A Personal Note

Just learned this morning that a buddy of mine from the Army drank himself to death. This is a horrible way to die, and a worse way to live. If you think you have a problem, you probably do, and there is help out there. It’s easier for some than others, but there is help. Please get it. I’m coming up on five years sober this summer, and I simply can not imagine ever drinking again.

If you think you have a problem, please check here for help. I know there are a lot of Juicers (that sounds ironic) who have also had drinking problems who I am sure have lots of resources to offer in the comments. And if you just need someone to talk to, email me and I can give you my phone number.

87 replies
  1. 1
    satby says:

    Condolences John.
    And thank you for your support of others.

  2. 2
    Nancy says:

    Thank you for saying this. I’m saddened to read about your friend, about anyone in that place.
    Your honesty about your choices over the time I’ve been reading Balloon Juice–and I think of juicers with that double-edged meaning, too–anyway, your openness and honesty have been an inspiration to me, probably to others.
    Your humor has been fun, but, more important in this moment, the knowledge that someone else could make powerful change mattered to me. Still does.

  3. 3

    Shit, man, I don’t know what I’d do if I found out this happened to a friend of mine. I’m so sorry.

  4. 4
    Betty Cracker says:

    So sorry to hear about your friend. :(

    Also, what @Nancy said — sharing your struggles with humor and honesty has been more important to more people than you’ll probably ever realize.

  5. 5
    Mandarama says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend. I lost my dad to alcoholism when I was 17. He was only 45, younger than I am now.

    Thank you for reaching out to others.

  6. 6
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Sorry, John. Fuck alcohol. It killed my father, and nearly killed my son.

  7. 7
    CambridgeChuck says:

    For any Juicers struggling with alcohol, there is, in addition to AA, an effective secular, science-based mutual help program called SMART Recovery, which has helped me stay sober for over two years. Rather than saying we are powerless, SMART believes that people can be empowered to free themselves from their addictive behaviors. Rather than labeling ourselves (alcoholic, addict, drunk, junkie), we label our behaviors, which avoids stigmatizing and shaming people who are already hurting. Rather than faith, SMART offers tools and approaches based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI). For folks who are not near a regular SMART meeting there is a robust on-line community, including on-line meetings and 24-hour chat rooms. For a significant number of people with substance use disorders, 12-step programs are not the answer. SMART Recovery offers a useful choice for folks like that — like me! (Long-time lurker, first-time commenter.)

  8. 8
    zhena gogolia says:

    I’m very sorry.

  9. 9

    So sorry to hear about that.

    Ever since I quit drinking it’s amazing to see how many people there are for whom alcohol is a net negative…

  10. 10

    For those who may want help but are turned off by AA in particular 🙋‍♂️, that NIH site Cole links to has a helpful directory of other support groups:

    Moderation Management

    Secular Organizations for Sobriety

    SMART Recovery

    Women for Sobriety

    In the past I checked out SMART which seems to have some very good tools/methods/literature.

  11. 11
    Cermet says:

    I lost my brother to alcohol over ten years ago; it is a difficult drug to kick but for all those around you it is so worth the effort! The death is ugly and hidious besides the people that are so hurt by the lost. It takes a great deal of effort of you are so worth it regardless what you feel now. Try being sober for just a year and see how and what changes in your life and that the worse depression is lessened. Remember, depression is a disease and there are power aids to reduce it. Alcohol makes it own depression and will worsen even minor depression.

  12. 12
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @CambridgeChuck: Thanks for this. I attended an AA meeting with my son. After enduring a 30 soliloquy about how Jebus could save us all, I left in a silent fit of rage. Fuck religion. Save yourself.

  13. 13
    Punchy says:

    Best friend from college did this to himself a few years ago. Basically started drinking in college (like we all did) but then never shut it down after graduation. Saddest funeral Ive ever been to.

  14. 14
    Cermet says:

    I should add that for the vast majority of people, AA does not work at all – been proven in research studies following the people that attend. Get real help that is known to work.

