How do I do this on the outside — stay sober on my own?

You're asking the wrong question.  What we really need to know is how to find support on the outside so that we won't need to try to stay sober on our own.

One of the outstanding characteristics of active addicts is isolation.  Even when we're in a crowd, pontificating and running the show (or believing that we are) we don't really share the space with anyone else.  We don't have meaningful conversations.  We don't listen to what others say.  Our attention is turned inward, toward what we think, what we want others to think, what we want to keep secret, how this can work to our benefit — without concern for its effect on others.  We're concerned with how we can get our next drink or drug, how to manipulate others, how to bolster our nonexistent self esteem, and so forth.

We may share what's happening on the surface, but that's the problem: when it comes to our relationships with others, we're all surface.  What they see is not what's there.  We don't even know how to be honest with ourselves, and we surely aren't able to be honest and open with others.  That would put our relationships with our drugs in jeopardy, and no addict is going to chance that.  We don't know how to trust, because we can't afford to.

If you knew what I'm really like, you'd be disgusted.  Worse, you might take my drugs — my only friends — away from me.

So, one of the most important things about recovery is learning to relate to other people honestly.  We do that by developing relationships with people who will accept us as we are, who will be honest with us, and who will help us learn to be honest with ourselves.  We do that by gradually learning to trust others, so that we can be honest with them

We learn to relate to others honestly by developing relationships that are based on healthy ways of looking at life, outlooks that can take the place of a lifestyle centered around drinking, drugging, and the behavior connected with those things.  Eventually, we trust enough that we are willing to accept guidance in repairing other relationships, whether they be with family, friends, employers or the legal system.

We stay clean and sober by making in our lives, and in the way we approach life.  We get help doing that from people who have done it themselves.  We do it by developing a support group where we can practice recovery.  In short, we do it in AA, NA, or some other fellowship or group that can help us learn to live a lifestyle that is healthy physically, emotionally and socially.

If we don't do these things — if we continue to think the same way, relate to the world the same way, behave the same way — it is only a matter of time before we use again.  Why wouldn't we?

We don't do it on our own.

To paraphrase Dr. Phil, how was that working for you?

I Don’t Need A Program, I Can Recover On My Own

One of the prime goals of treatment is to give us confidence in our ability to overcome our addiction.  We need to be careful, however, to insure that we’re not overconfident.  Confidence in our ability to work a program of recovery successfully is essential, but overconfidence is a free ticket back to where we came from.

Overconfidence is perfectly understandable.  After we get the alcohol and/or other drugs out of our system, get a little

Lonesome road to...what?

exercise, some rest and a few square meals under our belts, we’re probably going to feel better than we’ve felt in years.  We may begin to think, if we’re not careful, that we’re cured and ready to head back out into the “real world.”  At that point, the insistence of therapists and other staff that we need more time is likely to fall on at least partially deaf ears.  After all, don’t we know our own bodies?  Don’t we know how we feel?

Probably not.  We spent a long time interfering with the chemistry of our brains.  We changed our thinking, ethics and lifestyle to accommodate a life of living from one fix, one drink, one line to the next.  In many cases, if not most, we’ve never lived what most people would think of as a “normal” life.  The chances are very good that we don’t even remember what that is any more, if we ever knew.

So how do we know we’re ready to go out and live one?  Where’s the proof that we really do know how we feel and how to take care of our bodies and minds?  What experience have we really had?  It’s an absolute fact that the longer an addict/alcoholic stays in treatment, the greater are their chances of avoiding relapse.  That is not only a matter of learning, it’s a matter of giving ourselves a chance to practice healthy living in a safe environment.

Time in treatment is golden.  If we spend a month longer in house and avoid another few years of using — or death — isn’t that a good trade?  If we spend a few months in a halfway house while we hone our sober living skills with aftercare, meetings and slow movement back into mainstream society, isn’t that better than finding out that we really don’t have the skills and ability we thought we had — the hard way?

If we were going to climb Mt. Everest, we’d get in shape over a period of months.  We’d get a guide, follow his or her directions, buy the right equipment, learn the necessary skills, and finally work our way up to higher and higher altitudes gradually, so that we were sure that we were ready to head for the summit when the weather was right.

Why should we pay less attention to the rest of our lives?