Until We Change Who We Are Through Moral Action, There Is No Recovery

Drugs and alcohol are just a side-show. We are not getting better from drug and alcohol addiction but from the person we have become. We become addicts through selfish action, so we logically recover through unselfish action.


Charlie, You speak the truth. Your message and approach is spot on. I recently read your two books and many of your blog posts. I’m an alcoholic who just got sober a month ago. I’m in A.A. and working the steps. I’m 38 years old, married, father of two with a good career, but have been an immature and selfish person my whole life. I got to the point where I couldn’t stand the person I had become. I hated myself for being such a weak person in many areas of my life. I let fear, misguided resentments, and self seeking behavior rule my life. I love how you lay out a plan of ACTION. I’m jumping in and giving the steps my all. I’m figuring it out as I go, but I’m moving forward. I have no interest in just sitting around in meetings without advancing through the steps with purpose and urgency. I understand that what I want is on the other side of the necessary actions that are uncomfortable and intimidating. I’ve reconnected locally with an old timer with 25 years of sobriety who is a no BS guy to help me with questions and to give me some guidance when needed. But I know it’s on me to take the right action. Let me know if there are any groups/people you recommend I connect with too. I live in Southern CA but like to meet as many like minded people as I can. I wish you all the best man. And thanks for telling it like it is. It’s a breath of fresh air and it’s just the truth. It really resonated with me and got me going down the right path. -Cole


Bless you for reaching out, Cole. This line of yours is well said and refreshing… “I understand that what I want is on the other side of the necessary actions that are uncomfortable and intimidating.” As Neale Donald Walsh said, “Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.” Couldn’t be more true.

Glad to hear you have started to not simply walk the other way, but run. There is no time to waste.

The idea of continuing to coddle oneself or to be coddled by some phony Tx center counselor or some member of the modern watered-down AA will not only lead to failure, but is quite the wrong message to send to the man or woman who has spent a life remaining in their comfort zone like a coward or a child.

I remember something I was told long ago by some a typical, soft AA guy who basically said,

“Just chill man, don’t beat yourself up, bro. Don’t even worry about the Steps for at least a couple years if not longer. You just do you, the steps can wait, take it easy.”

If I listened to that sort of nonsense, I’d most likely be dead.

Or how about the slogan,

“Sit down, shut up and wait for a miracle to happen.”

The perfect antithesis of recovery and getting better is sitting and waiting. The addict has spent a lifetime walking the wrong way, putting his or her comfort and selfishness before anything or anyone else, and at the expense of so many. Why on Earth would we continue to placate the alcoholic and coddle him in recovery as if he is some sort of victim, which he is not? The notion that addicts and alcoholics are victims is delusional. Why would we tell an alcoholic, who has caused endless heartache and destruction, that his drinking and using is not his fault? Why would we let the alcoholic off the hook by telling him that he was born with or caught an involuntary disease, or that there is some external reason why he drinks and uses such as his childhood, his circumstances, his feelings, his genes? Not only is that a lie, but it perpetuates the very attitude that has brought him down to begin with. We do not wake up one day with addiction, nor are we born with it. This is completely absurd and stands against every measurement of logic or reason.

The truth?

We consciously chose to drink and use drugs like an absolute fucking pig until we finally broke our minds and our willpower. The process of “losing choice” is very much a choice. And even then, most do not understand this concept. The loss of willpower and conscience is temporary and can be restored. To restore one’s willpower requires choice, and thus the idea that we have no choice in drinking and using is a dangerous lie. If there is no choice, then how do you explain recovered people? If there is no choice, then how is it that I no longer suffer from alcoholism and addiction? It’s been over 15 years and I repel drugs and alcohol as spiritual poison to the same degree now as ever, if not more.

