When you think about steps to quit drinking, for most people, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) come to mind. What is not well known, though, is the fact that the success rate of AA is extremely low. What percentage of AA members actually learn how to get and stay sober? According to Dr. Lance Dodes, Psychiatrist, author, and director of the substance abuse treatment unit at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, The Twelve-Step Program of AA has a success rate of 5-10 percent. If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets even worse. In my opinion, the members who give up drinking for good and learn how to stop being an alcoholic do so by displacing their addiction. In other words, they trade alcohol for AA meetings and ideology. That being said, it’s not all bad. There are some things we can learn from the failure and success of AA. I have studied The Twelve-Step Program in great length during my research over the last decade. That research, combined with the work I have done as an addiction recovery coach, enabled me to develop, test and perfect 5 steps to quit drinking without AA. I‘ll outline them in a moment. First, I want to discuss the AA 12 steps to quit drinking
Alcoholics Anonymous Steps to Quit Drinking
The following is an outline of The Twelve-step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to analyzing, explaining and rebutting the steps, when applicable, I have also categorized them into two groups – counterproductive and feasible. I believe the steps listed in the feasible category are potentially workable with modification.
1. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
One of the basic reasons people are addicted to substances or compulsions is the fact that they allowed someone to strip them of self-respect and personal power. So, do you honestly believe that making an admission of powerlessness will help regain them?
2. “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
There is a higher power that is greater than oneself, but that power has already given you the tools needed to restore your sanity. If you ask God, or the higher power, to restore your sanity, eventually, you will realize that he has already empowered you to do this for yourself!
3. “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
This step breeds victimization and prompts a behavioral transference from alcohol abuse to AA ideology or religious practice. Surrendering your will to God does not mean that he will hand you a life of happiness on a platter. If you go to God as a beggar, surely, you will remain in poverty. Likewise, if you go to Him as a victim, you will continue to be victimized. Consequently, passive surrender is totally ineffective. On the other hand, dynamic surrender or active receptivity is the correct approach. Once again, God has given you the power to change your own life, but you must take the necessary action to make it happen.
5. “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
It’s ok to admit to your wrongdoings. However, that admission quickly turns into guilt, self-incrimination and victimization when you combine it with powerlessness! There are positive lessons to be learned. However, you will never find them if you remain stuck in the rain of victimization. On the other hand, if you adopt a positive, symbolic, perspective, you will see a silver lining in the dark cloud of addiction.
6. “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Let’s get a few things straight; we are all connected, we are all created equal, and we are all children of God. Therefore, we do not have personal shortcomings and defects of character! Why tell someone who already has a low self-esteem that they have personal shortcomings and defects of character?
7. “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Neither God nor the higher power will remove anything, but he or it has given you the power to change your own circumstance!
8. “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
This step directs one to make amends with the people who have been affected by their habitual behavior. I have absolutely nothing against apologizing when it’s appropriate. If you’re wrong, then say you’re wrong and move on. But, you can not adopt an apologetic persona while allowing abusive and toxic behavior to continue. Otherwise you will never restore your self-esteem.
9. “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
This parallels step eight, which I have discussed.
10. “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
It is imperative to live ones life in truth since lies and deceptions are inherent in addictive behavior. I do agree that evaluating personal behavior is a prelude to changing it. However, when you combine this step with the concept of powerlessness, most participants engage in self-incrimination rather than self-evaluation. If you liberate yourself from the root cause of the addiction and empower yourself accordingly, taking a personal inventory merely becomes a gentle tool necessary for growth.
In my opinion, the following steps may be beneficial with some modification:
4. “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Self-reflection is key to addiction freedom, except, when it’s described as taking a moral inventory and combined with the term defects of character because it becomes a precursor to blame and guilt! I believe self-reflection and discovery should be pursued in a positive sense by searching for ones personal identity, life purpose and spiritual lessons.
11. “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
The goal of The Twelve-Step Program is a spiritual awakening, although most people find it difficult to make this connection because they feel victimized by someone else’s behavior. Meditation is not only a critical component to making contact with your higher self or consciousness, but it is also the key to awakening your true personal power and abstaining from addictive behavior. But, the vast majority of Twelve-Step Program participants confuse spirituality with religion. They are two distinct practices. Religion is a community effort, whereas spirituality is a personal journey. One can practice both but there is no escaping the personal journey. The practice of outward ideals is not, and never shall be, a substitute for inner righteousness!
12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
This step suggests undertaking a life of service. When it comes to AA, though, that concept is usually limited to helping others overcome addiction. I believe this step is often used as a method of recruitment for AA. People who have adopted victimization seek camaraderie with those who suffer from the same affliction. So, the more the merrier! I have a different take on service – one that promotes acts of random kindness. You see, it’s the small stuff that makes a difference. Things like; holding a door open for someone, offering a kind word to a child, or helping an elderly person. These random acts of kindness fuel unconditional love and promote selflessness – two components that are non-existent in addictive behavior.
Now, I want to highlight and outline my 5 steps to quit drinking.
5 Steps to Quit Drinking without AA
Step 1 – Unearth and Eliminate the Generators:
Based on my research and experience, I have learned that alcoholism is generated in family, relationship dynamics. Various patterns such as control, verbal, physical and sexual abuse as well as part-time and substance–abusive parenting form the basis for alcohol dependency. To learn how to stop drinking alcohol without AA, it is imperative that you address theses issues.
Step 2 – Change the Catalyzers:
Self-esteem, personal power, and personal identity are negatively charged and feed the paralyzers and drivers. In contrast to the AA principle of powerlessness, you must boost self-esteem, take back personal power, and establish personal identity to learn how to stop alcohol abuse and how to end alcohol addiction.
Step 3 – Remove the Paralyzers:
Emotional deterrents such as fear or anger freeze many people in their tracks, preventing them from making positive change. Personal agendas and false narratives provide an excuse to put the drinking pedal to the metal. If you want to learn how to treat alcoholism without rehab, then you must remove the deterrents and give up the narratives and agendas.
Step 4 – Dismantle the Drivers:
Anxiety, emotional distress and depression are the drivers of alcoholism. When these emotional states reach tipping points, alcohol is used to alleviate symptoms. This can also be described as self-medication. As feelings of worry, dread, stress or hopelessness mount, and coping mechanisms fail, alcohol is used as a means of escape. Ultimately, in the end, the best way to quit alcohol revolves around dismantling the drivers.
Step 5 – Unlock and Implement Life Purpose:
When living a life without meaning or purpose, one begins to question whether life is worth living at all. When failure is a regular occurrence, and success fades further off into the distance, frustration usually mounts. This is often fed by the Paralyzer, anger, which has been formed by a Generator. In either case, regardless whether it is anxiety or depression, unlocking and implementing meaning/purpose is crucial when you want to quit drinking without AA.
For additional reading, check out my other posts below:
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