a great time to increase your recovery meeting attendance, whether it’s AA, SMART, or other program. I am currently going to one meeting every day and it definitely helps!
  • If you have not attended a recovery meeting yet, there’s no better time than now! In AA, we see quite a lot of newcomers coming in this time of year, so you are in good company and there are people who will welcome you with open arms and understanding.
  • Don’t be afraid to make tough, unpopular decisions. In my family, we typically go to two Thanksgiving events, one for lunch and a long drive to another for dinner. This year, I opted to skip the dinner event. I went to an all day Alkathon meeting instead to get some recovery medicine. It was the right choice for me. Don’t be afraid of saying “no.”
  • Take your own car to events so you can arrive late and leave early.
  • Have your sponsor and recovery friends on speed dial in case you need to make an emergency support phone call. 
  • Be very cognizant of the emotional toll of the holidays. I’m a big fan of the saying “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” In recovery, we cannot underestimate the emotional toll the holidays take on us. You are not immune from the stress. Respect it.
  • Work on your spirituality. The holidays are a great time to focus on your spirituality. Isn’t that what they are all about anyways? Attend Midnight Mass. Go caroling. Spin dreidels with the children. Get comfort from being with another human being.
  • Watch out for the post holiday relapse effect. Just as dangerous as the holidays is the emotional hangover which often occurs after the holidays are over. I have personally relapsed after the holidays because I thought to myself, “I deserve a drink after getting through all that stress!” Don’t do this! Stay on the beam, keep going to meetings, working on your recovery, straight through January until you feel back on solid ground.
  • The best gift you can give your family for the holidays is staying sober! Remember this. Your recovery comes first!

For more reading, here is a great list of articles from Hazelden about staying sober through the holidays.

Good luck!

P.S. my apologies from going AWOL from this blog. The truth is that the last year has been a struggle but I never left recovery, never stopped going to meetings and working on my sobriety. I just had too many more important things to do both in my recovery and personal/professional life than write on this blog. But I would like to make the effort of getting back to blogging because it does help my recovery.

{ 4 comments }

Burgundy-bigdealA great many of us lawyers have strong egos and sharp analytical minds. That’s what makes us talented litigators and corporate attorneys.

But those two traits are huge liabilities in recovery. It certainly has been for me.

An over-inflated ego makes it much more difficult to achieve humility and identify with others in the recovery community. In the early days, I was certainly guilty of saying to myself, “Oh, I was never that bad” or “I’m much smarter than that guy — he made so many dumb decisions.” Or, “I graduated top of my class and was on Law Review, certainly I can out-smart this disease.” But the fact is that I am no different from “that guy.” And If I really took a hard and honest look at myself, I too kept making the insane decision to keep drinking, and if I didn’t stop I would have gotten another DUI, risking my law license, family and career in the process.

As for the analytic mind, there’s a saying that analysis leads to paralysis. Despite my natural intelligence and superior education, I have been unable to out-think the disease of addiction. At various points in my recovery, I actually thought I could! Trust me on this, it’s a pointless exercise in futility.

I have realized that for me the program of recovery is much more about action than thinking.

For me, action means getting to meetings, doing Step work, going to therapy, talking to my sponsor and others in the program, exercising, writing and reading.

The more I stay inside my own head analyzing why I became an alcoholic, why some of the Steps seem illogical, and why I’m feeling anxious and depressed, the more my recovery suffered. So I work on not analyzing everything in recovery. I’ll leave the analysis for my law practice.

{ 0 comments }

Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Yikes! Is Summer Over Yet?

August 13, 2013

Hey there! It’s been a long time since the last post. My apologies. Life gets in the way. Anyways… For me, summer is always a very difficult time for my recovery. Everyone seems to be out drinking and partying. Tiki bars, cold beers, margaritas, pina coladas, whatever, it’s out there in the open during the […]

Read the full article →

The Sober Lawyer’s Personal 12 Steps

January 26, 2013

My therapist told me to craft my own version of the Twelve (12) Steps since I am always pointing out the illogic in several of the Steps. I’m not trying to replace AA’s 12 Steps, but rather, formulate my own personal set of steps or guidelines for my own recovery. Each person has a unique […]

