Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

The Meaning of Sobriety

The recovery movement's focus on, literally, nothing (abstinence) robs the addict—and all of us—of the meaning in life and of the best route to recovery. Read More

So what about non-12-step abstinence?

What about the many people, myself included, who choose to be abstinent and who are not 12-steppers? I simply do not have good experiences with alcohol and other substances, and do not want to have those not-good experiences again, nor do I want to undergo some ordeal of "learning to moderate" because . . . why? Because an external authority tells me that is what I am supposed to do? Does this make me a dupe of Puritan temperance morality? The fact that my drinking and using behaviors became much worse in 12-step probably plays a part, but that being as it is, abstinence is simply something I find personally desirable.
What acknowledgement do you have (I never see you refer to us) of people who are abstinent without being 12-step zombies?

Where do I say

Where do I say being sober doesn't include not drinking or using, which is one way of being sober isn't it? A little active listening, please!

Do you really think that when people say what you do to me (would you think I've heard it once or twice), I start haranguing them to drink, or to use drugs? That would be an example of the kind of client values approach I take?


:) S


Your accusing Dr. Peele of forcing an agenda upon problem drinkers of "learning to moderate" sounds very familiar in tone to A.A.'s *actual* enforcement of our-way-or-the-highway abstinence for its membership. Don't believe me about the abstinence enforcement? Ask any A.A. member who returned to a meeting after years of "sobriety" and said "I had a drink or two last night" what happened. That's right... they had to reset their "sobriety date." Never mind the years spent not drinking, as one night is all it takes to put that member back on square one. Apparently because according to A.A.'s group conscience, they needed to learn humility, or something.

It appears that your contention is with Dr. Peele himself, as you cite no references from the (again) *actual* article.

For the record, I am a 6 year-removed A.A. expat, who has since used harm reduction methods to come to terms with my problem drinking, by way of complete abstinence. I found nothing whatsoever within this article to be discouraging or disparaging of my choice to abstain from alcohol.

Abstinence - meaning of the word

I don't think Stanton was saying that you MUST use moderately or otherwise. If I read it correctly his article just says that 'sober' doesn't mean 'abstinent' - and that's about it. Obviously being abstinent also means being sober (just not the other way around - being sober does not mean being abstinent).

Abstinence is one way to stay sober, and for you it sounds like the very best way, as it is for many people. I think what Stanton is trying to get across is that mere abstinence is a rather empty goal for a full life. It might be a first goal, but it's not the only goal. As one colleague says, abstinence is a dead person's goal - that is, a dead person can remain abstinent better than anyone. For living people, being sober may be a far better goal; sober meaning clear headed and without problems related to using, via abstinence or any other means, which is something a dead person cannot do, but a living person can.

Wishing you a sober and fulfilling life.


I should have let you answer in the first place, Dr. Henry -- you put it better -- just as you were so articulate in the linked post on the question of the role of ultimate purpose over the specific pathway taken to sobriety!



Unfortunately, "sobriety" now has a commonly held meaning that is abstinent while following the 12 steps and going to "enough" meetings and doing "enough" service within the 12 step world. Abstinence alone is considered simply "dry" in the 12 step culture, and is a way of proclaiming superiority to anyone who achieves substance non-use in any other way. Went to Church? Well, they're just dry, see, he said "ouch" when he stumped his toe, he's got no spiritual program. She didn't like meetings but doesn't drink anymore anyway? Naw, she's "dry", I saw on Facebook that she got mad in traffic, she's not working the steps, she has no serenity, will be drunk again and DIE!

I wish sobriety had survived as a term that wasn't misshapen by the recovery culture wringer. Much like the term "spiritual", it has come to be virtually the possession of 12-step culture.

AA has ruined many words in our english Language

Sober is one of them. Spirituality is another, ...good point stanton, we have to use new "language" to undo the crap AA has done.

I don't ever use the word alcoholic anymore, or sober, or amends, or recovery...oh how I hate that word too. I say alcohol and drug over use healing and issues. I know its longer but I don't care.

