To Sobriety and beyond


As the (No)Buzz Lightyear”s that are the heroes of Dry January consider their missions into to sobriety and beyond (Parched March anyone?), we thought we would highlight some relatively new approaches in the recovery universe.

The 12 Step fellowships work for a lot of people. They will continue working for a lot more. There are, though, multiple paths in to recovery and each person needs to find their own way.

For an alcoholic of my type, the 12 Steps were a life saver, but what about some alternative paths?

The idea of moderation (drugs or alcohol) is anathema to many in the treatment world and the recovery community. But could attempted moderation convince a problem user how bad things are?

This seems to be the path common to three very different organisations. In the US, Allies In Recovery (AIR) and the Centre For Optimal Living (CFOL) and in the UK Club Soda.

Dominique Simon of AIR says “If your loved one believes they can moderate, there are two good reasons for you to go along with this. First of all, it may work. Second, if it doesn’t work, they will learn that they are unable to control their using – the problem is bigger than they initially thought.”

Founder of CFOL, Dr Andrew Tartarsky’s model, the Positive Change Pathway, help’s to create the individuals optimal relationship to substances—whether that means reduced, safer, more controlled use, or abstinence.

It would be fair to say that not everyone with a drinking or drug problem is an alcoholic or addict, they may still need to recover their lives!

Laura Willoughby of Club Soda in the UK wants “to help you make the change to your drinking that you want. They are continually developing tools and techniques, and support a growing social network.

To paraphrase Shakespeare “Be not afraid of sobriety. Some are born sober, some achieve sobriety, and others have sobriety thrust upon them.”






The Scottish Recovery Consortium (SRC) are at it again. One of our favourite recovery organisations in the world have announced yet another initiative to support recovery wherever you are. A free recovery workbook, free to everyone. Just click here and download the pdf.

The SRC’s innovative ideas and practices deserve attention everywhere. Since 2008 the SRC team have developed their charity with an ongoing “organisational” recovery practice.

Watch Kuladahrini talk about it here.

The SRC believe that not only can people recover from addiction, but their lives can be truly enhanced by the recovery process. Recovery results in a better way of living and a better life.

SRC have developed Recovery College, the Recovery Initiative Fund, Opiate Replacement Treatment Recovery and many other great ideas that support recovery in the community.With a vision to have a country in recovery, SRC march on, literally with helping organise the annual Recovery Walk in Scotland.

The SRC have put the idea of recovery at the heart of treatment and drug strategy advocating for a “recovery” model in dealing with the problems caused by addiction. There are now more than 100 Recovery Café’s across Scotland as well as sports clubs and other community support organisations that support recovery. The mindset is changing in Scotland and across the UK, a recovery “movement” is emerging.

The SRC’s free recovery workbook is, as they put it, “a gift from the recovery movement in Scotland, to people in early recovery from addictions everywhere. Our gift, like recovery itself, is free to you.”

You can read about SRC online, or you can watch some videos on Youtube, you can also keep coming back here and reading about recovery in Scotland, all over the UK, and from all around the world.

Image from SRC Recovery Gave Me poster campaign.


Defy In Transform


In our recent Success In Recovery post, we featured examples of individual entrepreneurs enjoying success in recovery. While we maintain the real success in recovery is staying sober or drug free, we also believe recovery can be a ‘mirror’ of addiction. We can take assets used to survive addiction and apply them to recovery, giving us every chance to harness our energy and thrive.

There are plenty of addicts in recovery who were “successful” in addiction, but still not so happy – the energy in recovery can maintain the success and offer the opportunity of finding that happiness.

Through this recent story on we went down a delightful rabbit hole and found Tori Utley’s amazing TedX talk Why The Workforce Needs Recovering Addicts.

After watching this, we felt moved to at least check out Defy Ventures Inc.  Their view is that “many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs.” They have created a framework to “transform the hustle” in currently and formerly incarcerated drug users calling them Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs).

David Linden, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine and author of The Compass Of Pleasure argues in Forbes that traits that make a good CEO – risk-taking, strong drive for success, obsession, dedication, novelty-seeking – are precisely what make a “good” addict (hustler).

Constance Scharff, co-author of Ending Addiction For Good, identifies another similarity with Defy’s “hustlers.” She suggests high achievers often report a stressor or trauma early on in life, fuelling the success drive in the same way it drives addiction. Scharff notes they frequently had some basic needs unmet as children, and that these driven individuals are often self-medicating. Most importantly she concludes ““We’ve never seen someone who hasn’t at least doubled in productivity after treatment.”

All sides of the street, recovery breeds success.

Sober and successful


What is “successful” anyway? The long time sober and successful writer James Lee Burke puts some words into character Dave Robicheaux’s mouth,”there is no possession more valuable than a sober sunrise”, and that is a pretty good mark of “success” to start from. Plenty of addicts and alcoholics achieve success in business, the arts and many other walks of life before the dugs and (or) the alcohol become too demanding of time and attention. Equally many addicts never get the chance to achieve anything near their potential while in active addiction. A common fear before making a decision to change is that the addict will not be able to do what they did before or never be able to start a different life now. Can I be sober and successful?