So you are spot on, Cole. We must not simply achieve physical sobriety and then pat ourselves on the back. We cannot show off and tell war stories in meetings and act like we are somehow different, special or unique from everybody else. We are not. Everybody in the world suffers, everybody has awful feelings, everybody has bad days… it’s just that most people don’t act like an infant, drink like a fish, use drugs like a garbage disposal, skip work, burn bridges, break promises, blame others, whine, complain, lie, deceive, cheat, steal and stab everyone around us in the heart. They don’t have outbursts and fly into a rage when they feel bored or irritated or don’t get their way. Addiction does not make us different. Addiction means we have chosen the easy way out – the way of the coward.

And so as far as recovery goes, drugs and addiction are just a sideshow. Recovery is not about hanging on by a thread. Why? Because the entire point of recovery is not bringing our pathological focus on self and our narcissism into sobriety. What is the point of achieving sobriety if we remain preoccupied with ourselves and how we feel? If time passes and you still need to go to ten meetings a day and you still obsess about drinking 24/7, what kind of man are you… what kind of program is that? You are simply continuing to neglect your family and those who need you, those you have stolen from for so many years. They expect and deserve that you change fundamentally and get better. That means that you do not think about drinking anymore. That means that you have taken enough action to induce a fundamental psychic change and repair your broken mind back to sanity thus ridding yourself of the obsession to drink and use drugs. That means you can think about others and respond to their needs. That means you can be the father, spouse, brother or son that they deserve but never got.

Remember always that who and what you become in life is a direct result of what you do, of the conscious, deliberate actions you take. So if you have become a selfish addict, it is because you have acted selfishly and used drugs to the point of addiction. If you take spiritual, moral action, you will come to naturally repel drugs and alcohol as spiritual poison and you will become a good person who has a conscience and actively seeks to do the right thing. Anyone with a restored conscience should be incapable of relapsing simply because they know how wrong it is to use and hurt others. So anyone who has recovered and relapsed has committed a moral failure. Regardless of what you believe, that is the truth.

If you have become a fully blown alcoholic or addict, you will need to replace your addiction with something equally unselfish. You will need to develop a spiritual life. You will need God. No, He does not do all the work. But if you take right action everyday, all day, He will give you the power you need and He will conspire to bring you the opportunities you need. He will direct your will. He will never bring you anything that you cannot handle. And if you want God more than you want alcohol or drugs, you have solved your problem. You will come to hate alcohol. You will no longer have any obsession to use. You will have no desire to self-destruct. You will only want to grow and serve. You can purposely think about drinking and drugs and they will have no power over you.

And finally, remember that we do not deserve a trophy for getting sober and recovering. We deserve no credit just because we stopped hurting people. We deserve no awards or recognition for ceasing to be an active addict when it was wrong to become an addict to begin with. We mutate ourselves into alcoholics and addicts. There is nothing to blame for who and what we are but ourselves and our selfish actions. The sooner we realize this truth, the sooner we can begin to get better, become honest and develop a conscience. We can not effect real and lasting change without changing the person we are. And yes, we are selfish and yes, we failed morally. There is no getting around any of that. And if our problem is spiritual and moral, than so must be our solution. If we became addicts via selfish action, than we become sane and free via unselfish action.

Anyway, I wish I could recommend groups and sponsors in your area, but I’m afraid I have no contacts in that region. That said, I will reach out to some recovered guys I know to see if they have any contacts your way. What part of CA are you in? Feel free to email me anytime about any specific questions you may have about the Step process.

I always tell any guys I have worked with: The better you want to get and the better you want to feel, the more action you will take. The quality of your condition is directly proportional to the amount of action you take.

Keep doing the work, Cole. I promise you, it gets better and better.

God Bless you.


One thought on “Until We Change Who We Are Through Moral Action, There Is No Recovery

  1. I am so grateful to have found your site. As a professional counselor, I specialize in treating partner trauma, related to life with addicts (mainly sexual…but as you know, addictions generally co-occur, and alcoholism is often a major player too). Your take on the all-or-nothingness of true recovery and it’s spiritual crux are dead on; I’ve seen it over and again in my practice. I’ll be directing spouses/partners of addicts here often. What an enlightening, no-nonsense gift your writings are! Please keep it up.

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