into sober year two


Thank you to this swan member for her heart warming share:

Today marks the beginning of the second year of my sober life.

It seems no big deal now, however remembering how it seemed so huge to even contemplate three days , thirty days, 3 months six months much less an entire year makes no sense to me now. I no longer choose to put poison in my body no matter how pretty, well marketed, delicious or restful it is presented.

It’s the same as saying I don’t like soda pop drinks, or sweet coffee drinks, those beverages won’t kill me and its very socially acceptable that I don’t care for them, however when I say I don’t drink alcoholic beverages that shocks people. Do they feel sorry for me that I don’t drink sweet drinks? No .

Now when asked in any situation what I would like to drink, I just say club soda, water, tea or coffee, I don’t say anything about alcohol I don’t even mention that I don’t drink it. That works for me. I continue to educate myself and keep books about the reality of alcohol in supply for those who want to know more.

I do want to get my one year coin from AA, I’m shallow enough to want the complete set from my year, and to acknowledge the accomplishments that come with being sober financially, physically and spiritually. This is what I celebrate! It’s an extremely pleasant body of water we SWANS choose to swim in.

saying sorry makes it all better (not)

I don’t go to AA meetings and don’t agree with everything AA says, but I do take a lot of strength from many of the teachings and words written. I am currently thinking about ‘amends’ and found this post interesting (link below), especially when Bill is talking about recovery not just being about not drinking, but about being a functioning, healthy person all round. How making amends is not just saying sorry to others (and yourself) but about living and thinking in a way that shrugs off old habits; for example removing thinking and acting like a victim where you believe it is other people’s job to make you feel better. Sober thinking comes from within and is probably the hardest thing we will ever do, to think sober. That’s where I am at anyway, and I am having to pull myself up on a lot of victim type thinking.

Thanks for this, Bill:

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m clean and sober now, and I’ll never do it again!”

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and it seems to me a good day to talk about making amends.

imagesThe idea of making amends confused me in the early days of my sobriety. I knew I was supposed to do it, but I really had no idea of what to do or how to go about it. I equated it with saying “I’m sorry.” I was well-practiced at that, as most addicts are, but somehow it didn’t seem like enough. That was how I went about it, though, and pretty quickly. I suppose I had a sponsor, but I wasn’t big on taking advantage of sponsorship (or taking direction), and I saw recovery as more or less an event, rather than a process. Thus I was gung ho, ready to go — and far from being in the know.

That went about as you would expect. Some people, like my mother, didn’t know how to express their anger to begin with, saw forgiveness as a duty (staunch Catholic), and so welcomed me back to the fold with open arms and a load of hidden resentment, I’m sure. Others took a wait-and-see attitude, and some refused to consider the idea — vehemently. And of course I was going about it all wrong, because I didn’t yet have the skills to make amends believably.

I was still going about it in the old junkie way: “Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m clean and sober now, and I’ll never do it again!” Of course they’d heard that tale before, and weren’t likely to greet it with much more enthusiasm this time, whether or not they put a polite face on it.

That’s not the way we make amends.

First, we demonstrate by the way we’re living our lives that we have changed. Then we make sure that we have something useful to say, because making amends isn’t just saying “I’m sorry.” Making amends is saying, “I hurt you, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again to you or anyone else, and I’m going to do ______ to make it up to you. And then we carry out our promises, thus proving our point: that we’re sincere, and we can now be trusted to do the right thing.

We need also to be aware that forgiveness does not imply trust. Just because my Aunt Bessie forgives me for pawning her silverware and “losing” the ticket, doesn’t mean that she’s obliged to leave me in the pantry unattended; she’s not even obligated to invite me to dinner. Those are her choices and her issues to deal with.

Which brings me to the purpose of the whole exercise. Making amends is about me; it’s not about the other person. What they think of me is none of my business, but what I think about myself is everything to my recovery. I need to know that I’ve done the next right thing, that I’ve been sincere, that I’ve done it properly. That’s why we don’t do it right away.

When we’re first abstinent, we haven’t had practice in being really sincere; we’ve stifled our consciences and convinced ourselves that we were the ones wrong — that our behavior was in some way justified. We aren’t equipped to handle the emotions involved with making amends: dealing with angry people, people who cry, folks who simply blow the whole thing off.

Most importantly, we don’t really know if we can carry out our promises — it’s early days. If we relapse we may make it back, but we’ll have disappointed or reinforced the doubts of those whom we were trying to make things right, thus making things worse, not better.