In previous posts we have highlighted sober and successful creatives (and we are bound to do so again!), but as a bit of inspiration for the New Year ahead we picked a few stories to share here about sober and successful addicts and alcoholics in the world of commerce.

From one man industry Andrew Zimmern, who built a food, travel and business empire since finding recovery, to the sober and successful Laura Walsh, a recovered addict from Bristol, UK – who really cleaned up – a cursory investigation turns up story after story of success in sobriety.

In Scotland, Ryan Longmuir has transformed not only his life but the lives of many employees, and we are grateful to for this story about three businesses in the US who have a policy of hiring recovering addicts, particularly the very funky Creative Matters.

We repeat, being sober and successful starts with the sober bit, but we feel sure that applying the energy and sheer force of will that kept us using in new directions in our lives can bring many sober sunrises and a whole lot more.

Our short blogs are just tips of the recovery iceberg, longer stories will make their way on to the ORA pages throughout 2017.

Alcohol Free


You might not expect to find a piece on Dry January on an addiction recovery site, although you will certainly see it covered across all other traditional and social media. The first “official” campaign seems to have started in 2012 in the UK. Alcohol Concern, a leading UK charity encouraged a challenge to go alcohol free for a month to raise funds for their work.

A lot of people report having done this regularly for the sake of their health, so with the added motivation of a worthwhile cause this annual campaign has continued to grow. It is predicted that one in five UK adults will take part in 2017. The idea has gained traction in the United States, Australia and South Africa signifying an international appetite for reconsidering the role of alcohol in day to day life. Some commentators suggest there is a “sobriety movement” growing with more people choosing alcohol free lifestyles hailing 2017 as the year that the “sobriety movement” will hit the mainstream. Certainly attitudes to drinking are changing and the rise of alcohol free drink choices in pubs and clubs is one of the biggest growth areas in the beverage market.

One of the major benefits associated with the alcohol free challenge is that people rethink their relationship with drinking. Many who try a Dry January choose to go a step further remaining sober all year round.  Comments on the Dry January blogs, and in numerous articles covering last years campaign reveal that many participants realised they really did have a drink problem whilst others just preferred feeling healthier and saving money!

Whatever the outcomes all of this is good news for anyone in a recovery process. In the past one of the key factors identified as an obstacle to sober living was social pressure in a society where drinking (even heavy drinking) was the social norm. This emerging sober lifestyle trend can only help make recovery a less stigmatised option.





No more Bad Santa’s – stay sober at Christmas

If you are new to recovery, the question of how to stay sober at Christmas can seem overwhelming. We all need help and support to at any time of the year. In the “party season” life can provide enough connection for the most committed extrovert and more than plenty for life’s quieter souls. It is a challenging time to stay sober. We all need suggestions, tips or guidance when it comes to choosing a sober lifestyle. The benefit of the experience of others helps with the commitment to staying sober, making plans to stay aware and stay sober seems to be universal to that experience. As Helaina Hovitz says in this helpful article,

“The first 90 days of sobriety are, of course, the hardest, and the holidays are the time of year when the child in all of us feels the most temptation to overindulge in, well, just about everything. Plus, temptation is everywhere.”

If the method of recovery you practice has support groups – like 12 Step, Lifering, SMART, Refuge, Women For Sobriety or faith related options – opportunities to connect with others with a shared goal are useful. Those with some recovery experience will fully endorse the ideas in this article. If you have decided to quit drinking (or drugs) and find your own way Helaina’s suggestions can only help.

Helaina’s article first appeared on the popular website Bustle, welcome evidence that the idea of choosing a sober lifestyle, whether permanently or for a specified period, is becoming increasingly mainstream. This growth of a lifestyle change culture can only be a good thing for those in recovery from addiction or those who just want to change their relationship to alcohol (and drugs).

Make a commitment to change, make a plan, above all let people know your intentions and motivation. You will be amazed by the support you get.






Bowie enjoyed a long and successful career and recovery.

A great many creatives fear recovery from addiction might mean an end to their artistic achievements. Alcoholism and addiction have been see by many as the creative curse.

That said alcoholic writers probably write (or wrote) just as well sober as drunk, and as South African playwright Athol Fugard nearly said do you want to be a dead good writer, or a good dead writer?

Stephen King puts it this way “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”

There are almost certainly more great non-alcoholic or drug using creatives than addicted ones, but the larger than life behaviours of the creative wrecking crews rock’n’roll lifestyles ensure their place in the pantheon of doomed genius.

Vice Media looked in to a random Vice-style selection of artistic alcoholics and addicts in a recent article that reasoned, “in case you need another reason to check in with your own addiction, it sounds like it kinda sucks to forget some of your biggest artistic achievements to drug-or alcohol–induced amnesia.”

Arguably the real genius creatives with substance abuse problems produce most of their best work before the addiction fully takes hold. In the alcohol soaked drug fuelled years work often becomes erratic or self indulgent sometimes incomprehensible.

