Am I doing recovery wrong?

Sobermummy’s latest post really got me thinking about this topic in earnest.

The issue discussed is that she doesn’t identify with the word alcoholic. She would rather call herself an alcohol addict. A friend of hers pointed out that this may sound like the lesser of two evils.

Let’s think about this for a second…

I don’t particularly identify with the word either. I have gone to AA meetings and said it but I would rather say I am addicted to alcohol. It’s the same thing but in my mind the term ‘alcohol addict’ puts the onus on the drug whereas alcoholic means the drug is fine and I have a disease. (I know my brain pathways have been changed but I still don’t like the word ‘disease’)

This brings me to my second point. There are so many people who are struggling with addiction to alcohol to various degrees. Back in the day the view was that there are 1) normal drinkers 2) alcoholics. These days it is widely accepted that there is wide spectrum in between these two.

The reason people especially women aren’t seeking help for addiction earlier is that the stereotypical idea of an alcoholic is a down and out bum on a park bench. We cant be alcoholics because we are ‘high functioning’ mothers, with jobs and responsibilities.

People aren’t seeking help until they are almost on that park bench due to the stigma and fear of being judged! I have many friends that are still drinking the volumes I used to drink and they won’t classify themselves as alcoholics, they are just having a good time.

Alcohol is a highly addictive drug. This is a fact but its not very well known. Professor nut conducted a study that found that Heroin, crack and crystal meth were deemed worst for individuals, with alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine worst for society, and alcohol worst overall. Read full article here:

Cigarette packets have massive warning labels printed all over them to warn people of the dangers of smoking yet alcohol seems to have a free pass. In the UK we have a massive drinking culture, it permeates through everything we do and you are considered really weird if you don’t drink.

It can takes years of sustained drinking to become addicted to alcohol. Yes some people fall faster down the rabbit hole than other due to a myriad of reasons but make no mistake they are falling if they are regularly drinking to de-stress or to change their emotional state. Factors that contribute to how quickly you become addicted: Your parents, your peers, how old you were when you started drinking, being a non-conformist etc. etc

My recovery really began when I had my ‘moment of realisation’.

This is when I hit the first step of AA hard.

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable – (I did this step on my hands and knees)

I am also completely and utterly convinced that I can never return to ‘normal drinking’ (whatever that means.)

I have done the steps in my own way, each and every one of them. Not in a formal AA setting mind you and this is what I am questioning.

The steps of AA, the CBT of smart recovery, the community of the sober blogs and Eckhard Tolle & Bryon Katie all have a place in my recovery.

Just because I am not doing this in a formal setting, in other word going to meetings regularly (I’m going every now and then) and using the words like ‘disease’ and ‘God’ and ‘alcoholic’, does that mean I’m doing it wrong?

I am sober and it’s taken me a very long time to get to this point of absolute acceptance. We are multi faceted human beings with different personalities so one method of recovery and one way of talking about addiction, with words that are set in stone surely isn’t helpful but rather harmful.

Shouldn’t this be an inclusive community that embraces all ways to freedom and abstinence? If the conversation and words could be inclusive and embrace the wide range of people stuck in addiction won’t more people be motivated to stop drinking earlier on?

There is a whole new thing happening out there, Annie Grace, Holly Whitaker, Laura Mackowen all paving the way for a new conversation around addiction to booze. I resonate very strongly with these women and what they have to say.

I am sober today and so happy to be, that’s a good result I think!

59 thoughts on “Am I doing recovery wrong?

  1. I wonder about the same thing myself. Specifically coming to accept what I have done in the past (eventhough this did not include criminal things) I find difficult.
    Howver… I have seldom had such a stronge urge to drink then after speaking with somebody in AA who was, blablablabla, glorifying his former use and expressing how he missed that. I had difficulty with the vibe of addiction coming from that and I do not want to expose myself to that in a meeting.
    I have not done the steps, I notice that automatically, due to the process of having to learn to live again, I have to go through them anyhow. 🙂 So I guess that is real cool about the steps: they are a blueprint of life. 🙂
    I do not call myself an alcoholic because of the stigma it has. Sticking this stigma onto myself will keep me from going back into the world and becoming healthy. I do say that I have an addictive personality and that my poison of ‘choice’ was alcohol.
    Dunno, not sure if I am ‘doing it wrong’. Thinking that 2,5 years plus sobriety with help of the sober blogosphere is a good achievement. I would love to hear from long time AA people what they think of my sobriety. Where I’m doing well, where I’m not doing well. Nor sure if I dare to ask. 🙂 And also: there is something energetically wrong with comparison, it stretches me thin and that is where I lose contact and are subject to drink think. Like: one day / moment at the time keeps me in the now, which is good. Not comparing keeps me with what is.
    For what my opinon is worth: I think you are doing well. And I am Very Happy that you found your way back on horse so quickly. And I am very happy you are out here in the soberblogosphere, writing, commenting. 🙂 ❤
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree with everything you write.
      But I have to say that rarely in an AA meeting does someone share about their drinking days. They share about their struggles with life and how sobriety and the structure of the steps or the other people in the meeting have helped them…or how they might need help.

