Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Power of Anger

The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous describes resentment in fairly bleak and stark terms. It says that resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else and goes on to say that from it ( resentment) stem all forms of spiritual disease.

Some people can get quite obsessive about the distinction between the words anger and resentment and whether there is any real difference. If you are living with a level of anger that is effectively destroying you, then if there is any difference it is probably a subtle one.

Any alcoholic entering rehab or a treatment center or seeking help for the first time for their problem with alcohol is highly likely to also be extremely angry. This is simply a practical observation of how alcoholism can tend to destroy a persons inner world, whilst at the same time making them believe that alcohol is actually the only thing in their life that is worth saving.

The reality of getting sober and staying sober for many people is that they have to begin to have time to turn around this sense of darkness that is effectively their inner world. For many people this is a fairly daunting prospect, and part of the nature of a rehab or treatment center is to provide a safe environment, that is nonthreatening, and can allow an individual a degree of emotional time and space to begin to realise the nature of their problem.

The potential danger with any type of rehab or treatment center lies in their setting boundaries.

This is a dual edged problem that a good rehab should be able to accommodate. There is a real sense that the nature of alcoholism destroys boundaries in relationships, families, in homes, in the workplace and generally anywhere where the alcoholic is present.

This is part of the logic that a rehab will use to establish a large number of very specific rules about admission into the rehab, about the structure of daily life in a rehab and about the way the individual lives their life whilst in rehab.

Whilst the structure may provide a degree of discipline, for many alcoholics the very sense of being so tightly controlled will seem highly oppressive, and will either put them off going into rehab, or make the experience of being in a treatment center feel very controlling.


No one should underestimate the level of anger that may exist in an alcoholic who is trying to get sober and stay sober.

This anger may manifest itself at a day-to-day level, and may well be a mix of inner child anger and current day life pressures.

Whatever the causes and whatever way the alcoholic chooses to process that emotional instability, once they have left rehab, the key element in their recovery will be a felt knowledge and understanding that in order to stay sober they have to learn to live with themselves sober.

This internal pressure will in some way drive them to seek solutions to their emotional imbalance, hopefully solutions that are healthy and healing as opposed to alcohol or any other destructive way out.

Analysis is Paralysis – not…..

One of the more attractive and also one of the more unattractive elements of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous is the propensity for people to use sayings or phrases which sound quite simple and concise but tend to block any real discussion of issues around them.

Anyone entering a rehab is likely to be exposed to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous either in the rehab or in the nearby area. The rehab itself is also likely to use many of the techniques and procedures of a therapeutic nature that can be found either in the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous or in the sayings heard at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

One of the most famous and most used sayings often heard in Alcoholics Anonymous is ‘analysis is paralysis’ . The implication of this saying is that people should not think or look to analyse what is going on either in their life, their head or that sobriety, and should simply follow the AA lead in terms of their AA program .

Often the intent or thinking behind phrases such as analysis is paralysis is actually meant to be quite helpful.

The phrase itself was originally meant to help people not worry too much about the level of fear and intimidation and pressure that they might feel upon getting sober, and simply to trust the process of going through the steps as a way of helping them clear their head. At that level this phrase works fine and can be a help.


The problem is quite often that this phrase is used to block any meaningful discussion of issues that are connected with individuals dealing with their emotional sobriety . The reality of the 12 step program is that its whole focus is actually one of self analysis and self-awareness.

The self-analysis ranges from an individuals initial analysis of their reality about being sober, through taking a detailed inventory of their life and analysing their resentments fears and sexual conduct through to making amends to the people they have hurt and understanding how they may have hurt them and others .

The nature of any analysis can be done at different levels and in different ways. The analysis itself should be done without any self judgement either from the individual or from anyone else.

There needs to be a degree of objectivity concerning of the character and actions of the individual in order to allow them to gain a real measure of self acceptance, and a real understanding of what their life is and was and what their motives were.

When used correctly any self-analysis of one’s character and behaviours is the absolute route an cornerstone of sobriety, and of a real freedom to move your life forward .