  15. 15
  16. 16

    @A Ghost To Most: @Cermet: AA, just like religion, does work for a lot of people, many meetings are actually 90% secular, and simply meeting other people with the same problem (which the preponderance of meetings makes easy) can be a big help at the start.

  17. 17
    JPL says:

    John, I’m sorry to hear that. Congratulations to you though and I can’t believe it’s been almost five years.

  18. 18
    sherparick says:

    Thank you John for the message and condolences on the loss of your friend. Alcoholism runs thick in my family, so it has been a constant companion in my life and also friends from college. My Dad, who was a recovering alcoholic, had a good experience AA in the 1960s and 70s, and he once told me loved his group because they were the same kind of characters he liked to hang out with when drinking, but were now all sober. I suspect AA has been corrupted by Evangelical Christianity Inc., which has corrupted so many organizations the last 40 years.

  19. 19
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Someone I knew a long time back had been a binge drinker, getting clean and then backsliding big time, step and repeat. He went to what I presumed was Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during one “getting clean” episode but bailed. He said his family knew he drank, what he learned from the folks at AA confessing their tales of secret drinking was how to hide it better from those around them, the cheats and deceits they practiced to keep their job and look sober in company. He didn’t need to know that sort of shit, he told me.

    Last I heard of them (we’re not in contact any more) they had stopped with the bingeing. They were still willing to drink but only in company with folks who’d set limits and stop them going over the top. For them it seemed to be a workable halfway house, I don’t know how it lasted for them though.

  20. 20
    Quasi-Addict says:

    I think AA undeniably works for some, and not for others, which is one reason it has endured. It is a system of mutual support, which is what many people need. The “religious” tone varies widely by chapter — here in NYC, in the few 12-step meetings I’ve visited (for non-alcohol related addiction), the religious feeling modest to non-existent. I’m aware that some groups are explicitly Christian in their orientation, but many are committedly not so, and let “higher power” be something much more abstract and personal, including, potentially, just the human connection among those present itself. And furthermore, if one ends up embracing something “spiritual” as a means of beating their addition, is that harmful?

    I’m absolutely all for alternatives like SMART if that’s what’s going to work most effectively in overcoming one’s addiction, because I don’t believe in one size fits all. But I am chagrined to see AA denigrated by some here when it could potentially be of benefit, especially without incurring a financial strain. For someone with debilitating addiction to alcohol, AA is one of potentially several different ways to get help, and there is very little at stake by attending a meeting. The choice is always yours to go back, or not go back. In my experience, it is not the Jesus cult some make it out to be.

  21. 21
    kindness says:

    God bless your friend and you John. Having grown up in the 60’s/70’s I pretty much ran the mill of all the substances to abuse. Liked many of them but not enough to want to do them all the time. I think that saved me. Some of my peers wanted these new feelings all the time. Me, I liked it but I also liked being straight too. Oddball I am.

  22. 22
    Haroldo says:

    @Major Major Major Major: @A Ghost To Most: @Cermet:

    @A Ghost To Most: @Cermet: AA, just like religion, does work for a lot of people, many meetings are actually 90% secular, hand simply meeting other people with the same problem (which the preponderance of meetings makes easy) can be a big help at the start.

    As an atheist and recovering alcoholic, I’ve found that AA is quite useful for the reason M^4 mentioned – alcoholism’s mother’s milk is isolation; it’s imperative to talk with other folks about it. The more non-secular the meeting is, however, the more mental gymnastics I have to employ, the more theism-to-humanism translation I’ve got to use. But I’ve found it’s worth it. As always, YMMV.

    Thanks, M^4, for the listing of the other support groups.

  23. 23
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Any belief system based on magic is dangerous bullshit. The last 25 years are proof of that.

  24. 24
    raven says:

    @CambridgeChuck: Sound like Rational Recovery. I’m over 26 years and went to a couple of alcohol education programs and saw a shrink for a while. The shrink said “according to our criteria you are not an alcoholic”. Maybe that’s why I was able to put it down in one day after 30 years of drinking. I don’t buy the disease model but if it helps, go for it.

