“The roots of addiction remain a dark tangle of factors”. – Newsweek

August 16, 2009

debateWow, what great imagery.

I read a post recently that referred to a Newsweek article containing the above quote.  It has been bouncing around my head all day.

If this description of addiction were accurate, would it not indicate why there is so much debate on…

  • why it happens?
  • what causes it?
  • what effective treatments are and are not?
  • why treatment programs yield such low results?
  • why addicts can’t ‘just quit’?
  • whether or not addiction is a disease?
  • whether it is an emotional problem, chemical problem, biochemical problem, physical problem, societal problem, spiritual problem?
  • and a thousand other contentious issues around addiction, alcoholism, and receovery?

While the battle for doctrinal and theoretical supremacy rage on, addiction rates are rising, more people are dying, and more children and families are left devastated.

My point?  This is serious stuff!  This is huge stuff!  Yet somehow, many of us sit around pouring our energy into picking the fly shit out of the pepper on the micro issues of whose idea of recovery is more valid? 

  • We get some militant 12 steppers who say their way is the only way and practice AA with cult-like narrow-mindedness.
  • We get religious zealots (aka: heretic hunters and modern-day pharisees) arguing that in spite of the fact that many of us have found reprieve from our alcoholism via the 12 steps or other methods, that none of these are gifts of God as they see them and are wrong/evil/of the devil.
  • We get anti-AA and anti-God people saying that those who believe addiction has a spiritual component are weirdos and in spite of widespread results, claim that AA is ineffective.
  • We get the Mega Pharma industry telling us that we will eventually have a medication that will cure us.
  • We get as many theories as there are theorists…. and so many sitting around debating whose ideas are right and why the ideas of others are wrong.

What good does all this do?

I just spent the weekend with my young teenage son.  My son who now has a sober and recovering Dad in his life.  A boy who has a Dad who has come back to being a role model, mentor, and coach to him.

He doesn’t care if I am a 12 stepper, a harm-reductioner, a rational-recoveryer, or if the Reverend Ernest Angely prayed over me and miracle working power of Jesus zapped me straight from heaven! 

Or would it matter if I had shoved the all new Recovery Suppository from Pfizer up my ass and rebalanced my body chemistry to the point where I never wanted or needed another drink or drug?

No, he is just happy to have his Dad back!

I understand that we all come from different background and circumstances.  Our perceptions, experiences and conditionings are all different.  Can we not all see that addiction and alcoholism is so freakin complex, that maybe some of us need one method of treatement while others need something different?

Is it not possible that my ‘dark tangle’ is made up of different components and in different measures than yours?

Can we not see that if we do not have some sobriety through whatever means works for us, that we stand no chance at all of finding a way to stay that way and recover to a better life for us and our families?  If we don’t start by getting sober by whatever means is availabe to us,  that surely we or others will end up dead or disabled before long.

Having just spent one of the most awesome weekends with my son, my heart goes out to those still stuck in active addiction and confused by the debate over theory or doctrine on how to get and stay sober… leaving their families, and kids in particular, to suffer.

My suggestion…. set all of the debates aside, grab ahold of what is readily available to you and appears reasonably safe to get sober/clean, pour yourself wholeheartedly into it for a prolonged period, then take a breath, look around, and re-evaluate if this is the right thing for you long term.  Is it safe?  Is it wise? Is it getting results?  Does it fit with your values and beliefs?  If yes, continue.  If no, move to something else.  There are lots of options.

 At least you stand a chance of recovery by getting clean/sober and hopefully you will minimize the hurt and danger to others.  Especially your kids.





  1. Nice post. What I like about the 12 step way is that it starts with you getting clean and abstinent – then you choose what you want and leave the rest.

  2. RecovBoy…. ya… clean/sober is what matters first.

    Can you imagine an active alcoholic or addict trying to sift through all the debate and options with his/her characteristically over-complicating patterns of thought? That alone may be enough to leave him saying, “WTF… too complicated”, and just go on drinking.

    I have a good friend who spent years working a 12-step program. Got great results of sobriety and recovery. Then he got involved in some sort of religious philosophy. I don’t understand it at all, but he got right into it and has remained clean, sober, and living a recovering and productive life.

    I can see some militant 12-steppers all wanting so jump all over him and say “he is not a REAL alcoholic”, etc. How the hell do they know? AA and NA helped him for years get and remain clean/sober.

    Or what if he listened the the 12-step nay-sayers? He may never have arrived at the point he is at today.

    Or the heretic hunters…. how do they know God is not setting him up for a Road to Damascus experience?

    I am glad he is clean and sober. Cause he is still alive, a productive member of society, a contributing family member, and an inspiration to me.