I think part of deprogramming from AA we have to stop using their highjacked words. Thank you for writing your new book and all you write out here in the real world!

Dr. Peele, How dare you

Dr. Peele,
How dare you contemplate that there is more to life than black and white thinking, outside the box thought, yes and no answers.
How dare you suggest that change ultimately occurs because of decisions (thinking) people make for themselves. Why would you suggest people change with they are HURT ENOUGH and HAVE TO, or when the LEARN ENOUGH AND WANT TO. How dare you suggest that people overcome addiction out of purpose-based motivation -- they quit when they recognize how their habit violates who they were (believe they can do it), what they want to be (purpose), where they want to go in life (faith in self).




I find it incredible what interpretation can be derived from words on a page. I am a recovered Bulimic but I was addicted to food for so many years which obviously was a problem because we all have to eat. So whatever method, idea, belief system that may be required/used to get through one's addiction issue and lead a healthy and balanced life is all that really matters. If you must abstain then you must abstain, (and yes that may have worked initially - until one has the tools and effective support network to cope) but it is my experience that there is a myriad of pieces ( different for everyone), to get to a successful relationship with that which one struggles with... n'est pas.

How abstain

Eating disorders are DEFINED by the effort to abstain from the addictive object, DISPROVING the abstinence = recovery equation (which we discuss in Recover!).



I am confident that I define eating disorder having recovered from one.... whatever can work successfully, then go with it. Recovery is different for everyone.

And since you felt the need to all caps in your response...( fyi, all caps anything means that you are yelling. Therefore, I will not assume that you have the propensity to be a jack*** and yell at people that you don't know online, but rather you are unfamiliar with what is acceptable in terms of communication online. I hope the ladder would be the case.

We all need a little help now and then....

ALL caps or some caps?? (How to show EMPHSASIS without bold or italic letters)

I actually read your spiel on etiquette and while I agree that something written in all caps is yelling, two (expletive deleted here) words in a text is not a "capital offense". (GET IT? Capital Offense?? Nor is it an excuse for you to call names (get it Jack***?) as that would be just as offensive as yelling. Might I suggest that one reason a very nice human being might use capital letters in a response here is that there is no way to make letter BOLD or put the in 'italics' - so the only emphasis left is caps - used sparingly.

Now say you are sorry to Dr. Peele and let's get on with the conversation if that's something you still care about.


If you read closely, there was actually no name calling, as per my comment "I will not assume that you have the propensity to be a jack***".... quite the contrary to name calling.... again, one's interpretation. I suggested only that the author might consider alternative methods to emphasize with online communication.

C'est tous.


Being a recovered alcoholic myself, I say if you can no longer drink without the help of AA then more power to you. If it takes the program of AA then more power to you as well. To each their own. The goal for abstinence in any addiction is to stop the destructive behavior. For me to pick up a drink again is to die. So by God I will go to any means to make sure this never happens again. The recovery program of AA has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I also do many other things in my life as well to make sure I never pick up another drink again. This is what works for me though, and it very well may not work for someone else. That's okay though. To most alcoholics I know have the attitude of what other people think of me is none of my business. So if someone does not need AA or whether they do then as I mentioned before. Whatever it takes them is incredible, and who am I to judge anyone for it. We all are fighting our own battles, and who am I to tell anyone how to fight theirs. This is what works for me though. That's all I care about too because if I do ever pick up a drink I will pick up right where I left off. I left off being so intoxicated that I ran into a piece of furniture, and it fell on my head. I have been extremely depressed as well. I would have welcomed death. Today I have not picked up a drink in over 18 mos., and hell yes I am very proud of this. I am part of life again and my recovery helped with this. This is what works for me though. So God Bless to all who suffer from some sort of addiction, and may you all find the peace in life that you truly deserve.

