The Final Destination Arrives At You


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One month ago I was hoping to start EMDR therapy for my PTSD.

Unfortunately it has not happened as yet. I spent the whole summer preparing myself to start therapy but it is yet to start.


My wife also suffers from PTSD and anxiety disorder. Due to this and that, I have been looking after her for the last few weeks, supporting her, and getting her back to work as she had been off with acute stress. This was exhausting given my current emotional state.

Then someone tried to kicked my front basement door in – unsuccessfully I am glad to say.

It was however a bit traumatic and upsetting, this invasion of our privacy, this violation of our home.

So I had to fix the door. Unfortunately it also rained and rained the night of the attempted break in and the basement room got flooded which cost nearly £2000 to fix.

Fortunately the Insurance will cover it but it is still distressing and stressful. I have spent days installing cctv and security lights.

So I had to get my wife back to work followed by this break in followed by having to work with builders for the last four-five weeks (a long story in itself!).

The basement door was replaced and then the laminate floor was taken up as it was ruined by the flood. Then we realised  we may have rising damp so we had to get that fixed.

The floor was treated and the walls painted with a tar. The basements steps are had to be re-cemented and the front windows and doors resealed to prevent further problems with damp.

We then laid tiles which took forever and re-plastered the ceiling which has been damaged, strangely by the flooding also as the roof is below ground level, i.e. in the basement.

It has been stressful and exhausting. I could lie down on the floor and sleep, if they weren’t full of dirt and plaster. I have done all this while in a stew of trauma which is like a puss capsule waiting to burst.

All my life I have been a person who fixes stuff, helps people out in an emergency. A go to guy.

As a child I tried to be a caregiver, caretaker to my Valium dependent mother. I parented her as she struggled to parent me. I also took all my father’ anxieties about his troubled wife and his general woes.

I grew up in role reversal.

I am primed to help in emergencies.

I never had anyone to share my concerns with.  My sisters would ask me how are you? Then not wait for the reply.

It was a prelude to me having to listen to how they were. I have been a receptacle for other’s to deposit their anxieties. Often without offering this service.

Who listened to me? I have always felt like a “poorly drawn boy” tiny, lacking definition in my mind’s eye when I look back at my childhood.

There is little substance to my self schema

I somehow need to get better drawn, coloured in, made more full, more me. Take back the pieces of me strewn across the wreckage of my past. Piece them together to see what I end up with, end up as.

At the moment I feel I am in danger of disappearing.

Is this a bad thing? This feeling of evaporating. Is the old me disappearing, am I shedding skin, a turtle-like replacing a shell with another?

Hopefully a lighter shell!

I do not fear emotions like before, however negative or troublesome. I think something is coming to the surface, like a vapour on my stew.

Impurities  being cleansed just by my decision to look at my trauma therapeutically, professionally.

This may have started a stampede of squashed emotions, trampling their way to the surface of my mind to get recognition, to finally be heard.

All I know is that if I don’t deal with my trauma it will deal with me. It is the most pressing concern for me not only in terms of general mental well being but in terms of relapse risk. It is by far the greatest risk to relapse.

I find AA meetings are good for sharing about certain things,   to a certain extent, for sharing what is going on with me but no longer fully. AA does not really deal with shame, trauma or the other issues that propelled my addictions to near death and psychosis.

It deals with shame of addiction for sure but The Big Book was written at a time when even psychotherapy did not consider shame, instead concentrating on guilt.

The steps deal effectively with guilt and the shame around what we have done to other people, sins of commission,  but they do little in my opinion for the sins of omission, the sins sinned against us. What do we do with this stuff?

The stuff that often propelled our addictions in the first place? Haven’t some of us been just dealing with the cart and not the horse?

Just some observations.

Roughly 65% of AAs have outside help, with what? The causes of their addictions?

Or certainly development childhood aspects which later contributed to the severity of their addictions?

This is where I am at, looking out for others while fit to burst myself. I am bottling up a primal yell, and request to be heard, at last.

As the youngest in my family I had no one in whom to deposit my anxiety and distress. To offload on.

AA has been instrumental in helping me share tonnes of stuff about my alcoholism. My trauma and neglect form childhood has often met with fairly closed ears. Some things people don’t want to talk about in depth. Some things they don’t want to touch for fear of making worse. I can relate to this. I have done this myself for years in recovery. But now it is inevitable that I deal with this stuff.

The damn is about to burst as I have said and will do…eventually.

I will hopefully keep you posted.

I am also very hopeful that it will have a chrysalis effect too.

I have  faith that God goes deep!

You are Enough, We are Enough!

“The wounded healer” refers to us, who suffer greatly from shame, helping others via love, tolerance and understanding who also suffer greatly from shame.

We can help others and be helped because we all know what it is like to feel the chronic, toxic shame the drives addictive behaviours.

Our understanding of shame is not out of a book it is real, lived experience. We know how it can drive one into chronic addiction and we know how to recovery from the persistent effects of this shame.

The main thing that struck me when I first went to AA was a lack of judgement which was amazing considering I was very jaundiced at the time.

I was accepted in the group without  reservation. This greatly helped my damaged sense of belonging, my not feeling part of.

It made me feel that this is the place I need to be. Have always needed to be?

The “shares” or testimonies of other recovering people made we realise they suffered the same shame as me and had worked to overcome it via the steps, via having fellowships, people in their lives who understood and who helped them. They told me of their triumphs over their emotional difficulties, over their chronic lack of self esteem, over not feeling good enough, of feeling less than.

A failure –  they talked about me and how I felt about me. How I had always felt about me!?

