How to Stay Sober

Don’t Drink.

I should stop there. I’ve been in A.A. a long damn time and that’s really all I know. I’ve been listening to other people the whole time and they don’t know any more than that. That’s all, folks! For all you smart people, you’ll be able to extrapolate everything you need to know from those two words. Only the stupid people need examples and illustrations and specifics. So I should stop right now, because there’s no stupid people here, right? Book’s over, folks!

That’s what’s great about stupid people: You can insult them all you want because no one will admit they’re in that group. He’s talking about someone else, not us! Someone else is going to die of this disease – not us – because we’re smart, right?


I hear some stupid sayings in A.A. meetings:

“To stay sober you have to really need it!”
“You have to really want it!”
“You have to do it for yourself!”
“You have to have faith in God!”
“You have to work the steps with a sponsor”
“You have to give it away to keep it”
“Meeting makers make it!”

Shut the fuck up! I don’t mind that you’re stupid – I’m used to it – but please don’t give people advice that will kill them. If you don’t know what you’re talking about just stop talking. Maybe your sobriety is contingent on these things; mine isn’t. Further, not one of these suggestions is in the Big Book, so don’t pretend you’re “Mr. A.A.”!

Don’t ever tell someone they have to do something in A.A. to stay sober. Some of them just can’t. If they believe you they’ll go out drinking again and they might die. Not on my watch! We can meet them where they are.

I happen to know (not think or believe or have heard) from personal experience that all of the above is bullshit. For you to say it isn’t possible just because you couldn’t do it is the height of egotism and pride. “Hey, Wright brothers, I tried to build a flying machine and failed so therefore it’s impossible, because I’m the smartest person on earth, now or in the future!” Shut up! Failure invalidates instances, never the theorem.

Let’s take them one-by-one.

1) You have to really need it!

The reason people site for this is that there must be sufficient pain to induce change. But not everyone is as stupid as you, so they don’t need as much pain as you had. I love seeing young people in A.A. Some of you old farts say: “Hell, I spilled more than you drank!” I say: “Wow! You’re way smarter than I was, kid. Hey, old guy? Maybe if you didn’t spill so much you’d have gotten here sooner.”

2) You have to really want it!

When I came into A.A. I can guarantee you I didn’t want to stay sober. I just wanted to stop screwing up my life, going to jail and letting down my family. I was on the edge of a very large business deal and I specifically remember saying “When I have five million dollars I will be able to drink with impunity. That’s probably about five years off.”

Shit. At five years sober I was living homeless, but by then I wanted to stay sober.

All the stupid people are saying “AHA! See? We’re right! You wanted to!”

If I’d believed you when you told me that crap at six months sober I would have said “Why fight the inevitable?” and gotten drunk. Luckily my Stupid-o-Meter was working and I ignored you, thereby staying sober even when I didn’t want to.

3) You have to do it for yourself, not someone else!

Similar to #2. I wanted my family to be OK. End of story. Suicide was option #1. I read once, though, that children of suicides have triple the chance of killing themselves and I did not want to leave that legacy. Suicide sounded a lot more fun than staying sober, though. Truth is, laying on hot coals sounded more fun. More possible, too.

I stayed sober to keep seeing my family. Later, I lost the ability to see them, and I still stayed sober. See #2.

4) You have to have faith in God!

When I got sober I’d been on a twenty five year silent treatment with God. He was on my shit-list and I did not want to do business with Him. He’s still constantly on my shit-list; the biggest difference is now I do want to do business with Him.

5) You have to work the steps with a Sponsor

I love some of the crap people throw around about this: “If you work the steps off the wall, you’ll have some off-the-wall sobriety!” My favorite, though, is: “I worked the steps with a sponsor exactly the way they’re written in the Big Book.” Did you need your sponsor’s help to put your kid’s bike together, too? I’ve learned history, mathematics and entire languages straight from books with no human intervention. I’m sorry if you need someone to read to you, but if you’re just going to follow directions in a book, the rest of us are smart enough to read it for ourselves.

The word “sponsor” isn’t even in the first 164 pages. When talking about the fifth step they do, however, mention: “we search our acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the person.” That doesn’t even sound remotely like what you say the newcomer has to have.