The Steps come in order for a reason. They each prepare us for the one that follows, and there are eight of them before the amends process. To begin with, we make amends by doing our best. When we have proven ourselves — to ourselves — then we’re ready to prove it to others.

This time two years ago


Thank you to this swan for her share and to the other swan for donating the beautiful picture!

This day 2 years ago I relapsed after an alcohol free summer. It was the beginning of a fast track descent into madness, chaos and is as close to the bottom as I ever want to get.

It was herbal sleeping drops which started me off. The compulsion after ingesting these was too overpowering and I got a bottle of wine to round off summer. Within a week I was secretly drinking, within a couple of weeks I couldnt function without alcohol in my system.

I did manage to dry out for a few days, maybe a week but a row with hubs over something really trivial sent me back at the start of October when 24/7 drinking took over for ten days. I know how quickly I was overcome, I`m amazed at the events that ensued to bring me to the brink of loosing my family, job and home.

I know how powerless I was over drinking, I honestly thought I would die without it and the series of coincidences which brought me to my first AA meeting which saved me. I’m certainly not advocating AA as the only way but for me it worked and more, it gave me a better life, a way of thinking which relieves the mental obsession and introduced me to some amazing, inspirational people.

I’m so glad to be sober this UK bank holiday and to have people in AA and Swans to share the joys of sober living. I don’t get to as many meetings as I need to so am so grateful to swans as I’m sure I’d have fallen without everyone’s support.

[Binki says: if you would like to join either of the confidential ‘swan’ support groups on Facebook please friend Binki Laidler and she will add you.]

something wonderful in recognising what I now know



Gratitude to this swan for sharing her update.


So I’ve had an upsetting conversation with my 14 year old son this morning who chose the moment to say “well you were an alcoholic weren’t you?”
I know AA and for a lot of people they find this terminology fine and I’m not sure where or if there is a line drawn. However I don’t like labels this was my response in s message for my husband, two sons and my daughter …

As its been brought to my attention that not everyone is on the same page as me regarding my quitting the booze I want to discuss it with you. It’s fairly long but important to me so bare with me please.

Over the past 20 years on and off I have drunk alcohol. The quantity has increased as is the way of an addictive substance. What can start out as an odd glass can lead to more if it is what you are using as your crutch. People all over the world have different crutches to get through life especially at difficult times, some healthy, some can be unhealthy and often addictive, some legal and some not.

If you’re having a stressful day and go home to a tub of ice cream however it is not frowned upon despite sugar being more addictive than cocaine and a major killer. You are addicted to sugar, be it in your cola, chocolates, donuts or sweets you are not a sugarhollic. To give it up you would find the first week very tricky you would have headaches and feel crap.

If you light a cigarette as long as it’s outside you can smoke as many as you like you are not classed a nicotinehollic you are addicted to nicotine and people accept it. Again to give this addictive substance up is tricky and again there are side effects.

These are all legal addictive substances. Alcohol is another one. Over time if you take it regularly enough during stressful periods your body craves more of it.. Just like sugar and nicotine .. One is not enough… You need more of the substance to ease the craving.. One chocolate bar, one fag would not be enough if you were addicted to the substance.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it any less harmful. The government don’t want to ban or stop people from using it as they get too much money from these industries but they are no less addictive than heroine or cocaine some just suck you in faster. Why can some people have one glass of wine not more ? It’s the same as a person who can have one piece of chocolate or one cigarette .. The addictive substance hasn’t taken a full hold as they don’t have it regularly enough or use more than one crutch but it would if they did. Like coke and energy drinks once you’re sucked in it gets harder to have a day or two without it and you will get a headache and need to get it out of your system. The more you have the harder it gets.

Back to me. If I was to have a glass of wine now .. One glass would be enough but if I continued to have a glass of wine each day I would need more. I stopped because I was having a bottle of wine most days .. More if we had a party or with friends at weekends. I knew the stuff was going to grab me further and further and if I didn’t break the habit I would get worse and worse and not be able to work or function. I have friends who have gone that far and it’s sad to see what this addictive substance can do but I was lucky I recognised it and after a few attempts I moved it out of my system. It took about 7 days to get rid of it now it’s just the habit not the substance of going on holiday and to parties and not drinking that I’m learning to crack but I can honestly say I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. It makes me sad to see people using this substance but everybody has to learn themselves and those who have healthy crutches like exercise, sport may never need to find an alternative addictive crutch.

I hope this all makes sense and I wanted to say it how I feel as I don’t like labels and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve done anything short of something wonderful in recognising what I now know 😘😘



Thank you to this swan for her update on her recovery.


