An accessible basic text written in today’s language for anyone guided by the Twelve Steps in their recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
For decades people from all over the world have found freedom from addictionbe it to alcohol, other drugs, gambling, or overeatingusing the Twelve Step recovery program first set forth in the seminal book Alcoholics Anonymous. Although the core principles and practices of this invaluable guide hold strong today, addiction science and societal norms have changed dramatically since it was first published in 1939.
Recovery Now combines the most current research with the timeless wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other established Twelve-Step program guides to offer an accessible basic text written in today’s language for anyone recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
Marvin D. Seppala, MD, offers a “doctor’s opinion” in the foreword to Recovery Now, outlining the medical advances in addiction treatment, and updating the Big Book’s concept of addiction as an allergy to reveal how it is actually a brain disease.
Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, culture, age, or religious beliefs, this book can serve either as your guide for recovery, or as a companion and portal to the textbook of your chosen Twelve Step Program.
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Preface: What This Book is About
It’s hard to ignore the presence of alcohol and other drugs in the world around us. We see whiskey bottles on billboards and more beer commercials than we can count when we watch sports on television. We hear news about superstars getting busted for cocaine possession or drunken driving or hear how people can get prescriptions for medical marijuana to help them with physical problems. We see how alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and other drug use us glamorized on television or in the movies, or we go to a favorite restaurant and notice how many people are enjoying a cocktail, or a beer or glass of wine with their dinners. Alcohol and other drugs are a fact of life.
It’s also a fact that most people can drink or use drugs and stop when they want to with no obvious problems. Others who use alcohol or marijuana on occasion might be able to control their use or stop altogether when they run into trouble. Still others might even experiment with a powerful drug like heroin once or twice and not get addicted to it. There are some of us, though, who can’t seem to control our drinking or drug use no matter how hard we try to or how much it hurts us or the people we care about.
As hard as it may be for us to believe it, there are millions just like us all over the world. No matter how low we may have sunk or how out of control our drinking or drugging has become, we are not alone. There are a growing number of us who have found a way out of the stranglehold that addiction had on our lives, whether we escaped the hardship of life on the streets because of a $400 a day heroin habit or we came out of a seemingly together family still able to hold a job even while we hid the increasing amounts of alcohol it took for us just to get through a day. This book is about what we’ve learned about addiction and what we did when we realized the damage alcohol and other drugs was doing to us, to our lives, and to the lives of those closest to us. We wrote it with the hope that others who thinkor who knowthat their drinking or drug use is out of control will find help and hope in its pages.
Mind-altering drugs have caused trouble throughout history, but it’s only been relatively recently that scientists have figured out why so many of us get hooked on them. Drugs like opium and cocaine were once used for both pleasure and to relieve pain, and some doctors actually used to prescribe cocaine for their patients’ depression. Now we know how addictive they can become. Alcohol, which causes more problems than all other drugs combined, usually isn’t even thought of as a drug. Neither is tobacco. And after alcohol and marijuana, prescription pain meds are the third most common addiction.
Until the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s, not much was understood about alcoholism, and many people believed it was a weakness of will or a sin. (Unfortunately, some people still think that way.) In 1939, AA founders published the basic text for their members known as “The Big Book,” telling the world what they themselves had long known: Alcoholism is not something we choose or a condition we have because we are weak or bad. It is an illness that we can learn to manage. Today, the Big Book has been translated into 43 different languages and is recognized as one of the bestselling books of all times.
Following AA’s lead and seeing its success as a program of recovery, some who were addicted to drugs other than alcohol (or in addition to alcohol), began meeting together for mutual strength and fellowship. They realized they couldn’t control their drug use alone just as alcoholics couldn’t control their drinking, and discovered that the Twelve Steps of AA offered a path to recovery for them too. In 1953, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was formed, and in 1962 they published their own basic text.
It wasn’t until 1954, that the New York City Medical Society on Alcoholism officially said that alcoholism was a disease, a step that launched our present-day field of addiction medicine and research. Since then there have been great advances in understanding what addiction is, how to treat it, and what it takes to recover from it long-term.
