Recovery Defined

From SAMHSA’s Blog:

Recovery Defined — A Unified Working Definition and Set of Principles

In August 2010, leaders in the behavioral health field, including people in recovery from mental health and addiction problems and SAMHSA met to explore the development of a common, unified definition of recovery.  Prior to this conversation it was very apparent as to the need of a common definition. In fact, SAMHSA had separate definitions for recovery from mental and substance use conditions. These different definitions, along with other government agency definitions, complicate the discussion as we work to expand health insurance coverage for treatment and recovery support services.

After many conversations and hard work with our partners in the field, a working unified definition and set of principles for recovery has been developed. The development of a standard, unified working definition of recovery will help assure access to recovery-oriented services for those who need it, as well as reimbursement to providers.

Additionally, SAMHSA recognizes the importance of measuring the outcomes and quality of behavioral health services. As a result, SAMHSA is working to develop a set of measures to help assess a person’s recovery with an emphasis on developing indicators that assess quality of life.

Below you will find the working definition recovery and guiding principles.

Working Definition of Recovery

Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.

Principles of Recovery

  • Person-driven;
  • Occurs via many pathways;
  • Is holistic;
  • Is supported by peers;
  • Is supported through relationships;
  • Is culturally-based and influenced;
  • Is supported by addressing trauma;
  • Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
  • Is based on respect; and
  • Emerges from hope.

Furthermore SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative identifies four major domains that support recovery:

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

There is no set time requirement for recovery as it is recognized that this is an individualized process whereby each person’s journey of recovery is unique and whereby each person in recovery chooses supports, ranging from clinical treatment to peer services that facilitate recovery.

SAMHSA expects additional comments from the field as this definition evolves, and we continue to work together to help assure recovery services are being provided, reimbursed and measured in a consistent way.  Check out SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative for more information on recovery.

(Thank you, cherokeebride!!)


  • AnnaZed

    To those just joining the conversation SAMHSA = The The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Yes, this is a branch of our government and (yes) it is not immune to the influence of 12-step religious zealots.

  • JD

    Their Mission Statement: “SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.”

    Hard not to succeed when one’s mission is harm reduction. Since these beaurocrats have been at this since ’92 things must have improved.

    If things have not yet improved overall, then things are surely about to take a turn for the better since after 19 years they have now have developed a vision of what recovery is. That’s a whole lot of meetings.

    Good work, guys.

  • Jonny Quest

    This is such bureaucratic Bill$hit !!!

    How much money and time did they waste on this?

    Recovery (from addiction): Secure abstinence – nothing else.


    I’ll let those of you who practice HAMS/Moderation come up with your own alternative definition…

  • Jonny Quest

    “In August 2010, leaders in the behavioral health field, including people in recovery from mental health and addiction problems and SAMHSA met to explore the development of a common, unified definition of recovery.”

    That certainly explains a lot – they only consulted people “in recovery” – irresolute drunks and junkies who have NOT recovered, have only a “desire” to stop getting drunk/high – to come up with this definition.

  • flannigan

    Please grace us with your definition of recovery. After 25-30 years in AA you must have formulated a working definition. And do you feel that harm reduction of substance abuse is a worthy mission statement?

  • humanspirit


    I’m also interested in what JD means by “recovery”. He has never tried to define it, over and above (presumably) not drinking, but refers to it as being some mystical and away-with-the-fairies state that only those who have been in AA for decades can possibly understand. This seems to me to be rather an excessive investment in anyone’s life and time when their only desire is to stop drinking.

    Meanwhile there are a lot of normal people out there who just want help with stopping destructive drinking and who are seeking help with getting back to some kind of regular life. A proposition that is anathema to diehard steppers like JD.

  • JD gave us his definition of sobriety here:

    May I hear from the members of (SOS, Smart, Lifering) here who have delt with an alcohol problem and acheived at least 7 years without alcohol, perscription medication to treat pain or emotional conditions, marijuana use, or any AA involvement?

    He defines sobriety in an effort to challenge us to find someone who can be considered successful in a “plan b” program. You should read through it to see him declare victory when he is unable to support his position. Epic Rigorous Honesty:

  • humanspirit

    Wow – I didn’t know even JD was so extreme. So if you take an aspirin within seven years of stopping drinking you’re not sober? I hope JD and others are open and upfront about this philosophy with any newcomers at AA. It could give them them the alarm signal they need that they’re in the company of complete nutters, and that might be very useful for them.

    Just on a random point – I wonder what JD’s attitude toward pain relief in childbirth is? (Actually I don’t wonder – I can guess.)

  • MA

    I don’t know about his policy toward child birth, but I know he uses a “hands-off” model of child rearing.

  • Jonny Quest

    I ran across a few in AA who bragged about not having taken “so much as an aspirin” in 10 years, as if they were on a higher plane of “sobriety” because of it.

  • zooromeo


    If you are as spiritual and recovered as you claim – What the fuck are you doing here ? You should be on a neutral basis, only commenting or supporting your “side of the street”. Having spent 7 years in AA as an “active” meber I know what I’m talking about.

    You are a hypocrite and a fool. Then again you are also serving as a perfect example of what people on ST describe when they refer to the bleeding deacon old timers etc. And hopefully putting people off going to AA.

    **cue feigned humility, “we are not saints”, etc ****

  • AnnaZed

    Somebody email me when we have a conversation that isn’t about JD, ok?