All’s still going very well.  I am happy and a lot calmer in my life and with those around me.  I am finding it a lot easier to be open and honest with those around me, which has been noted by most people who come in contact with me.

Myself and my partner had a rough week a couple of weeks ago, due to a few insecurities I was dealing with. I had a therapy session to deal with these issues and now I am pleased to say we are back on track : ) I feel on a weekly basis I am growing and learning about myself.

It’s not all plain sailing.  I  am working hard at it, but it is becoming more natural to fit the tools into my daily life, sometimes without even realising I have used them, till after the fact . Last week I went into town with a girl friend and drank mocktails and milk shakes…was bloody lovely.  My friend was very drunk and I was very sober and extremely proud of myself. In fact I felt I was the better person for not having that need to drink. I was having fun without it.

I have tried many things over the years to cut alcohol out of my life and failed big style. I’ve tried AA and community counselling; just didn’t work for me, as I felt it focused too much on alcohol and that I was getting it rammed down my throat and that brought it back to the  forefront of my thoughts, and then I was obsessing about it. Just wasn’t for me.

In my present therapy we have barley touched on the subject of alcohol, but we have focused on me. We have worked on how I think and act, how I feel, how to deal with me –  and this works for me. I know it won’t be for everyone, as we all have different needs.

We deal with the whole me not just alcoholic me and it works and it’s fun. I am more me than I have been for the last ten to fifteen years and yes, it’s nice to have me back and to love life again.

So I say there is something out there for everyone – you just have to find it and when you do, grab it and run with it, with an open mind . My time is now and I’m loving it xx

Reading the AA book

Thank you to a swan member for her post below.


I have been snuggled in bed reading the AA book…I’ve been listening and reading to some of their literature recently and it just makes total, utter sense to me. I’ve been reading again today about the mental obsession and the craving…when I was drinking I felt like I was craving alcohol, but really I think I was obsessing about it…I wasn’t physically addicted to alcohol…so It wasn’t a physical craving I was feeling. But, if I did have a drink, then I craved more. For me, having a drink of alcohol caused an ‘allergic reaction’…that allergic reaction was that I kept on drinking and couldn’t stop. I know this won’t make sense to everyone and maybe I don’t explain it too well…all I know is this is exactly what was happening to me.


Here are the meanings of the two words…for me it was ‘obsess’ that captures perfectly how I used to feel about drinking. And the ‘crave’ describes how I felt once I was drinking.


–verb (used with object)
1. to long for; want greatly; desire eagerly: to crave sweets; to crave affection.
2. to require; need: a problem craving prompt attention.
3. to ask earnestly for (something); beg for.
4. to ask (a person) earnestly for something or to do something.


–verb (used with object)
1. to dominate or preoccupy the thoughts, feelings, or desires of (a person); beset, trouble, or haunt persistently or abnormally: Suspicion obsessed him.
–verb (used without object)
2. to think about something unceasingly or persistently; dwell obsessively upon something.


I think, for me, knowing the difference between the two is what has helped me…I can’t do anything about the physical craving once I’ve had a drink…nothing or no one would stop me and I’d just have to keep drinking till I either passed out or ran out of drink.


But if I work on the obsession bit, by working on what is going on in my head, all the upset, hurt and resentments that made me want to drink, by doing all the things people told me to do, HALT, talking to someone, posting loads, sharing what is going on…who’d of thought that I needed to remember to eat or talk to feel better…by doing these things over and over the obsessional thoughts (about drink) have diminished. Now, weirdly I was getting like this about ice cream!! So, I’ve applied the same thought process to that and lo and behold I haven’t had any ice cream for 5 days!!


I hope this doesn’t all sound a bit vague and out there, I’m sure if you do AA, which I don’t, you may be able to understand? If I have got the right end of the stick that is!! Such a world of stuff out there to learn!!! Xxxx

Letter from Janey

I can recall when I was drinking out of control that all I thought was I won’t be able to cope if I stop because I now know that it was a prop for me and I was in a circle of hating myself for it but scared to change. It felt like a huge sacrifice to make in my life at that time and the fear of what was ahead without my prop was insurmountable. Once I realised I was stuck, I knew I needed help and then with the knowledge and support that help gives you, you want to change things and it doesn’t seem so impossible or lonely. Also it was the realisation that I wasn’t alone and there were others like me who were struggling, somehow took the power out of it and here I am, eight years sober and loving it. To beat an addiction is indeed the greatest gift you can give yourself.

I don’t know or associate with anyone who doesn’t drink. That’s just the way it is, most people DO drink, responsibly or irresponsibly and that’s up to them. I chose now not to drink because when I did life was shitty and I know that was definitely NOT okay for me or anyone else around me. I am not different from those who do drink, I am in control and a better person and that IS okay for me.