I had never been in a group of people who had talked so openly about their intimate feelings which was amazing. In doing so they were talking about my intimate feelings too. This gave me a sense of not being alone anymore. They seemed to be shining a light of hope into the dark recesses of of my shameful psyche.

It addressed my sense of isolation right away.

I had spent my life feeling not good enough, bad, l had that knawing feeling of less than, that hole in the sole.

I was like these people. They were like me.

I felt and continue to feel more like these people than I do my own family.

They became my surrogate family, my newly learnt attachment.

They were like me. They had not learnt this stuff out of a book, by professional observation but by having been through this stuff themselves. This was real not learnt.

They had been there. They were here now for me.

They knew what they were talking about.

This was the beginning of my psychic change. A person who was to become by therapist at the local treatment  was at my first meeting and he later said that he felt I had a psychic change at that my first meeting.

I had come in utterly beaten, at  death’s door and had left with hope.

The journey started with hope.

I had found a portal in the universe – it was Alcoholics Anonymous but from the shares it might have been called Shame sufferers Anonymous.

Shame ran through every share. They say fear is the corrosive thread which ran through our lives but it is equally the case that shame does too and causes just as much distress and damage.

It is difficult to live life when you do not have your own back, believe in yourself as  worthy of the good, healthy, things  in life. That you are not worthy them. That these things happen to others. Not you as you do not deserve them.

Why recover at all when you are not worth it?

This is how many of us feel? We are not worth it, this recovery.

The truth is the opposite, we are worth it. We do deserve it.

We are heroes who suffered so much and come through so much. We deserve happiness more than most! As a result we have  so have so much to offer others. We are all wounded healers.

We are here to help others like ourselves, in a way that only we can!

It was via others, like parents that we have this shame and these negative self schemas.

It is through human relationships that these start to heal. Shame is a social emotion which needs a social treatment.

We need to reconnect to overcome the isolating force of shame.

You are enough! We are enough!

The psychic change as continual behavioural change?

When I came into AA I remember hearing the words “the need for a psychic change” which was the product of a spiritual awakening (as the result of doing the 12 steps) and that the 12 steps are a program of action!

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly states this need “The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences* which have revolutionised our whole attitude toward life, towards our fellows and toward God’s universe.”

The question is whether this spiritual change is the result of behavioural change?

As I was told when I came into recovery that if I did not change my actions, and how I acted in this world, my actions would take me back to where my actions had taken me before – back to drinking.

This is the cornerstone of AA recovery; thinking, feeling differently about the world as the result of acting differently in the world, as to when we were active drinkers.

Otherwise one does the same things and ends up in the same places, doing the same things, namely drinking. It is a behavioural revolution; a sea change in how we act.

In line with this thinking, it is we that need to change, not the world.

According to one study (1) which examined whether personality traits were modified during prolonged abstinence in recovering alcoholics, two groups of both recovering and recently detoxified alcoholics were asked via questionnaire to  see if they differed significantly from each other in three personality domains: neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The recovering alcoholics were pooled from self help groups and treatment centres and the other group, the recently detoxified drinkers were pooled from various clinics throughout France.

Patients with alcohol problems obtained a high “neuroticism” score (emotions, stress), associated with a low “agreeableness” score (relationship to others).

In the same vein, low “conscientiousness” scores (determination) were reported in patients who had abstained from alcohol for short periods (6 months to 1 year).

In this study, recently detoxified drinkers scored high on neuroticism. They experienced difficulty in adjusting to events, a dimension which is associated with emotional instability (stress, uncontrolled impulses, irrational ideas, negative affect). Socially, they tend to isolate themselves and to withdraw from social relationships.

This also ties in with what the Big book also says “We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.“

In contrast, regarding neuroticism, they found that recovering persons did not necessarily focus on negative issues. They were not shy in the presence of others and remained in control of their emotions, thus handling frustrations better (thereby enhancing their ability to remain abstinent).

Regarding agreeableness (which ties back into social relationships), the researchers also found that recovering persons cared for, and were interested in, others (altruism). Instead, recently detoxified drinkers’ low self-esteem and narcissism prevented them from enjoying interpersonal exchanges, and led them to withdraw from social relationships.

Finally, regarding conscientiousness, they observed that, over time, recovering persons became more social, enjoyed higher self-esteem (Costa, McCrae, & Dye, 1991), cared for and were interested in others, and wished to help them.

They were able to perform tasks without being distracted, and carefully considered their actions before carrying them out; their determination remained strong regardless of the level of challenge, and their actions are guided by ethical values. Instead, recently detoxified drinkers lacked confidence, rushed into action, proved unreliable and unstable. As a result, lacking sufficient motivation, they experienced difficulty in achieving their objectives.

Recovering persons seemed less nervous, less angry, less depressed, less impulsive and less vulnerable than recently detoxified drinkers. Their level of competence, sense of duty, self-discipline and ability to think before acting increased with time.


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The authors of the study concluded that “these results are quite encouraging for alcoholic patients, who may aspire to greater quality of life through long-term abstinence”.

However, in spite of marked differences between groups, their results did not provide clear evidence of personality changes.

While significant behaviour differences between the two groups were revealed, they were more akin to long-term improvements in behavourial adequacy to events than to actual personality changes.

This fits in with the self help group ethos of a change in perception and in “taking action” to resolve issues. In fact, 12 steps groups such as AA are often referred to as utilising a “program of action” in recovering from alcoholism and addiction and in altering attitudes to the world and how they act in it.

The authors also noted the potential for stabilization over time by overcoming previous behaviour weaknesses, i.e. in responding to the world.  Hence, this process is ”one of better adequacy of behaviour responses to reality and its changing parameters.”