  • Disclosure

    What sort of a masochist would require abstinence from pain or psych medication for 7 years or any term to pronounce success? Even when I was completely brainwashed in AA I vowed to accept pain medication under supervision if I needed it. Additionally I have a very good friend in AA who is a psychologist, she told me that antidepressants saved her life in her first 10 years of sobriety. She now has 35 years of abstinence and obviously another 35 years of life that she has used to help people. I like to think of myself as open-minded but have trouble accepting what I believe is a harmful policy or goal. I suppose that I defer once again to the individuals personal dignity to choose the best possible solution with full disclosure of alternatives.

  • zooromeo


    I feel that JD is a perfect representation of AA mentality and conversations about him are conversations about AAs generally.

    I find him a fun target actually…

  • mikeblamedenial

    Trolls are usually no more a representation of AA mentality than I am. They are good for traffic, tho, and do keep the conversation rolling.

  • mikeblamedenial

    My definition of “recovery”-The magic smoke mixed with psycho-babble used by the treatment industry to lend relevance to their existence and to justify their consumption of resources.

  • AntiDenial

    @Annazed I could be fine not hearing or talking about JD as well.
    He gets us off topic .

  • I found an interesting article on Comorbidity:Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses. This is interesting about smoking, since we seem to bve on that topic lately:

    “Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse than the general population. Based on nationally representative survey data, 41 percent of respondents with past-month mental illnesses are current smokers, which is about double the rate of those with no mental illness. In clinical samples, the rate of smoking in patients with schizophrenia has ranged as high as 90 percent. ”

  • SoberPJ

    Person-driven; As opposed to machine driven, unless it is a mechanical variant of sex addiction.

    Occurs via many pathways; The only one that makes sense, because it means not only AA. Glad they added that one.

    Is holistic; OK, so like, now what? Are my toenails involved in recovery? They are part of me…..

    Is supported by peers; Yep, I’ll get better hangin with fallin down drunks and drug addicts…oh, they must mean something else.

    Is supported through relationships; No shit… name any kind of support that isn’t through a relationship. If anything exists and I know about it, I have a relationship with it. Kind of like the theory of relativity.

    Is culturally-based and influenced; No, it’s Mars based and influenced. That one is really strange. Why even say it?

    Is supported by addressing trauma; If trauma exists that’s great, but what if I just drink too much?

    Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility; oh, ok.. What is a community strength? My community is really strong at __________ fill in the blank and see how much it doesn’t make sense.

    Is based on respect; Riiiggght. AA’s have that respect thing down really well. I have a lot of respect for you, but oh, you are a dipshit and “common as dirt.” Go drink and if you don’t die, you can come crawlin back in here and get humble enough to believe our faith healing non sense, you lousy drunk. Now that’s respect.

    Emerges from hope. It’s emergent from an unmeasurable thing. Recovery emerges from a concept, like a butterfly from a cocoon. How about it results from not drinking or taking drugs..

    They have left reality behind and gone into amorphous territory. If they continue in that direction, something will bring them back to earth, like no more funding for this non sense. Someone will say, get real or get out.

    spj and ftg and jrh: I have posted this a few times and I would appreciate some comment even if it is just to say ‘leave it’.

  • SoberPJ

    Prim… I tried to read it… all I got was .. If it worked, we’d endorse it. But of course it doesn’t really work for real alcoholics because the problem is not just physical, it is physical, mental and spiritual.. the rest was blah, blah, blah. They are full of shit –

    “Anyone who has been in the recovery community long enough has observed individuals like this; those alcoholics who don’t find solution through the spiritual experience afforded by the 12-steps and in fact just physically separate themselves from alcohol and live painfully through the spiritual malady or “bedevilments” that still remains in full-force constantly compelling the “dry drunk” to want to self-medicate. This is what the Sinclair Method alcoholics have done, in effect. While they haven’t separated themselves from alcohol like the dry drunk has, they have separated themselves form the euphoric effects of alcohol that act to temporarily alleviate the spiritual malady, which to us is in effect the same thing.”

  • Sorry, Prim, I missed it when you posted it before. I’ll have a look.

  • SoberPJ

    Why in the heck would an insurance company send money to a facility that was claiming to cure a spiritual malady with a spiritual experience? Said facility is ridding the patient of bedevilments through a spiritual regimen. This doesn’t even seem real, yet I know it is. How is this even possible today?

  • Jonny Quest

    @primrose: That particular article looks like bullshit to me. They did have one valid point, though, which is that people at risk of danger to themselves or others by drinking might still pose that danger while on the regimen.

    I haven’t used TSM myself, can’t see myself taking the medication. I would probably just have stopped taking it if I noticed it killing the nice buzz.

    Also, even once your regimen is over, you have to take naltroxene every time before drinking – forever – if you intend to keep on drinking, or you’ll get that nice buzz again. Sure you can figure out the results of that.

    That said, TSM is used in other countries, and some people swear by it. Many use it as a stepping stone to complete abstinence.

    I recall this thread:

    and this follow-up from that person a year later.

    They also have their own support forums over at TSM:

  • Primrose, At first glance I have a couple of observations about that article:

    1. While they’re protesting their open-mindedness and claiming not to be married to 12-step, the premise of their argument is classic 12 step mythology about the nature of alcoholism.

    2. Their argument against TSM reminds me of a bunch of amateurish philosophizing that really just reveals their ignorance about the subject. They’re talking about the “faulty logic” of TSM because it doesn’t take into account the “spiritual” nature of alcoholism. I mean, that’s nuts.

