By the age of thirty-six I had become a pretty hopeless alcoholic by most people’s standards. I’d been trying to get sober for four years. Sure, I could stop drinking, but I couldn’t stay stopped. I had spent the last few years in a vicious cycle: two to three months sober, followed by a bout of drinking, then intense guilt, remorse, and hopelessness before the whole thing would start over again. After years of failing miserably, I was at a complete loss and wanted more than anything to find a sense of direction and purpose. So, after yet another relapse, I decided to try recovery again.
I had heard that the best way to learn about real recovery was from someone who’d been through it, so I decided to do some research, specifically looking for books written by other alcoholics or addicts. What I found were a lot of memoirs detailing people’s sobriety stories along with the obvious Twelve-Step program guides. There were also plenty of books written by people with important-sounding letters and titles after their names, and they all seemed very knowledgeable and profound—the only problem was, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read them. I needed something short and easy to read, something a bit simpler. After all, I was new in recovery; my head was in a daze and I had the attention span of a gnat.
Amazingly enough, and through a lot of trial and error (as you read on, you’ll see what I mean), I managed to stay sober for longer than my customary two to three months. After some time had passed, I decided to write about what I had learned from my failure and success. I wanted to write that simple guide I had searched for and hadn’t been able to find when I’d started my recovery.
The goal of this book is to highlight some things that all of us should know after we’ve come to the conclusion that we have an alcohol or drug problem and have decided to try recovery. If you are still on the fence and are unsure if you have a problem, then you may need further proof until it becomes clear to you. However, if alcohol or drugs have become enough of an issue in your life that you are taking a look at this book, then chances are, you could use some help.
There are a hundred reasons why you may want to quit, but the most important reason is that you’re ready. If you are doing this for someone else—a spouse, family member, employer, or even the courts—know that a time will come when you’ll have to decide if you want sobriety for yourself, or if you’re just going through the motions to please someone else. Usually, that moment is where the rubber really meets the road, and ultimately when you will either use again or not.
If you’re ready to move on to a life without drinking or drugs, I invite you to read on. My aim was to write a book that any alcoholic or addict who is brand new to recovery or trying recovery again could easily understand. This journey isn’t going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it in the end. It’s irrelevant how you got to this point in your life—the important part is that you did, and everything else will fall into place if you are willing to follow the advice of people who have been there before. The bad news is that too many alcoholics and addicts die before they get to the point you are at right now. But there is good news: Anybody can get clean and sober. I’m living proof—what experts call a chronic alcoholic—and if I can do it, there’s no reason why you can’t either.
Best of all, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. There are dozens of different recovery programs out there, and lots of people who want to help, but it all has to start with you. By openly listening and learning about the disease of addiction and by choosing to pick up this book instead of a drink or a drug, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Even if it feels as though you can’t concentrate long enough to read just a few pages at a time, it’s a start.
I hope all of the tools and advice in these pages will help you on your journey. The first half of the book concentrates on what to expect in early recovery, while the remainder is about actually having a life in recovery, covering Twelve-Step programs, what’s involved, and my experience with them. There will be differences between my story and yours, but you will probably see lots of similarities, too. With that in mind, please take what you can use and leave what you can’t. Good luck!