In fact, treatment-induced behaviour changes showed a decrease in neuroticism and an increase in traits related to responsibility and conscientiousness.

In line with our various blogs which have explained alcoholism in terms of an emotional regulation and processing disorder, as the Big Book says ““We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures”  the authors here concluded that  “rational management of emotions appears to be the single key factor of lasting abstinence”

If we want to to recover from addiction we have to change how we behave.  We have to start by following a recovery program of action. 

No by thinking about it, or emoting about it but by doing it!

Action is the magic word.


Boulze, I., Launay, M., & Nalpas, B. (2014). Prolonged Abstinence and Changes in Alcoholic Personality: A NEO PI-R Study. Psychology2014.

Alcoholics Anonymous. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition. New York: A.A. World Services.


One from the Heart

I have started a page on my other blog on the role of trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in addictive behaviours. This is a condition very close to my heart, literally.

For me PTSD is one “co-occurring” condition which has greatly contributed to  my overall alcoholism and the severity of my alcoholism.

It greatly contributed to my initial drinking especially via the effect alcohol had on me.

My traumatic incidents in early to middle childhood mixed with my insecure attachment to my mother meant I was always wary of people. I always left distinct from other people, even my immediate family.

I was wary and anxious, paranoid that people were thinking and talking about me. I never felt I could be myself around others even my best friends from childhood.

I was always holding something back, always left like I was protecting some invisible wound. I now believe that invisible wound was an emotional wound oozing shame.

Then I found alcohol. I felt I had come across the elixir of life.

It made me more me, a better me, a friendlier, warmer, less dismissive, less fearful me.

A me that got on great with others, effortlessly, even others I had not particularly liked before.

I became the life and soul of the party. I never classed alcohol as a drug because I thought drugs took you away from yourself whereas alcohol almost brought me home to myself.

I fitted my skin better and felt more comfortable in it after drinking alcohol. I loved that warm golden glow, the liquid bliss.

It made me go “phew!” and allowed me to escape myself.

A lot of this I believe was trauma mixed with insecure attachment mixed with an abnormal reaction to alcohol.

Trauma and insecure attachment alters the stress parts of the brain which heightens the effects of alcohol. It allowed me to connect with people. Gave me that “comfort and ease” which was illusive in everyday life.

In recovery this connection with people is essential too. We recover with the help of others, we learn the program via others.

We have to trust another person. So what happens when we lose that trust or never gained that trust. And don’t we have to trust in a God of our understanding?  Faith seems to  be about trust too?

The reality folks, is I don’t have a lot of trust period.

I love and trust my wife absolutely. After that…?

I have a lot of trust for various others such as some members of my family a few friends but generally my childhood has left me fearful  and mistrusting. All my immediate family and beyond love me but there is expressing love and there is demonstrating love, they are very different I find.

The worse thing is I also take over from God in many ways because I am not trusting enough to let Him get on with running the show.

This weekend proved to me I need additional help with trust, with my PTSD.

I mean I have come to the realisation I need outside help, professional help, EMDR help for my trauma – the two major issues I have in recovery and which act as my most likely relapse triggers scenarios are both to do with trauma.

This weekend I convinced myself that my unintentional actions had indirectly upset someone in recovery.

I had not real proof of this. I was kinda paranoid about it more than anything.

My head eventually went into a tail spin as a result of thinking I may inadvertently have caused harm in another recovering person. I was full of shame and anguish as my head immediately went into catastrophic thinking, thinking the worse, that his person might take it so bad that they may even relapse, and might even die!!

My thinking was constantly trying to convince me the worse case scenario was about to happen and it would be my fault. This is called PTSD thinking.

When I as a child something terrible happened and someone caused me trauma via a life threatening situation.

I blamed myself for this trauma, convinced myself that it was somehow my fault that this had happened. This was me dealing with my helpfulness and hopelessness in the face of extreme trauma. Trying to somehow control the uncontrollable.

Somehow I could have adverted this if I had acted differently? This is trauma in a nutshell, thinking one is guilty for something beyond one’s control.

In retrospect this seems insane to think I as a child could have any control over this incident. It had nothing to do with me.

Years later this incident (and others) had burnt into my brain and my heart. When I unintentionally hurt  (or otherwise think I have) who is vulnerable like someone in recovery I have this terrible reaction that they may relapse or die.

It is irrational but it is there and it has to be treated professionally.

Someone else’s adult life is not in my control, only my adult life is in my control (and I get a lot of help with that)!

In order to be in more in charge of this adult life I have to deal with that traumatised child, and via professional means.

The problem has become clear, it has become a broken record in my head. The scales have fallen from my eyes.

Action is required.

Recovery is about taking action, not thinking about taking action.

My PTSD and alcoholism got fused into one condition, although they each have different voices in my head.

There is other voices too – the trauma voice, the OCD voices, the insecure attachment voice/ the less than voice/ the not good enough voice – mostly voices of shame provoked by childhood trauma.

There is also the addict voice of the chronic malcontent, nothing is good enough and too much is never enough.

So there you have it, one definitely  from the heart.

That is where recovery has to happen ultimately.

This is where I hope the still voice of recovery will eventually reside.

Progress not Perfection

When I need a spiritual “tune up” I go back to basics. I up my meditation, go to more AA meetings and go to chapel more regularly.

I have over the last few years drifted away from what I used to do in terms of my recovery.

I took time out from AA to further my ideas into the neurobiology and neuromechanisms of addiction and I have now come up with theories of addiction which satisfy my understanding of addiction.  I have done with that in many ways.

These theories of addiction can be found here   please read as they may strike a chord with you too and hopefully contribute to your understanding of addictive behaviour.