Lets knock the competition ignorantly to sell a book

Shameless article to plug a book or a recovery method by demeaning and misrepresenting the 12 steps. I have seen miracles happen with AA, it is not based on nothingness. The steps allow people to find meaning, have an opportunity to set goals, have a sense of community where they can share there common struggles. My recovery was based completely on giving up on the idea of nothingness. The very antithesis of what you state. Yeah I get it Abstinence, ie nothingness, you have a law degree and maybe some linguistics training. So apply nothingness to the twelve steps as a whole, I hope your readers are more discerning than to make that jump, but you seem to insinuate it. How about people suffering years that have done wonders with there lives and there families thanks to twelve step programs. What if when drinking and in addiction I don't have any hope and am on the brink of death. Giving up alcohol or any other substance might not be that big of a sacrifice. I know what works for me. I truly wish the best to any one with addiction and hope they find a healthy way out, whatever the method may be. If they live healthier and happier lives, that's all that matters. I'm surprised a Dr. that supposedly is attempting to help people professionally would feel different, or openly criticize a method that has helped millions of people all over the world. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on some people in the psychology profession and their seemingly limitless ability to openly defame something online in order to push their own method or book. Anyone that has been to AA has heard it said I have a "thinking disease" Sounds similar to your title. Creative Doctor. Enlightening.


I would say that AA is an archaic, toxic cult. The steps made me feel worse never better. I was in the cult for over 3 decades. Its nonsense and harmful to millions. It needs to be exposed for the predatory behavior going on there. Besides that Stantons new book will replace the BB. Finally we have something that can do this. I worked the steps like a do gooder little AA er then I was of service in endless positions. I was 13 stepped many times when I was 18 & 19. I see AA for the BS it is now and I left. I am free. I ven run blogs to help people who have been HARMED by AA. Stanton has been at this for years and finally has written a book with Ilse Thompson that will help people who AA has failed.
Why does that piss you off. If you were such a loving stepper wouldn't say "my hat is off to you" and be happy if his book saves one life? I am .

Competition? Ignorantly selling a book?

Take a few slow deep breaths and try to let go of your overwhelming anger. To say that the 12-Steps is not the only way is not an attack, and having a law degree, a psychology degree and a way with words does not make someone ignorant.

Obviously many people attribute their recovery from substance dependence to their involvement with the 12-Steps. Whether or not that is a miracle lies in your perception and world view. It obviously 'works' for some people, but for many it can be a trap.

Many who eventually leave and find help outside of AA note the overwhelming peer pressure to stay and work the steps, whether or not it's working for the person, and the messages: 'it works if you work it' and "the alternative is jail, institutions or death" are pretty intimidating to desperate people. And unlike other programs that let people know about other approaches and encourage people to make their own choices, AA and its cousins say they are not responsible because they have a tradition 'not to get involved in matters outside of AA".

And again, this is not an attack on AA. It is a critique of some aspects of AA, and without such examination one must except the good and bad without change forever. That is not the way of the scientists you are ... attacking. There may be something to learn from AA just as there is something to learn from other traditions and religions - but there are also some aspects that deserve scrutiny and if Dr. Peele is sometimes over zealous, I suspect it is a reflection of the angry ad hominem attacks he has born over the years from AA's zealots. Personally I like the less orthodox AA folks I've met who have told me that they like the camaraderie and social opportunities afforded by AA but they regularly tell attendees (in private after meetings) about alternatives when that makes sense. It's sad that they can't do this out loud at meetings without being attacked (without recourse to reply as there is no 'cross talk') by ever speaker to follow.

Sad too that many AA based rehabs (yes, the tradition says non-involvement in outside institutions - but they do when it comes to Rehab Centers) will not tell patients about other alternative, at least not publicly, though many of my clients were told of SMART Recovery and Women for Sobriety by counselors who noticed they were struggling with the 12-Step program and took them aside to tell them about other options after rehab.

So, as I said, take some breathes and open up to the possibility that there is more than one way to help or get help, and that no program is perfect for everyone. One size does not fit all, and when the fit is wrong and hurts, it is time to acknowledge this problems and address them. That is not an attack - it's progress.

How Stanton's oldspeak robs and misleads us

Then Carl-Gustav Jung and William James is O...oooOk, sometimes.
Or K.O.

Way too much of russian roulette.

As for modern treatment its "psych-edduction" and "skills-traing", ...