Read the full article →

A Lawyer’s Life Cut Short

November 27, 2012

Hey there. I haven’t posted in a long, long time. Life, work, family just got in the way. Quick update. Things are going well. Still sober and very much active in AA/recovery. Still haven’t got my head around the AA dogma, nor do I think I will ever really. Heading to my favorite speaker discussion […]

Read the full article →

Hijacking The Brain: The Science Behind 12 Step Programs

September 3, 2012

Hijacking The Brain, How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks our Brains – The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery During my time-off, I read this amazing book called Hijacking The Brain, by Louis Teresi, M.D., a Harvard neuro-scientist and also a recovering alcoholic. This book, for me, was like a gift from heaven. As you could tell […]

Read the full article →

My First SMART Recovery Meeting

July 14, 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been looking into the SMART Recovery program. I wrote about it previously in this post, Is Smart Recovery A Smart Choice For for An Alcoholics Anonymous Member? I can say that for this alcoholic, it was a smart choice, and I got a lot out of it. I’m just […]

Read the full article →

Enjoying The Good Life…Managing Quick Success In Early Recovery

June 18, 2012

My sponsor texted me the other day: “You alive? Still sober?” I had to laugh because I just got back from the most fantastic family vacation to Disney World in Florida. I replied, “Yes, very much so!” (On a side note, DisneyWorld is an awesome venue for a sober vacation, especially if you have kids. […]

Read the full article →

Wreckage Of The Past: The Double-Edged Sword

May 16, 2012

Just a quick blog before I leave for our Disney family vacation (which is directly related to my sobriety!). Last night at my favorite AA meeting — a speaker discussion — the topic was our past. For me, my past, and its associated wreckage, is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I still […]

Read the full article →

De-bunking Powerlessness: I Have Power Over My Choice To Remain Sober

May 14, 2012

The first part of Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.” There is a lot of talk in AA meetings about the concept of powerlessness and what it is. Being the over-analytic attorney that I am, I often find myself trying to figure out […]

Read the full article →

Balancing A Busy Lawyer’s Work Schedule And Recovery

May 9, 2012

I just finished a crazy week of preparing for a big trial. It’s one of the busiest and stressful times for any trial lawyer. This case involved mold exposure so I had to become an expert on toxic mold and analysis. Plus I had to deal with an extremely emotional and stressed out client. So […]

Read the full article →

Is SMART Recovery A Smart Choice For An Alcoholic Anonymous Member?

April 21, 2012

Differences and Similarities Between SMART Recovery & Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) My previous post about the Huff Post hit piece on AA has made me start reading more about the different alcohol recovery programs. I have all the respect for AA and its fellowship, but it was written in 1937 without the benefit of the last […]

Read the full article →

Helping Another Alcoholic And Hitting 100 Days

April 4, 2012

Recently, I’ve been helping another alcoholic get into the program. I’ll call him “Mike.” I’ve kind of become his de facto sponsor although due to my limited sobriety I’m not qualified to be his sponsor. I’ve been trying to get him a real sponsor, but I’m not sure if he’s ready. Anyways, the situation presented […]

Read the full article →

Huff Post Therapist Doesn’t Know Diddly About Alcoholics Anonymous

March 30, 2012

My Thoughts On Huff Post Therapist’s Criticism Of Alcoholics Anonymous Laura Tompkins is a “certified addiction specialist” who blogs at the Huffington Post. She just penned a slam piece against all that is “negative” and “wrong” about Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled, appropriately enough, Is Alcoholics Anonymous Negativity Based? Ms. Tompkins repeats some of the same tired […]

Read the full article →

On Being A Jewish Alcoholic: My Spiritual Journey Continues

March 11, 2012

“Religion is for folks who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.” –Anonymous I’m Jewish. At least in my area, which has a decent Jewish population, there are only a handful of Jewish folks in A.A. I definitely feel in the minority, and I’ve felt a bit of […]

Read the full article →

1705 Hours Sober, But Who’s Counting?

March 6, 2012
Thumbnail image for 1705 Hours Sober, But Who’s Counting?