But this research and time away from AA has had some cost or so may be the case. It depends on how one appraises this and how one appraises the role of mistakes in life, if this was a mistake even?

Are mistakes things to be learnt from, are mistakes also integral to learning a better way of doing things?

In these last few years only going to AA intermittently and nothing like as much as I used to, I have found I have increasingly been living in my head and less in my heart.  I have found it difficult to moderate my research. I have become quite obsessive if not addicted to researching addiction, however ironic this may sound.

Now I have taken time out as I want to change course in my life. I have decided I want to work more closely with my fellow alcoholics, I want to use what I have researched along with what I have learnt in AA in a more practical therapeutic way for myself and for others.

To do so requires me getting more spiritually and emotionally fit.

Today I have meditated after waking and then went to chapel then followed by a AA meeting. I have just  returned and after this will shop, cook tea, walk my dogs, do the clothes washing etc. All mundane compared to high flying research?

High flying research has it’s place but the spiritual programme I want to live has to come first and has to put others first.

I haven’t been doing that as much in reality as I should.

Throughout my research I have not been living in AA and visiting the world from there, I have been living in the world and barely giving AA any time. The reason I have done what I have in recovery and got what I got in recovery is solely down to AA.

AA does not need to be improved or updated. I do!

I went to this meeting today thinking I will be of help to others to be gobsmacked of how much help these other people are to me.

For an egomaniac self proclaimed genius this was such a humbling experience it was painful.

I have drifted off beam, gotten spiritually flabby.

All the shares I heard today where nuggets of genius on how to stay sober, they were living demonstrations of recovery, living demonstrations of living a spiritual life in a way I am not! It was like sitting around a table of spiritual  gurus.

How could I have been so wrong about these people before?

You know why? Because I was too busy being so right about what I thought.

I need to put more work in to get more out of this spiritual way of life.

When I was last in AA in this area I would pronounce that meeting as a sick meeting or that meeting is not doing it properly or that is not AA, or why are they always talking about outside agencies like treatment centres etc…..a controlling madman was what I was looking back.

Today I was completely teachable.

A first!

Everyone who shared was a teacher, everyone is a teacher period. Everyone has something to say, something I can learn from. Everyone!

This is where I am at.

A bit tired, fragile and dealing with the bitter pill of swallowing my false pride and admitting I have been so wrong about so many things.

I really hate to admit it. But there you have it.

There is not a problem out there – it is usually a problem in here, in between my ears, in my head and heart.

Perhaps I needed to step out  and then go back?

Who knows? All I know is that I now have a different attitude to when I was last there.

The worse thing which is also the best thing is that after all this research I can really state  that I can’t be sure I know anything much.

And that is definitely progress!



How Stories Transform Lives

When I first came to AA, I wondered how the hell sitting around in a circle listening to one person talking, and the next person talking and …. could have anything to do with my stopping drinking?

It didn’t seem very medical or scientific? Did not seem like any sort of treatment?  How could I get sober this way, listening to other people talking?

It didn’t make any sense. Any time I tried to ask a question I was told that we do not ask questions, we simply listen to other recovering alcoholics share what they called their “experience, strength and hope”?

How does this help you recover from one of the most profound disorders known, from chronic alcoholism?

I did not realise  that this “experience, strength and hope” in AA parlance, is fundamental in shifting an alcoholic’s self schema from a schema that did not accept one’s own alcoholism, to a self schema that did, a schema that shifts via the content of these shared stories from a addicted self schema to recovering person self schema.

Over the weeks, months and years I have grown to marvel at the transformative power of this story format and watched people change in front of my very eyes over a short period of time via this process of sharing one’s story of alcoholic damage to recovery from alcoholism.

I have seen people transformed from dark despair to the  lustre of hope and health.

One of the greatest stories you are ever likely to hear and one I never ever tire of hearing.

Through another person sharing their story they seem to be telling your story at the same time. The power of identification is amplified via this sharing.

If one views A.A. as a spiritually-based community, one quickly observe s that A.A. is brimming with stories.

The majority of A.A.’s primary text (putatively entitled Alcoholics Anonymous but referred to almost universally as “The Big Book,” A.A., 1976) is made up of the stories of its members.

During meetings, successful affiliates tell the story of their recovery. In the course of helping new members through difficult times, sponsors frequently tell parts of their own or others’ stories to make the points they feel a neophyte A.A. member needs to hear. Stories are also circulated in A.A. through the organization’s magazine, Grapevine.

But the most important story form in Alcoholics Anonymous describes  personal accounts of descent into alcoholism and recovery through A.A. In the words of A.A. members, explains “what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.”

Members typically begin telling their story by describing their initial involvement with alcohol, sometimes including a comment about alcoholic parents.

Members often describe early experiences with alcohol positively, and frequently mention that they got a special charge out of drinking that others do not experience. As the story progresses, more mention is made of initial problems with alcohol, such as job loss, marital conflict, or friends expressing concern over the speaker’s drinking.

Members will typically describe having seen such problems as insignificant and may label themselves as having been grandiose or in denial about the alcohol problem. As problems continue to mount, the story often details attempts to control the drinking problem, such as by avoid-ing drinking buddies, moving, drinking only wine or beer, and attempting to stay abstinent for set periods of time.

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The climax of the story occurs when the problems become too severe to deny any longer. A.A. members call this experience “hitting bottom.”

Some examples of hitting bottom that have been related to me include having a psychotic breakdown, being arrested and incarcerated, getting divorced, having convulsions or delirium tremens, attempting suicide, being publicly humiliated due to drinking, having a drinking buddy die, going bankrupt, and being hospitalized for substance abuse or depression.