      I don’t go regularly, so I might miss some drunk stories, but it’s mainly real people talking about deep feelings like loneliness and pride.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Yes, I assume that must be so otherwise AA would not meet its purpose. :-). It is just that I have this karma thing which works pretty strong. I once doubted if I should go to Turkey for a holiday because all my life I have/had problems with religious men and their opinion of women. I went with a group so met few locals. I did however meet 3 men. All of them told me within the 3rd of 4th sentence that women were a waste of space. 1 Literally so, 1 about his daughters, wishing he had had boys, 1 about his wife. Karma is a bitch. 😀 Unless I change me, I fear I will not fit in. 🙂 However, I still keep it as an option.
        And, also: I have not touched a drink in 2,5 years plus because I weed out the drink think at the root. Listening to somebody not doing that is torture to me and I go into panick mode because I see death ahead. Actually quite literally. I wanna stand up and shout: “CUT IT OUT NOW!! HERE AND NOW!! THIS IS WHERE YOU STEP ON THE WRONG PATH. Do not let that thought / desire grow because it will take all your power to kill it when it is bigger and you might not always win!!!” But I’m guessing that is not allowed. 🙂 and not polite… :-/
        Then again: sobriety is all about what you let in. I am not good at both listening empathically and keeping the addict vibes of somebody else out. Still lots to learn. 🙂
        xx, Feeling

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you feeling. Nor comparing, staying in my own business and being here now all tools I am trying to use to find a new way of being in this world. You are a very wise lady. I love your thoughtful comments, thank you. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Up here we have started using the term ‘alcohol dependent’ which I think is ok, but I’m not alcohol dependent so I don’t know how people who are, feel about that? (I am a member of a family support group for drugs and alcohol. My interest in the subject is personal, but I have found myself genuinely invested in yourself and others. This is a great blog! X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes ‘Alcohol dependant’ may be more accesible and some people may feel more comfortable with that. I wonder if the word ‘alcholic’ somehow implies the finality of the situation (meaning you can never return to normal drinking) and that is where the issue lies? Perhaps is a matter of when these terms are used more widely they will come to mean that too. xxx


  3. I think we spend too much time worrying about what others think and the right way to frame things.
    I drank too much and it was hurting me. So, after many attempts and failure, I quit and life became SO MUCH BETTER. I plan to never drink again. My mental health depends on it. I prefer freedom. It takes work and vigilance. I am responsible for that, but I know there is always help if I struggle.

    I happily say I’m sober. If I’m at AA I will say alcoholic, but never outside that.

    AA is not my path, but I have gone to meetings and I did the steps on my own. They are an excellent too, to self awareness.

    However you stay sober is the right way. Being willing to consider others of yours isn’t working is vital. Open minds.


    Liked by 8 people

  4. If your recovery is working for you then you’re doing it right. I do not go to AA (though I did try a couple meetings in the beginning) and I don’t refer to myself as an alcoholic due to the stigma. I LOVE what McKowen and Whitaker are doing and their work resonates deeply within me. I don’t believe there is a “right” way to recovery. I support whatever journey you took to get sober and love yourself. That’s what matters.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, yes I agree wit this. I think the basis of a path to recovery is acceptance that you have a problem and that you can never go back to drinking normally again. Abstinence is the only way for me, moderation never worked or only worked for short periods of time. The lanaguage and methods we use to follow that path can be more fluid and pull in different teachings from diffrent sources. After all, alcohol was only the medicine that turned into a problem…its a deeper spiritual/soul/psyche issue that needs healing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have my own poison and though it’s not alcohol, the death of my dad set me down the path to comfort eating again. It’s a compulsion and abstinence is the only way for me. In my head it’s simple, but the reality is harder, a lifestyle choice, a decision to live without certain things in my diet – alcohol included – that could ultimately kill me. I choose good health. It’s hard to maintain but it’s my choice in the end.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate when we look at our words: alcoholic in a way both defines you and also in some way puts the blame on you (or the disease I guess but I don’t really want to go there) where alcohol dependant/addict puts the blame back where it should: to the addictive shit we force down our throats. But all this wording … It used to be very important for me, in the earliest of days, even when there were no days just thoughts and fears and internet quizzes. Now I fully embrace that I am an alcoholic, I am an addict (of all things that you can do too much of really), I can never ever drink again and that’s just the way it is. I’m not even sad about that fact anymore – it is just a fact. I haven’t done any steps but I think that the first one still was the one that made things work for me. It was when I finally gave up my notion that I could control it, manage it, to MODERATE (ha!). That was really such a moment of relief. That was me giving up.

