I’ve managed to build a good life away from addiction, and I’ve done this by going it alone. I don’t belong to any type of support group, and the only path that I follow is my own. I did stay in a Thai temple for the first 10 days of my recovery, and the monks there helped me detox and provided me with some tools for living, but I have not required any additional help in the 7 years (almost) since checking out of that program. I’m not suggesting that other people should go it alone in recovery, but I do want to point out that in some cases it may be a better option.
Forced to Go It Alone
In some respects I had no choice but to go it alone when I finally decided to give up alcohol for good. At that time I was living in rural Thailand, and the nearest 12 Step meeting was six hours away by motorbike. I desperately wanted to stop drinking, but I had no strong desire to attend one of these meetings. I felt guilty because of this lack of motivation. I’d managed to stay sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous for a two year period during my twenties, but I no longer felt much enthusiasm for the program. I could see how it worked for other people, but it just felt like the wrong path for me. I kept hearing that Alcoholics Anonymous was my only real chance for recovery, and I worried that this might be true.
I started checking out online AA meetings in the year before giving up alcohol for good, but I became fed up with members telling me that I needed to get to a live meeting every day. I’m sure these people meant well, but 12 hour trips (there and back) on my motorbike through the Thai countryside didn’t seem very reasonable to me at all, and I disliked the accusation that I was willfully choosing alcoholism by failing to do this. I also knew already that meetings could not guarantee my recovery – during my twenties I’d gone to a meeting every day for 2 years, and I still ended up back drinking.
In the weeks before my final split with alcohol, I reached new levels of desperation. I knew that if Alcoholics Anonymous was the only option for me I was screwed. I’d had seventeen years of bouncing in and out of AA, so surely that program would have already worked if it was going to work. I could see that the AA saying, ‘if you keep on doing the same things, you will keep on getting the same results’ equally applies to their program. I did briefly consider returning home to Ireland, so that I could check into rehab, but this solution just felt wrong.
Giving up Alcoholism
Getting help at a Thai temple was a desperate attempt to end my addiction, but it worked for me. I’d reached a point of complete defeat, so it may have been that my recovery was inevitable. Before arriving, I made up my mind to not only give up alcohol, but to also give up being an alcoholic. I removed alcohol completely as an option from my life, so this meant that the possibility of relapse was gone. It turned out that giving up alcohol was incredibly easy once I removed the whole alcoholism garbage from my life. Drinking alcohol just became something that I no longer did anymore.
My life improved when I stopped drinking but all the reasons for why I’d turned to alcohol in the first place were still there. I needed to find a new way to deal with the challenges of being a human. The universe became my teacher, and the fact that I was no longer chemically anesthetized by the booze meant that I could learn. In the beginning I did benefit from guidance from books, YouTube videos, and podcasts, but I didn’t limit myself to content only from people in recovery. I understood that most of my problems were things that every human has to deal with, and I’m not some type of special case.
The most important part of this journey alone has not been about taking on new beliefs but in eliminating bullshit. I keep chipping away at my worldview to simplify things, and to make my approach to life more consistent with reality. I now know that all beliefs act as filters, and that real inner contentment comes from having as few of these filters as possible. Most importantly, I’ve found that there is nothing wrong with feeling up or feeling down and there is never any need to try to escape what I’m feeling.
Go it Alone in Recovery
I think it is great that there are so many different recovery paths. We all have to find our own way, and in many instances this may require belonging to a recovery group. I would suggest though, that if people are struggling with the available recovery options they could try going it alone. At the end of the day, we are all ultimately on our own path anyway.