After members relate this traumatic experience, they will then describe how they came into contact with A.A. or an A.A.-oriented treatment facility…storytellers incorporate aspects of the A.A. world view into their own identity and approach to living.

Composing and sharing one’s story is a form of self-teaching—a way of incorporating the A.A. world view (Cain, 1991). This incorporation is gradual for some members and dramatic for others, but it is almost always experienced as a personal transformation.

So before we do the 12 steps we start by accepting step one  – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol——that out lives had become unmanageable –  and by listening to and sharing stories which give many expamples of this loss of control or powerlessness over drinking. .

Sharing our stories also allows us to stat comprehending the insanity or out of contolness (unmanageability)  of our drinking and steps us up for considering step 2 –  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – through  to step three, so the storeies not only help us change self schema they set us on the way to treating our alcoholism via the 12 steps.

In these stories we accept our alcoholsimm and the need for persoanl, emotional and spirtual transformation. The need to be born anew, as a person in recovery.


1. Humphreys, K. (2000). Community narratives and personal stories in Alcoholics Anonymous. Journal of community psychology, 28(5), 495-506.




This week saw Alcoholics Anonymous celebrate it’s 80th Birthday.

Many media outlets have stated that AA was founded 80 years ago but this is not correct.

AA was co-founded 80 years ago when Bill Wilson passed on a message of hope to Dr Bob, or Dr Robert Smith to give his full name.

Dr Bob like Bill Wilson had intermittently stayed sober via involvement with the Oxford Group but they had always relapsed back to drinking.

When Bill Wilson first met Dr Bob he convinced him that he had a spiritual malady coupled with a abnormal reaction to alcohol, which meant he could not control the amount he would drink and could not control when he was going to drink, he had, in effect,  become powerless over alcohol and only help from a power greater than himself could help him.

The original power greater than himself, as for millions of alcoholics  over the last 80 years (and for some it stays this way) is another alcoholic. One recovering alcoholic or a group of recovering alcoholics is a power greater than oneself.

The message of recovery is usually from someone who has recovered from alcoholism, this is a power greater than yourself as he/she has used certain tools to recover and this is now being passed on to you, as they were passed onto him or her. The solution to your alcoholism is the same as the solution to their alcoholism.

There are no individualistic programs or people simply doing their own thing, it is a collective program of action.

Thus at the heart of AA is one alcoholic helping another get sober. It is a reciprocal relationship. Helping other get sober helps us stay sober too.

It is the most perfect win-win situation.

The wounded healer principle personified.

Bill Wilson had got this idea of abnormal, or allergic reaction to alcohol, from a physician, Dr Silkworth,  who had treated him at Towns Hospital.  It seemed to account for his uncontrolled drinking.

Dr Bob did however relapse again soon after receiving the message from Bill Wilson, briefly, and this only served to reinforce his view that Bill Wilson was correct about this abnormal reaction to alcohol and his inability  to continue not drinking  under his own steam.

Today this would be termed “despite negative consequences”.

Hence his first day of sobriety is taken as the first day of AA, although the AA organisation as we know it today took longer to come in to being.

It symbolizes that this was the day when one alcoholic helped another alcoholic achieve lasting sobriety.

Dr Bob, it is aid, went on to help over 5,000 alcoholics achieve sobriety and died sober.

The basic tenet of this, is that it takes one alcoholic to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. This has been borne out in millions of cases around the world.

Millions of lives have been saved not to mention the lasting benefits it has brought to families, and societies once harmed by alcoholism.

When asked what he thought was the greatest accomplishment of the 20th century, Henry Kissenger replied, “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

AA saved my life and I can never put into words the gratitude I have for AA. I cannot express how happy it has allowed my wife, family and friends to become.

I can never properly describe the chrysalis effect it has had on me and on everyone close to me.

The age of miracles is still my us, our recoveries prove that. It is a gift that keeps giving, freely.

Thus my original point is not semantic, AA was not founded by one person, it was co-founded as we alcoholics achieve sobriety with the help of other alcoholics.

It is “we” of Alcoholics  Anonymous, as the very first line of the Big Book of AA states.

In the twelve-step groups the focus is not on the individual self, but on the group or the community. Mutual aid and equality are the core principles of the twelve-step groups. Each member of AA help themselves by helping others who are in the same situation.

Essentially as one academic put it, The «power»
referred to in several of the twelve steps is therefore unrelated to religion; it refers to the potentially healing power inherent in interpersonal relationships based on reciprocity and equality.

Most active ingredients accounting for AA’s benefit are social in nature, such as attending meetings, and the 12 steps mention “we” 6 times but not “I” once.

AA’s 12 steps are a spiritual program of recovery but at the heart of that spirituality is the role of sponsoring.

Sponsorship embodies the fellowship’s  altruistic orientation, reflecting a “helping and helper  therapy principle” . Sponsorship plays an important role in the recovery process.

High sponsor involvement over time has been found to predict longer recovery .

Although social support is key to early engagement in the Twelve-Step membership, over time, spiritual issues emerge as increasingly important and helping others achieve recovery is at the heart of this.

The spirituality of AA is exemplified in helping others, it creates a feeling of wholeness and connectedness with others.

This is why we celebrate this great anniversary, this co-founding of AA, as it is the start of this therapeutic and spiritual connectedenss with other alcoholics needing help and giving help and with the wider world.

Thank God For AA!



Helping Others Helps Us.

In AA they say people who engage in service, i.e. helping out at meetings, sharing, making the tea and coffee, sponsoring others, helping on A A telephone helplines, inter group etc  have a much greater chance of staying sober and in recovery  long term than those who do not.