It’s all part and parcel of finding your way without the addiction that controlled you and getting used to being without that prop. For the first few years it’s adjusting the best way you can “going it alone” and that just doesn’t happen overnight.

I was lucky, I stuck with an amazing AA group for four years into my sobriety and when I moved away from that it was tough. I didn’t like any of the AA groups here and stopped going. My social friends were all drinkers and I had to lay it on the line to them why I wasn’t anymore. There were sticky moments, especially after they had had a few and I left to go home and let them get on with it (keeping myself safe). I decided that this was not going to stop me associating with them because I liked being with them. They would have to get used to it or lump it, I was going nowhere and I was not going to change!!

I won’t allow anyone to make me feel different or negative except myself now and that is my golden rule!! It’s OK to be sober, it’s OK to search out non-drinkers and those who have a problem, on internet sites, or at support groups ,and give your support and experiences to them and in return as you say it keeps you (and me ) focused and not alone, and it’s OK to feel wobbly sometimes along the way.

Kicking addiction is a journey and I know that is hackneyed to say but that’s just what it is……a journey, and it takes time to get there, but oh boy it’s worth it no matter how long it takes. Here endeth my diatribe – hope it helps. Lots of love Janey xx


by Ruthoz


• The disease model ¬- characterised by helplessness, the disease is chronic (always present and incurable)
• The psycho/social model – characterised by poor choice making, personality issues, lack of self-discipline in challenging situations
• Genetics – some of us are born predisposed to addictions (but don’t necessarily develop them)
• Environment – our family, friends and workplace influence our behaviours


• Counselling
• Group support (of which AA is the best known; based upon and an advocate for the disease model)
• Medication
• Hypnotherapy
• Books, diets, retreat programs, other commercial ‘cures’

My history

I first became sober in 1991 after 18 years of abusive drinking, and remained so for five years. For the first six months, I went to AA daily, including an intensive three-week rehab. I still didn’t get it though, and eventually irritation with the ‘power greater than myself’ issue drove me away. Apart from that, they all smoked non-stop and the coffee was vile. (Despite the fact AA has detrimental effects on some, there are ideas I have taken from there into my own sobriety).

However, life was a very definite ‘then and now’, and as such, my new life just took off. I started my master’s degree, reacquainted myself with chocolate bars and found a strong personality (oops!). The now was to be preserved and pursued at all cost. And cost it did, as I lost my partner to someone needier. The new me wasn’t as acceptable! Full of optimism I battled on and eventually settled down again. This time the man in my life didn’t understand the alcoholic person I will always be. And the alcoholic person jumped at his argument – hey, maybe I am cured, and can in fact have just one drink! Within a few months I was back to drinking again – heavily, secretly, disastrously. Sigh, AA got that right. Read and learn my friends, that was to last for another 15 years.

My current sobriety began on November 13th 2013. It was a day like many before it, that of being too sick to lift a glass, let alone drink from it, feeling all the self-revulsion, remorse and the feeling – here we go again … I made many attempts to stop drinking again and desperately wanted my old life back. This time I found on-line support, and made friends with people in similar circumstances. I was able to experience the understanding of the AA meeting attendees without the philosophy and dogma. Now I can speak with my new friends daily, and at all hours, as some are on the opposite side of the world. I have travelled and met with them. It’s my own little community and we are supporting each other and ourselves.

My plate
Group support has been vital for me. I need to be reminded daily that I have issues with alcohol and cannot touch it. The disease model works for me. Trying to control my drinking was a miserable pastime dogged by fear of failure and a desire for more. It dominated my life whatever the quantity, and simply is not worth the risks involved. I am comfortable accepting that I am a person for whom alcohol is not possible at all. There is far too much to lose anyway. The label does not bother me. It’s a good shorthand. The politically correct version would be ‘I am a person with alcoholism’. Too wordy. In a social situation I usually say, ‘No thanks. I have problems with it.’ And leave it at that.

I have tried medication. But if you believe what AA tell us about the cunningness of alcoholism you can work out for yourself what happens with medication. Either it isn’t taken, or one simply drinks more and faster to break through the effect. I have used Naltrexone when I have felt vulnerable – with mixed results. For me it’s nothing or all, and I don’t want all again, ever.

As for counselling, I find that a bit too trite and convenient. My life has no deep dark secrets. I am no more nor less confident in social settings than anyone else. My childhood was happy. I can do all their tests and answer all their questions, they are pretty obvious. No light bulb moments there.

