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.”






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.



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.


Addiction is a man-eating plant that demands to be fed. 
Addiction is a man-eating plant that demands to be fed.

When it comes to addiction the never-ending debate about “disease model” or brain disease, moral failing or trauma reaction causes a lot of confusion. The continued disagreements around the “causes”of addiction and the efficacy of addiction treatment, 12 Step programs, faith based solutions, medication and therapy models just add to the challenges facing those looking for information and help. It is refreshing to read a well thought through interview like this with Dr Drew Pinsky, clear thinking, information and informed opinion help people make choices.


“Each case [of addiction] has the potential to include pre-existing trauma issues, personality issues, psychiatric problems, brain injury from substances, withdrawal issues, post-acute withdrawal issues, iatrogenic issues, and genetic predispositions.”

The recognition that each case may respond to differing addiction treatment methods and that problematic use might not always be addiction serves to remind that the routes out of addiction and into recovery, or a new way of living, are equally diverse. Assessments, addiction treatment and recovery plans need to be individualised, there needs to be a greater acceptance of all the alternatives.


“It’s so important to remind people during the beginning of their recovery and throughout the first year and beyond that it takes time. It’s such an important thing for them to remember. Let me emphasise something here. When you say it takes time, we’re talking years, more often than not.”

Recovery of all types takes time, it is a process. Thank you Dr Drew.


Visions of Peace – Visions of Recovery


A review of The Peacemaker, a new documentary by James Demo.

Anyone who has experience of 12 Step based Recovery will have heard the oft repeated lament, ‘if only the whole World did the Steps things would be so much better.’

At ORA we always emphasize two things. Firstly, most of the people involved with ORA found their path to Recovery through the Steps. Secondly, there are many pathways to Recovery and the 12 Steps are not for everyone. So that said we got an opportunity to look at the idea of the 12 Step approach having something to offer other areas of human relations with a recent preview of a new documentary film The Peacemaker.

Professor Padraig O’Malley is an extraordinary man, of this, filmmaker James Demo’s new study will leave no doubt in any viewer’s mind.

O’Malley has worked tirelessly, and in detriment to his own material and physical wellbeing for over 40 years. He has successfully brokered many critical peace deals as well as fostering environments for talk and reconciliation between the most bitter of enemies with his Forum For Cities In Transition (FCIT).

As the film unfolds the Professor’s story, he openly exposes his alcoholism. His contribution to the first major steps toward a peaceful solution to the problems in Northern Ireland are arranged in Padraig’s local “Irish” Pub in Boston. A drinking alcoholics logic suggesting that getting the two sides to drink together would help them see each others humanity

As the film and Padraig’s work develop so does his addiction, and the viewer gets the sense that a sheer force of will is driving the man, and the processes of peace.

From Ireland to Israel, the Balkans to Nigeria, Iraq, South Africa and in many other theatres of conflict and dischord Padraig O’Malley has striven to bring some kind of harmony, (real old school AA types will find it hard not to think of the St Francis prayer so often suggested for meditation in Step 11), with both success and failure as companions, it is his commitment to the process, the ongoing nature of change, which really inspires.

Padraig recognized, and sought help for his addiction in 2002. The film reveals some of the work he undertook in rehab, readers familiar with this will recognise the kind of 12 Step based self-evaluation work common to many facilities. The written Step 1, powerlessness and damage exercises, the acceptance of consequences. Although Padraig also had massive achievements in his active addiction, his personal pain, life with his own demons becomes clear throughout the documentary.

In the sections of the film dealing with Padraig’s work with FCIT, the “drinking together” approach has been long abandoned for a format that any member of any 12 Step fellowship would recognize as he realizes that his recovery provides a model for conflict resolution.

“As one alcoholic is in the best position to help another, so people from divided societies are in the best position to help each other,” Padraig explains. “It’s similar to the role people who are involved in recovery play in getting people to a meeting, where everyone tells the story of their conflict from how they experienced it. They can see that the first thing they have to do is to realize that they’re addicted to the violence, they’re part of the problem.”

This film has a true message of Recovery, but also a very realistic perspective of all types of resolution being a process, not an event.

You can see the trailer here.