    3. They say, “There is little clinical evidence of this, but rather a fair number of blog postings and videos on YouTube.” They’re holding TSM to a standard they’d never hold AA to. But look at this meta-analysis: Naltrexone is up in the top ten. Where’s AA? These people have no interest in clinical trials.

  • Commonsense

    Anyone who sees virtue in needlessly enduring severe pain or stopping needed medication is full of shit. It is just that simple. And it is just one more clear example of how potentially dangerous bullshit is so ingrained within AA and the psycho-babble recovery community. The irresponsible nonsense that passes for AA wisdom and is ignorantly acknowledged in meetings with “grateful” head nods is what drove me out of AA.

  • soberbychoice

    @Primrose re Origins Rehab:

    Primrose, that Origins piece is not very informed, to say the least. There have been dozens of double-blind clinical studies in both the US and Europe on TSM, with all of them confirming an approximate 78% efficacy rate. Easiest way to convince yourself of this is to order the book on Amazon, “The Cure for Alcoholism,” by Dr. Eskapa. About ten bucks I think. The AMA Journal had a hefty piece on the topic in 2006 I believe it was. And you can read the experience of alcoholics themselves on

    Admittedly, the concept of “pharmacological extinction” by taking a pill while continuing to drink is so counterintuitive to AA’s who are culted to believe in absitence and nothing but lest God kick your ass from here to K. Come, and to US physicians who are accustomed to telling patients who take Antabuse that even pickle juice wil trigger seizures, that it’s hard for our culture to even begin to grasp the concept.

    I’m was sober in AA for 29 years and seen all the failures, deaths, suicides, and tragedies to no end. I started researching efficacious methods, and long story short, we have a program here that combines Sinclair with CBT, REBT, and SMART meetings, administered by psychiatrists trained to use Sinclair appropriately. Plain damned miraculous for people who have failed miserably in using AA.

    I have two bones to pick, and only two with Sinclair: One, it works for those who are very motivated. Two, it works best when there is a support component that uses evidence- based therapies, namely MI, CBT, REBT, and support like SMART. We also investigated Peele’s Life Planning Process and believe it would work wonderfully in conjuction with Sinclair as well. It might be the one best suited, actually, for a person taking NAL and using the Peele toolkit on their own or in a rehab setting. SMART was just easier for us because it is established and basically free.

    Our target population is mainly offenders from the criminal justice system; not an easy population, but we do have the criminal justice system participating with us and we are keeping detailed profiles and outcome results.

    Other medications work well with some people. Campral, Zofran, Baclofen, among others. Nalmefene may get approval in Europe this year. Dr. Bankole Johnson’s book, “The Rehab Myth,” wlll be out in August detailiing why AA does not work and why the medications do. It is available for pre-order now on Amazon. The book is apt to really upset the Origins and Hazelden crowds because Hazelden gave Johnson it’s medical research award when he was at U. of Texas Health Sciences Center; he’s now at U of Virginia.

    For those of us who have learned that The Solution is just not drinking or using, there is a case for quibbling about medication approaches, admittedly. However, my “awakening” to that position took a long time, as it does for many people. Hopefully, the MAT approaches will get folks there a lot sooner without putting many of them through the damning hell of “you’re a failure and there is no hope until you find God.” There are few things in this world more medieval than the Step approach to sobriety and the teaching of powerlessness and that alcoholism is caused by character defects. Origins wishes to cling to that medieval practice while patronizingly pretending it would switch to a method that worked if one was proven. If they truly cared, they’d at least quit teaching Steppism.

  • soberbychoice

    And further on Origins and those like them: There is a principle that is inviolate, and that is, the Ultmate Oxymoron is an Open-Minded Member of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

  • Thank you. I thought it was interesting that the (people who make their living out of this mountain of human misery) were sufficiently on the back foot that they had to even acknowledge the presence of a method that might actually be of some help. And have to defend their indefensible woo.

  • Lucy

    JD’s comment about wanting to hear from SOS members makes me wish I could get my bipolar husband (who has 24 years sober now and hasn’t been in AA in 5 years) to tell him about suffering for 19 years while being beaten down by a sponsor who said he wasn’t taking the steps correctly, and then ENDING his suffering by finding a psychiatrist who medicated him properly. People like JD, who discourage in semi-sly passive-aggressive ways sick AA members from getting any other kind of help, should be hustled into court for (Bill’s phrase) “big shotism.”

    JD, I go to SMART occasionally and I am 25 years (coming up on 26 years) sober and have dealt with a sick husband, a job change, a million other adult crises (loss of parent) without AA and without a drink. What the hell is wrong with you to keep up this shit?

  • SoberPJ

    This is the most valuable statement on the planet for me in regards to substance abuse……

    ” I’m was sober in AA for 29 years and seen all the failures, deaths, suicides, and tragedies to no end. I started researching efficacious methods, and long story short, we have a program here that combines Sinclair with CBT, REBT, and SMART meetings, administered by psychiatrists trained to use Sinclair appropriately. Plain damned miraculous for people who have failed miserably in using AA. ”

    The thought of people not only being able to get the hell out of AA, but finding a method that works for them so they can live positive lives without all the faith healing non sense is really satisfying to me for some reason. I wasted my time in AA, but others do not have to.

  • JD

    What ftg isn’t very interested in Lucy, is putting that challenge into context. She is anxious to present to you a terribly restrictive and extreme definition and claim it represents what I believe to define sobriety, giving people the opportunity to vent their outrage on her cue.

