An Article About Whether Abstinence is Needed For Sobriety/Recovery

One of my friends shared this article on Facebook concerning whether or not sobriety needs to be one of total abstinence. According to the author of the article, it is very rare to find someone in sobriety who is totally abstinent, and total abstinence from all substances is not always the best course of action for someone with a drug and/or alcohol problem.

In the article, suggestions are made for professionals and helpers of those with substance use issues. One suggestions really spoke to me, which is: Measure the success of treatments against actual life functions—work, family and friends, and especially subjective client feelings.

If you’ve been reading my blog, it is probably not surprising at all that this suggestion is important to me when it comes to assessing the recovery method(s) that I’ve used in my life. I remember that for years I was convinced that AA was working for me. However, when I look at the whole picture, I can see that my life functioning reduced significantly throughout my time in AA. Over time, my ability to actually have true friendships decreased, because all of my focus was on connecting to other alcoholics through AA rather than connecting to people through interpersonal communication, hobbies, and the things that most people connect over. So, over time I lost my ability to truly make friends. I also became dependent on my family in a very unhealthy way, especially considering how abusive they are.

I also went from being a top-performing graduate student when I joined AA to being completely disabled and on disability. A big part of this was due to the trauma that I went through at the hands of AA members.

So, when I consider whether or not AA was an effective method of recovery for me, instead of just looking at whether or not it kept me sober, or I stayed sober while in it, it is important to look at the effects it had on my whole life, not just on my sobriety. When I look at the overall effect of AA on my life, I can see that even though I got and stayed sober in it, that the overall effects of it were actually quite negative, even though I stayed sober in it. The truth is that simply staying sober does not make for a good life and I don’t think is the most important aspect at least in my life. Many other things impact how I am doing in life and whether or not I feel like I am living successfully.

I’m glad, then, that others are beginning to assess whether or not recovery methods are working on more of a global basis than “Does it keep the person sober?”. Hopefully, this will help people in AA to be able to look at the global impacts of the program in their lives. However, I do know at the same time that for most who are heavily involved in AA that this will likely be impossible because many in AA have a blind spot when it comes to the problems within the program and the problems even in their lives (because if they truly understood that they still have problems in sobriety it would go against everything that they are taught in AA, especially if these problems are worsened by AA and it’s members). I know that I definitely had a blind spot about this for many years, and that it took a lot of therapy and help from my boyfriend David and my twin sister, who aren’t fans of 12 step programs, to work my way out of it.

I hope that if you decide to read this article that you get something out of it like I did. I’ll try to most more articles on my blog surrounding recovery, trauma, cats, and other things that I know certain followers have an interest in. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “An Article About Whether Abstinence is Needed For Sobriety/Recovery

  1. If you read literature from say, the nineteenth century, let’s say Dickens or Trollope, a “sober” life was never one of total abstinence (unless you were one of the working class, of course). It was a life of moderation. You worked, went to church, took care of your business & ate & drank in MODERATION. That was the key.

    AA is a religious cult, born of a religious cult. America itself is the land of religious cults. The story that the Pilgrims came here for “religious freedom” is a lie. They came here because they were kicked out of every place they were before they got here. They were complete jerks. All religious cultists are jerks. That’s putting it nicely.

    I always thought I came from a basically sober family until I went to AA & then I found out that it wasn’t just a few members of my family that had a drinking problem, the entire family was alcoholic! I ran with that ball for several years & it really messed up my life BIG TIME.

    Thirty years later, I have regained my senses & I realize that my family is basically sober with a few members that drink too much on occasion … like most families. But AA has managed to ruin other members of my family so I stay away … for my own good.


    1. My family has some very heavy drinking in it, but certain family members always made/make others’ drinking out to be more severe than it actually is/was, and I was one of the ones who family members shamed and blamed for drinking, even if I was drinking normally. Then when I went to AA people did this to me as well. The whole thing has been very confusing to me, and I know that my family members conditioning of me to make me think that I had a severe alcohol problem biased how I answered drug and alcohol tests at a CD center in 2005. It makes me very angry to know this. And yes, America is the land of the cults. I’ve been reading, actually, that the number of cults in the US has been growing since the 70s. I’m sure that the acceptance of AA in our society has played a part in this growing problem.


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