Thirty-four alcoholics and drug addicts from all walks of life from the United States and Canada tell their personal stories on what did and hasn’t worked in their recovery programs to doctors, counselors, family members and society.
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I was sixteen years old when I started drinking beer and alcohol. I popped speed pills (Black Beauties) and grew and smoked marijuana. Most of my high school buddies were partaking, and I joined in!
There is absolutely no trace of alcoholism in my family as far back as I could go.
My “help” was forced upon me (either get help or get out!) by my wife who had had enough of the alcoholic behavior, black outs, embarrassments and promises broken to do something about my drinking.
Both my wife and I went together for counseling, but the real recovery happened on March 15, 1983, when I was admitted into Edge Hill Rehabilitation in Newport, Rhode Island. My month long rehabilitation was comprehensive from every aspect, including family counseling and after-care follow up.
I was in denial that I was an out-of-control drinker! I could rationalize most everything. As more people commented about my drinking, the more I would try and hide my actions. I stayed away from people who would spot me and stayed with a group who drank like me.
Once I entered Edge Hill, the counselors were smarter than me when it came to me trying to con them. They knew how to sort my BS from the real world, and for the first time in my life, I was confronted with having to face some ugly and twisted features of my personality.
Like pulling multiple teeth without the comfort of medication or alcohol to numb my senses, it was a slow and painful process to begin to get honest with myself and realize what I had become.
The after-care program encouraged family attendance to the various 12 step meetings like Al-Anon and A.A. For the first year or so, my wife attended her meetings, but with more children on the way, she had to change her schedule. I continued to attend A.A. regularly and more.
Damaging my body, my mind, or my reputation was of least importance during my drinking. The feeling of drunkenness isolated my thoughts from the real world. The “feeling” became as close a relationship as a marriage, and I was in love with it!
I resented with a passion anyone who “rained on my parade.” I would hold them in contempt. I wasn’t an alcoholic, regardless of my losses due to alcohol! I hated anyone to bring up my drinking because I rationalized that I wasn’t the stumbling and mumbling young man they made me out to be. I used to ask them, “Are you PERFECT? Then stop asking it of me,” and I’d walk away thinking I’d won.
Everyone in my family, my extended family, people I worked with, and friends all supported the new Phil. They would regularly pat me on the back for staying sober.
I started going to A.A. before I decided to turn my life over to God. I have been going to meetings since the early 1980s and to this day have a great sponsor who took me under his wing in 1983.
I have been clean and sober since March 15, 1983, one day at a time. What is helping me stay sober is “living” according to the steps and traditions of A.A. and my faith. Giving help to others and letting new comers know that they don’t have to be enslaved by their old behavior and lifestyle also fortifies my daily sobriety.
My drinking caused huge losses. I added up most of my monetary loses and that total was leaning over $800,000. That total, which also included being fired from different employers, having to hire lawyers, having to pay fines and court costs so many times, having my name appear in the newspaper related to drunk driving, the family disputes, the deep emotional and physical hurt I caused my family so often, and the tearing apart of close family relations and friends, reflects only the surface of the enormous losses I suffered. What a price to pay for wanting to get high or drunk! As my drinking raged, the breaks in ties with everyone were equal. My supply of anything I wanted was as close as the phone or the corner “packy.”
My inner emotions were raw and sensitive to the change that recovery demands. An addiction is very much a slave master of your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Wrestling away from its gigantic power is brutal on ones feelings.
Detox and rehab centers can’t do more than help return an addict to a physical state of being chemical free. That is not sobriety. It’s what the name implies, a detoxification of alcohol or drugs from ones system. In order for addicts to begin a sober way of life, months of repeated positive counseling and self-evaluation, lifestyle changes, daily meetings, daily prayers, and a sober environment are what are needed to get someone started on the daily road to recovery. That kind of treatment is not likely in our culture because of the cost and time required.
Halfway houses are a tremendously important part of the process for many addicts. They provide the discipline, structure, and environment needed for early sobriety. Most facilities will have a staff of recovering counselors with good sobriety who can detect anything out of the usual. These facilities have a reputation! There are other facilities that don’t meet the standards and give a bad image.