    Thanks for reply.



  3. There’s no reason that other spiritual programmes can’t work – living an honest, open and willing programme is what is essential for an addict as these are the areas that addictive disease crushes.

    The reason i choose a twelve step programme is that i know it works – in myself and all the people i see who get better from working the programme.

    The other bonus is that it doesn’t cost me anything – i don’t even have to put money in the pot.

    Regarding the militant ones – stick with the winners – recovery is seen not heard.


  4. Recov-boy…. ditto on all points.

    I do not see that AA is only way…. was just only way that I worked for me (and I tried a few).

    And ya… I think widespread protheletizing is dangerous. Your simple observation that it works for you and those you see.

    Too often, I hear AAs projecting that the program will work for anyone out there. We just do not know that… and why would we occupy our thinking and time with supposing so. When we have so many opportunities in front of us, close at hand to help those around us who want the help.

    And no barriers to entry (financial or otherwise), in my experience equates often to no barriers to morons. Sorry to be so blunt. I just see that some people with other agenda such as attention and control seek to be in AA to take what they want rather than seek and share recovery and sobriety.

    It is a bit of a double-edged sword. All are welcome, including the takers.



  5. I like your suggestions about grabbing hold of something wholeheartedly, get some sober time under your belt, practice different approaches to living and thinking. Then stepping back and looking at it, deciding if this is an avenue you wish to continue along. I did this with AA, though I had/have problems of a HP concept as expressed in most AA literature and in the rooms. But I more or less “acted as if” in the early years and I am sure I benefited greatly. Somewhere along the line I started having misgivings about what I could do in AA that was positive, and what benefits I was receiving by still attending meetings.This period lasted for several years, and toward the end, I found myself asking “What the heck am I doing here?” when I was attending meetings. I no longer acted as if and I couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer, so I finally have more or less cut my ties with AA and do not regret it in the least.
    However I think that the support one can get in AA is so very helpful to most, that I continue to suggest that program as an option. I wish the alternative recovery methods had this kind of the support *meetings*. The face to face is very limited among all, with SMART RECOVERY being the most accessible of them. Pretty slim pickings there also, though I do like their approach very much.

  6. Yo Bus….

    My thoughts exactly.

    While I believe firmly in a power greater than myself, it is clear to me that not all can or will. Which begs the question…. Is recovery only for those who can or will embrace a higher power?

    Even AA does not state it should be. Breaks my heart to hear people give up on recovery ’cause they dont connect with AA.

    The alcoholic or addict and everyone in their life continues to suffer if they continue to be active in their addiction. To me, sobriety and recovery are paramount to method.

    As much as AA is the method I prefer, it ills me to hear fellow AA’s get militant on our program and evangelize it as the only way. I even have a distaste for the the use of the term, “real alcoholic”. To me, there are lots of types of real alcoholics. Only some real alcoholics find some help in AA. Others find other solutions that are relevant to them. So good on you for being open-minded through your search and detachment from AA.

    I also see the importance of ongoing support and availability of meetings. I know lots of people who do not work an AA program yet benefit a geat deal from ongoing contact at meetings. It really is a key component and I too wonder why it only seems to be so widespread in 12 step programs. Nothing stopping other recovery groups from having regular meetings and contact though.

    Anyway…. glad you stopped by. Do so any time.



  7. Chas,
    You are right on the money here as usual! Whatever works for you, work it!
    The fact that AA is the best thing around, is not saying a whole lot, AA does not have a very high success rate if you begin to dig up statistics of how many return to the rooms after one visit, or how many remain in the rooms by 3- or 6 months. Nor can we even compare to other options since there are not really any statistics keeping track of who made it on their own, or who used harm rduction, sos, or a smartrecovery, etc…
    For those who do remain in AA, then we can say AA worked! For the others AA has not worked.
    I say, take what you need from where ever you need it and leave the rest!
    BTW, I am shooting you a private email and want to hear more about your idea! I love collaboration and working together! Thanks for all your fantastic thoughts and sahres here! I always enjoy your edgy attitude:-)

  8. Thanks Cheryl…. I do not mean to express attitude. I guess it just shows. No doubt I am passionate in my beliefs. Most of them come as a result of a lot of pain and searching.

    And like you, I am sick of untruths. Untruths that come from so many sources, including our own misconceptions.

    Pride and ego direct so much traffic in our lives. So much debate is really just about pride. Pride of being perceived as being right so we can feel good about ourselves. I wonder how many times the need to convince others that we are right comes at the expense of truth.

    One of the sick paradoxes of self-deception that any of us can fall into.

    Thanks for the email. Will be back in touch on the new idea.



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