Which is unfortunate because although 12-step is not the only way to get sober, it is one way, and it’s been effective for millions of people over the past 80 years.
I certainly had a lot of judgments when I first started going to AA, but in my state of utter ruin I was in no position to be picky.
I could write at least twenty self-help essays about how this idea for a book became an actual book that you can buy right now (also please buy it right now, please).
I’ve decided to be rather straight-forward about it; to talk about two very important elements that made this impossible pipe-dream an actual thing, that I learned through the process of getting sober: (1) The Work, and (2) The Thoughts. I was about thirty days sober, had just read Glennon Doyle’s , and I understood immediately that I was supposed to write.
The point of it wasn’t just to be a good writer; it was to tell a story, to change a narrative about addiction and recovery. My writing improved, and only because I spent almost every second of every day reading and writing and editing and tweaking.
Some blog posts, like this one on Alcoholics Anonymous, took over 80 hours to write; this one time I spent five days in Hawaii on what was supposed to be a vacation holed up in a condo and the local Starbucks writing and re-writing a piece I never even published; one Thanksgiving I took a Megabus to Los Angeles from San Francisco writing the entire way, and then worked from my arrival at ten p.m.I wrote an essay in STIR Journal for them, their loved ones, and those who would help them, and Marc has generously invited me to share it here.By unpacking the neural mechanisms through which we achieve behavioral change I give addicts who hate “the God thing” a different way to access the 12-steps—and recovery.Though I haven’t been to meetings in some fifteen years, I will always sing their praises. Not long ago, musing about how 12-step works, I realized that one of the oft-repeated AA sayings was in fact a description of neuroplastic change: “We don’t think our way into a new way of acting, we act our way into a new way of thinking.” If you take action to foster your sobriety deliberately, repeatedly, and within a supportive community, change happens precisely because you are altering the very structure of your brain.In recent years I’ve been studying neuroplasticity on an informal basis and applying its principles to my daily life, especially vis-à-vis my addictive propensities: Chocolate truffles! And it happens, I argue, whether or not you believe in God.It’s hard for most of us to stick to our resolve that many times. AA contends that because our willpower has “failed utterly” to get us sober, we have no recourse but God. Well, what does every participant at every meeting find every time? By integrating the research into my own experience, I have developed a pragmatic approach to recovering from addiction—an unauthorized 12-step workaround.I want to share this approach with addicts who know they need help but are unwilling to explore the 12-step route.In February 2014, I wrote a piece that ended up going “viral” in my own circles; overnight every person in my life read about the depths of my sickness, my recovery, my addiction, and overnight I understood that I had no real choice but to start building out Tempest and Tempest Sobriety School.The validation started to trickle in; when I set up a new blog (THIS BLOG) in late 2014 and debuted a company called Hip Sobriety, a lot of people started reading my work.I showed my writing to a handful of close friends over the course of that year, searching for validation—for someone to call me a writer.I didn’t understand then that we don’t wait for other people to vote us in to our heart callings; we vote ourselves in.