    I see you’ve been manipulated along with several others into the knee-jerk response that ftg has orchestrated for her purpose of…well, I’m not really sure what she’s getting out of pulling all your chains. But whatever it is, you and a few others obliged her.

    As if I’m against alcoholics with mental disorders being treated for those conditions. Or as if I would want anyone to endure extreme pain without relief. Each time when I had a couple of wisdom teeth yanked you can bet I told the doc to go way over on the novacaine. Not a fan of experiencing pain myself and see no purpose in others suffering.

    But here suddenly I’m painted as denying mothers relief in childbirth and other nonsense. Any ridiculous statement is ok on ST if it momentarily gives the illusion that an AA looks bad, and it need not be even close to being true. This site is about stirring up reactions and fueling the anger sick people felt over old hurts and using that to accomplish the political aims of a few who can’t stand the idea that AA has allowed you and your husband and me and plenty of others to not drink for a long time.

    Most recently you and your husband have been called some things by MA. During the 20 plus years you were active in AA you two were grandiose. You lacked empathy. You and your husband were deluded by imagining you were living good lives. You or your husband or both required that you be admired as you felt entitled to be. He feels you two are exploitive in your relationships with others, you are arrogant, envious, and haughty.

    You say that you are not as MA is presenting you and your husband and Massive and others who stayed sober in AA for some time to be? That he is misrepresenting your character in a silly attempt to say something negative about AA?

    Not surprising, happens here all the time and by buying into it you’re a part of that as evidenced by your post to me.

    I mentioned the definition as I outlined it was extreme and restrictive. I wrote it to be, because the numbers who met that profile from Smart, SOS, Lifering, were tiny-tiny ones. 10-10-7. A medium convention of AAs could easliy supply thousands, but I made it easy as pie, in order to later make some points I’ll not go through the trouble to outline now. I even offered to throw into the mix any from the MM abs’er program without charge.

    But because all that was not about what I or AA believe to constitute sobriety, and instead was about something else entirely, it needed to be presented with a false explaination to draw from you and others the response ftg wanted to see. Leaving it up to me to write out this partial expaination, and deny the ridiculous way she presented this as evidence of beliefs I’ve never outlined here.

    So, now you know one reason why I keep up this shit. The shit put out here so often requires response. You and MA can fight out his representation of your and your partner’s character, as I’m feeling jet lag today.

    Was nice to sit among a hearing impaired crowd on the overseas flight…they talked among themselves the whole way and it was still perfectly quiet.

  • MA

    You seem a little irritable today, JD. Probably due to not being able to get a nicotine fix on his transcontinental flight. Pack some Nicorette next time.

  • MikeAugustine

    Yeah, and enough with the “explaination”‘s. You’re beginning to sound like a former kommander-n-chief.

  • Have there been any studies done on how many people start smoking once they go to Alcoholics Anonymous? Something along the lines of a border line smoker that has one or two cigarettes a month or week, who all of a sudden spikes up to 2 packs a day?

  • hulahoop

    SoberPJ says This is the most valuable statement on the planet for me in regards to substance abuse……

    ” I’m was sober in AA for 29 years and seen all the failures, deaths, suicides, and tragedies to no end. I started researching efficacious methods, and long story short, we have a program here that combines Sinclair with CBT, REBT, and SMART meetings, administered by psychiatrists trained to use Sinclair appropriately. Plain damned miraculous for people who have failed miserably in using AA. ”

    The thought of people not only being able to get the hell out of AA, but finding a method that works for them so they can live positive lives without all the faith healing non sense is really satisfying to me for some reason. I wasted my time in AA, but others do not have to.

    I will agree. It is a very good thing. The sad part is people will most likely not hear of these alternatives in an AA meeting if they confess AA is not working for them unless it is done in a whisper before or after the meetings or done in confidence by a sympathetic member. Odds are none of these alternatives will be addressed in an open meeting unless it is to mock the alternatives. No, a person who isn’t making it in AA will most likely be told to get a sponsor and to work a better program while the other members are really thinking, “They must not really want help or else they would get it.”

  • JD sez, “What ftg isn’t very interested in Lucy, is putting that challenge into context. She is anxious to present to you a terribly restrictive and extreme definition and claim it represents what I believe to define sobriety, giving people the opportunity to vent their outrage on her cue.”

    JD, I linked to the thread you posted that in! If I was interested in obscuring the context or orchestrating people’s perceptions, I wouldn’t have done that. People can click over and see exactly how that unfolded.

    You challenged us to go over to lifering or SMART and find people who have been successful in those programs. When I asked you to provide your definition of success, that’s what you presented. I pointed out to you several times — as did others — that your criteria were completely unrealistic. It was a bad faith challenge — like asking us to head over to the NBA and ask them how many touchdowns they made. Instead of revising your definition of sobriety or succes, you doubled down on it and declared victory.

  • hulahoop

    “Get it” means the dogma and bullshit of AA. The simple little program.

    Not seeking out alternatives. AA assumes it is only the way. I know this by their own words and philosophy. AA and their members will say (as they pleasantly send you on your own path to sobriety), “Yes, we are not the only way…blah, blah, blah” when they really mean, “Can’t wait for you to go out again and come begging back here. You don’t stand a chance without us. You were either not an alcoholic or you are a dry drunk without us.”

    There are so many things a person must experience in the rooms to understand. I am not talking about that warm, fuzzy, God like feeling of imagined serenity either.

  • Lucy


    You have some problems, but neither FTG or I are one of them.

    I’m sorry. I know a hundred people like you in real life and I don’t see them anymore because I am tired of crazy. I feel the same way about you.