    You’re doing just fine, hunny, whatever you chose to define yourself as. It doesn’t really matter you know?

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I have been quietly reading a lot of these posts (and I read the one you referenced, plus most of the comments) and you know, everyone has their own take on it. What I think or don’t think is important. I got sober in AA and I am grateful as hell, and I have called myself all sorts of stuff, and I haven’t been to a meeting in over a year and I am finding my own recovery shifting in a fluid way and so who’s to say one way is “proper” and one isn’t? There are so many folks who are self-directed in their recovery, and that’s fantastic. Whatever works is the right way. We tend to demonize the more fervent and (sometimes idiotic) AA’ers and we gleam certain things that seem absurd and we generalize. AA’ers do the same with those who don’t “work the program” and have their own misconceptions of others who got sober without AA.

    It’s all fear.

    Fear of doing it wrong, fear of not matching up, fear of looking stupid, fear of reprisals, fear of missing out, fear of etc. I have gone through this for the last two years. I don’t talk about my not going to meetings a lot, because I too fear of being rebuked. What I have found, though, is that most people (and that includes AA’ers) is that they say “hey man, whatever works – keep doing it!” and that is my mantra. Words are words. Words can be guideposts (as someone mentioned in the other post’s comments) and place holders. God is a placeholder for some. It’s not God per se, but whatever it is that they feel guides them. Or not. Meh. Again, words and concepts.

    It really doesn’t matter what I call myself. Most non-alcoholics (or abusers, or alcohol dependants, or whatever the term is) really don’t care either. All I know is that I can be of service to those who may be struggling. That’s it. I rarely talk about my use, unless I am trying to reach someone. Other than that, I am human and just try to navigate life like everyone else!

    I will probably write more about this one day, but for now – hey, we’re sober (or in remission, or recovered, or non-abusing…lol) and we’re living life. We’re free. To me, that’s more important than whatever arranged letters I use to define that term!

    Great post 🙂

    Liked by 9 people

    • Paul, I love the way you can just cut right to the root of the issue. As longs as the deeper concepts are there we have a solid foundation to recover. The ‘fear driven’ way of being in this world creeps into recovery too. Thank you so much for this very thoughful and helpful commment. Recovery can be fluid, and if it works keep doing it. Free is the best word isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

    • “hey man, whatever works – keep doing it!” I like all that you wrote but this strikes a chord. At the end of the day, there’ll be something that’ll work for each person individually. I watched someone I love, so resistant to getting help until the shit eventually hit the fan and now there’s some hope. Just talking to someone who knows what’s what is hugely beneficial.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes totally agree, I think our blogging community is very inclusive. My concerns is with professionals that work in the field and how they can be really prescriptive and rigid about ‘words’ we use and treatments that ‘work’ I think that tends to push people away rather than help. xxx


      • I feel bad a bit because I know AA does so much good out there, but I don’t think it has aged well. I felt really excluded when I tried to join a group out of town (it was the only one available during the day so I didn’t have to get a babysitter) and they firmly suggested I go to my local one. I explained the kids thing and they just kept saying I needed local support. It was horrible for me as I was really desperate. I really felt like it was a local select club – I am sure they didn’t mean it but perhaps it just became like that somehow?
        I really enjoyed reading this post – thanks so much
        Michelle xx

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more! And I know I am doing recovery right. You know how? I am not drinking. And I don’t judge any other path that anyone else takes to get to this point. It’s so hard to get here at all that I feel like an “All hands on deck” kind of solution is needed. Like you, different spiritual traditions have helped me as well, and somehow everything came together (after much, much practice) to perform the miracle that I am sober today. And when people ask, I say “I became addicted to an addictive substance — alcohol.”
    Thanks for validating some of the more unorthodox ways of recovery. 💕