Alcoholism as an illness…..

The majority of people who work in rehabs and are involved in the day-to-day fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous will probably have a sense of belief that alcoholism is an illness, although it is also often referred to as a disease.

The notion of alcoholism as an illness really first took root in the 1930s during the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it was the growth of Alcoholics Anonymous that helped to cement this idea that alcoholics were ill people, not merely morally weak or hopeless characters.

The early members of AA and the doctors who were helping them at the time gave some sense of what they understood this illness to be by characterising it in certain terms which are available in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous and these doctors did not seek to define alcoholism, merely to give it a more real context in the light of their understanding of what it meant.

For many people, it is relatively easy to grasp the idea that alcoholism is an illness, that people who are alcoholics or ill or sick people. Anyone who is close to an alcoholic or who has seen their behaviour at close range can probably understand this, without necessarily understanding what the illnesses is or what it means.

Many organisations, although not AA, refer to alcoholism as a disease. There is some dispute about this idea, but that is beyond the realms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The main problem with identifying alcoholism as a disease, as opposed to an illness, is medical terminology.


Most people will identify a disease as being something that you catch, with specific symptoms and recovery processes.

The nature of alcoholism is that it is incredibly varied and wide in terms of how it affects the individual.

Many a members whilst accepting that alcoholism is a illness would struggle to define what that illness is. For many of them it is simply a felt sense that the compulsion to drink alcohol or something over which they had no mental control, either at the outset of their drinking or at some point further down the line.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous makes a distinction between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker. It says that the heavy drinker can stop drinking if needs be, albeit with difficulty and even possibly some withdrawals. The alcoholic at some point is unable to stop drinking, nor wishes to.

In many ways it is almost irrelevant whether alcoholism is an illness or not, and certainly thinking about the disease concept or the illness approach is very much an individual choice.

The important thing is that an alcoholic can get sober and stay sober, and if in a rehab can use the therapeutic approaches that the rehab has to help them understand the internal trigger points that can fuel their alcoholism, and that the rehab can help them heal these trigger points and move forward with their life.

Advice freely given….

Anyone who has been to an AA meeting, either in a rehab or elsewhere will have noticed the huge amount of advice, often unasked for advice, that is freely given and dispensed by members on virtually every single topic can be talked about.

For many people this is not really that much of the problem, and most AA members will often ignore the majority of that advice.

It is in striking contrast that in Al-Anon meetings, the opening statement will normally make reference to the fact that members do not offer advice or solutions to other Al-Anon members.

There is a really important issue about giving and receiving advice on matters to do with alcoholism and 12-step recovery generally. Anyone entering a rehab either as an inpatient or a family member will be dealing with a situation that has a huge number of very difficult decisions to be made, on a wide variety of topics.

The alcoholic is likely to be feeling a high degree of pressure, often internal, which will make any decision making process that much more difficult.

There may be some practical matters where guidance or advice is appropriate, but a lot of the time what the person really needs is some time. The value of giving an individual time is that they can process their inner world, and come to a sense of what they need to do to move their life forward.

This is unlikely to happen in the short timeframe that someone is in rehab, but is an important principle that the individual needs to carry on once they have left.

The other important thing about bombarding people with a lot of advice, is that you are also sending the message that they are not capable of making the decision for themselves, and need someone else to do their thinking for them.

Anyone entering any 12 program either in rehab, going directly to meetings actually needs one thing above anything else.

That is the emotional space and the time they need as already mentioned to learn to trust themselves with their own lives. This sense of trusting themselves is a huge part of the recovery process.

It is often said that the best way to view the process of how Alcoholics Anonymous works is to think of it as a body of experience, embodied in the literature, since it first began to the present day. The individual has a complete freedom to use this experience in any way that they find helpful or not.

This gives the individual freedom to decide for themselves how they intend or choose to interpret the experience of those who have come before them.

Advice, is of itself neither good nor bad. There is good advice and bad advice.

