14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 2

14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 2

Catch up on Part One here.

6. AA Doesn’t Work in Modern Times

Glad to see mocktails are increasing in popularity these days!

Do you want to align yourself with an 85-year-old program without a success rate? Do you want to be browbeaten by “old timers” or do you prefer choices, therapy, doing the work, and building a new life?

If you still think AA is a solution for everyone, you’re not hanging around young enough people.

Gen Z isn’t exactly streaming into churches and they are already drinking 20% less alcohol than previous generations. AA is heavy on the word “God” alongside Christian principles this generation finds “cringe.” The addicted among this age group face another crisis when they find out the addiction industry is built on the backs of the very Christian 12 steps.

I believe in the “many paths” approach, but AA does not. While AA worked for me for a few years, I found it had an expiration date. It was holding me back. When I left, I was shunned. The anti-12-step crowds aren’t much fun either.

After a couple of years in AA, I began to question how much time I was spending there and what I was getting out of it. I worked in the addiction field and therefore I was spending enough time around dysfunctional, newly sober people. I can say this because I was once one of them.

There’s a point you get to where you are improving and those around you are not. They may not like your changes and may discourage you from growing. Even AA people like you in their neat little box of expectations. Often, people tried to talk me out of making positive changes in my life after I got sober. Sometimes—bad on me for this—I listened.

AA is a great place to get bad advice. But while I was still working through my codependency, I let others influence me a little too much. When codependency is an issue along with substance abuse, 12-step programs prey on that (sometimes consciously). But most often, we stay in our subconscious patterns.

Being able to do the work to break those subconscious patterns is key. (We call these “samskaras” in yoga).

Sobriety means finding new places to hang out, new hobbies, and often—new people who don’t center drinking as a social activity. It means changing your relationship and setting boundaries with those whom you choose to keep in your life.

We often need help to do this, which comes through seeing a licensed therapist. Ten years of therapy was no joke. The work I’ve done over the past ten years has healed addiction and codependency. I’ve reparented myself. I’ve used cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. I dived deeply into personal development, spirituality, and even religion. There isn’t ONE single “program” in existence that could do all this.

Each individual has the autonomy, freedom, and independence to chart their own recovery path.

I believe that each of us is the architect of our own destiny—hence the name of this site—Destiny Architecture®. Why give your power over to a group, a meeting, or a sponsor and believe the lie that you are so stupid that only ‘they” can tell you what to do? This is what those 12-step groups want from you, which doesn’t seem very nurturing or healing to me.

7. Finding What Works Takes Time

What works for me is leading a physically healthy lifestyle with proper diet, exercise, sleep, regulation of my nervous system, reduced stress, yoga, meditation, and Reiki. It took time and effort to figure out the pieces and how they fit together. This is life now, but this came to me in stages.

There was the AA stage. That was followed by the phase in which I attended church. During my high-stress year (2015) I began meditating. There has always been yoga and Reiki. In fact, getting my Reiki 2 attunement is what launched me into a difficult road of self-improvement that subsequently led me to sobriety.

As I continued to work in the addiction field, I no longer wanted to attend AA or church. The “recovery community” I had built up also became a place where I’d run into my clients from the recovery center and detox. I needed a corner of the world that belonged to me privately.

I found alternatives to AA like Refuge Recovery, which I abandoned when its creator was accused of misconduct, and thus, not practicing what he taught. I got into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I found tapping, or EFT. I discovered the Freedom Model—but I was already sober and my head was filled with AA, so it wasn’t right for me. I did like the book and always recommend The Freedom Model for those who are sober curious.

There was therapy throughout the first sober decade. I was attempting to better my physical health, though the barrier there was a series of misdiagnoses by a doctor who’s no longer practicing medicine. There were weight losses and gains. There were a couple of gym memberships over the years.

What works for me is a combination of yoga, Reiki, meditation, and personal development. I distill my learnings here at Destiny Architecture® so I can teach others. There has to be a mix of personal development, spiritual nourishment, mental health, physical health, and social support to create a holistic framework for a long-term sober life. No one but you can tell yourself what that is and it will change over time.

8. I Never Went To Rehab & I Don’t Tell This Story Enough

Not everyone needs to check into rehab to change. You also don’t have to completely destroy your life and “hit rock bottom” in order to change. Change is possible at any time you choose.

But some DO need rehab. I wasn’t one of them.

I know from working in the addiction field how hard it is to get into rehab with or without health insurance. In-patient rehab is expensive; that cost is as prohibitive as any other form of healthcare in America. This is the reason why I want to show people that there are alternatives.

You may still need a professional to do an assessment but the choice is still yours on whether or not you go to treatment and whether that’s in-patient or out-patient.

Lots of people want to know what program is the “best” one and it’s simply the one you DO. The success is yours, not the program’s.

This is why many opt for mutual aid groups like 12-step programs. But these don’t work for everyone, such as atheists, or those who just don’t want to be in that kind of environment around court-ordered ex-cons (and soon-to-be-cons). Some people swear by AA and they only go to 12-step programs and never touch a rehab.

I quit drinking more times than I will ever know. I forced myself to stop drinking after my mom died because I was terrified to see a relative shotgun three bottles of wine and get into a car and drive the night she passed. I practiced quitting drinking for YEARS before it finally took. I didn’t get sober until EIGHT years after that night my mom passed. There were many nights I drank my own bottles of wine and told myself it was “normal” (because I’d grown up with it) and because I was “a connoisseur.”

If you think in-patient is the only thing that will work, do it. If you would prefer outpatient as many do so they can keep a job, then do that. If you want to do what I did and cobble together some type of “treatment” with a therapist, 12-step programs, and a doctor, then do that. There are no rules. If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that many people go to rehab several times before they can obtain sobriety and build a life.

Rehab isn’t basket weaving and massages on the California coast. It takes deeply painful personal work.

Detoxing off certain drugs—like alcohol and benzodiazepines—can be dangerous and even deadly. (Seek medical supervision to get off those two drugs!)

Getting clean and sober needs a holistic approach that addresses ALL the issues—from physical health to mental health along with how to handle a sketchy job history.

You may have legal issues when you get sober. You can’t hide at rehab from the judge. I’ve seen a few who thought rehab was a free pass away from the court system. It’s not. It won’t fix all your troubles. It’s just there to save your life, which is in immediate danger from drinking and using.

Rehab is more than just the place Amy Winehouse didn’t want to go. If only she’d gone, she may still be with us. Just because I didn’t go to rehab doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. My point here is that there’s more than one way to get sober.

9. Sobriety is Lonely Sometimes, But a Good Kind of Lonely

Staying sober has, for me, led to becoming estranged from dysfunctional family and “friends.” It was a tough lesson, but I eventually learned that living a messy life attracts only messy people. Those people are the type to freak out once you clean yourself up. You get the, “You’ve changed” sentiment from them.

Changing is the whole point.

Change left me lonely many times. But it was better than staying around people with messy lives. It’s better to be lonely than to hang around someone who still drinks or uses. It’s better to be alone than spend time with someone who doesn’t get help for an ongoing mental health problem—or crisis.

Eventually, I learned how to be around healthier people. The more I improved myself, the more old relationships fell away. The more I became healthy, the more other healthy people wanted to be around me.

I still get spooked by drinkers and those who use legal drugs like Rx painkillers and medical marijuana. I’ve seen so many things go wrong… I know the tipping point can be stealth. I don’t even want to hang around people who don’t keep a clean house! I’m always watchful for the underlying signs of trouble.