Although I was scared of my own shadow when I came into recovery and my brain was still incredibly scrambled and disorientated, I believe doing service in AA is one of the main reasons for me still being in recovery nearly 10 years later.

It helped me become part of AA not just someone who turned up and hung around on the periphery. 12 step recovery is a program of action not self absorbed introspection. The spiritual and therapeutic aspect of 12 step recovery is connectedness with others who have the same condition and share the same common purpose of wanting to remain sober and in recovery.

Doing service is an outward sign of one taking responsibility for their own recovery and declaring it too others in the meetings via service. When I see a newcomer to recovery start to do service it gladdens my heart as I know they have dramatically increased their chances of remaining sober and in recovery long term.

This has been my experience.

A reality, however, seems to be that most people are very anxious, lacking in confidence and fearful when they reach the rooms of AA.

When you have spent a long time drinking in increasing isolation, suddenly being at a meeting among strangers can have it’s problems.

When we go to meetings, to begin with, we are often unaware that we are actually in the company of people just like us, sensitive souls. Most have at some time at issues around social anxiety.

It is often said that this social anxiety is linked to the not belonging” feeling that many alcoholics experience throughout their lives prior to drinking.

Some have said it can be traced to insecure attachment to a primary care givers or to trauma or abuse in childhood.

Equally I have known many alcoholics who had idyllic childhoods who also have this feeling on not belonging socially, not fitting in, so I suggest that this social anxiety or not fitting in may be the result of some genetic inheritance which gets worse via the adverse effects of abuse or insecure attachment.

The vast majority of alcoholics I have met over the years have this sense of not belonging, having a “hole in the soul”.

I believe it is some neurochemical deficit, such as oxytocin deficit that has a knock-on effect on other brain chemicals, that decreases our feelings of belonging,  which  we all inherit and which can be made more severe via stressful adversive childhoods.

It often leads to isolation, being a loner, not only in adolescence but sometimes in recovery too. We seem to often like our own company but equally it is something to be wary of.

I have often heard of people relapsing after becoming isolated from 12 step fellowships. They stopped doing service, then reduced meetings and then disappeared off the scene, locked away in isolation.

So we seem to have a tendency to isolate and this may be due to many of us having social anxiety issues. Social events often seem like too much effort and this can be a dangerous thought.

So who do we cope with a room full of people?

I just came a cross a study recently which addressed how AA is almost perfect for dealing with this issue of social anxiety.

I will use some excerpts from it. It relates to youths in recovery but is applicable to all people in recovery or seeking recovery.

“In treatment, youths with social anxiety  disorder (SAD) may avoid participating in therapeutic activities with risk of negative peer appraisal.

Peer-helping is a low-intensity, social activity in the 12-step program associated with greater abstinence among treatment-seeking adults.

The benefits from helping others appear to be greatest for individuals who are socially isolated.

Helping others may benefit the helper because it distracts one from one’s own troubles, enhances a sense of value in one’s life, improves self-evaluations, increases positive moods, and causes social integration.

The myriad of existing service activities in AA are readily available inside and outside of meetings; are low intensity; and do not require special skills, prior experience, time sober, long-term commitment, transportation, insurance, or parental permission.

Peer-helping in AA, such as having the responsibility  of making coffee at a meeting, empathetic listening to others, reading inspirational meditations to others, or sharing personal experiences in learning to live sober, may have the effect of greater engagement in treatment and improved outcomes due to patients’ active contributions.

Learning to live sober with social anxiety is a challenge in society where people can be quick to judge others

Coping with a persistent fear of being scrutinized in social situations often requires learning to tolerate the opinions of others, feeling different, appropriate boundary setting, and enduring short term discomfort for long-term gain—skills that are in short supply among adolescents and those in early recovery.

The low-intensity service activities in AA offer youths—and those with  social anxiety in particular—a nonjudgmental, task-focused venue for social connectedness, reduce self-preoccupation and feeling like a misfit, and transform a troubled past to usefulness with others.

AA should be encouraged for socially anxious youths in particular.

As stated by a young adult, “I wanted to be at peace with myself and comfortable with other people. The belonging I always wanted I have found in AA. I got into service work right away and really enjoyed it”


1. Pagano, M. E., Wang, A. R., Rowles, B. M., Lee, M. T., & Johnson, B. R. (2015). Social Anxiety and Peer Helping in Adolescent Addiction Treatment. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39(5), 887-895.




In order to  fully  recover from alcoholism, addiction and addictive behaviours, we find we have to trust at least one other human being.

This might be easy for some, to trust, but for me it was very difficult.

Considering my upbringing, this was a big step but as I had little choice…

I am not talking about trusting my wife, loved ones, family etc.

I am talking about trusting someone in recovery. A practical  stranger. Someone who is the same boat as you. Who has been where you have been, felt how you have felt.

Like a sponsor for exammple.

Someone you are going to open up to and discuss intimate stuff with, someone who will ultimately know the shameful secrets that can keep a person spiritually and emotionally sick and will continue to do so until we share this stuff and let it all go.

It chains us to the past and endangers recovery because we drank on shame and guilt.

I certainly know I did?

Sorry for being so direct in this blog, it is a message of hope, there is a way to completely turn your life around.

Shameful secrets can fester in the dark recesses of our minds and inflame our hearts with recrimination and resentment.

They  can have constant conscious and unconscious effect on our behaviors, how we think and feel about ourselves and how we interact, or not, with others.

Due to the nature of frequent episodes of  powerlessness over our behavior,  attached to addiction and alcoholism, we often  acted in a way we would never act in sobriety. We had limited control over behaviour at times due to intoxication  and acted on occasion in a way that shames us today.

Most of us were determined to take these secrets, these “sins” to the grave.

