I am a Christian who celebrates the faith diversity offered by Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. I am a heterosexual white male who supports equality for the LGBTQ community, women and people of all races and ethnicities. I am a fiscal conservative and social moderate who believes in listening and compromise on almost every issue (I’m done listening when it comes to assault rifles and background checks – I live in Colorado, and we have lived through too much).
I stand and salute the flag, but understand that it represents liberty and the freedom for my fellow Americans to kneel, or even burn it in protest. Freedom is in part defined by disagreement and dissent. God has blessed Americans with the right to agree to disagree.
I am a sober alcoholic. I write and speak about alcoholism and recovery. That might seem a pretty depressing topic to which to dedicate my life, but it is a very uplifting time to be an active part of the recovery community. There are lots of energetic people doing innovative things in the recovery world. I like to think of myself as one of them. I believe recovering out loud, if enough of us do it, can end the epidemic of alcoholism.
I question many of the philosophies of Alcoholics Anonymous. I challenge the principle of anonymity and the amends process on merit and logic, making my arguments respectfully and listening openly to those with a different point of view. I consider it to be a substantive debate among recovery warriors who want to help people beat alcoholism.
That’s why I have been so surprised to be told – three times now, actually – that if I keep going, I’m going to kill someone.
Kill someone? What? I’m trying to offer an alternative approach to the literally millions of people for whom Alcoholics Anonymous is not an option. I’m trying to build a better mousetrap based on modern brain chemistry research and years of personal experience interacting with alcoholics.
Rejecting alternative methods of recovery is like saying that if you don’t like chocolate cake, you aren’t allowed to celebrate your birthday. We are a nation built on freedom – freedom of religion, political views and even choices in health care. Alcoholism is a mental health crisis, so we better come at it with as many options as possible.
Last week, I spoke to a friend who is in her third year of recovery just like me. Unlike me, she had the strength to get sober when in her early 20s, and she found her recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous. I love that. I love the courage she mustered to walk into the rooms of AA as such a young person. Here’s what I love the most. She sat next to the only other young person she saw in the room. This past weekend, she was a bridesmaid in the wedding of the girl she sat next to at her first ever AA meeting. For all the parts of AA where I disagree, it really is life saving for the people for whom the twelve steps work.
I’m sure the three readers who accuse me of attempted murder would reply that AA works for everyone who works it. But it doesn’t. Recovery isn’t one size fits all, and it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you believe in God. There are alternatives – lots of alternatives – in recovery, and just about everything else. The world is not just Christianity, white men, heterosexual marriages and chocolate cake. It is not just AA, either.
I’m working on a recovery program now because what I’m looking for – the methods I used to recover – doesn’t exist yet. So I’ll put it all together and share it with the world. It will be called, “SHOUT Sobriety,” and, as the name implies, it will involve a whole lot of recovering out loud. I hope I don’t kill anyone with love and connection.
I have a lot of work to do on the curriculum, and I’m not sure exactly how the program will work. This is one thing I know for sure: SHOUT Sobriety will absolutely, 100% NOT work for everyone (even if they work it).
Freedom means worshiping your way, loving who you love, voting your principles, tolerating various fiscal and social views, and being quiet sometimes even if you refuse to listen.
And it means getting sober in any way you possibly can while the applause grows from those who came before you even if they took a different path.
I say it all the time – we are all in this together. That which separates us is far less important than our common goal of freedom from alcohol. I am passionate about recovering out loud. I am passionate about the strength I receive from helping others. And I am passionate about blueberry pie on my birthday.
If you would like to read about my recovery passions, and get a sneak peak inside my SHOUT Sobriety program, please check out my free ebook, Guide to Early Sobriety. Let me know what you think, even if you disagree. I’m getting pretty good at listening.
Now featured on the Untoxicated Podcast: Ep9 – Sheri’s Story: Matt’s Wife on an Alcoholic Marriage