The problem with wanting to get help is that the desire to stop isn’t usually as strong as the habit that holds us down. It usually takes major crises for many addicts to be forced to consider getting help. Sometimes the addict says, “I’ve had enough and it’s time to give up.” But, for many others, that moment takes a lifetime, and for some, their lives are sacrificed with the help of their loyalty to their drink or drug.
I used to stay away from doctors for fear of being put on record as an alcoholic.
Recovery programs are as effective as the effort the alcoholic puts into them. Making friends at these programs is essential in order to establish brand new support systems of like-minded people. Along the years of recovery, one picks up something at every A.A. meeting that will help in sobriety and the same goes for all the different people one will meet in sober surroundings that will also be great helpers in getting and staying sober.
The best and most truthful advice I could give our younger people is “that one…just ONE bad decision about taking drugs and alcohol can ruin your life forever!” What we think of as having FUN is playing Russian roulette with real ammunition! Getting hurt, hurting others, or dying is not FUN.
The medical community is made up of physical scientists. They approach the disease scientifically. Psychiatrists are specialists of our emotions, reasoning and behaviors. Ministers look to help us have a stronger belief system. It would take combing all of these into one concentration to begin understanding the various levels and reasons of this human condition. The closest one that can come to this concentration is the program of A.A.
Many people have fractures and separations and trauma from their past emotionally, that indeed contributes to their feelings of insecurity and depression, anger and the rest.
This disease is a part of the human condition. If it were strictly a physical disorder, a remedy could be discovered to counter balance its effects in the body. But, addiction is part of many manifests and coming up with a pill or vaccine to cure it, in my opinion, is as likely as finding a cure to murder.
My advice to the healthcare advocates is for the system to stop wasting so much money on the short term solution. Taking longer stays of rehab with counselors who are in recovery themselves will give addicts better support than a few days in a detox.
It takes nine months from conception to birth. Why would anything as important as a renewal to life be given any less time? When the child is born, there are years of stages the child develops. To turn an addicted life around has a similar, symbolic growth and time table.
To the parents who want to know how to give support, let your child know that it’s going to require the same amount of passion and want that went into doing drugs and alcohol to struggle away from alcoholism’s jaws. Tell your kids that the same way they fell in love with drugs; they now must fall in love with getting and remaining sober, a day at a time.
Also, for parents, wives, siblings, relatives, employers, and friends, there is power in prayer! It is as real a power and stronger than the power that keeps our loved ones down and out and enslaved. All must believe that ONLY the addict can turn around conditions with the help of God. Years and decades of patience pay off, sometimes. For others, whose parents lament every day with a broken heart because their son or daughter died as a result of their addiction; just know that there is no sin or mistake, lifestyle or tragedy that is greater than God’s Love.
Purchase the book at
John Daubney ~Author, Mentor, and Retreat Leader
“Negotiating the ups and down of the first few years of recovery contain numerous pitfalls which those in recovery must have the right kind of help with. The best-intentioned of friends, family, lovers, and co-workers can be healthy supports or obstacles to long-term sobriety. Having the addicts tell the story of what worked for them and what didn’t or doesn’t work would be a most helpful addition to the literature on the subject of addiction and recovery. Addicts sharing their experience, strength and hope with others is something that only a recovering addict or alcoholic can do. It is a unique gift.”
“I was tired of getting sick, my hands shaking, my vision deteriorating, my nose bleeding, my bowls moving sporadically, not sleeping and feeling safe along with the violence and running from many situations being paranoid to the point of staying home all day.”
“I would tell doctors and counselors to listen to us. We are drinking for a reason, but we can’t stop on our own. Help us to identify the reason we are drinking. What are we afraid of? What are we trying to hide, our insecurities, our short-comings? Maybe we just don’t like who we are sober and truly believe we are better people when we are drinking or using drugs. Most of all treat us as humans, not a disease.”
K.B. Entrepreneur, Alberta, Canada~
“Every person is different. You need to understand the person before you can really help them with their addiction (assuming they want help). One approach will not work for every person. I am not even sure that it is a disease (again my opinion); I mean, cancer is a disease. Addiction, I believe is a self-management issue.”
Christi Thompson, New York~
“Addicts don’t want to hear how their parents walked to school in the snow; they want to hear that they love them and want to help them with the problems that exist here and now. Parents (or anyone offering support) cannot allow themselves to get caught up in: ‘look what your addiction is doing to me.’ They must selflessly jump in and help the addict. Less drama and narcissism would probably benefit all of society, not jus alcoholics and addicts.”