  25. 25
    Belafon says:

    My grandfather was found in a creek when I was six months old. There was some debate over whether he died from the alcohol first and then rolled into the creek, or passed out from the alcohol, rolled into the creek, and drowned. It sucks that some people feel it’s all they can turn to.

  26. 26

    @Quasi-Addict: AA can be very helpful especially as a first step (har)!

    What made me stop going wasn’t Jesus, it was that AA preaches powerlessness to a liquid which only an external power can save you from. Mystical thinking and self-denigration are not things I find helpful. SMART and others are more about giving you therapeutic tools, which I do find helpful.

    I have read the big book; I did not need anybody else telling me how terrible a person I am.

    ETA I should note that they didn’t make me get too much into bible study big book textual discussion until around step 4.

  27. 27
    raven says:

    @Major Major Major Major: You know what helps me? I think booze makes people fucking stupid. So far that has not influenced anyone I know, including my wife, to quit but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  28. 28
    low-tech cyclist says:

    So sorry to hear about your friend, John. It’s awful when addiction gets its tentacles into someone you know, and even worse when it ends like this.

    @Major Major Major Major: Props for posting those links. Plenty of people aren’t into a Higher Power of any sort, and would rather not have to hear that sort of talk that is more of a hindrance than a help to them as they wrestle with their addiction.

    Even though I’m a Jesus freak myself, there are far too many alleged Christians whose God talk gives me hives, so I can relate to the antipathy of someone who’s entirely secular.

  29. 29
    Feathers says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I am not disagreeing that it helps many people, but systems must be judged by how they succeed, but how they fail. Not only does AA not work for over 90% of the people who try it, but because its adherents believe so strongly that AA is what saved them, and the only thing that could have saved them, they actively fight against medically proven protocols for fighting addiction. Also, the concept that there will be some special magic to get you cured when you “reach rock bottom” is truly ugly and against everything we know about treatment for any other medical or psychological condition. Treating addiction (and obesity) as moral failures has lost us a century of medical advances.

    John, sorry for the rant. My sister’s husband’s father was a Marine who drank himself to death while his children were still young. Bro-in-law is a great guy, but I can see the damage alcohol has done to three generations of that family. Condolences.

  30. 30
    Nicole says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend and so grateful to you for sharing your journey (and congrats on almost 5 years sober). Like many here, I grew up surrounded by alcoholics, including my dad. He dried out a little over a year before he died (he was able to give up the alcohol but not the cigarettes, unfortunately, and died suddenly in his sleep, likely of a stroke or heart attack). It was terrible to lose him, just as we were beginning to believe that sobriety was the new normal for him, but those of us who loved him were able to let go of so much of our anger about the past during that year that we had him sober. It was the best gift he could leave behind for us all.

    My uncle, who has been dry for almost 35 years now, often said that part of the problem alcoholics have is that they convince themselves they are only hurting themselves, because they really just can’t see what the drinking does to those around them.

    And props to all of the different options being talked about here. Addiction is an illness, and like other illnesses, figuring out the most effective treatments is a learning curve, including grasping that treating addiction may not be as simple as a matter of willpower. I think what’s effective definitely varies person to person. I remember talking to someone who said, “Remember, the brain is still an organ, albeit one that was smart enough to name itself.”

  31. 31

    @raven: I quit drinking when I truly wanted to, which gave me a big leg up over a lot of people. I think my real problem was untreated bipolar disorder which sobriety freed me up to focus on. My problem was never “really” booze. AA tends to dwell on what for many people is a symptom. YMMV

  32. 32
    raven says:

    @Feathers: I think that is very important.

  33. 33
    raven says:

    @Major Major Major Major: We decided that I’m so fucking wired that I drank to slow down to be with people.

  34. 34
    Just One More Canuck says:

    You’re a good man, John

  35. 35

    @raven: Wild!

