Psychological Healing and the Twelve Steps

The Thrill of Victory Over Alcohol

William E. Swegan

Editor’s Note

This material was put together as a little illustrated pamphlet in 1982 by Bill Swegan (who now lives in Sonoma, California). He and Louis Jolyon West, M.D., were the developers in the early 1950's of the Lackland Model of alcoholism treatment, one of the three classical methods of treating alcoholism developed during the mid-twentieth century (along with Sister Ignatia’s program at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron and the early Minnesota Model). Bill’s strongly A.A. related system achieved fifty per cent success rates the first time men and women went through the program, with additional people getting sober after initially relapsing and going back out for a period of time.

This material can be used very successfully in a one-on-one situation, where a counselor or sponsor leads the alcoholic through each of these thirty topics, slowly and carefully, getting the alcoholic to discuss each item in detail. To work with an alcoholic successfully, Bill Swegan says, “We must first break the alibi system.” The initial topics are especially designed to tear down the excuses and alibis which alcoholics set up in their minds to justify their out-of-control drinking and deny that they have any problems.

Bill says that what people actually want — all people everywhere — is to feel good. Recovery from alcoholism means leaving the miseries of the past behind and learning how to really enjoy life again. It means discovering how to feel good about the world and good about myself. It means breaking out of the prison walls of alcoholism and addiction and becoming free men and women once again.

                       Glenn F. Chesnut, Ph.D.

1. Is there a drinking problem?

Ask yourself, if people need a drink to be social, are they really social drinkers?

  Most people use alcohol in a social setting. However, that is different from needing alcohol to socialize. If you find that it is increasingly difficult to enjoy life or other people without a drink in your hand, you are developing a problem.  

2. We all know that everyone needs to feel accepted -- and drinking is one way people “join in.” However, many are rejected because of their behavior when drinking.

Sgt. Bill S., Thrill of Victory cartoon

As heavy drinking progresses embarrassment, alienation, and loneliness become more evident. Problem drinkers lose control over their consumption of alcohol and their subsequent behavior. This results in doing and sayings things which others may resent and you may regret.

Sgt. Bill S., Thrill of Victory cartoon

3. A vicious cycle develops -- some people drink to feel better but end up progressively feeling worse.

  In the initial phases of alcohol dependency, a drink may relieve anxiety or stress. However, as the body tolerance for alcohol increases more alcohol is required to achieve this desired effect. Contrary to popular opinion the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol without apparent effect is an important sign of a developing drinking problem.  

4. Loss of control produces the master planner --

  Things will get better.
I can quit on my own.
I’ll only have a couple.
I’ll only drink beer!
I’ll drink only on weekends.

Fact versus fantasy!!!!!!

How do you fit into this picture? All the above methods have been tried and, unfortunately, they have failed.

5. The accusing finger --

Sgt. Bill S., Thrill of Victory cartoon
  It's their fault.

Friends, boss, spouse, neighbors, parents, and loved ones — in fact, anyone.

Problem drinkers blame people, places, and things for their drinking.

Rationalization is often used to ease guilt feelings. Most people with drinking problems have a tendency to blame others for their own defects.

6. Ask yourself, does your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or child have a drinking problem?

  Think about it, if you do, they do.  

7. Denial -- “I'm not that bad.” People rationalize --

  I’m not like that,
I don’t do that,
I don’t drink like that --

-- YET !!!

How bad does one have to be????

That is a question society has already answered or you wouldn’t be here. More importantly YOU must accept the accuracy of this verdict. People can only gain from this program if they are willing to honestly examine and accept the fact.

8. The facts are:

  Early problems with alcohol always cause family, social, money, job, or legal problems. Legal problems are commonly associated with drinking and driving.

Ask yourself: are these difficulties the result of social drinking???

When drinking begins to cause problems of this magnitude, you are no longer a social drinker. This is especially true if these are repeated incidences. If you are aware of the connection between drinking and the problems in your life but continue to drink anyway, you have crossed the line into alcoholism.

9. I’m the captain of the ship -- I can handle my own affairs.

  "What I do is my own business."

Is it?

"I can handle it."

Can you?

"I’ve been successful."

What’s your recent track record?

How effective are you?

The inability to take an honest look at yourself and admit you have become essentially powerless over the use of alcohol is what is keeping you from an improved life. To effectively manage your life, you must take responsibility for it.

10. To the problem drinker, excuses for drinking take on primary importance. With the passage of time, anything and everything becomes a reason to have a drink.

  Kids, finances, boredom, job -- "I can’t stand this pressure."

And overcoming the desire to drink is often difficult --

As a rule, the stated “reasons” for drinking are invalidated by the truth. The truth is, the real reason you drink is that you can neither stop nor reliably control your intake.

11. Avoiding reality is courting disaster.

  The Ostrich Syndrome

Alcohol and other anesthetizing drugs can provide a very effective escape from reality. In the process, they can cause unacceptable behavior that one must constantly justify and pay prices for.

12. Can you effectively manage your life and your drinking problem alone??

  Most of us can’t. That is when outside help and assistance becomes necessary. Even doctors learn not to treat their family members. Are you trying to be your own physician??  