Carolyn Jones, Award-Winning Author, Motivational Speaker, Grief/Life Coach, California~
“My advice to parents is to begin by teaching your children that life is a series of choices to make with consequences for each choice we make. Present the picture of the successful person whose demise occurs because of drinking. Stress how people get in car accidents, for example, and kill innocent people, and end up in jail. Stress the effect of always being numbed to life, such that they miss out on the joys of living a full and meaningful life.”
Dan Klatt, Las Vegas, Nevada~
“My advice to doctors and counselors is to deal with the spiritual/emotional well-being of the addict. To parents, allow your addict to lead his or her own recovery if they desire. You do not know what you think you do just because you went to some AA and/or Al-Anon meetings.”
Alberta Sequeira~ Author of What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict
These thirty-four substance abusers from all walks of life are from the United States and Canada opened up with their personal lives to let other alcoholics or drug users know what they believe works and does not, along with giving advice to doctors, counselors, society and family members with what they need for support to desire the want for recovery. This is a family book to help anyone who is fighting addiction in the family, whether it is the user or family member.
Review from Thomas M. Cirignano, Contributor and Author of the Constant Outsider and 67 Cents~
Alberta Sequeira’s book is a valuable compilation which immerses you deeply within the delusional workings of the alcoholic and drug addicted mindset. What better source of insight and understanding could there be than the thoughts and beliefs of those afflicted with the diseases? Search no further. There is none!
At a subconsciously level, we are locked into repeating old behaviors. How many of you keep on blaming yourself to the point of beating yourself up with guilt from feeling shameful? The guilt can keep you drinking. If you are an alcoholic, you are programmed at a subconscious level. Drinking will stay at a default program until you put it into something else.
You may drink day after day, after you swore-off drinking for good….or least until the weekend. How bad of a drinker can you be if you only drink on weekends? How bad can you be if you only have beer? We think that alcoholics use just hard liquor.
How do you change this direction with your habit? You just have to make the choice to change. Those who struggle with addiction have subconsciously accepted their addiction. If you are going to separate from this demon, you have to be prepared for the challenges to reach sobriety. Staying sober is even harder. The unknown puts you in a state of panic so you do nothing and stay with the familiar feelings of a numb state. You don’t want to think. It’s too much for your mind.
You have to face your battle. Do you stay an alcoholic or do you hold on to God’s help and fight for a life without that drink? It’s your choice. Family can only love and support you. Your body and mind are trying to survive. You have to come to realize and believe that willpower alone is not enough to change your habit. You can’t make it alone without professional help. Having someone in the same boat with the desire to quit is achieved by going to A.A. meetings, getting a sponsor, getting a counselor, seeing a doctor and getting mental help to find out what took you on this path in the first place.
From losing my husband, Richard Lopes and my daughter, Lori Cahill, I truly believe what happens in your childhood has a lot to do with your adulthood. Both of them had deep rooted problems that they could not face or talk about to counselors or even family members. The professionals should start by finding out why a person drinks or uses drugs. Treating the illness will fall in place after understanding the person’s pain, fear, how they were treated in the past and their hurts. It molds us into who we become from all the hidden secrets.
Your actions could be hereditary, from habit, following a crowd, not fitting in with others, no confidence in yourself, and the list could go on forever. We are individuals who have ups and downs, good and bad things that happen to us in life. No one’s runs smoothly. It’s how we handle or omit handling our pain that takes us on that road to addiction.
Men especially are taught not to cry or show emotions. Doing so is what locks you into the past. I tell substances abusers during my talks to get what I call the garbage out to heal. My two loved one could not do that so they died from addiction instead of having the strength to talk about their past and reach for recovery. It’s so sad that one’s life is gone from fear and not facing the demon head-on. It’s also sad for a family to lose that loved one when we know that there is help if they would only walk towards it and grab on for dear-life.
My new blog shows my writing and speaking talents. The blog is www.albertasequeira.org through WordPress. Would love to have you visit to review it. I welcome comments like I do on this site. Let me know what you want to read. Anything special?
My new email is email@example.com
Thank you for the support!