Recovery from addiction can mean a return to form, a clearer vision and more energy and wit, David Bowie springs to mind.

Whatever happens creativity, like recovery is about practice, work and consistency. With these values both are possible and compatible.


Reading for Recovery
Reading for recovery – the true path of the hero.

In a previous post we wrote about the importance of reading in the recovery process, so when we saw the words reading for recovery in a New York Times book review headline we were intrigued. The review was for a collection of excerpts, poems and quotes gathered together in Out Of This Wreck I Rise – A Literary Companion To Recovery by Neil Steinberg and Sara Bader. The title, a quote from Robert Browning’s poem Ixion, about a mythological king bound to a wheel in Hell, whirling forever in torment is powerful and poignant. The selection of literary extracts, philosophical thoughts and artistic interpretations of our relationship with alcohol, and journey to recovery is at times funny, sometimes sad and frequently bitter sweet.

From Seneca to David Foster Wallace, William Shakespeare to Patti Smith and the ruminations of notorious drinkers like John Cheever, Charles Bukowski, and Ernest Hemingway the book tells the story of the difficult process of becoming sober ever reminding the reader that while the literary alcoholic is often romanticised, recovery is the true path of the hero.

John Cheever, John Berryman and Raymond Carver rub shoulders with Plato and Keith Richards, Hemingway, Jack London and Anais Nin bump up against Emily Dickinson and a whole lot more.

Steinberg knows the road, his book, Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life (2008) begins with his coming to in a jail cell as a result of assaulting his wife whilst drunk. It is a true confessional, full of denial, anger, sorrow and of course makes great reading for recovery.

“This book is terrific. A recovery plan that summons not a Higher Power but a higher intellectual power. The sort of book I’ve been waiting for all my life: rational help for the writer, the reader, the skeptic, the thinker.” Gene Weingarten, Fiddler in the Subway, Pulitzer Prize winner.


"Miracle pill, or blind alley?
“Miracle pill, or blind alley?

The “miracle pill”, baclofen has been on our radar for some time. Originally designed and widely used to treat muscle spasms it has been hailed by some as the cure for alcoholism. Like other harm reduction medications it has both supporters and detractors, but this new study from the Nederland provides some real evidence for the debate (always a good thing, debate and evidence).

Regular readers will know that whilst the Online Recovery Academy has an abstinence based approach to all addictions, including alcoholism, we are open to any other pathway to “recovery”, or any life change that an individual is seeking.

Like any medicinal intervention, whilst baclofen may reduce cravings and make not drinking easier, if drinking (or drug use) is done to mediate a problem then a medication aimed at stopping the mediation does little to address the problem.

For some alcoholics the problem might be as mundane as a low level anxiety, social or otherwise. The first few drinks ease the discomfort, but the drinking frequently continues with negative consequences. Obviously, there are many reasons for drinking (or using drugs), from delight in the euphoria to a desire for oblivion and all points in between.  Relieving the resulting problem with medication does nothing to alleviate the root need, or the root belief, that alcohol is the solution.

Like methadone programmes for heroin addicts, if a prescription drug can just “hold” you where you are, is it a cure for alcoholism? What do you do next? Talk to someone?

Reading this article, and according to the material from the study, it seems that the “talking cure”, psychosocial treatment often referred to as addiction counselling, has a greater effect.

Our experience suggests the same, but we continue to monitor as many alternatives as we can.



Under pressure? Drinking to conform.
Under pressure? Drinking to conform.

“Alcohol is a big element of our social interactions (in the UK at least) so not drinking, or stopping drinking, is normally met with criticism or mockery, which we want to avoid, even at a subconscious level. It can be extremely powerful, this social influence. If you’re allergic to alcohol, you’ve likely been pressured to have a drink anyway because “just one won’t hurt”, when it literally will. Clearly.”

Catching up with current articles about drinking, alcohol and alcoholism we came across this article from the UK’s Guardian.

This is a well written and thoughtful article about alcohol, the UK’s drinking culture – the social pressure to drink and how drinking, drunkenness and hangovers can be acceptable, even if occasionally reasoned away, despite some serious consequences.

If recovery is a new way of life, it is easy to understand both from this article and the comments below it how choosing a sober life style can be quite a challenge.

The assumption from many of the comments seem to be if an individual chooses not to drink they are suddenly judging every one who does. There are certainly those that do, but, there are plenty who don’t.

Our view is that it is a personal choice to drink, or to stop (or cut down if you wish). If drinking has caused damage and consequences it might be a good idea to try and correct these.

If stopping is too hard, then ask for help. There are many ways to stop drinking (or using drugs), there are lots of ways to live sober, different people try different ways and go with what works.

The foundation for a good recovery might be found through a 12 Step approach, Lifering, SMART, yoga Refuge Recovery or any other number of routes.

Being honest and open about getting sober reduces social pressure to drink and can only help shift the relationship our culture has with alcohol.