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged here. Too long, actually. As my handy AA iPhone app tells me, I’ve been sober for 71 days, 2.33 months, or 1705 hours. But who’s keeping track?! So what’s been going on with my recovery? Well, not much other than staying sober. So that’s a good thing, actually. I’ve […]

Read the full article →

Power In Numbers: Why I Think Alcoholics Anonymous Works

February 20, 2012

Forget All The Myths Surrounding The Program: It’s All About The Fellowship (For Me) Have you ever tried to do something really hard? Perhaps lose weight, start a new fitness program or stop smoking? Did someone else help you or support you? Was it less difficult with someone’s help and support who accomplished what you […]

Read the full article →

Sometimes In Recovery, You Just Have To Say “No Thanks”

February 9, 2012
Thumbnail image for Sometimes In Recovery, You Just Have To Say “No Thanks”

My family put together a nice dinner at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse (which I love) last weekend for my mom’s 65th birthday. They asked me a while ago if it would be OK for me, and I initially said yes. They said no one would order alcohol at the table. As the dinner approached, I become […]

Read the full article →

My Difficulty With Finding A Higher Power

February 3, 2012
Thumbnail image for My Difficulty With Finding A Higher Power

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” –Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous For my Step 2 work, my sponsor told me to write a blog entry on my ongoing difficulty with the Higher Power concept. Like most new AA members, this is very hard for me. And as an […]

Read the full article →

Reality Check: My First Al-Anon Meeting

January 27, 2012

Alcoholism is a family disease. I had dinner with my dad the other night, and he was going to take me to an AA meeting after. Over dinner, we were talking about Al-Anon and how it has really helped him. I’ve been wanting to go to an Al-Anon meeting for awhile now, so I suggested […]

Read the full article →

Alcoholism vs. Dick: The Case of Powerlessness Over Alcohol

January 21, 2012

As a homework assignment for Step One work, my sponsor told me to read Step 1 out of the 12 and 12 Book, and to write one story about how I was powerless over alcohol. Geez, which story should I pick? There are so many…. Then this thought came into my head. Of course I […]

Read the full article →

Humiliation Leads To Humility In Recovery

January 18, 2012

For me, drinking alcoholically lead to a great deal of private and public humiliation. I have had a hard time dealing with the resulting shame and guilt. This, in turn, contributed to my drinking to escape those bad feelings. Spiritual growth and real recovery, however, occurs as a result of our failures, not successes. For […]

Read the full article →

Acceptance: The Foundation For Recovery

January 16, 2012

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step One: Alcoholics Anonymous For me, admitting that I was powerless over alcohol — more accurately, alcoholism  — has been the single most difficult thing to accept in my recovery. However, without a complete acceptance of powerlessness over my alcoholism, there […]

Read the full article →

It’s Saturday Night Live!

January 15, 2012

When you are a recovering alcoholic in early sobriety, you need to make getting to AA meetings a top priority. Even on Saturday night. And even when there’s a huge NFL playoff game on like last night. One of my favorite local AA meetings starts at 7pm on Saturday night while the “normies” are just […]

Read the full article →

My Hazelden Experience: The Power of the Peer Group and Fellowship

January 14, 2012

“One foot in, for those left out…right foot here for us. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. So be it!” My peers and I at the Hazelden Treatment Center said this variation of the […]

Read the full article →

“90 In 90”– 90 Meetings In 90 Days

January 14, 2012

If you are just entering AA, a substance abuse counselor or AA member may have recommended doing “90 in 90.” That means attending 90 AA meetings in 90 days. It may seem like a lot of meetings and overwhelming to the beginner AA member. But they say in the program that you should attend however […]

Read the full article →

Commitment To A Local Detox Unit

January 14, 2012

The other day, I attended my AA home chapter’s weekly “commitment,” or service project, to a local hospital detox unit. It reminded me of my time at Hazelden where the first 24 hours are spent in a monitored detox area where the nurses would check on you every 6 hours. My sponsor said it would […]

Read the full article →

The Importance of an AA Sponsor

January 9, 2012

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “Get a sponsor” when I first came into AA, I would be very rich. Did I listen? Of course not. I didn’t need a sponsor, I told myself. Sound familiar to anyone listening? When I came out of Hazelden last summer, I did pick […]

Read the full article →

The Journey Begins (Again)

January 8, 2012

Welcome to the Sober Lawyer Blog. I started this Blog to document my personal journey through recovery and sobriety as a recovering alcoholic attorney. In accordance with AA’s policy of anonymity, I will refer to myself as “Dick.” I thought it was fitting, because when I am drinking, I can be the biggest “Dick” ever. […]

Read the full article →
safe site of people who do homework write and essay for me online essay writers wanted buy essay writing online buy uk essay