    I hope you get help, and you know exactly what kind of help I mean.

  • JD

    Ah ftg, so when you wrote ‘JD gave us his definition of sobriety here’ and then pasted the statement I wrote for our possible use in the plan b forums you were sure people would then go ahead and read the entire thread so they could get the context of the discussion and would understand that the statement you quoted and displayed and indentified as my definition of sobriety was not my definition of sobriety at all, and then they would be surprised and ultimately wonder why in the world you would say it was my definition of sobriety as you did in your initial post.

    Sure, it makes sense now.

    But what of the few who do go ahead and read all that and who then understand the context? They may later ask you why you falsely indentified that pasted statement as my definition of sobriety. How will you explain to them your reasons for doing so?

    Will you tell them it was meant for the majority who will not spend the time to puzzle it all out and will accept your statement regarding that paste being my definition of sobriety as being true, so that they may be offended yet again and feel outrage at the bad AAs, and in accomplishing that valuable result a little misdirection and false statement can be overlooked?

    Or, you could just admit you were wrrrrrrrr, wrrrrrrrr…keep trying, with effort I think you can do it. Take more time.

  • hulahoop

    Lucy, you should write a book. Seriously and sincerely. You could title it, “AA Truth is Stranger Than AA Fiction.” And we have certainly heard fiction in AA meetings. I would buy the book. Shit, we see it right here on this little blog at regular intervals. Oh, I must go now. The First Lady is grilling steaks this afternoon in early observance of Memorial Day. I met her at meeting ten years a go. We picked daisies and hobnobbed together on a sunny afternoon.

    (Where and from whom have you heard something like that before? )

  • MA

    JD – Why do you call those other program “plan Bs”? What is your opinion of programs like SOS and Lifering?

  • Sally


    Honestly, I tried to read and understand your side of it but can’t decipher any meaning because the first sentence of your most recent post has more than 75 words in it. You’re babble reminded of the cries of a baby with cholic: non ending and without pause. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Put a binky in it or make some sense please.

  • JD, could you please explain why you challenged us to find people in other programs who match the unreasonable definition you presented if you actually reject that definition of sobriety? There is no set of circumstances under which it would make sense for you to concoct a ridiculous definition of success that even you don’t believe and challenge us to find people who meet that definition. No one reading through that thread could possibly conclude that you had some sound and sensible reason for doing that. The thread speaks for itself.

    After I said this to you:

    JD, your challenge doesn’t make any sense. Even you must be able to see that. Pretending that you can’t see the flaws doesn’t mean that people with basic comprehension skills won’t see that you are playing fast and loose with this. It is clear to all that you refuse to answer the questions. And your declaration that truth won is clear bluster and High Order Rigorous Honesty ™. It’s genuine, objective nonsense, visible from outer space.

    Let me repeat your challenge: You want us to find people outside AA who meet AA’s peculair standard of sobriety.

    And when I point out the glaring flaw there, you use that as support of your position?

    Let’s put it like this: You can’t present a challenge that makes sense in the real world.

    You responded…

    So the new unlimiting, non-AA definition of sober is stoned, loaded, and drinking. Very interesting…

    I guess I was wrong and this crowd is sober after all. Given the new definition

    I’ve seen how the new definition works out for people a long time before it was the new definition, and I’ll be going with the old definition. Works out better.

    I can’t even begin to understand how the context of that thread could possible clarify anything. I’d appreciate it if you could just say exactly how the definition of “sobriety” you offered in that thread makes sense only in the context of the challenge you presented, but that in real life, you don’t agree with it at all.

  • Jonny Quest


    AA and NA are both a “Plan B” to planned, permanent, lifetime abstinence from alcohol and other hedonic drugs. Recall that the only requirement for membership is merely a “desire” to stop drinking/using.

    All but a very small minority of members actually abstain for life, most choosing to quit “one day at a time, and only for today” which really means “check back with me tomorrow, since I may change my mind, and get loaded whenever I really feel like it.”

    Members categorically refuse to quit for good, or to promise abstinence for the rest of their lives, or one remaining lifetime at a time.

  • Jonny Quest


    Why not just answer the following questions right now and end this whole debate?

    1. What is your definition of “sobriety” precisely?

    2. What is your definition of “recovery” precisely?

  • Lucy

    Hula – Don’t think that I don’t think about it.

    My husband and I sometimes play a game – “Who is the craziest person we met in AA?’

    There are a lot of contenders.

    My favorites was the defrocked Jesuit priest transvestite who used a green marker pen to draw on his daytime eyebrows (the night time eyebrows were some weird ass glitter crap), and alternately used the names, Gilbert, Jimena, and Clark. He was so crazy that he tried to drive to Venezuela and back on a Vespa, and was arrested for being drunk and dressed in a priest’s cassock (with those eyebrows) somewhere in downtown Dallas. He told us he’d been on “vacation” when we asked where he’d been.

    My husband didn’t like him because he asked my husband to “come and visit my trailer tonight” while they were getting coffee.

    My husband’s was the woman who had been arrested 12 times for stalking one of the former Dallas Cowboy (who had serial dated every woman under 30 in the group and was famous for saying “I miss the emotional intimacy of my marriage” every time he spoke, while neglecting to say his former wife had been a topless dancer.) Anyway, after the Cowboy moved to some little town in East Texas, the Fatal Attraction lady started joining dating services, getting dates and getting subsequently served with restraining orders by the date. She thought the Dallas Cowboy was “behind it.” She also couldn’t talk while the basket was being passed because it “interfered with her process.”