In the context of rehabs and 12 step work it should be remembered that the majority of new people are quite vulnerable for a period of time, and are more susceptible to believing other peoples thinking than their own. This is a dangerous process, and the exact opposite of what the recovery process should actually be.


Run while you have the light of life …..  Nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going ……

Prologue to Rule of St Benedict, John 12, 34

Spirituality, for me, means listening to the deeper levels of our experience with a sense that there is something completely trustworthy and good to be found there. In this listening, many recognise the life-giving presence of God in us, challenging and surprising us with new understanding and insight.

Tom McGuinness SJ

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves. We are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.

Thomas Merton

“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
E.E. Cummings

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” – Nietzsche

God I give to You all that I am and all that I will be for your healing and direction. Make new this day as I release all my worries and fears, knowing that you are by my side. Please help me to open myself to Your love, to allow Your love to heal my wounds, and to allow Your love to flow through me and from me to those around me. May your will be done this day and always. Amen

Co-Dependents Anonymous, p37

When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away.

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, p419 4ed.

“We found the Great Reality deep down within us.

In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book p55

” Our book is meant to be suggestive only . We realize we know only a little.”

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, p164

Quotes are a very personal indicator of motivation and inspiration, and can help to address some of the underlying emotional drives that can fuel peoples alcoholism and addiction

What is a Medical Detox?

The idea of a medical detox can be quite a scary one for anyone who is involved in active alcoholism and is afraid of stopping drinking at all, let alone having to manage the withdrawal effects of alcohol and/or any other drugs that they may be coming off.

Anyone stopping drinking who is an alcoholic is likely to have a significant level of fear about the reality of living a life without alcohol.

This may lead them to a deep form of denial about having a problem and a defence of their drinking and the need to protect their drinking from other people trying to stop them.

This is a large part of the denial of active alcoholism and one of the reasons many alcoholics will drink for significant periods of time before they begin to realise they may have a problem.

The majority of rehab  is residential and offers addiction treatment programs for people who are alcoholics or addicted to very types of drugs will virtually always offer or advise some type of detox.

There are a number of rehabs who will insist that the individual has a detox before they come into rehab, but they are in the minority. The majority of rehabs will either offer a detox themselves, or have arrangements with a local clinical facility to oversee and manage the detox on their behalf.

What is important for anyone entering a rehab is that the rehab has a clear understanding of the individuals own situation, in terms of their active alcoholism and their use of drugs, both description and non-prescription and for how long.

Part of the job of a rehab is to be able to undertake a risk assessment of the individual to see whether a medical detox is needed, and in order to do this it needs to employ a number of qualified medical and clinical staff who have extensive experience of alcoholism and drug addiction who can oversee such an assessment.

If such a detox is needed, and is done in the rehab, then the rehab needs to make sure that it has on-site clinical staff to manage the detox in a safe and secure manner.

The effects of a detox can vary widely, depending upon the individual’s alcoholism and drug use. Irrespective of the actual symptoms of withdrawal, the individual may well have additional fears about what such a withdrawal may involve.

Having a detox take place in a secure and safe environment can help to allay such fears, especially if there are other people around who are sober and moving forward with their lives who have also been through something similar and can help give support to the individual based on that inexperience.

What is an Holistic Drug Rehab ?

Any rehab that offers treatment for anyone addicted to any type of drug, should in effect be an holistic rehab whether they call themselves that will not.

It is an unfortunate fact that many people including rehabs use the word holistic because it appeals vert much to people’s sense of their own self-worth, and appeals to people’s belief that the rehab will treat the individual as a whole person, and not just treat their addiction.

Treatment of the whole person should be the focus of any rehab or any recovery process that may begin in a 12 step fellowship such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.

The majority of rehabs will treat people both for drug addiction and alcoholism.

It is in the nature of rehab is that they like to treat people as addictive personalities, and as such do not focus too heavily on the nature of their addiction in terms of the recovery work.

