photo: David Goehring on flickr

photo: David Goehring on flickr

Dear Meli,

I have been in recovery from drug and alcohol use for five years. I have been going to Twelve Step programs for most of that time. Recently, though, I have been having trouble with meetings. It seems that everyone is so focused on their identity as an addict or alcoholic. My spiritual practice is teaching me that there’s a lot more to me than that. I’m starting to feel a call to leave my Twelve Step group, but I’m also scared because I don’t want to relapse. Any advice?

Tired of Twelve Steppers


Dear Tired,

First of all, congratulations on five years! You are a miracle!

I have had this exact experience in my own recovery from drug addiction.

There are three things I want to share about this:

1) My personal experience indicates that it’s possible to remain clean and/or sober without attending meetings, after some years of working a strong recovery program.  My continued spiritual practice has allowed me to remain clean and sober 25+ years, after having not attended a meeting in well over a decade.

However, there is an imperative key. I have an agreement with myself that if I ever begin to have thoughts about using, I know who to call and where to go. I don’t allow myself to be lulled into thinking that maybe now, after all these years, I could have just one glass of wine, or any such substance. I am definitely an addict (alcoholic).

I don’t allow myself to head down the road of debating the possibilities of non-addictive behaviors miraculously becoming possible for me.

2) I did take a break from meetings (which I am still on). But I attended a meeting once since making that choice.

It happened when I was away visiting a friend. He suggested we go to his ‘home meeting’ and explained that it was a meeting for those at least 5 years clean/sober. I hadn’t known such meetings existed! The meeting had a very different tone, and I think if I lived in that town, I might have started to attend it regularly.

There might be a meeting available to you where you wouldn’t have the same experience you’re having now. If you’re unsure about your choice, you may want to explore further, to be sure this isn’t a possibility.

3) If you don’t feel good about the idea of skipping meetings, I wouldn’t do it. If, however, you make this choice out of love for yourself, and it feels like the right choice for you, then feel free to check it out!

But if you are going to judge yourself as you head down this path (or any, for that matter), I’d definitely reconsider.

May your road of recovery continue to bless you, whichever way you walk it!

Blessings and Love in all you do,


Have you experienced recovery in – or outside of – Twelve Step meetings? Share your comments below!

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