Purgatory – 2000 to 2008
While I knew AA and NA meetings were no longer going to be a part of my self-identity like they had been for the previous 12 years, the idea of needing to remain absolutely abstinent was still a fear-based thought I carried daily. In this respect the 12 steps still cast their cold unrelenting shadow over my life. The 12 step mythology of addiction disease rhetoric still remained an active part of my thought life. I could hear the old-timers preaching – “You better watch out! If you don’t remember your last awful drunk, you haven’t had it yet!” In response to this unfortunate mental creed, I stayed fearfully abstinent without going to AA meetings. In short, not much had changed. This went on from 2000 to 2008. These were my years of recovery purgatory; I wasn’t an ardent AAer anymore, but I wasn’t completely free from its grip yet either – I remained a “person in recovery.”
Then in mid-2008, something happened. It’s pretty simple really – enough time away from the AA meetings had given me a sense of myself as a confident person. I grew tired of being scared of booze. I was ready to leave purgatory for the sunnier side of the hill. I began to drink a bit, and I found I enjoyed it.
You see, I’d spent both my time in AA, and out of it, researching addiction. From 1988, after the accident, all the way to 2008 when I had my first experiences with moderate drinking, I’d been researching and learning the truth about addiction and the history behind the myths I’d followed while in AA. The more I learned, the more the truth erased my fears and my adherence to “recovery”. In my capacity as a researcher I learned that AA was a series of made-up ideas that were collected and promoted for various big business and social reasons in the 30’s and 40’s and all the way to the present in Western culture. I also learned that these ideas were simply not based in any facts whatsoever. The disease concept was a myth; the idea of loss of control – another myth; the need to remain in a subculture of support meetings – just a tool to keep AA financially flush. The list of misleading doctrine just kept growing the more I learned. And, the more I learned, the more free I became; free to think for myself; free to let go of the myths, and free to move on and drink exactly how I wanted to drink. In my case, the truth literally set me free.
So at 38 years old, I took a chance and enjoyed my first cocktail containing alcohol in 20 years. Oddly, nothing happened. Unlike the dire warnings I’d heard, I wasn’t struck drunk; I did not return to problematic drinking; I didn’t crave booze or drugs; I didn’t get hammered; and there was no “phenomenon of craving” that took over. I simply had a cocktail, and truthfully it was quite anticlimactic. I kept waiting for the desire to get drunk to kick in. That never happened and life moved on. In time I found I enjoyed a few beers now and again, and the entire 12 step mantra that “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” became just another ridiculous notion in a long list of myths I’d debunked in my research.
Freedom from Recovery
After 2008, my life took off. I went from someone who identified as a “person in recovery” to, well…a person. I no longer connected myself to a habit I had in my teens or a person in need of meetings. In other words, I simply moved on. I was free from past preferences and habits. I learned that you can only be completely free from the addict and alcoholic self- images if you are also willing to let go of being “a person in recovery” as well. You see, if you believe you are in recovery, you are saying you are recovering from something. But addiction is not a disease or a disorder – it’s a preference for heavy use, a series of choices that make up a confounding habit. Therefore there is nothing to recover from; there are just choices to make in regards to whether you still have a preference for heavy use or not.
I do have a preference – I have a preference for a drink now and again, but that has nothing to do with recovering or being an “alcoholic” or any concept between the two. I simply see alcohol for what it actually is – a simple sugar that I enjoy at times. There is no fear; there’s no struggle to not get drunk; there’s no white knuckling it. I don’t have to go down that path. Without the distraction known as recovery, I can let go of white knuckling anything. Truthfully if I found myself white knuckling my moderate drinking, I’d only do so for a little while. The struggle to moderate can only exist for those who still prefer to use heavily or drink heavily, and if I still preferred that, I’d go back to heavy drinking with no apologies. However, I don’t prefer that anymore – so there’s no struggle. Freedom is not just being sober or moderating or any variation thereof. Freedom is knowing that you can choose what you truly prefer and that nothing but you is making that determination. It’s knowing that there’s no disease forcing you to use, no recovering from said disease, nothing but you making a choice based on your personal happiest option.
Eventually, and after emerging free from the addiction AND the recovery traps, myself, Steven Slate, and Michelle Dunbar decided to write a book to debunk all the myths for those who struggle with these concepts like we did for so many years. The Freedom Model for Addictions is the culmination of all that we learned the hard way over the past 30 years. You don’t have to waste decades in the recovery trap as we did. You don’t have to feel as if you can’t change your preferences for heavy use. You don’t have to go to a single 12 step meeting. You don’t have to white-knuckle your sobriety and deny yourself what you like to do. You can learn what real freedom is; the freedom to choose exactly what you want, how you want to accomplish it, and do so based on the fact that you were born a chooser. And it is in this capacity of being a chooser that you can change any habit and steer you life effortlessly to a happier position. But to do so you need the facts, and now there is a book that provides them – The Freedom Model for Addictions.
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