    @Feathers: I’m trying not to denigrate it too much in case somebody reading decides there isn’t an alternative nearby so they’ll just go to no support group at all. That said, one must evaluate the high AA failure rate in the context of court mandated attendance and such. Agreed about AA central’s terrible stance on medical intervention.

  36. 36
    Quasi-Addict says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Yeah, the powerlessness idea was a turn off for me too, and probably one of the reasons I didn’t stay with the program I was I in (Debtors Anonymous). But I also, if you will, saw the “power” of the idea of a surrrender-and-manage strategy, unappealing as it was to the ego, In the same sense that once you accept that you have a chronic condition that it is futile to try to defeat or eradicate, you can start thinking differently about how you’re going to keep it from disabling you.

    I too would be more attracted to “rational” methods if I felt the need but hell I still go to temple sometimes and pray to God, whatever that is. I also go in for some woo woo shit if it strikes the right chords. I have a certain space and room for non-rationality that I know others do not. (I mean, I think love is essentially irrational magic.)

    I never actually felt the “I’m such a bad person” vibe — just an I’ve got problems and I can’t solve them alone vibe. I wonder whether being in a non-alcohol 12-step inherently abstracted some of the “sinner” component, since it’s not like they make a different Big Book for that; you have to translate, which makes it less immediate.

    Overall, I still remain someone moved that small groups of individuals all over the world have made a commitment to helping one another anonymously. I think it’s profound, if (obviously) not the right thing for everybody, including for the reasons you mentioned.

    Agreed compleletly re risk of AA dwelling on a symptom as opposed to root cause.

  37. 37
    delk says:

    Someone has got to be in that 10% .

    Alcoholism is too devastating to badmouth any form of treatment.

  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: When I tended bar, I never had more than one drink while I worked, if that. It was eye opening. I described it at the time as “the nicest people walked in, and they turned into total assholes”.

  39. 39
    Wapiti says:

    @raven: I do most of the cooking and shopping for me and my wife. We have one drink, either beer or wine, at dinner. Alcohol is often 1/4 to 1/3 of our grocery tab; a $12 bottle of wine dwarfs the veggies selling at $2-3 a pound. So yeah, I often think that it’s a stupid and wasteful habit.

  40. 40
    Quasi-Addict says:

    @delk: Preach. And 10% of a whole lot is still a lot, and the loose structure of the program probably yields a very high attrition rate. I’d be curious to know the success rate for those who stick it out (attend meetings, get a sponsor, etc) for 3-6 months rather than including everyone who’s ever attended a meeting as an indication of AA’s ineffectiveness. Also, I have no doubt that some chapters are probably much better than others, in terms of both format and people in it.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    cope says:

    I feel bad about your friend, any preventable death is especially hard.

    I drank long and hard for 50 years and I was good at it. Then, about six months ago, I quit. It just seemed to be time. I have several different answers for why I quit depending on the audience.

    Flip answer: I drank for 50 years and now I want to try 50 years without drinking.

    Politically incorrect answer: I want to live long enough to see Donald Trump dead from natural causes, buried, the earth over his grave salted. Since he is only a couple of years older than I am, I wanted to increase my likelihood of living that long.

    Real answer: my grand kids are at the age I was when my memories started to really gel and I want them to grow up having known me well.

  43. 43
    Yarrow says:

    So sorry about your friend, John. Lost a family member in that way and it was so devastating.

  44. 44
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Betty Cracker: Thirded. Sorry to hear about your friend, JC – it is a shitty way to die, and we are all so glad you made the choice to get help yourself, as well as inspire others to do so.

  45. 45
    Barbara says:

    @raven: Perhaps even more pernicious, it makes you objectively less smart (if not outright stupid) even as it makes you believe and feel that you are smarter, more powerful, clever, etc. Which is why it’s really, really hard for sober people to be around drunk (or high) people for any length of time.

    John, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s just so sad that someone so young lost his life to such a degrading and pointless pathology.

