Most people who seek help getting sober will be those who cannot stop drinking on their own. Their first approach may well be to some type of health professional, directly to Alcoholics Anonymous or to a rehab or treatment facility.
Staying sober can involve many things, but tends to be rooted in the understanding that alcoholism is a progressive illness and recovery is a long term process requiring on-going work and solutions of a therapeutic/spiritual nature.
In recovery terms, being sober has always meant just not drinking any alcohol. In recent years the use of the word sober has widened to include anyone who is in recovery from any form of addiction, addictive behaviour or substance abuse.
The freedom of recovery is that people can choose for themselves what helps them, and what doesn’t help them. This includes language as well as the different approaches to recovery and different 12 step programs – more
Recovery – 12 Step Programs
Most people getting sober will come across what are known as 12 step programs, the most well known being Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is the oldest model of this type of recovery and its experience has been used and adapted by most other 12 Step Fellowships as a basis for recovery from other addictions and addictive behaviours.
Alcoholics Anonymous is often seen as the go to point for people who have a drink problem and are looking for help in getting sober.
AA has meetings throughout the world, and has been the vehicle through which many people have got sober and been able to rebuild their lives. The AA recovery model is known as a twelve step program, based on the experience of its early members, who used a number of spiritual and therapeutic methods to arrest and reverse the effects of chronic alcoholism – more
Al-Anon grew out of the experience of the wives and families of the early members of AA. They came to realize how much they had been affected by the drinking of the alcoholic in their life. This usually started with feeling a need to try and control the drinking of the alcoholic, which grew into full scale unmanageability – more
Other 12 Step Fellowships include
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Overeaters Anonymous
- Adult Children of Alcoholics
- Co-Dependents Anonymous
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Debtors Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous
Many people come into recovery through a rehab or treatment center. Rehabs are normally residential, but there are often day programs available as well, depending on location.
Rehabs normally base their own recovery programs on the 12 step model of Alcoholics Anonymous, and will normally encourage residents to attend 12 step meetings as well.
A rehab may have its own detox facilities, or arrangements with a local clinic facility to oversee a medical detox on their behalf – more
Emotional Sobriety is a phrase often used in recovery. It normally refers to dealing with the underlying emotional drives that can fuel someone’s alcoholism, allowing someone a much greater sense of inner peace.
This process can start from day one or year twenty of recovery. There is no set time frame, it comes as a response to being sober and developing a sense of self-awareness – more
Most people coming into recovery have had some experience of religion at some point in their life. Unfortunately most of these experiences haven’t been good ones, and have left scars that have put people off any mention of the God word or anything to do with spirituality.
This has always been an issue within AA, since its earliest days, and has led to many people either shunning AA, or believing they have to compromise their integrity to believe things they don’t.
One way forward is to understand that AA is a body of experience that people can use in any way they find helpful or not, including the God word and related issues – more
People who identify themselves as LGBT often see their sexuality and sexual identity as being linked to their alcoholism or addiction, and often want this context to be part of their recovery.
As such, some treatment centers will make a point of declaring that they are LGBT friendly. It is worth pointing out that any type of facility that is offering a recovery program should inherently be LGBT friendly anyway, and if not should be steered well clear of.
The one area where this may be most relevant is in some so-called Christian rehab centres, where treatment may involve some type of conversion therapy as part of a treatment program, and again should be steered well clear of.
Most 12-step fellowships will have some specific LGBT meetings, both face to face and online, which can often prove a safe place for people in recovery who want additional identification from a sexuality point of view – more
Addiction Issues for Women
Some rehabs or treatment centers are focused on being for women only, where they can provide a safe place for people who feel the need for that type of security. Many women do have specific issues, often including domestic abuse, and may need additional safety throughout their recovery.
Most 12-step fellowships will also have some specific women-only meetings, both face-to-face and online, but also provide an additional level of safety where needed.
Counselling / Therapy
These terms are used interchangeably in recovery, and refer pretty much to any type of therapeutic work, either one to one. or group.
People in a rehab are normally introduced to some type of therapy whilst in treatment, and people in recovery will often enter therapy at some point of their journey.
Therapy is generally seen in recovery as a healthy extension of the type of work people will be doing in order to stay sober. Its worthy saying that there shouldn’t be any conflict between the two, and if there is then one side is probably out of sync.
There may be an issue about timing, as to when its most beneficial for an individual to start therapy or counselling, but that is a decision for the person themselves and their therapist.
The term inner child can mean different things to different people. In recovery terms people often take it to mean connecting to trauma that is childhood related, but never really owned or processed. This is also called adult child work.
People also refer to their inner world and their creative spirit, often seeing these as part of their inner child work – more
People often ask or refer to AA being a cult, either in a very jokey way, or in deadly earnest. The reality is that any group of any organisation can develop a cult mentality or cult dynamic, and AA is no exception to this.
Cults are primarily about control, about controlling someone’s mind as well as their behaviour. AA’s path to recovery, both program and meetings, should be the total opposite of this, it is a path to freedom – but in reality often isn’t.
The issue of control is central to people’s active alcoholism. Step 3 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous refers to this need to control life as the core problem in an alcoholics life.
It can take a long time for people in recovery to change this, and many never really do. This leads to serious issues in personal relationships and recovery groups that are effectively cultic in nature – more
Mental Health / Depression
People in recovery will often want to explore what are referred to nowadays as mental health issues, most commonly that of issues such as depression, bipolar etc. An awareness of this may come relatively quickly in early recovery, or many years, or decades later, once a person has got sober.
A distinction should be made between mental health issues that are effectively those of emotional sobriety, and those people in recovery who have or are diagnosed with any type of illness, who will probably need clinical or professional help, including specific medication, and possibly periods of hospitalisation as well.
There is often a tendency for people in AA to start giving medical advise to other AA members, normally about what medication they should / should not be taking etc. This is highly irresponsible and should be discouraged wherever possible.
Anyone with any type of health problem, physical, mental, sexual, spiritual, should consult a health professional, or someone qualified in that particular field of health, of their choice, and try and avoid people in recovery who give them any type of medical advice !