What was learned was that whether our drug of choice is alcohol or prescription or illegal drugs, there are some of us who can’t use these mood altering chemicals like other people. When we continue to use them, our bodies get out of balance, and our need to use grows stronger than ever. The things we do to fill that need messes up our thinking and changes how we see the world. When anything affects both our bodies and our minds like this, it also affects our spiritthat larger sense of belonging and purpose we all need to succeed and grow. Addiction, then, is a disorder of the body, mind, and the spiritof the whole person. Things like a bad or good childhood or relationship, a hard or easy life, being rich or poor, popular or not, can make it harder or easier to abuse drugsor stop using them when they cause problems. But none of those things will alone cause or cure addiction. Some of us have a disorder that affects the way our bodies react to drugsa disorder that has such a hold on us no matter what our circumstances are, that we risk losing everything, including our lives, if we don’t stop drinking or drugging.
We can understand the physical part of addiction better if we compare it to an allergy. While most people can enjoy peanuts without worry, people with a severe peanut allergy can’t because their bodies respond differently, treating the proteins in the peanuts as harmful invaders. They can have serious reactions and even risk death when they come in contact with peanuts. Similarly, for some of us, the chemicals in alcohol and other drugs are the invaders that cause our bodies to respond differently than people without addiction. Alcoholism was even called an allergy by Dr. William Silkworth when in 1939 he wrote one of the first parts of the Big Book, called “The Doctor’s Opinion.” While we know today that alcoholics’ and addicts’ abnormal reaction to mood altering chemicals isn’t exactly an allergy, he was the first medical professional to say that alcoholism is a physical disorder, which laid the foundation for treating addiction as a disease.
Dr. Silkworth also talked about addiction as being a psychological (both mental and emotional) disorder that fools some of us into thinking we can control how much or how often we drink or use. Addiction affects our minds by trying to convince us this time will be different; this time we’ll stop before we pass out or get so high we don’t know what we’re doingor can’t remember what we’ve done. We might even be able to control our drinking or drug use for a time but as millions of us alcoholics and addicts have learned the hard way, addiction is a chronic and ever-present disease that will only get worse as long as we keep drinking or using. It’s also a fatal disease unless we find a way to stop altogether.
We come to these pages at different stages in our journeys. Some of us may think, “My drinking or drugging isn’t that bad,” but we’re a little curious and want to learn more about addiction. Others of us may have thought about cutting down or quitting drinking or taking other drugs, and we’re open to learning more about how to do that. There are some of us who know we need to change our lives, and are ready to find help and guidanceor we may have already begun a program of recovery.
It doesn’t matter who we are or at what stage we may be. It doesn’t matter if we are trying to quit drinking or using for the first time or the fifth. All we need is the willingness to open ourselves to the possibility of a new and better life.
The “Now” in the title of this book has two meanings. It means that the information about addiction and recovery contained here is up-to-date. But it also tells us that all we need to do to begin recovery is to decide to stop drinking and using other drugs today. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow or next week or next year: We decide to stop, just for today. Then we continue to make that decision, one day at a time. In the first four chapters, we learn about telling our stories as a way to understand our relationship to alcohol and other drugs; then we look more closely at what we mean when we say that addiction is a chronic disorder of the body, mind, and spirit. The rest of this book offers a proven program of recovery that will give us an alternative to a life obsessed by mood altering chemicals so that “one day at a time” becomes a new life of freedom and self respect.
This book is for people at all levels of interest in addiction, no matter what your personal background, gender, culture, age, or religious beliefs. Recovery Now combines the wisdom of programs like AA and NA with the time-tested ideas and practices that both addiction professionals and everyday people in recovery have discovered since those programs were founded. It is not meant to replace AA’s Big Book or the NA text, but to serve as a companion and gateway to their timeless messages. If you join or belong to AA, NA, or other Twelve Step group, you should use that program’s basic text as your recovery guide.
We invite you to keep an open mind and find out for yourself if recovery is for you. Bill W., the founder of AA, said it best in the Foreword to the Big Book of AA: Yet it is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book and will presently join us on the highroad to a new freedom.