The recovery work that is done in a drug rehab, whether it is called an holistic drug rehab or not should be largely of a therapeutic nature, and will quite often be based on the 12 step program initially used in Alcoholics Anonymous and adapted for use in Narcotics Anonymous and other Twelve Step fellowships.

Any rehab that offers addiction treatment programs for drug addictions should spell out specifically on its website which drugs, both prescription and non-prescription it will offer treatment for. This is crucially important from a point of view of understanding and be able to deal with a medical detox.

Anyone entering rehab should be assessed for whether or not a medical detox is needed. The rehab must have the facilities and the staff to adequately undertake such a clinical assessment to be able to determine whether a medical detox is needed or not.

If the medical detox is needed, then the rehab should either have the facilities and personnel to manage such a medical detox themselves, or have arrangements with a local clinical facility who can oversee and undertake the medical detox on their behalf.

This process should be clearly highlighted and spelt out on the rehab’s website. It is important in this context therefore that the rehab has qualified medical personnel who have specific experience of dealing with withdrawals from a wide range of narcotics and prescription drugs, and are able to manage these withdrawals in a safe and controlled manner.

Some holistic drug rehabs offer what they call an holistic detox. It is important to be clear that this is normally a very different process from a medical detox.

What is normally meant by an holistic detox is a cleansing process of the individual.

This cleansing process can be a physically cleansing process by way of diet, nutrition supplements, colonic irrigation etc.

It can also be an emotionally cleansing process by way of group therapy and other talking therapies. An holistic detox can also involve other less conventional forms of treatment such as sweat lodges etc.

Anyone undertaking a holistic detox should make sure that the rehab fully understands the so-called cleansing methods involved and is able to undertake them in a safe and controlled environment.


The word action has become symbolic in the context of 12-step recovery, largely because there is a chapter in the book Alcoholics Anonymous entitled ‘Into Action’ which a significant number of people use as a focus for a degree of pressure or bullying in terms of telling people in early recovery what they need to do to get and stay sober.

The focus of action or of doing things has become an unequal part of the understanding of what a person needs to do in order to get sober and stay sober.

This is not so much necessary in the case whilst individual it in a rehab, where the focus of the addiction treatment programs that rehabs offer is likely to be more of a therapeutic nature than of a work based understanding.

There’s an important reason to question or challenge the concept of this very heavy emphasis on a need to take action.

This is because there’s a mindset that simply by doing things you can change or initiate the process of someone’s recovery from alcoholism or other addictions.

Whilst taking action, whatever that might mean, has a place in the context of recovery, it is only half the equation and has to be used in conjunction with a an equally important context, that of learning how to be.

The concept of learning how to be may seem an alien concept to many people, and one that does take a fair degree of time to really understand. Thankfully the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous tends to put both of these concepts into some degree of order.

Both of these concepts can in effect be thought of as an individuals inner world and their outer world, although both of these terms are general enough to mean different things to different people.

The focus of an individual’s recovery will initially largely focus on the individuals inner world, with an understanding that they need to be able to live at peace with themselves at some level in order to stay sober.

Once the individual has achieved some measure of stability they are more likely to be able and to want to help other people to get sober and stay sober.

There is no clear line between the two of these concepts but they will normally be a natural flow between the two.

It is important to understand that what an individual does in terms of action with their outer world is an expression of what is going on in their inner world, both for better and for worse.

This is true of emotional coping mechanisms, as well as an expression of the individual’s desire to love or help other people .

This understanding of the process of recovery should be a key element of the clinical programs and facilities that a rehab offers, and there should be a heavy emphasis on compassion for both the alcoholic themselves and for the people in their lives.


The word acceptance is often held up as being the key element in any individual recognising that they need help for alcoholism or any other type of addiction.

It has become almost a cliche to say that you cannot begin to get help for a problem until you begin to recognise that you have such a problem.

To any objective outsider that is fairly obvious, but to anyone dealing with alcoholism it is a truth that can take many people many years to realise.

A loss of emphasis is put on the nature of acceptance of alcoholism in rehab and in organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous for a very simple reason.