    I have so many of these stories.All true and all nuts.

  • MA

    Interesting people, Lucy.

    The craziest person I “know” from AA is JD.

  • MikeAugustine

    My god, Lucy, I don’t think I could top that if I attended meetings for another 2 decades. The closest I get is the woman who used to burst into song in the middle of her shares.

  • hulahoop

    One of my favorites was this “Sopranos” type of guy with the accent and everything I met while in Florida. I had seen him at couple of meetings before. I mean, really, he had the gold medallion and everything. I was early for a meeting and of course smoking in the parking lot. He pulled up and said, “Is the he/she here?” I responded that I didn’t know who he was referring to and (in true stepper good girl fashion) said, “You should not allow anyone to keep you from your sobriety.” He basically told me to fuck off. And off he went.

    I discovered the person he was talking about in the meeting. The only time anyone ever truly tried to thirteenth step me was on that day. I am not still not sure if she/he was a man or woman. They did give me “A Woman in Sobriety” coin, asked me if I was gay, and told me they thought I might be, then offered to be my sponsor. It was their eye contact and body language that told me they might be looking for a little more than sponsorship. It was truly a freaky and memorable experience for me. I am not sure which one of them made it more memorable…the “Sopranos” guy or the gender unspecific person I met. One of the stranger days in AA for me.

  • Jonny Quest


    Although I have not used The Sinclair Method myself, I do find it very interesting. Naltroxene is an opioid receptor antagonist, essentially an anti-pleasure pill.

    The fact that pharmacological extinction works seems to prove that in many cases, at least, the brain is indeed confused by the pure pleasure generated by drugs, including alcohol. It is interpreting this synthetic pleasure, which the body usually uses to reinforce activities necessary for survival, such as eating, drinking, and reproducing, as necessary for survival itself.

    The fact that the brain stops craving alcohol once this pleasure is removed, and it no longer associates pleasure with it, would seem to turn on its head the entire notion of “underlying causes” to addiction.

    Addiction is, in this context, simply a misguided, hijacked survival drive, and any “coping” by getting drunk is actually an attempt at replacing pain with pleasure.

  • JD

    “I’d appreciate it if you could just say exactly how the definition of “sobriety” you offered in that thread makes sense only in the context of the challenge you presented, but that in real life, you don’t agree with it at all.”

    Do I really have to repeat the stuff regarding the dentist and the mentally ill I wrote earlier in this thread? Well, I refuse to do that.

    If you need to believe that the restrictive statement I wrote out for the purpose I described (yet again) here is, as you stated, my personal definition of sober in order to keep your original statement unaltered then that’s fine. If you must be right even when you’re wrong, it’s not my problem.

    Lucy, when you said “You have some problems, but neither FTG or I are one of them.” I hope you understand the character traits, attitudes and behaviors I listed as shared by you and your husband during the decades you were active AAs were from MA’s Narcissist post, and not something I would ever accuse either of you as possessing.

    If you didn’t like the sound of it, take it up with MA. Perhaps he can explain why he believes you both should be tagged with that kind of nonsense.

  • Zooromeo


    Can you fuck off and be spiritual somewhere else ?

    Love zoo

  • JD, No, you don’t have to repeat it, because it doesn’t even come close to addressing the question I asked.

    Look, you previously asserted that you’d be satisfied to call someone successful if they have 7 years with no alcohol, pot, or medications to treat mental health or pain. You said that. I argued with you about it, and you dug in and refused to budge.

    Then, when someone asked about your definition of sobriety yesterday, I directed them back to that thread and quoted your definition.

    Then you landed here and said that I’d taken you out of context.

    So, I ask, “OK, in what context does that makes sense?”

    Again, if you think it’s reasonable to seek out medication for dental surgery or mental illness, then in what context does a definition of sobriety that rejects these medications make sense to you? That’s what I’m asking.

    I’m not objecting to your changing your mind, JD. I do it all the time. I’m objecting to your characterizing me as a liar by claiming that I took you out of context in order to present you as holding a view that you actually do not. I’m asking you to explain the context that I neglected to clarify when I quoted you.

    I think you know that, though. But, if you want to pretend that you don’t understand it in order to save face… knock yourself out.

  • Lucy

    MikeAugustine – My friend Ray used to say that, if you didn’t think the people in AA were crazy, you weren’t going to enough meetings. I think the few stories I have told her are the tip of the iceberg. (Wait until I get jazzed enough to talk about the Mormon wife/drummer in a rock band/drove a motorcyle who decided to have a sex change during a manic episode, and fired me as her sponsor when I told her I didn’t think Joseph Smith was talking to her from heaven through her computer.)

    Hula – I have been hit on by plenty of women in AA and. aside from wearing comfortable shoes and having lived a long time in San Francisco, I am not gay.

    But kidding aside, you are right. The 13th step is not just the domain of men, and I have seen it in practically every combination possible. There is a lot of sexual fluidity in some of them members, and I sponsored three different married women who later came out.

    In addition to the Mormon wife-rock drummer- motorcycle rider whose husband and kids eventually got her back on medication to keep her from talking to Joseph Smith.

  • This is why I won’t go anywhere near the word recovery – it’s a load of nonsense. I was reviewing the OASAS recovery website the other day, and after essentially admitting that they don’t know what it is or how to define it (, they then have a glossary with about ten compound words beginning with ‘recovery’!