    Liked by 4 people

  8. What great thoughts. I have been wondering, too, if because I haven’t gone to an AA meeting, am I somehow setting myself up for failure? Is AA a requirement for recovery? I have hesitated to even ask the question out loud because I am seeing that there is a significant number of people for whom AA is like religion… they are either passionate for it, or passionately against it. And I am far more concerned about my sobriety than I am about the pros and cons of an organization. Three cheers for inclusivity and supporting each other regardless of path!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a really interesting post. I’ve been in and out of AA for a couple of years despite continuing to drink and now I’m in a weird place where I go to AA, I’m also in a rehab program which is totally separate to AA and I’m also always on the stopdrinking community on Reddit where people use any method they like in order to get sober – a lot of them solely rely on the Reddit community. It’s very thought provoking for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent post and discussion! I used to say “I have a family closet full of alcoholic skeletons.” I realize now that using the term “alcoholic” to refer to family members in this way shows a complete lack of compassion (for myself included). Over the years I have heard my family members referred to as “alcoholic” in the most disdainful use of the word (alchy, boozecan, loser,…) There are words in our language that were once completely acceptable to use and now you wouldn’t dare utter one of them. We all know which ones they are. Over time they took on such negative and destructive meanings that we collectively had the decency to ban their use. If the term “alcoholic” serves someone in a positive way then by all means they should use it to describe themselves. However, I believe there are now much more compassionate words we can use to describe addiction, like “addiction” or “alcohol misuse.” Also, given my family history, I find using the word alcoholic to describe myself is almost like giving myself permission to drink because “it’s just what we do in my family.”


  11. I agree, I also don’t like the term ‘in recovery’ for some reason. I just like to think of it as ‘in life’.

    I have wondered on and off if I am an alcoholic. My friends and family say no, I say yes. Then I watch something on TV about alcoholism and I know I’m nothing like that. It’s confusing and at the end of the day irrelevant. You don’t need to be an alcoholic to benefit from not drinking. I was a heavy drinker, there is no doubt about it. I feel better when I don’t drink and that’s all that matters. It’s great that there is the sober online world for us all to come together, support each other and realise that, there is no one way to be sober, yet at the same time there is only one way, and that’s to not drink!


    • I hated the idea of bring in recovery for a long time.
      I was just living!
      But over time I actually embraced recovery as I truly believe I have overcome a huge barrier and made changes to make my life better.
      It’s bizarre how my thinking changes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes this is what kept me stuck too, people (friends/peers) minimised how bad it was but for me I knew deep down it was a problem. Its a positive personal choice to be sober and to stop hurting yourself with booze – it doesn’t have to be a sad consequence.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Hurrah for Coffee!
    I got sober when I finally came out of denial and saw that my drinking was making me and my hubs miserable. My path was to do everything!! I surrounded myself with as many people as I could find, to try to figure it all out. I think the thing that helped me the most was telling all of my family and all of my friends. It kept me accountable and it helped them realize how bad my drinking had become.
    I had to be honest.
    There is no one path to getting sober. I have always believed this and always will.
    If one way isn’t working, then you need to look at another way.
    Hugs to you for a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a great post and comments! It’s funny in a way that because so many have one thing in common-they abuse alcohol-the long time, common way to deal with it was to go to AA and call oneself an alcoholic, day after day. I agree with the above comment that AA hasn’t particularly aged well-I agree and give credit to AA for helping so many-but there is not only one way to get sober. For me, getting sober is a very personal journey and one that I have to find and do what works for me-I have to “personalize” it to fit my needs, my comfort zone. I will agree that when I drink, I am giving my power away to alcohol. However, I feel that by not drinking and getting sober and staying sober, I am claiming my power over alcohol. And frankly, I don’t want to think about alcohol every day-and I don’t at this point-sometimes I go days without ever thinking of it-and I rarely crave it. I’ve never been one to fit in someone else’s ideal of who I should be and how I should accomplish it. To me-the word “alcoholic” has such a negative connotation and comes with such stigma and I -and everyone- is so much more than that. Yes, I have a drinking problem-but I also have a problem with a ton of other stuff in this crazy thing we call life. It’s part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. And because of “my problem with alcohol” and facing it in a way that works for me, I have grown tremendously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I agree we have to find what works for us. We are individuals and a one size fits all aprach just isnt realistic. I am taking it as it comes and not discounting anything. There are valuable lessons and tools in all the abstinence recovery methods but then I need other things too, like Eckhard and Byron Katie which helps me deal with my stressful thinking. I love what you say about the problem drinking not defining you. I think that where the ‘label’ thing becomes sticky for me too. We can choose how we define ourselves. x