  46. 46
    Barbara says:

    @Feathers: I am not an addict, but I always felt that the “reaching rock bottom” language was really more about the mindset of the addict — that THEY need to feel that they have reached rock bottom such that they acknowledge that alcohol is destroying their life, rather than being helpful or enjoyable in whatever way that they rationalize their drinking. In other words, that it is not enough for people around them to tell them things are falling apart and prove it by pointing to objective evidence — but the addict really has to internalize the fact that things are falling apart.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend, John.

    Very wise and humane thoughts on a problem which affects many people and families.

  48. 48
    tamiasmin says:

    @delk: Thank you, delk, for a simple and sensible comment. I am happy for any alcoholic who gets sober in AA, as I did, and equally happy for one who achieves sobriety in any other way. It is a good thing, not a bad, that there are multiple resources. A wrench for every nut, as they say.

  49. 49
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: At a mexican restaurant/ bar. The name was Chimi Durangos, I think. I tended bar for a year after I finished grad school. My mom was dying and I was going back and forth a lot to Chicago, so it didn’t make sense to try to get a job in my field.

  50. 50
    Nicole says:


    I know I get much dumber, though. Much, much dumber. It’s probably one of the reasons I drink in the first place. I get tired of all the fucking chatter upstairs; I’d rather just be dumb and in the moment, sloshing it up with the friends and newcomers around me without my usual self-consciousness.

    I recognize myself in this. On the bright side, I only like drinking socially (never solo), so I don’t do it often.

  51. 51
    Aleta says:

    @Nancy: Well said. Thanks for putting that into words so skillfully.

  52. 52
    rikyrah says:

    Sorry about your friend, Cole😪😢

  53. 53
    Aleta says:

    @CambridgeChuck: Thanks very much for the info. It may be useful if a 45 yr old family member someday decides to consider options.

  54. 54
    cmorenc says:

    My father was a very talented doctor whose career and life were heavily dented by alchoholism, and my paternal grandfather was himself an alcoholic. I count myself very lucky that I didn’t inherit that inclination, and have always been able to effortlessly go weeks or months without any inclination or desire to drink – a few beers will sit for weeks in our refrigerator, until finally we have someone over and I’ll knock down one or two with our guests, and then go weeks more before the next one. But enduring my father’s alcoholism did dent and inhibit my own personality growing up in ways that I’m only now understanding. An alcoholic damages not just his or her-self, but damagingly impinges on everyone close around them.

  55. 55
    CambridgeChuck says:

    @raven: In 1994 SMART Recovery evolved out of Rational Recovery when RR became a for-profit treatment center and SMART emerged as a non-profit mutual-help network of groups. There are now 3,000 SMART meetings in 26 countries, all with trained volunteer facilitators. Various studies have shown that AA and SMART have similar positive outcome rates for participants who attend regularly: in other words, these programs work for the people they work for. Choice is a key element in successful recovery, and coercion is recovery’s enemy.

  56. 56
    Tinare says:

    So sorry to hear that. That is awful.

  57. 57
    Doug Gardner says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I went to meetings for a couple of years (gratefully sober for 12 years now), and I had a similar reaction to the “higher power” bit. I got some insight from hearing just how many people from various life circumstances have fallen into this hole, but after a while, I found the dogmatic approach un-helpful.

    Thanks to John and all of you fellow jackals for your honesty on this site about things that involve real personal pain. You may not know that your comments have an impact, but you all help me in myriad ways.

  58. 58
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    @CambridgeChuck: @Major Major Major Major:
    Thanks you two!

    These are excellent alternatives to AA, which, quite frankly and contrary to conventional wisdom is NOT the most effective program for most alcoholics.

    If more treatment programs and healthcare providers employed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Moderation/Harm Reduction, Motivational Interviewing and other research-supported interventions in their treatment plans our country wouldn’t have the numbers of people struggling with alcohol and other addictions. Unfortunately,

  59. 59
    FelonyGovt says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend, John. Thanks for this.

  60. 60
    Barbara says:

    @cmorenc: Doctors are at much higher risk of alcoholism and substance abuse than the average person. I am sure a lot of it is the heavy, solitary responsibility that is the sine qua non of the job.