13. Recovery is simple but not easy --

  Such is not the case with other diseases.

For instance, cancer victims cannot overcome their disease through new attitudes and knowledge. Problem drinkers or alcoholics who are motivated for change can always recover if they are willing to apply the principles and insights of recovery.

14. Most problem drinkers fear abstinence --

  Can I really live the rest of my life without drinking?????

Will I be the same?
How will this affect my social life?
But what will I do?
Can I enjoy life without alcohol?

These frightening questions often pose barriers to a better life.

Recovery involves risk and requires courage.

15. Past rejections of help may have grown out of misconceptions. How can “they” help me?

  I don’t need any help!
I don’t trust them!
Will they be there when I need them?
They’re not sympathetic.
How do they know what I’ve been through?
They look down on me.

The right kind of help can be the difference --

People who have been where you are now can help you build the bridge to recovery. However only you can walk across that bridge.

16. What do I have to do????? Admission is the first step in recovery.

  And this is often the most difficult

Admitting a problem exists is often difficult and painful. However, people must recognize they are in trouble before genuine progress can be made.

17. Humility is also a vital part of the recovery process --

  Admitting you don’t have all the answers and are willing to listen is a real start.  

18. There is no mystery to recovery from alcoholism but there is a paradox: “Don’t Fight It”

  You have to surrender to win

You must recognize that you are powerless over the use of alcohol. There must be total commitment to abstinence. Half measures usually result in a return to drinking and all its associated problems.

19. A thorough medical examination can be an aid to recovery --

  A healthy body and mind go hand in hand

Prolonged use of alcohol is a threat to health. Sobriety is based on feeling good. Rest, proper diet, and positive thinking minimize the possibility of returning to drinking.

20. You can restore faith and trust in yourself and others

  This is YOUR choice

Sharing your experiences and feelings with others leads to new views of yourself and life. The intimate communications you establish in your group and the supportive personal relationships developed should produce positive rewards. One begins to live and interact in new ways.

21. But it's difficult for me to communicate in a group -- they may not understand me

  This is precisely why one needs to participate with others.

If a person wants to hold on to self-destructive habits the chances of recovery are minimal. In a setting with peers, one learns facts about alcohol, its use and misuse. In group process people discuss their experiences and develop openness, mutual trust, and communication skills. They discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and the role alcohol has played in their lives.

22. To endure the initial pain of life without alcohol, a person must learn to say NO and enjoy the freedom of choice.

Sgt. Bill S., Thrill of Victory cartoon
  "No thanks, I quit drinking."

One must be willing to make sacrifices

Medical surgery is traumatic but it is performed with the expectation that the person will ultimately feel better. Withdrawal from alcohol is also traumatic but, like surgery, the rewards are worth the effort. Some however are impatient to be free and want sobriety without making personal sacrifices or applying the necessary restraints.

23. You may have to give up your drinking friends -- and learn who your real friends are -- to avoid the possibility of relapses.

  You may have to change your relationships with your former drinking companions. Remember, those who are still drinking may resent your being sober and encourage you to drink again. If they can't respect your saying no to a drink, you may have to distance yourself from them.  

24. Your new commitments and personal efforts will lead to an adventure in sobriety and a new life!!!!!!

25. The prescription for freedom

  The way out -- total sobriety can be more easily achieved following this advice.

Recognize you have a problem.
See your behavior as unacceptable.
Develop the motivation to change.
Begin to take action.
Attain and maintain sobriety.
Develop new values, insights, skills, interests, and friends.

26. People helping people -- pass it along. By helping others you also benefit.

  Recovery from alcoholism often includes helping others to recover.

Helping others teaches a person to become unselfish. It is the opposite of seeking self-satisfaction at the expense of others when drinking.

"We understand what you’re going through."


27. Helping others through the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous may be your "bridge over troubled waters." Take time to learn the significance of each support in the bridge you will cross.

  The troubled waters:

Self pity -- legal problems -- sex conflicts -- hate -- pain -- fear -- debts -- hostility -- guilt -- job loss -- rejection -- poor health -- family problems -- intolerance

The twelve supports in the bridge the active alcoholic will cross to become a recovering alcoholic:

1. Insight
2. Surrender
3. Positive Goals
4. Introspection
5. Confession
6. Submission
7. Humility
8. Inventory
9. Restitution
10. Reorganization
11. Spirituality
12. Love

28. Long range sobriety is easier to achieve if you take it "one day at a time."

yesterday -- TODAY -- tomorrow

Do it the easy way -- one day at a time! Living one day at a time to the best of one’s ability minimizes the guilt of yesterday and the apprehensions of tomorrow. Remember, you only have to stay sober today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

29. The new way of life includes:

Peace of mind
Sgt. Bill S., Thrill of Victory cartoon

and developing a Positive Self Image.

To achieve these goals one needs to embark on a course of self improvement. As progress is made, adversities are met with positive action. Ultimately victory over alcohol and a new lease on life is realized.

30. Victory over alcoholism produces:

  A more meaningful life.
Better family relationships.
New goals and directions.
A healthy self image.
A better understanding of life and more energy to pursue it.

What you win is what we all want. It is worth the sacrifice.

We wish you the best!