We often take them to grave sooner rather than later unless we  decide to  be open and share our secrets with another person.

This has been my experience.

Everyone in recovery has secrets they would rather not disclose,  but there are not many “original” sins as one suspects and that haven’t been shared in 12 step recovery.

Almost disappointingly I found some of my sins were quite tame when compared to other people I have spoken to in recovery.

That is not to say I did not frequently hurt others, especially loved ones,  but under examination they were not as monstrous as my head made them out to be.

These secrets are the emotional and psychic scars of our alcoholic past and they need to be exposed in order for us to fully heal.

In steps 4 and 5 we listed wrongdoings to others and although initially petrified to share them with another, found that it wasn’t as  difficult as we thought it would be, once you wrote down the worst top ten. There was an immediate release in fact. A sense of cleansing almost.

Sharing them was obviously awkward but a good sponsor shares his at the same time.

It is therapeutic exchange and shame reducing to know someone else has committed similar sins or has acted for similar reasons; they were powerless over their behaviours.  Just like me, just like you.

Alcoholism erodes our self will and choice.

There is nothing so bad that cannot be shared.

The 12 steps were influenced  by the Oxford Group who said sins cut a person off from God, and that there was such a thing as sin disease.

This sin disease had very real psychological, emotional and physical and physiological effect on the mind and body. Sins were a contagion that mixed with the sins of others and the sins of  families, groups, societies, cultures and countries.

The sin disease  idea became the “spiritual malady” of AA.

We can also see this as years of not being able to regulate our negative emotions properly, if you wish to see them as sins.

I see these “sins” also, and perhaps alternatively, as hundreds of unprocessed negative emotions from the past which were never consigned to our long term memories, so they just swirl around our minds for decades shaping how we think about ourselves and the world around us.

Steps 4 -7 and the amends to those people wronged in steps of 8 and 9 allow us to be completely free and in a sense reborn.

It can be viewed as spiritual or an emotional rebirth.

Isn’t this rebirth, catharsis, renewal, a becoming free from the old self, which was kept us ill in our shame and guilt about the past?

We have the chance to be free from the sick version of our real self, the self that has been in bondage, in addiction.

It is almost miraculous, the sudden transformative effect it can have on us.  I have seen it many times with my own eyes.

By freeing ourselves from the past,  we become who we really are.

We have a sea change in how we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us.

In fact we never become who we really are until we have examined our past and consigned it to the past.

We do fully recover until we do this I believe.

Otherwise we have not really completely treated our alcoholism.

We have simply got sober, sometimes stark raving sober.   

We are not bad people getting good but ill people getting well.

All this because we plucked up enough courage to ask someone we barely knew to be our  sponsor.

Because we trusted one person enough.

In reality we asked a fellow sinner to hear our sins and through God’s help have them taken off us, or if one prefers, have had the past finally   processed and consigned to long term memory where it will take only a special and quite frankly bizarre decision and effort to go rooting around and digging it up again.

I look at the past fleetingly sometimes to help others but I never stare at it too long.

It is a former self.

I have been reborn, I have become who God had intended me to be.

I have become me.


Alcoholics Anonymous and Reduced Impulsivity: A Novel Mechanism of Change

Impulsivity or lack of behaviour inhibition, especially when distressed, is one psychological mechanisms which is implicated in all addictive behaviour from substance addiction to behaviour addiction.

It is, in my view, linked to the impaired emotion processing as I have elucidated upon in various blogs on this site.

This impulsivity is present for example in those vulnerable to later alcoholism, i.e. sons and daughters of alcoholic parents or children  from a family that has a relatively high or concentrated density of alcoholics in the family history, right through to old timers, people who have decades of recovery from alcoholism.

It is an ever present and as a result part of a pathomechanism of alcoholism, that is it is fundamental to driving alcoholism to it’s chronic endpoint.

It partly drives addiction via it’s impact on decision making – research shows people of varying addictive behaviours choose now over later, even if it is a smaller short term gain over a greater long term gain. We seem to react to relieve a distress signal in the brain rather than in response to considering and evaluating the long term consequences of a decision or act.

No doubt this improves in recovery as it has with me. Nonetheless, this tendency for rash action with limited consideration of long term consequence is clearly a part of the addictive profile. Not only do we choose now over then, we appear to have an intolerance of uncertainty, which means we have difficulties coping with uncertain outcomes. In other words we struggle with things in the future particularly if they are worrying or concerning things, like a day in court etc. The future can continually intrude into the present. A thought becomes a near certain action, again similar to the though-action fusion of obsessive compulsive disorder. It is as if the thought and possible future action are almost fused, as if they are happening in unison.

Although simple, less worrying events can also make me struggle with leaving the future to the future instead of endless and fruitlessly ruminating about it in the now. In early recovery  especially I found that I had real difficulty dealing with the uncertainty of future events and always thought they would turn out bad. It is akin to catastrophic thinking.

If a thought of a drink entered into my head it was so distressing, almost as if I was being dragged by some invisible magnet to the nearest bar. It was horrendous. Fortunately I created my own thought action fusion to oppose this.

Any time I felt this distressing lure of the bar like some unavoidable siren call of alcohol I would turn that thought into the action of ringing my sponsor. This is why sponsees should ring sponsors about whatever, whenever in order to habitualize these responses to counteract the automatic responses of the addicted brain.

I think it is again based on an inherent emotion dysregulation. Obsessive thoughts are linked to emotion dysregulation.

My emotions can still sometimes control me and not the other way around.

Apparently we need to recruit the frontal part of the brain to regulate these emotions and this is the area most damaged by chronic alcohol consumption.