  61. 61
    WaterGirl says:

    @Barbara: I have to wonder if the crazy, abusive hours they work as interns and residents aren’t part of the equation. I imagine they learn to self medicate to get through that, and then it’s just part of their repertoire as they go through life.

  62. 62
    Pogonip says:

    Condolences, Cole.

  63. 63
    Leto says:

    I’m sorry about your friend, John. I’m glad you got help. I’ve thought, and discussed quite a bit, about drinking and military culture. When you were coming through, drinking was still a big thing. By contrast, basically all of my service was marked by anti-drinking campaigns, to the point of, even if you were tertiarily involved in an alcohol related incident (ARI), your career was destroyed. The pendulum swung way too far in the anti direction, but overall I feel there’s been more positive than negative involved.

    Again, so sorry about your friend.

  64. 64
    Cermet says:

    @Major Major Major Major: No, AA does not work for the vast majority of people. There are real programs that really help and they are based on sound science. Yes, a large number get off alcohol who happen to attend AA but compared to the total number, it is very small and inferior to results for programs based on sound principles. Facts are facts – AA does not really work. Wish it did but it doesn’t. Is it better than no program? Maybe.

  65. 65
    MSB says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, John, though delighted to hear that your 5th sober year is coming up.
    There have been so many drunks in my family that, when you shake my family tree, empty bottled rain out of it. In the current generation, AA and Al-Anon have worked well, but I hope anybody with a drinking problem accesses a program that works for them.
    Thanks to the juicers sharing their sobriety stories.

  66. 66


    No, AA does not work for the vast majority of people.

    Didn’t say that it did.

  67. 67
    West of the Cascades says:

    I’m so sorry about your friend, John. I’d echo Leto and Barbara but w/r/t lawyer and sports supporter culture (specifically soccer in my case). Drinking is still often either something one is pressured to do, or that is so automatic it’s ingrained in every social interaction so that people automatically grab that second or third (or fifth) drink. My girlfriend pointed out to me that 15 drinks a week, including four or five at a soccer match, is not “moderate” drinking — it’s still problematic and unhealthy. I’m grateful to her, as I went off drinking for a couple of months, and now back to an occasional drink, about four per week for the last month, usually accompanying meals.

    I had never considered the possibility I was an alcoholic (my immediate family was not afflicted, although my grandfathers on both sides – whom I never knew – were reputed to have drunk excessively). Taking time off, discussing it with my counselor and friends, I’m fairly sure I’m not, and feel more empathy for those who do have to deal with alcoholism. At the same time, I’m now determined to do what I can moving forward to (a) limit my own drinking to true “moderation” and (b) do what I can to change the cultures I spend time socializing in, e.g. by making sure that social events are a “safe” space for people who choose not to consume alcohol. I organize social events for a section of the (unfortunately named) Bar association, and intend to make sure more, and more tasty, non-alcoholic options are available as well as encouraging people to make careful decisions about whether they drink, and emphasize that not drinking alcohol is socially acceptable. Something like 32% of lawyers under the age of 30 self-report “problematic” drinking … that number has to come down, for their sake and the sake of society.

    Having a bloghost who has been so honest about drinking and depression, and a compassionate commenter community around both issues, is a huge additional support to both of these goals. Thanks to all of you.

  68. 68
    JaneE says:

    So sorry for your loss.

  69. 69
    Middlelee says:

    John, I am so sorry about the loss of your friend.
    HipSobriety.com is a great site for women. It’s secular. The owner of the site went to AA and came away to create something that works for people who don’t like having to think they are powerless and who aren’t interest in turning their life over to a “higher power.” She articulates so much of my own thinking. I was in AA for three years, got sober and stayed sober for 18. Drank for 15 or 20 years (no longer a falling down asshole drunk but still not my favorite person) and Feb. 1, 2018 I quit again. This time I had the support of friends, my sangha, a firm knowledge of what I want life to look like (within what I can control), and women like Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety to provide guideposts.
    I find not drinking easier than drinking-while-attempting-to-stay rational, civil, and an adult member of society. I save money, I wake up with a clear head, I’ve lost weight, I am no longer depressed (a naturopath, therapist, diet, and sleep helped), and I’m actually cheerful most of the time.
    Life is not only good, for me it’s so much better without alcohol.