As for working the steps with anyone, man, I had to work the steps by myself to get enough faith in A.A. to work the steps by myself to get enough trust in God to work the steps with God to get enough trust in another human being to work the steps with a man! Hell, I was two… maybe three years sober by then!

And you don’t have to do it exactly as it’s written in the Big Book. It’s OK to add things to it, too. You don’t get points taken off for reviewing your conduct according to the Seven Deadly Sins, making an “Anger inventory”…

A quick note on the Seven Deadly Sins: I don’t know why they call them that, because there’s really nine of them. I counted them. There’s Pride, Envy, Anger, Lust, Lust, Lust, Greed, Gluttony and Sloth. That’s nine.

6) You have to give it away to keep it

Personally, I did a lot of service work in early sobriety. Most of it in jails and prisons. But I know quite a few people whose idea of service work is keeping score in a spades game between meetings. Roofer Terry wiped tables after meetings for the first four years of his sobriety. That was enough for him. Bubba gave people rides.

7) Meeting makers make it

When the Big Book was written the first hundred were lucky if they could get one meeting a week. Please, don’t hide out in meetings. A.A. gave you a life, goddammit; live it!



The fact is, I’m a numbers guy. I don’t gamble, but I will wager if the odds are right. Let’s talk statistics.

I’ve seen a lot of people come into A.A. who really needed it. Most of them didn’t stay sober. I’ve seen others who didn’t appear — at least to me — to have gone down too far, but some of them did stay sober. So I’ve come to the conclusion that needing it isn’t really a factor in staying sober.

I’ve seen a lot of people come in who really wanted it. Every swinging dick who picked up a white chip wanted it at some level. Some of them stayed sober, but most of them didn’t. Some who didn’t want it — like me — have managed to, so I’ve come to the conclusion that wanting it isn’t all that’s required. Even wanting it for yourself.

I’ve seen priests, pastors, preachers, monks and nuns of all sorts who claimed — and even seemed — to have a fantastic relationship with God, but they had that before they came in and still couldn’t stop drinking. Some of them stayed sober in A.A. and some didn’t. Other poor slobs — like me — find any minor spiritual growth to be very difficult. Even with kindergarten level spirituality some of us manage to stay sober. I truly believe that while it may be important to achieve happiness, having a Higher Power in your life doesn’t have a hell of a lot to do with staying sober.

I’ve always been jealous of people who have a Guru-Sponsor. They go to meetings with their sponsor and when he’s not there they drop his name like he’s a celebrity and get instant credibility themselves: “Wayne I.’s my sponsor!” “I’m working with Sandy B.!” But truthfully, not all of them stay sober. Other people — with huge trust issues — never have a sponsor. They just confess to their priest or a close friend and still manage to stay sober. So sponsorship isn’t everything. Up or down the chain.

I know more than one person who only go to one or two meetings a week and still stay sober into double digit years. We all know people who were there every day for four months and are nowhere to be found now. So lots of meetings aren’t it either.

Here it is: every single person, without exception, who has maintained long periods of sobriety didn’t drink. Some of them had sponsors and sponsees and some of them didn’t, some of them had a great relationship with God and some of them didn’t, some of them wanted it or needed it and some of them didn’t, some of them went to lots of meetings and some of them didn’t, but none of them drank no matter what.

Every single person who relapsed: drank. All of them. 100%. How’s that for numbers?

Rodney says: “A.A. isn’t for people who want it or people who need it. If it was, we’d have meetings at Raymond James Stadium. A.A. is for people who DO it! A lot of people gotta die for us few to stay sober, and that’s the truth!”

Here’s what I think. I’ve already found that if I don’t drink maybe I’ll want sobriety someday. It’s possible that if I don’t drink long enough someday I’ll have a great sponsor. Hell, maybe I’ll even be a great sponsor. I’ll bet if I don’t drink I’ll be able to go to more meetings, too. And maybe, just maybe, if I don’t drink long enough I’ll be able to develop a conscious contact with a power greater than myself.

Those are the odds I’m playing.


This entry was posted in Early Sobriety, Ridiculous A.A. Advice, Spirituality, Sponsorship, Steps, Unfounded Personal Opinions. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to Stay Sober

  1. Pingback: A Certain Roofer | As Jim Sees It

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