    No disease = nothing to recover from – just behavior to change, new choices to make, etc.

  • Jonny Quest

    Recovery is just a return to normal state, as in “an economic recovery” or “recovering from shock” – the Addiction Treatment Industry and the Recovery Group Movement has perverted the word.

    Same with that other word “sobriety” – which used to mean “not drunk” – who knows what it means now.

    If I was addicted, and got drunk over and over again, and I stop getting drunk, I have RECOVERED. I might have to allow some time for liver/brain/body damage to heal, much like after an accident, but other than that, there are no other behaviors to change.

    One does not need to get happy, or better adjusted, or anything else, either. Suppose that I was completely and absolutely 100% miserable before becoming addicted, and I then became addicted.

    If I subsequently stop getting drunk/high FOREVER, and I return to being completely miserable, but still remain perfectly abstinent, I have also returned to normal (from addiction), and have RECOVERED from addiction.

    See? Very easy.

  • I see what you’re saying JQ, and I think we agree more than you think. It sounds like you object to the ongoing process side of ‘recovery’ – so do I. You can absolutely just quit, but that is a behavior to change/a choice to be made.

    Also, I wouldn’t deny that recovery can be used in a non-medical context, but personally I think that ‘recovery’ has become far too intertwined with the idea of a disease in the world of addiction. To me, the disease idea is too big, too screwy, and too dangerous for me to use a word like recovery which muddies the water over whether a choice has been made or a disease is being battled.

    “One does not need to get happy, or better adjusted, or anything else, either….”

    I think we’re in partial agreement on this stuff though. You don’t need to be happy or any of that in order to stay sober – but I think that’s what works best for a lot of people.

    Personally, my level of contentment with life was a major factor that played into my choice to use substances at problematic levels. I don’t know what they did for you, but drugs made me somewhat happier than I felt without them, bottom line. If I couldn’t have put together some sort of life that was happier than before, then I probably would’ve gone back to drugs. That’s just me personally, I’m not saying that’s everyone.

    This doesn’t mean I’m gonna go shoot up when I have a bad day here and there, but if as course of daily life my overall mood and state of mind was the same as it was back when I crossed into that stage of addiction, and I had never found something that works better than drugs at improving it – then getting high all day would be an improvement, even with the consequences, and I never would’ve made the long term change that I did.

    I look at getting high like every other choice in life – it’s weighed against other options, and you choose it because it serves some need or desire (or even if it objectively doesn’t, then at least you think you’re getting something out of it). At one point in my life, from my perspective it was the best option for me – it made me happier, provided excitement, relieved stress, and helped me to escape reality.

    Considering and then experiencing better options is what allowed me to make a firm choice to stop that I could stick to. The difference for me between all those times that I stopped for a few months and the time that I stopped for good was that in all those short-lived episodes of quitting, my choice was based only on avoiding a negative (being on probation and avoiding going to jail as an example) – quitting was only denying myself something that I strongly desired all of those times. But the last time I quit (a decade ago), the motivation was different – I quit as a means to chase after something better that time, and that’s what made it stick.

    Exercising will-power didn’t work for me (in the long run) – that is, as long as getting high seemed like the best option to me, then it would be my will to get high, and exercising will power would be fighting my own will, and I could do that for a while but it never lasted long enough. Deciding I wanted a better life and more happiness, and then finding that, changed my will and made it so that getting high didn’t seem like the best option and I didn’t want to do that anymore.

    For me, it’s all wrapped up in motivation and choice. I’m not here to say that anyone who uses the word “recovery’ is wrong and should shut up – but I personally stay away from the word, because I find it obfuscates the issue of choice, and everything involved in making choices.

  • JQ – I have learned quite a lot from you and I really appreciate you sending me into researching Jack Trimpey. He was doing the type of research I am doing way before I became interested in it. I have been looking at how people get the DSM classification of an Alcoholic and sent to AA as treatment so they can thoroughly following the path of jails, institutions and death .

    AA is usually “suggested” as the first type of treatment once you get the DSM classification of an Alcoholic (Dependency or Abuse). Doctors in the US have a strict set of guidelines to follow in classifying you. The guidelines are clearly marked in the link to the document provided at the bottom of this post. This is how easy it is to get that DSM classification:

    1.) Admit to occasionally drinking (Step 1 pg. 4).
    2.) In the past YEAR men have EVER had more than 8 drinks at one session or 4 drinks for women (pg. 4).
    3.) You are classified with “Alcohol Abuse” if you have had any risk of bodily harm, relationship trouble, role failure, run-ins with the law (Step 2 pg.5)
    4.) You are classified with “Alcohol Dependence” if you have any three (3) of the symptoms of not been able to stick to drinking limits, not been able to cut down or stop, shown tolerance, shown signs of withdrawal, kept drinking despite problems, spent a lot of time drinking, spent less time on other matters (Step 2 pg.5).
    5.) If you admit to any of the above and are classified you are advised you have a problem and they set up follow up care to see if they can definitely give you the DSM classification of an Alcoholic (Step 3 pg. 7)
    6.) In followup they determine if you are following the instructions to the letter they have suggested. Regardless if you admit to any relapses this is where they refer you to programs such as AA and you also run the risk of being sent to a specialist (Step 4 pg.7).

    This is the path that people follow to get the DSM classification of “Alcoholism”, as you see it is quite easy for a social drinker to get this classification:

    (I highly suggest downloading the PDF version of this, it is still used today, it correlates to all of the Step and pg. numbers in this post)

    This is the tool they use to extract this information from you. Notice they have strict guidelines on how to ask the questions and “suggestions” on how to get people to admit to being an Alcoholic:

    (Again, I highly suggest that you download the PDF version)

    These government documents show how you are coerced into AA and given the DSM Classification of an Alcoholic.