  70. 70
    Ruckus says:

    Welcome. Come anytime.
    That sounds like a great program, things that actually help.
    As I’ve said here before I was able to just stop on my own, but for many people that isn’t a possibility.

  71. 71
    PAM Dirac says:


    Not only does AA not work for over 90% of the people who try it, but because its adherents believe so strongly that AA is what saved them, and the only thing that could have saved them, they actively fight against medically proven protocols for fighting addiction.

    There must be some REALLY big differences in different chapters/facilities. Our son was crashing badly and we got him into an in patient program. It was 30 days and there was a 5 day program for family members. I doubt I would have been able to to last the 5 days if it was all Jesus all the time, but don’t think the word “Jesus” was ever used and there was only one prayer the whole time. There were plenty of presentations on clinical evidence and biochemistry and I never heard any hint that there were programs or protocols that should be avoided. I had no problem or pushback interpreting “higher power” as family, friends, community and the “powerless” came off to me as warning that you had to get out of the addiction cycle, you couldn’t beat it or trick it, not that you had no control over anything. It was also made clear that recovery is a continuing process. We have a year long follow up program that includes daily testing for our son, once a week counseling sessions for our son, once every two weeks for us, and once a month for all of us. So far it has made a huge positive impact for our son. We fully realize that our privilege enabled us to afford to pay the considerable expense. It was also the fact that our daughter works in addiction counseling that enabled us to know which facilities have the best track record. Far too few of the people that need it have the knowledge and resources to get the best treatment and fixing that is far and away the highest priority.

  72. 72
    Barbara says:

    @West of the Cascades: ISTM that drinking has become more not less ingrained into the cultural spaces of those under 30 than it was when I was in that age cohort. It’s hard to prove, of course, but the incidence of “binge drinking” has apparently escalated, so that even people who are not necessarily impelled to drink are more likely to drink to excess when they do drink. When I read the in-depth articles on the sexual assaults that have become notorious, I am always shocked at the amount of liquor being consumed on all sides. It’s not an excuse, but I still find it shocking when I realize that someone drank more — especially hard liquor — in a single night than I likely would in any given six month period.

  73. 73
    Fair Economist says:

    So sorry for your buddy, John.

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    Ruckus says:

    Agree. 10% is a lot bigger than none.
    My only exception is that if there are no other ways then that one way has to work a lot better, if that is at all possible. And it’s obvious that there are other ways that work far better. JC is an example, as are many here. But if it works for some, always add it to the list.

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    Ruckus says:


    Choice is a key element in successful recovery, and coercion is recovery’s enemy.

    This needs to be repeated often and loud.
    Take all the stories told here today. Everyone has the person hitting their own bottom and making a decision. Most need help of one sort or another to take that decision to the desired conclusion but every one started with that decision, mine included.

  76. 76
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    Jeez, almost 5 years already? Time flies.

    Another alternative to AA, for those who can’t stomach the God-bothering, is Refuge Recovery. I mean, if you’re totally allergic to anything that smells the least bit “spiritual” it still might not be for you. It’s based on the application of Buddhist teachings, but that’s not the same thing as Buddhism, so you don’t have to believe anything other than “this might work” and you get your results empirically.

    Most meeting attendees in Sunny S. Fla. seem to be dealing with opioid addiction, but the lessons are general.

  77. 77
    Ruckus says:

    Alcohol was the bane of the military when raven and I were in. And yet on base after base the clubs were there to serve extremely cheap drinks. When I was stationed at Great Lakes, I could easily get drunk regularly on what I got paid. And there wasn’t much of anything else to actually do. Most of us didn’t have a car, it was winter north of Chicago, I don’t recall the club ever checking ID, so as long as one showed up for tech school the next day……. And it was like that every where I was ever stationed. The number of drunks manufactured in the military was amazing.