As a result we find it difficult to recruit this brain area which not only helps regulate emotion but is instrumental in making reflective, evaluative decisions about future, more long term consequence. As a result addicts of all types appear to use a “bottom up” sub-cortical part of the brain centred on the amgydala region to make responses to decisions instead of a “top down” more cortical part of the brain to make evaluative decisions.

We thus react, and rashly act to relieve the distress of undifferentiated emotions, the result of unprocessed emotion rather than using processed emotions to recruit the more cortical parts of the brain.

Who would have though emotions were so instrumental in us making decisions? Two parts of the brain that hold emotions in check so that they can be used to serve goal directed behaviour are the orbitofrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.



These areas also keep amgydaloid responding in check. Unfortunately these two areas are impaired in alcoholics and other addictive behaviours so their influence on and regulation of the amgydala is also impaired.

This means the sub cortical areas of the amgydala and related regions are over active and prompt not a goal directed response to decision making but a “fight or flight” response to alleviate distress and not facilitate goal directed behaviour.



Sorry for so much detail. I have read so much about medication recently which does this or that to reduce craving or to control  drinking but what about the underlying conditions of alcoholism and addictive behaviour? These are rarely mentioned or considered at all.


We always in recovery have to deal with alcoholism not just it’s symptomatic manifestation of that which is chronic alcohol consumption. This is a relatively simple point and observation that somehow alludes academics, researchers and so-called commentators on this fascinating subject.

Anyway that is some background to this study which demonstrates that long term AA membership can reduce this impulsivity and perhaps adds validity to the above arguments that improved behaviour inhibition and reducing impulsivity is a very possible mechanism of change brought about by AA membership and the 12 step recovery program.

It shows how we can learn about a pathology from the recovery from it!

Indeed when one looks back at one’s step 4 and 5 how many times was this distress based impulsivity the real reason for “stepping on the toes of others” and for their retaliation?

Were we not partly dominated by the world because we could not keep ourselves in check? Didn’t all our decisions get us to AA because they were inherently based on a decision making weakness? Isn’t this why it is always useful to have a sponsor, someone to discuss possible decisions with?

Weren’t we out of control, regardless of alcohol or substance or behaviour addiction? Isn’t this at the heart of our unmanageability?

I think we can all see how we still are effected by a tendency not to think things through and to act rashly.

The trouble it has caused is quite staggeringly really?

Again we cite a study (1) which has Rudolf H. Moos as a co-author. Moos has authored and co-authored a numbered of fine papers on the effectiveness of AA and is a rationale beacon in a sea of sometimes quite controversial and ignorant studies on AA, and alcoholism in general.


Reduced impulsivity is a novel, yet plausible, mechanism of change associated with the salutary effects of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Here, we review our work on links between AA attendance and reduced impulsivity using a 16-year prospective study of men and women with alcohol use disorders (AUD) who were initially untreated for their drinking problems. Across the study period, there were significant mean-level decreases in impulsivity, and longer AA duration was associated with reductions in impulsivity…

Among individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUD), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is linked to improved functioning across a number of domains [1, 2]. As the evidence for the effectiveness of AA has accumulated, so too have efforts to identify the mechanisms of change associated with participation in this mutual-help group [3]. To our knowledge, however, there have been no efforts to examine links between AA and reductions in impulsivity-a dimension of personality marked by deficits in self-control and self-regulation, and tendencies to take risks and respond to stimuli with minimal forethought.

In this article, we discuss the conceptual rationale for reduced impulsivity as a mechanism of change associated with AA, review our research on links between AA and reduced impulsivity, and discuss potential implications of the findings for future research on AA and, more broadly, interventions for individuals with AUD.

Impulsivity and related traits of disinhibition are core risk factors for AUD [5, 6]. In cross-sectional research, impulsivity is typically higher among individuals in AUD treatment than among those in the general population [7] and, in prospective studies, impulse control deficits tend to predate the onset of drinking problems [811]

Although traditionally viewed as static variables, contemporary research has revealed that traits such as impulsivity can change over time [17]. For example, traits related to impulsivity exhibit significant mean- and individual-level decreases over the lifespan [18], as do symptoms of personality disorders that include impulsivity as an essential feature [21, 22]. Moreover, entry into social roles that press for increased responsibility and self-control predict decreases in impulsivity [16, 23, 24]. Hence, individual levels of impulsivity can be modified by systematic changes in one’s life circumstances [25].

Substance use-focused mutual-help groups may promote such changes, given that they seek to bolster self-efficacy and coping skills aimed at controlling substance use, encourage members to be more structured in their daily lives, and target deficits in self-regulation [26]. Such “active ingredients” may curb the immediate self-gratification characteristic of disinhibition and provide the conceptual grounds to expect that AA participation can press for a reduction in impulsive inclinations.

…the idea of reduced impulsivity as a mechanism of change…it is consistent with contemporary definitions of recovery from substance use disorders that emphasize improved citizenship and global health [31], AA’s vision of recovery as a broad transformation of character [32], and efforts to explore individual differences in emotional and behavioral functioning as potential mechanisms of change (e.g., negative affect [33,34]).

Several findings are notable from our research on associations between AA attendance and reduced impulsivity. First, consistent with the idea of impulsivity as a dynamic construct [18, 19], mean-levels of impulsivity decreased significantly in our AUD sample. Second, consistent with the notion that impulsivity can be modified by contextual factors [25], individuals who participated in AA longer tended to show larger decreases in impulsivity across all assessment intervals.


Blonigen, D. M., Timko, C., & Moos, R. H. (2013). Alcoholics anonymous and reduced impulsivity: a novel mechanism of change. Substance abuse, 34(1), 4-12.