FE Adi Joffe and Doc Willenbrink (?)


1 - Jack Alexander (1941)
2 - EM Jellinek (1960)
3 - CG Jung (1961, published 1964)
4 - Davies (1962)
5 - Arthur H. C. (1963)
6 - Eric Berne (1964) *
7 - George Vaillant (1983 / 1995)

8 - Dr Pee3e ?

* "abstinence" is not an option, nor is a moster in Loch Ness

IE spontaneous conversion

russian roulette

AA embedded in our Medicine and research

This studies and people are Steppers or stepper lovers. They were fixed for AA's purpose.
If we researched alcohol and drug overuse issues like we did for AIDS then we would not be where we are today.

We need to stop addressing this issue with faith healing magical thinking. aka AA lol....see you on the other side of this.

The times they are a changing! AA is NOT the only kid on the block anymore and we are going to make sure the word gets about the TRUTH about AA

AA's principle purpose AND Stanton Peele?

"The recovery movement's focus on, literally, nothing (abstinence) robs the addict—and all of us—of the meaning in life and of the best route to recovery."
(Stanton Peele)

EMJ - "A.A. left science allone"
CGJ - "understanding friends" at best
DAV - 7% of ex-alcoholics drink moderatly for years/decades
AHC - 1964: "40%!" (not a study IMO)
BER - alcohol moderation should be the ultimate goal in alcohol treatment (as in everything)

Have these Docs ever been through addiction?

It's interesting being an addict and seeing a "Professional" comment on addiction. I don't think they have a full understanding of addiction regardless of their profession. They may have read textbooks and gone to school and studied people in addiction. But have they ever had an addiction? It's like a Chaplain that has never been deployed before caring for a patient that has been tramatized by an IED.

"Many who eventually leave and find help outside of AA note the overwhelming peer pressure to stay and work the steps, whether or not it's working for the person, and the messages: 'it works if you work it' and "the alternative is jail, institutions or death" are pretty intimidating to desperate people..."In all reality, that IS reality. Jail, intitutions or death" 12 steps haven't been a huge source of help for me in my addiction, group counseling with a 'professional' has been my saving grace. But if 12 step works for someone, I don't see how anyone can judge it. Success is success. 12 Steps played a pivotal role in my RECOERY process and I wouldn't where I am in my SOBRIETY without it. Thank you to the 12 step programs and those who dedicate their lives in seeing they grow and succeed.

Peele's online LLP is surprisingly, here:

Who can use the the Life Process Program:

You must be 18 years or older
You must not be suicidal or have suicidal thoughts
If you are in need of DETOX please contact a hospital before commencing the program
You will have been considered to have read and understood these disclaimers when you have enrolled in the Life Process Program.

1. Unlike conventional offline-REHAB you may very well be psychotic?
2. Unlike conventional offline-REHAB LLP uses much more Motivational Interviewing (and other stuff?). This may be too much for FE specific Borderliners?

Unlike some 12-step its not Killing Fields by design. For that matter. Fact.

What's wrong with the You have to have been there to help response?

Does a doctor have to have experienced cancer to treat cancer? And if that doctor survived cancer with radiation and no surgery, and then insisted that every cancer patient had to have only radiation and never surgery - what would we think?

Dr. Peele and I have never suggested that you didn't recover with the help of the 12-Steps and we are happy for your success. What is the matter with suggesting that NOT everyone will benefit from what helped you? I suppose it might be beyond your imagination to think that someone else might benefit from a different approach and thank goodness you are not treating people with addictions as you seem to believe that one size fits all - if it worked for you, then it will work for everyone. NOT TRUE (sorry for the shouting, but I want this heard everywhere).

In my practice I have seen people recover with just our one on one therapy sessions drawing on Motivational Interviewing, CBT, ACT and REBT, and many have benefitted from support groups, including AA and NA, but also including SMART Recovery, Moderation Management (obviously not for everyone), Women for Sobriety, SOS and LifeRing Secular Recovery, HAMS. So why are you dumping on us for offering something other than what worked for you? What is your problem with choice and other options? If you had gone to them and not benefitted from them, they would have suggest that you try AA or NA (I do that when a person is not benefitting form my approaches or is very religiously inclined or needs a large daily support group).