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    J R in WV says:

    JOhn, Sorry about your buddy. A terrible way to go, as you said.

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    beabea says:

    My condolences on the loss of your buddy, John. I hope you’re able to find some comfort in the thought of how many you’ve helped by publicly sharing your own struggle and your sober life that came from that struggle.

    I remember the bewilderment and fear as my brother repeatedly quit drinking, relapsed, and bottomed out. But as others have said, something led him to the decision to quit for good. After a days-long bender, he decided to get out of his apartment and go to the place my other brother and I had found, the Kaiser-Permanente Chemical Dependency Recovery Program. He wouldn’t even let my brother in, or answer our calls so we just kept texting him the info at https://thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/care-near-you/northern-california/sanfrancisco/departments/addiction-medicine/
    We had no idea what he was going to do. Worst helpless feeling ever, though I’m sure nothing compared to the hell he was going through. But he made the decision to reach for sobriety and seek the help he needed to get there. It will be four years on Sept. 1.

  80. 80

    I’m sorry about your friend.

    And if you just need someone to talk to, email me and I can give you my phone number.

    You are a quality human, Cole, and your post and this comment thread is why this site is a daily read.

  81. 81
    Feathers says:

    @PAM Dirac: I’m glad your son found the help he needed. It can be helpful to some.

    The issue is that it is not supported by any evidence that it meets the standards that we would require for a modern medical treatment. However, the 12 step model is what almost all of our treatment centers and outpatient therapy are based on. The addiction treatment industry is fighting calls to use medically indicated treatment protocols whenever they are proposed. Some of the issue is that treatment centers tend to be staffed by ex-addicts who do not have the formal training that a newer generation of treatment options would necessarily require. So there is a robust entrenched workforce that would probably not successfully make the transition to a more modern model. Your daughter is probably well aware of how much useless treatment there is.

    What is truly critical is to remove opiate addiction from 12 step programs. The model does not work, and unlike alcohol, relapses are frequently deadly. We have proven medical treatment that keeps people alive. The 12 step community fights against it, claiming it only replaces one addiction with another. But it keeps people alive. Which the go cold turkey and try not to relapse does not. Their lobbying is a big part of the reason that there are so many restrictions on prescribing doctors.

    This is much like the obesity fight. Despite all the evidence that people are actually more likely to gain weight than lose it after undertaking a “diet”, diet and exercise are what passes for treatment, because the 5% of people who succeed are apparently all that matters.

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    SmallAxe says:

    I’m sorry for your loss John. Thank you for being so upfront about all this. It helped me reevaluate where I was at a few years ago.

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    Jazzman says:

    I think AA gets a bad rap. It’s helped many more people than it has turned off (a few of these are personal friends, and most of them still attend meetings regularly or whenever they feel the need).
    One of the most moving things the late Chicago film critic Roger Ebert ever wrote was his account of coming to terms with his alcoholism and discovering AA: My Name is Roger, and I’m an Alcoholic. He freely admits AA may not be right for everybody, but “it’s there if you need it.” It was a great success for him, and definitely worth reading.

  84. 84
    ruemara says:

    My deepest condolences to you, JC. Alcohol is a hard monster to fight and the way drink is presented as a normal thing to turn to after a hard situation, that doesn’t help.

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    Johannes says:

    My sincere condolences, John.

    For what it’s worth, AA is what worked for me.

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    Jean King says:

    My little sister drank herself to death, and it was the most agonizing death I can imagine. I thought, as I witnessed her suffering on the last day of her life, that it should be filmed and shown at AA meetings and alcohol education classes. I think it would be an effective deterrent.

  87. 87
    wenchacha says:

    My condolences for your loss, John. Alcoholism is rotten to the people who live with it. A good friend of mine is struggling with it right now. She has had a life of sorrows, including the loss .of an adult child to gun violence. There is so much pain and anger and self-loathing, all in one beautiful generous funny woman. It is a beast.

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