How A Recovering Alcoholic Stays Sober

If you have ever been to an AA meeting, you may recognize some of the things I am going to share in relation to how an alcoholic in recovery stays sober. Success for the recovering alcoholic pivots upon them developing a reverential fear of alcohol.

By Having Respect
One of the common things offered to newcomers into the program is the concept that if they choose to drink again, they will quickly go back to the level of alcoholism they were experiencing prior to quitting.

They hear things like: “alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful.” Another common phrase is: “If you don’t drink-you won’t get drunk.”

By Controlling Their Thoughts
A recovering alcoholic in the AA program will be taught that the battle begins in the mind. Many say that alcoholism is a thinking disease. The power of living in the moment can be discovered in developing the ability to recognize the troubling thoughts related to the regrets of the past and fears of the future.

Through Living In The Moment
As an alcoholic learns how to stay present in the moment by living one day at a time, the old tormenting thoughts that use to drive them to drinking are abandoned. This is where the promises of the program come to fruition. As they progress in their sobriety, the regrets of the past and fear of the future are rendered powerless over their lives. These are just a couple of the many promises of the program.

By Surrendering To God
The twelve steps of the AA program can be reduced to the first three. As we view them in the light of having a relationship with God, here are the three paraphrased versions of these steps.

  1. I can’t
  2. He can
  3. So I’ll let him

By Abandoning Ways of Deception and Embracing  Honesty
Rather quickly, the patterns of the AA program start to work miracles in people’s lives. As they begin to form a lifestyle that demands rigorous honesty, their thinking begins to become clearer and they begin to realize that God is doing for them what no human power could ever do.

Here are the points I’ve made in relation to when an alcoholic gets sober:

  • A relationship with God begins to develop.
  • The old thinking patterns that used to cause them to drink are replaced with thinking that will assist them in staying sober.
  • A reverential fear of alcoholism starts developing as they hear testimonies from others that are different from their own-yet the same. They quickly develop an understanding of how cunning, baffling and powerful the disease of alcoholism really is.

Through Keeping Sobriety First On The List
An alcoholic in recovery learns to place their sobriety above anything and everyone. The number one priority that ranks higher than every event in their lives is that they MUST not drink no matter what. Their decisions about who they will associate with and where they will go are greatly influenced by their desire to stay AWAY from situations that could cause them to be tempted to drink.

By Regular Participation In The Recovery Program
Attending meetings is encouraged by all of the regular attendees of the AA program. The popular term: “meeting makers make it” is a truth that anyone serious about quitting will surrender to. Meetings provide a safe place for a recovering alcoholic to spend their time.

Through reading books, developing a relationship with God, fellow-shipping with other alcoholics, and by attending meetings, a recovering alcoholic has many alternatives to the old lifestyle. Their ability to stay sober strengthens as they continue to recognize the signs of alcoholism in their life.

An alcoholic in recovery has much to learn, but the one thing that will keep them sober for the rest of their life is living by the simplest truth of the AA program. “If you don’t drink-you won’t get drunk.”


6 comments to How A Recovering Alcoholic Stays Sober

  • The biggest issue with AA for my alcoholic is the role on God in the program. Even though AA professes to finding your own higher power, in reality the belief in a Christian God overtly permeates the program–as reflected in the above article. He attended only a handful of meetings, due to the emphasis on God in the meetings and as essential to maintaining sobriety. For an atheist, these concepts are not effective in helping the alcoholic benefit from the program. Please, no responses suggesting that this would be the time to start believing or that you will pray for us, etc. It is no more feasible for a staunch atheist to will themselves into believing in God than it would be for a Christian to be told that they could only benefit from AA if they give up their religious beliefs. Anyway, I’m not here to debate anyone’s religious beliefs, just questioning the effectiveness of a God centered program for those who are nonbelievers.

  • john

    Replace the word God with the universe. Maybe its your fear of the unknown that stops you believing in a higher higher than your own ego.

  • Thanks for your response. However, this is not about my beliefs nor my ability or others to logically substitute “universe” for “god” in order to let go of my ego . While logically, I agree with you, on a practical -in the meeting-level, the focus on christian representation of god is the standard and if you don’t fit in with the praying that goes on in the local meetings it makes it even more difficult for newbies to adjust and relate to the other participants. I have seen a number of alcoholics who are in (especially) the initial stages of seeking help that don’t seem to get the concept of their own higher power. One of the reasons that I have seen for this is that it is a turn off for someone who is just then coming to terms with their own denial and also trying to fit this idea into it.

    I’m just suggesting that since AA is the standard for recovery, it might be more successful if it was more secular by being clear to each chapter at the meeting level to leave the religious practice outside and stress the higher power as to each his own.

    I am not the alcoholic so it is not my ego that is the problem. I’m looking at it from a rational perspective. I wrote this comment quite a while ago so a lot has changed fro me anyway.
    I did suggest exactly what you did to my ex-husband. I simply suggested a similar substitution to my ex when he was attending AA and to just take from the program what was helpful to his perspective and ignore the god aspect of it if that was the true road block. Sadly, denial is more the problem. He is now gone finding his true rock bottom because it wasn’t losing his 20 yr marriage, his children, and other family, business, retirement savings, etc. before getting there. He still hasn’t yet. He now has another enabler who is acting as his safety net. I am now much healthier having given up my relationship codependency and moving on with my life. No more drama and anxiety just hoping that this would be a change in AA that might help the program be more effective for everyone not just the christians at the meetings who have taken it over.

  • Bill

    Ajay, the AA program was built upon the foundation of God and Christianity. That’s why it has been so successful. Bill Wilson was a Christ follower. The white light, God encounter that he “literally” experienced, while getting sober, should never be reduced to something that is general. No, it was specifically related to God, Jesus Christ in fact.

    Give credit where credit is due. If Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and he is credited for doing so then Jesus should get the credit for being the foundation that the AA program was built upon.

  • […] How does a recovering alcoholic stay sober? […]

  • […] His testimony told of how important it was for him to stay focused on being sober one day at a time. One of the things that he continued to reiterate that he was thankful for was all of the help he found in the AA program. As he began to ask for help and many people started to come into his life to teach and mentor him as to how he could stay sober, “one day at a time,” he gradually started to learn how to be grateful. This is one of the most powerful ways a recovering alcoholic stays sober. […]

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