And as I repeatedly tell people, about half the people who attend SMART Recovery also attend a 12-Step group. And no one in SMART Recovery will criticize them for doing so. Can you say the same for those folks in 12-Step groups? The feedback I've gotten has led me to advise those who go to both, not to mention their SMART Recovery or other involvement while at a 12-Step group simply to avoid being lambasted for the rest of the meeting. Maybe that doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough that I feel a duty to warn.

So, I respect your personal experience and I'm happy you are clean, sober and abstinent today, but PLEASE don't inflict your path recovery on others in the belief that yours is the one and only, very best way.

Please, respect others, even those who have never been addicted - they just might have something worthwhile to offer, even if it was not something YOU personally found useful.

And don't knock what one can learn from a book. Reading books has helped more people than you realize. And not just your book, the science-based books that tell us what research has found - for instance confrontation (e.g. take the cotton out of your ear and stick it in your mouth)not only doesn't work, but it is the cause of most resistance and what so many call 'denial'.

How ever one recovers, it's good.
There are many paths to recovery.
One size does not fit all.

Don't let the best become the enemy of the good.

As regards Harm Reduction: "80% of something is better than 100% of nothing." Alex Wodak, 2007

Dr. Peele and His Views on Addiction

I find it interesting that although Dr. Peele recognizes AA has been successful at treating alcohol addiction in millions, he subtly markets his recovery methods as an alternative to AA and in opposition to its principles.

So let's look at a few differences between the recovery program of AA and the recovery program of Dr. Peele....

AA has absolutely no opinion on Dr. Peele or his recovery methods. In fact, the membership is actively encouraged to utilize outside professionals if they feel it will help. Dr. Peele seems to hold a grudge against AA and discounts its successes in order to promote his program.

The principles of AA are shared freely and used by at least 30 other 12-step programs designed to help people struggling with a wide variety of addictions. Dr. Peele's program is patented so nobody else can use it, and all profits from his web-based program and books are funneled directly to him.

AA is a nonprofit organization and is free to join. Dr. Peele's Online Life Process Program is for his own profit and costs "only $99 to begin your recovery today." As a side note, AA members are also free to leave the program as they please, and in fact, are invited to try drinking again in moderation if they feel they can handle it.

Peele supported Moderation Management founder Audrey Kishline, who also subscribed to the belief that addiction is not a disease. After giving up her own attempts at moderation to seek help with AA, Kishline was convicted of killing a father and his 12-year-old daughter while driving under the influence of alcohol. This was widely claimed to invalidate Kishline's position and by association, Peele's.

In a review of The Meaning of Addiction, addiction researcher Dr Griffith Edwards stated the following about Peele's work:

"With these and other issues treated in cavalier fashion, with referencing highly incomplete and crucial work often ignored, one begins to feel that this is a book where polemic and scholarship have become inextricably and unhappily mixed. ... Peele is not only a psychologist of distinction, but someone who can make use of sociological and biological ideas. ... So there's the dilemma."

Additionally, a distinction must be made between AA and other 12-step programs in regard to the term sobriety. Clearly, alcohol is a different matter than sex, food, or other basic necessity of life where moderation may in fact be a desired goal. Although other programs have attempted to adopt the principles of AA, it is designed for alcoholics ONLY, and 70 years of experience has shown that sobriety defined as complete abstinence from alcohol is the best way to achieve long-term recovery.

Finally, comparing alcoholism to cancer is like comparing apples to oranges. Unlike any other disease, alcoholism is one of loneliness, depravity, denial and distrust of others. The agenda of professionals with a desire to help are eschewed more often than not by true alcoholics, especially those of Dr. Peele with profit motive and no personal experience with addiction.


You spent a lot of time on this.

Do you know John Wallace?

AA was the best program

AA was the best program available 75 years ago. Perhaps it has become a bit dated.

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Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.


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