    (Next research to be identified – the data set they use to determine if you are an Alcoholic per the DSM. They get the information to determine the tendencies of an Alcoholic from the prison population and the morgue. Using this data they have a high probability of sending you to AA where you will thoroughly follow the path of jails, institutions and death.)

  • Somewhere on their site aacultwatch says there are something like 8 million potential members in the UK. Both Houses of Parliament are full of ‘functioning alcoholics’.

  • Jonny Quest

    @Steven Slate:

    Some good points, and I do agree that most people will have to find something to do with all the time that they formerly spent getting drunk or high.

    It just seems to me that “recovery” has been re-defined to mean this ongoing, lifelong process of improvement, when in fact, that ongoing improvement is just normal life.

    Even if it is a disease, think about cancer, for example. Once you have treatment, be it surgery, chemotherapy, etc, and it goes into remission, you go back to life, testing every so often to see if the cancer returns.

    The “living” after the cancer goes into remission is not usually considered being perpetually “in recovery” from cancer. It is considered living.

  • Jonny Quest

    @JR Harris:

    Eerie stuff, those pamphlets. Very sneaky. Reminds me of that classic one written for doctors regarding alcoholism. I can’t recall who wrote it at the moment, but Ken Ragge referenced somewhere in his book More Revealed. It had something in there about the main purpose of a psychiatrist is to get the client into AA.

    I didn’t need a pamphlet to tell me this, but I certainly qualified for alcohol dependence.

    I do recall taking an online “alcohol screening test” at which I know is affiliated with Join Together, so I do have to wonder where they get their figures from, but my result was:

    “Only 3% of the adult male population drinks more than you say you drink.”

    These days, I won’t answer any questions regarding past consumption levels – it does not concern anyone. The only time I think it might concern someone is perhaps during surgery, since an anesthesiologist might have to take that into account.

    I will, however, refuse prescriptions for any benzodiazepines or tranquilizers – anything cross tolerant with alcohol. If asked, I won’t state why, though.

  • JQ – Those aren’t pamphlets. They are the POLICY set forth by the governmental entities of the US on substance abuse. These are the root cause of the mess that the Addiction Industry is in right now. Everything we have been looking at is a result of this POLICY. They have separate ones for each type of addiction.

    This process is followed whenever you go to a doctor or therapist, because they must use it to get a DSM IV classification, there is no other way to do it. DSM V classification is coming out soon and it will most likely make classifying you an Alcoholic or Substance Abuser even easier.

  • Jonny Quest

    @JR – The major problem with this is that any “diagnosis” goes into your medical record, and it even says so in the NIDA Modified Assist instructions.

    Good luck trying to get that information removed from your record. The old big book line “once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic” takes on a whole new literal meaning now that healthcare databases and medical records are being more and more centralized.

    “Instructions: Patients may fill in the following form themselves but screening personnel should offer to read the questions aloud in a private setting and complete the form for the patient (circle number in appropriate row/column). To preserve confidentiality, a protective sheet should be placed on top of the questionnaire so it will not be seen by other patients after it is completed but before it is filed in the medical record.”

  • All Federal Laws regarding how can see your records and when. Its broken down into sections. I will guarantee you most people have at one time signed a CFR 42 release. You can limit it’s use by other agencies by sending a request that it be sealed that by law they have to follow. If it has gotten into the Justice Department you can limit its use against you, but not as easily.


  • The language is loaded (words are redefine) by cults all the time. Scientology has it’s “clear” and other words I can’t think of offhand (I’ve never been involved, only studied it from afar), and est/Landmark Forum has this “get it” and “we are all tubes” sayings. The 12-step phenomenon has generated many new definitions of many words and phrases such as recovery, sobriety, wet, dry, dry drunk, Higher Power, “Tradition,” “suggestion,” and on.

    Seeing friendthegirl call JD on his different definitions of sober, it’s not surprising at all that he offers several definitions, and is offended when called on it. Steppers use different definitions in different contexts WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING THEY’RE DOING IT.

    (insert Herbalife “Ask How I Know!” bumper sticker here)

    Similarly, the 12-step message is presented differently to outsiders (“It’s a SUPPORT group – we’re really open and accepting, if you think you might have a problem just come and visit, it’s a great group of people, really, there’s no pressure to join or anything”) versus those who have been attending meetings (“You NEED to find a Higher Power and take The Steps”). Again, they don’t even realize how different and disingenuous the messages are.

    I encourage everyone to read a few books on cults (several, because one might not have descriptions of the commonalities between cults, and even many of the better books have their own biases as to what the author thinks is a cult and what’s not). It explains both the operations of not just religious but also secular groups (mostly commonly, multi-level marketing operations).

    Oh, and have I posted this video yet:

  • If you are religious and find the 12 Step offending, it is because they are being a Spiritual Bully. Good book to read from a religious point of view:

    “Faith That Hurts, Faith That Heals/Understanding the Fine Line Between Healthy Faith and Spiritual Abuse” by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton.

    Talk to your Priest, Pastor, Rabi, etc……. and be prepared.

  • Jonny Quest

    @JR Harris:

    I recall you posted on here once a link to a company that provides training for interviewing substance “abusers” – they had sample taped interviews.

    Can you possibly re-post?