I haven’t read books about fixing alcoholism in three weeks, though there are plenty of those around. There are plenty of diets too. Let’s just say I am a cynic, and if the research hasn’t been done, I am not spending big bucks on something to make someone else richer. Making money from our misfortune is, I think, immoral anyway.

So my advice is to pile your plate up with as many samples as you fancy. Try a bit of everything. Don’t be afraid to try something new and unfamiliar. Find out what approach, or combination of approaches, works for you. And stick with it.


Fighting addiction: help others and help yourself!

Try Helping Someone ElseAlcoholics Anonymous is founded on the concept of one addict helping another. This emphasis on service is not based on religious dogma or speculation, but rather decades of experience with what works in addiction recovery. Until recently, science has focused on discovering new medications to treat addiction. Few researchers have subjected the 12-Step principles, which have helped millions of people achieve long-term recovery, to rigorous study. As a result, many core principles of 12-Step recovery have been marginalized as “unscientific.”

Fortunately, we are on the precipice of a new era in addiction research – one that is determined to learn from the success of AA/NA and find out why 12-Step recovery has been effective for so many addicts.

Service Key to Long-Term Recovery

A new study by Maria Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, sheds light on the science behind the directive to “carry the message to others” in Step 12. Using data from Project MATCH, Dr. Pagano found that recovering alcoholics who help others:

• Reduced alcohol use

• Increased consideration for others

• Did more Step work

• Attended more meetings

This latest study adds to a body of research Dr. Pagano has been instrumental in building over the past decade. In a 2004 study, she found that 40 percent of the alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during their recovery successfully avoided drinking in the 12 months following treatment, whereas only 22 percent of those that did not help others stayed sober. In a 2009 study, Dr. Pagano showed that 94 percent of alcoholics who helped other alcoholics during the 15-month study period continued to do so as part of their ongoing recovery. These helpers experienced the added benefit of lower levels of depression. Interestingly, research shows the benefits of service accrue to adolescents as well as adults.

The Helper Therapy Principle and How it Works

The helper therapy principle, embodied by AA/NA, holds that when a person helps another person suffering from a similar condition, they also help themselves. How? In large part, by minimizing selfishness and entitlement and restoring the capacity for empathy that was overtaken by addiction. Beyond making the addict feel good, helping others combats egocentrism and self-absorption, which are common perpetuators of addiction.

“Being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction,” says Dr. Pagano.

Service also guards against isolation, providing the addict with a broader sense of purpose and belonging. Fellowship with other addicts, both veterans and those new to recovery, reminds the recovering addict how far they’ve come (and how easy it is to fall back into old patterns). These bonds create a certain sense of responsibility to stay sober as a role model to others.

Altruism is empowering. Some have even referred to a “helper’s high,” the feeling of warmth and gratitude felt by those who do for others. After months or years of feeling useless and ashamed, the addict discovers that they can make a positive difference. Giving back builds the addict’s confidence to set and accomplish goals. Perhaps it is this feeling of self-efficacy, combined with staying occupied in healthy pursuits, that reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol.

Endless Ways to Serve

Many recovering addicts are willing and able to serve, but don’t know where to start. Will any kind of service do? Dr. Pagano is trying to answer this question in ongoing research. While helping other addicts may be the strongest medicine, it appears that helping anyone, whether inside or outside of AA/NA, is beneficial for long-term recovery. Here are a few ways to give back:

• Share stories of your personal experience in recovery with other addicts, whether in AA/NA, at a treatment center or informally

• Commit to doing meeting chores (such as making coffee or setting up for a meeting) or a specific service position within AA/NA

• Call members to remind them about meetings

• Welcome newcomers

• Become a sponsor

• Volunteer in a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other community service activity

• Help a friend, neighbor or family member in distress

Just as you don’t have to serve others to be part of AA/NA, you don’t have to be part of AA/NA to serve. Anyone can do it, at any stage of recovery, and the benefits start to accrue immediately. Service doesn’t cost anything and the options are endless; there is always someone in need.

Helping others is key to living a long, happy life, not only for addicts trying to hold onto their sobriety but also anyone interested in living a better life. If you’ve had any exposure to 12-Step recovery, you probably don’t need a study to tell you that it’s wise to get out of your head and get busy helping others. But for those who need scientific evidence to get mobilized, here you have it.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of addiction treatment centers that includes Promises Treatment Centers in California, The Ranch outside Nashville,The Recovery Place in Florida, Malibu Vista, Spirit Lodge, and Right Step. You can follow Dr. Sack on Twitter @drdavidsack.