An Inside Peek at Recovery: What Does Sober Life Look Like? – Part 1

An Inside Peek at Recovery: What Does Sober Life Look Like? – Part 1

Perhaps you’ve considered getting sober. You’ve heard the words “Alcoholics Anonymous” thrown around and you are vaguely aware that there are some steps involved. But it’s also likely that you’re operating off of some of the popular stereotypes around addiction and recovery. Are these “meetings” anything more than people going around and saying “I’m Bob and I’m an alcoholic,” followed by the large group response: “Hi Bob”?

Not everyone will feel the need to completely grasp the intricate details of life in recovery and a 12-step program prior to entry. Some addicts will have come so painfully to the end of themselves that the terms of recovery won’t matter much to them. The desperation leads many to say they’d stand on their head, or push a penny with their nose to China, if only they could be relieved of the merciless obsession.

But for others it will be more comfortable to get an inside glimpse of what the recovery life looks like, and to know what the 12 steps are really about. What is a typical day in the life of a recovering addict? What can a newcomer expect? What will life start to look like? What are the foundational principles of the program?

This guide is an introduction, briefly covering some of the common questions and concerns addicts have as they consider embarking upon the journey of 12-step recovery.

The Basis of Addiction

It is important to understand how Alcoholics Anonymous and its founders conceptualized addiction. They viewed addiction as an allergy—the body’s actual physical response to a particular substance. In the case of the founders, it was alcohol. What they found was that when they drank, they could not stop. Alcohol became an obsession of the mind and a compulsion of the body, and as soon as it was ingested, they lost the power of choice. They could no longer say “no.”

They asserted that alcoholism was not a moral deficiency. We didn’t drink because we were evil people or because we just didn’t care. We drank because we were alcoholics, we had a disease and that disease meant we could not stop.


Operating on the concept of alcoholism as a disease, an “allergy” of sorts, the founders came to understand that the only way an alcoholic could avoid the irresistible pull of alcohol and drunkenness was to never take the first sip. Alcohol that wasn’t ingested could have no power and so total abstinence from alcohol—sobriety—was the only option for those who were alcoholics and who desired to recover.

Alcoholics Anonymous is not in the business of helping the alcoholic learn how to moderate. We know that for the one whose life has been taken over by alcohol, there is no possibility of this. The disease is a progressive one and over time we get worse, not better. Twelve-step recovery is based upon the understanding that sobriety is the only way to break the bondage of addiction. There is no middle ground.

Ego Reduction

It is said that the 12-step program is a program of ego reduction. But as we find ourselves hitting bottom in our addiction, how can it be said that what we needed was a large-scale reduction of our overweening pride?

As surprising as it may seem, it is our pride that has been guiding our descent into addiction, perhaps more than any other character defect we exhibit. Think about it: how many ways have we tried to deny we had a problem? How many ways have we sought to prove we were in control, not only of our drinking, but also of the people and circumstances around us? How have we tried to play God? How have we thought we were better than everyone else?

The program, through the working of the steps, teaches us that we aren’t victims, but that we have, willingly, failed to take responsibility for our lives and our decisions. We see that indeed we do not control the universe and that we don’t know everything. Through the program we begin to see our part in the direction our lives have taken. As we grow in honesty and humility, we become willing to see that we haven’t always known what was best for us and that it is time to embrace the direction and wisdom of others.

The Steps

The steps are the foundation of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous and there are 12. Without delving into each of the steps here, the important thing to know is that they are designed to do three main things: reduce the ego, help the addict clean up the wreckage of the past and teach what it means to live in sobriety. Each of the steps has a distinct purpose and all must be performed thoroughly and in their order. Some may think that attending meetings is enough, but this is a mistaken assumption and it will eventually lead back to the bottle. The strength of your recovery is measured by the strength of your commitment to working the steps as directed.

An Inside Peek at Recovery – Part 2

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