Four Transitional Phases to Sobriety – My Alternative to the Twelve Steps
Phase One – Surviving Your Own Death
I unconsciously followed four transitional phases when recovering from alcoholism. At the time I was unaware of these stages, but with hindsight after reading Martha Beck’s book, she crisply illuminated this awkward and challenging journey. After I put her book down, in some ways I found an accommodation with AA’s Twelve Steps and felt I could awkwardly progress into sustained sobriety.
During the first phase, the shortest, I had to survive my own death. Here I had tried and failed so many times before. I once foolishly declared ten days free of alcohol as a helping hand to what I desperately wanted – lasting sobriety. I didn’t think as far as day 11, and floundered miserably, kicking myself as I nursed a massive hangover on day 12.
And so after sinking to unimaginable depths, I took the first bold step – admitting I was powerless over alcohol. Thus the start of the survival of my death glimmered hopefully. For me the first phase was fraught with so much uncertainty and the failure rate was so high, it called for extraordinary measures. “Do I love my family or do I love wine?” was a simple and yet profound question I asked myself. Because of the way things were going, there was room only enough for one. For me the answer was obvious, but I knew the execution would be difficult. I had a track record of several decades of failed attempts at sobriety and a successful outcome was not that obvious.
Believing in a Higher Power (step two) and turning over my drinking problem to Him (step three) was always going to be debateable. Sensibly I decided not to allow any deliberation about the existence of God to get in the way of my recovery. I rather put my faith in myself and took responsibility for my own actions. Wherever I could, I turned to fellow suffers and to those who had gone before me and succeeded for courage and compassion.
There are those, the chaos commandos, who choose to make a living in the first transition phase. For decades I was one of these. Always planning to get dry, always in week one of a month long programme. The New Year’s Resolutionary, never making it past day 10. Looking back, the first may be the shortest phase – but it was the hardest.