An acceptance of the reality of one’s life is a precondition for that individual wanting to change it.

What is very obvious to a lot of people outside of the world of the alcoholic, is patiently not clear to the alcoholic themselves very often, and it is important to understand the reasons for this.

Anyone who is an alcoholic or has an addiction to drugs or other substances will have a number of underlying emotional drives and issues that will fuel their alcoholism.

It is difficult to generalise as to how these manifest themselves in people, as every individual is different and will generate a different understanding of their own alcoholism.

However, it is probably fair to say that anyone who is an alcoholic at some point will begin to feel that alcohol is the only thing that is holding them together, and as such will begin to defend alcohol against any attempt by any individual to take it away from them or to stop them drinking.

This need to protect alcohol from other people, from institutions removing it from the alcoholic becomes greater as time goes on and as the consequences of the alcoholism become worse. This gives rise to the nature of the denial that the alcoholic will inevitably have as a defence mechanism to protect their drinking.

The prospect of going into rehab and having to work an addiction treatment program in order to get sober and stay sober is often seen as a threat to their life rather than as an opportunity to get well.

The real work that a rehab can do is to gently help the alcoholic breakthrough that denial and understand the reality of their life in a safe and controlled environment.

The process of acceptance in the context of alcoholism is very much a process, and one that can take a long period of time.

The nature of recovery from alcoholism tends to begin either in a rehab or by going directly to Alcoholics Anonymous for most people. Either way, the sense of having time to unlock the various coping mechanisms and defence mechanisms that the alcoholic feels is holding them together is a key element in giving them the freedom to accept that in reality and move forward with it.

The Issue of Abuse

When most people hear the term of abuse, they generally tend to think of sexual abuse or some type of physical abuse or violence.

Whilst these types of abuse are certainly a large part of the effects and consequences of active alcoholism and active addiction, there is a wider context to the whole issue of abuse which may come up in rehab and in the extended process of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step fellowships once the individual has left Rehab.

Anyone entering rehab will at some point begin the process of dealing with some of the underlying emotional drives that have fuelled their alcoholism. This may well include some type of physical or sexual abuse that they had experienced by those children or as adults.

Other people may understand the concepts of abuse but feel they do not apply to them in terms of their life experience. This understanding and experience of different types of abuse may change over time once in recovery, although not necessarily always.

The individual entering rehab needs also to be aware of the abuse they may have caused other people as a consequence of their alcoholism or addiction.

This may not necessarily have been of a sexual or physical nature, but may well have been of an emotional or mental character.

It is important to understand that the literal meaning of abuse is one individual taking advantage of another individual for their own benefit, or of using or manipulating that individual to gain some benefit for themselves at the cost of that individuals well-being.

Given that type of abuse, the reality of active alcoholism is that it is quite likely that the alcoholic has in some ways or other spent a lifetime trying to get their own way and hurt other people in the process.

It is unlikely that the time spent in rehab will do anything more than touch the surface of this, but it is important that the individual in rehab begins to understand the nature of their alcoholism in the context of how they may have hurt other people.

It is important also to mention, that there is wider potential for abuse in the recovery process once the individual has left rehab. This is a subject that rarely gets talked about but should be flagged up. It is not unique to the 12-step process, but is a possibility in any type of therapeutic relationship.

Any therapeutic relationship where there is a type of power imbalance gives rise to the potential of someone misusing or abusing that power if the other person is vulnerable.

What is important for the individual in rehab is to realise that their recovery process is one where they should be looking to own their own life, and that other people helping them both in rehab and once they have left should be looking to help that individual reclaim a sense of power over their own life, not try and entrap them in any type of enmeshed relationship.

It is often difficult and unwise to try and define abuse. It is important however for the individual to be aware that any type of therapeutic relationship has the potential to be abusive, even in fairly minor ways. This will give the individual a sense of power and control over their own life that will ultimately give them the opportunity to seek the real freedom that the recovery process can offer.