Insights To The 12 Steps: Breaking The Barriers To Recovery By Letting Go Of Old Ideas

by Chris Freeman

“Someday he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it.” – BB, A Vision For You, p.152

As this journal of my recovery is laid out, my hope is to bring awareness and understanding to those who lives have been “Ravaged”, like mine has been, from the demise of addiction, and to offer a great hope that recovery is very possible no matter what your past, present or future circumstances may be. Recovery and a life free from the bonds of alcohol and drugs is real and attainable, no matter what!

I wish to help just “ONE” and maybe that “ONE” is you, or someone you love. Read my story and know that even the very worst of addicts and alcoholics can and do recover, as I have.

First, I must qualify myself, so I am not to be misinterpreted and labeled as a realistic or sane individual. I am quite assuredly and certifiably not all here, or not all there. I have no degrees of any importance nor hold any specific certifications. I cannot attest to achieving anything that you would say was great or estimable.

I am a recovered drug addict/alcoholic. In the language of the new standards, I would be described as a person in long-term recovery from substance abuse disorder. I try not to place labels and separate myself into one particular class or another.
I define myself as someone who “drank like a junkie and shot dope like a drunk” – into oblivion.

From the very first time I drank and used, what I felt to be the answer to my problems, ended up becoming a curse that would never be solved, never ever. I was only 11 years old. I had taken that first step into manhood, or so I thought. As I reflect back on the event I realize that it could not have been any different. I was a drunk just waiting for my first drink, a junkie waiting for my first hit.

At first I felt the release of my burdens, frustrations, and fear. Then as time went on my need for the pressure venting substances became overwhelming and required. For me to feel any connection and peace I had to drink and use. The delusions of my twisted reality have become normal and wanted, a desire for change.

By the time I was 13 years old, addiction and alcoholism had taken hold of my body, mind, and soul. I became 100% completely engaged in addiction. The thoughts of using became my primary focus and I began to plan and design my day to day life around them. From the moment of waking up, my true motivation for proceeding with the day’s activities was that of – “When was I going to get high?”

Every relationship, with friends and family members, became one of deceit and dishonesty. The lying, cheating, stealing and manipulating became a constant behavioral characteristic of my personality. I only wished to do what I wanted to do and nothing else. Driven by the “Monster’s Grip” I started destroying every chance at having a, so called, normal life. The constant thoughts of more, more, more rang in my head without any let-up.

Over the course of the following 37 years every day, that one singular thought, “When was I going to use or drink”, stayed constant. Even during the times of abstinence, which there were many, the thought remained constant and incessant.
The book, Alcoholics Anonymous refers to me directly. It states on page 24, in the chapter, There Is A Solution –

“At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected.”

It goes on with more – “When this sort of thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human aid, and unless locked up, may die or go permanently insane. These stark and ugly facts have been confirmed by legions of alcoholic throughout history. But for the grace of God, there would have been thousands more convincing demonstrations. So many want to stop but cannot.”

So, back to my opening statement,

“Someday he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it.”

Here was my dilemma – I could not imagine my life going on, drinking and using, and I could not vision myself as someone who would stay sober and never drink and use again. Even while working on staying clean and sober, I failed to remove this idea, and for all those years I continued to fail.

The first barrier to my recovery was the idea that I could stop and stay stopped, forever. This is one of the questions that was asked to new people coming into the program.

We can read it on page 90, Working With Others –

“Then let his family or friend ask him if he wants to quit for good and all.”

Of course, I wanted to quit, but the idea of “for good and all”; that was a bit too much for me to conceive.

I was not understanding of what all the good people were saying. Statements like, “You never have to take another drink for as long as you live.”

There were countless times that I wanted to stop the madness. But I was unaware of what alcoholism really was. What I have come to know as alcoholism is, is that it does the most damage to us while abstinent.

The book describes this well, More About Alcoholism, page 34 –

“This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it – the utter inability to leave it alone no matter how great the necessity or wish.”

There Is A Solution, page 17 –

“If when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely….”

What this is saying is that even when I want to stop drinking for good and all I can’t. That is my experience, I could quit drinking, but not quit drinking entirely. I could stop but I just could not stay stopped. Permanent recovery from the booze-driven insanity and drug-fueled psychoses was impossible for me to attain.

I could not wish it away or want it away. I had many reasons to never drink again, consequences and negative outcomes. But then came that day of my transformation.

The day when I finally let go of my old ideas and replaced with the new idea that I could recover and live my life free, things changed. All my life I had been hearing people talk of living life in a recovered state, happy, content and grateful.

I explain it as the BigBook reads, How It Works, page 58 –

“Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.”

You might say that I had finally come to believe it was possible for me to do the same. I could imagine my life without drinking or drugging. As is stands I have remained in that state of grace since. I can’t yet explain why I was given the gift of mercy and saved from a certain and horrible ending, all I do know is that it did happen. I also am convinced that anyone can recover as I have.

If you relate to my story and cannot yet imagine your future being free from ever taking another drink or using another drug, please speak with someone who does know and understand what it is. Let us help you through you own barriers to recovery. There are hundreds of thousands of us in our world today that were once as hopeless as I was and now live life free from the devastation of alcohol and drug addiction.

Thanks and until we meet again, Chris Freeman.


If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction and are seeking treatment, we would love to talk with you and see how we can help you. PLEASE CALL (855) 430-9426. Our counselors are available to guide you through the process.

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