      Liked by 2 people

  14. As with so many things in life (sobriety, weight loss, etc.), cookie cutter remedies just don’t work for everyone. I say Do You —- whatever works for you is what you should be doing. It’s not good, bad, or other, it’s just what works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I get it. I was in AA for the first two or three years and there’s definitely some rigidity. But I have absolutely no doubt that it’s what kept me sober for the first few years. And i no longer care what to call it. I don’t drink because I don’t know how to stop. I do what I have to do to keep it that way. Simple as that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I think there is something to be said for rigidity when your life was plunged in chaos from addiction. There is a sense of routine and security in AA that is comforting. Good to keep things simple. Thanks for commenting 🙏.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is a great post Hurrah and I love how much discussion it’s encouraged. The concept of a spectrum works for me, that we all get to a stage somewhere between ‘normal’ and ‘alcoholic’, in varying degrees of severity and at some point going beyond the point of no return. I think it’s great that people are talking about the ‘in-between’ stages and by avoiding black and white, good/bad, right/wrong sorts of language and labels we can make the discussion more inclusive.

    I also find it fascinating how differently people react to words and labels. I’ve read a few times that people find the label ‘in recovery’ annoying but I imagine it as being like a tow truck pulling me out of being flat on my face in the road, towing me to a place of safety, back on the right road.

    At the end of the day, a label is just a label and not reality. If we’re drinking destructively we’re destroying ourselves and suffering whatever words we use to describe it. If we’re not drinking and are growing and moving forwards in life then that’s awesome, regardless of which label we want to hang on it.

    I agree that everybody has their own individual path and toolbox and if it works and keeps us from drinking then it’s the right way for us xx


  17. 110% AGREE!
    There is not just one path, not just one right answer, not just one way to do things! THANK YOU for sharing. What an eloquent observation that we should all embrace.
    We are all unique individuals, with so much potential to heal – share what works, share what doesn’t, but in the end, the journey is YOUR OWN – not to be fought and won by anyone else but YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Finding a Sober Miracle said it: “And I know I am doing recovery right. You know how? I am not drinking.”

    And that says it all, doesn’t it? Certainly things can be fine-tuned, attitudes can be adjusted, problems that don’t go away just because one is sober…all have to be dealt with. BUT – if youre not drinking, you must be doing something right.

    I have to say, and I’m not sure if maybe I am just realizing this…but the whole ‘alcoholic’ word definitely was a big help in keeping me in denial for a long, long time. Precisely because of that stereotypical view we all seem to agree on: the down and out drinker whose life has spiralled out of control.

    So – if you are (or seem to be) in control, if you are meeting all the requirements of a job and day to day living, if you manage to keep from friends and family how much you really are drinking….well then surely you can’t be considered an alcoholic can you? And the rationalization spins and spins….while you pour another drink. And another.

    All the dialog we are sharing, all the points of view and experiences……all good, just all good. And thanks to SM and you, Hurrah, and everyone else who shares with honesty and bravery and hope.


  19. Awesome post about your thoughts on recovery. My latest sponsor told me, “Perhaps you do not have this recovery thing down!” I have four years sober, I was so offended. I guess what I am saying is, as long as sobriety is sober to you! lol.. Maybe I will do a blog with that title. Thanks for your thoughts. B

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes only you can know that for yourself I guess. The consecutive years thing is great. The thing is I had 5 years in my 20s and i was by all accounts a ‘dry drunk’. I didnt do any spiritual work or deeper delving I just stopped drinking. I feel much more informed this time around. Thank you for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. x

      Liked by 1 person

  20. What an impactful, uplifting, discussion. ALL comments provide so much helpful input!

    All I can add, is I’m lucky I found this community to help me with my drinking problem. It’s helping tremendously.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve been sober for 30 years – in AA. Early on, I had no discipline, sense of responsibility, or care for others. I fought the steps and thought I could do it my way. Fortunately, I kept going to meetings and talking to a sponsor and other long-time AA’s. To me, AA is not about drinking and drinking is no longer my focus. Yes, there was a period of transition where I did exactly what I was told because I was afraid you would kick me out and afraid you would keep me. But once I got through that, my focus became how I could live a life of service. (That requires a whole post to explain – I am not a doormat.) I was told to start a spiritual library that went beyond AA literature. That taught me to look for spirituality in everything I do. I still attend 3-4 AA meetings a week. They center me. They remind me that I need at least a bit of discipline and must remain responsible for my actions so that I can care for others. Today, that’s the locus of my freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Karen, 30 years is incredible! I can identify wit the lack of dicipline in early recovery. I also think I understand what you mean when you say AA isn’t about drinking. we have to shift everything and find a spritual path otherwise we won’t stay sober. Thank you so much for stopping by.


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