Leaving 12-Steps and Staying Sober

About Celeste

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Battling alcoholism for 20 years, Celeste was stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to see a way out. She likens addiction to being on a hamster wheel, feeling exhausted but unable and too afraid to stop; where the safer option is to continue running.
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My Rock Bottom brought me to AA

In January 2017, desperate enough, I found myself at my first 12-step meeting. For the first time, I heard stories that sounded like mine. A similar inner dialogue, the inexplicable craving and inability to stop after our first drink. It kept me going back.

I got through life with a cigarette in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. Finally, at 37, I took responsibility and action to make a change. I committed to meetings 3 times a week and I worked the program.

6 months after I stopped drinking, I quit smoking. I was like a baby learning to walk.

AA gave me more than sobriety

It gave me a life. In my first year, I tried many things for the first time.

It gave me the foundation to rebuild my life and grow as an adult.

I found a kind, loving community that understood my inner battle with alcohol. I had the most beautiful soul as my sponsor. She got me through some difficult times through her consistent guidance and support.

I volunteered to lead meetings and worked through my fear of public speaking.

After the Pink Cloud

The ‘Pink Cloud’ refers to the honeymoon period of sobriety. Mine ended when anxiety crept up on me. The program alone did not help ease my anxiety and I began my search for a cure.

This quest led to a spontaneous spiritual awakening and separately, brought me to the work of Dr. Gabor Mate.

2 years into the program, some parts did not resonate with my new beliefs. However, I hesitated to leave because I was afraid of relapsing and losing the community I grew to love. I’m glad I did not rush into this decision. I waited another year until I was confident of who I was at my core before I stepped away.

Why I Made the Difficult Decision to Leave

After my spiritual awakening, I went on an inward journey. I learned about trauma and actively did my inner work. Meditation and journalling became a daily practice. I got to know myself better and began to trust myself.

I sensed limitations with the 12-step program as I noticed members dealing with cross-addictions or struggling with alcohol cravings a few years into sobriety. There were concepts in the program that I started to disagree with.

Concepts I stopped resonating with

“My name is Celeste and I’m an alcoholic”
The AA introduction did not feel in alignment anymore. Once I got to know my Self, I did not identify with this label.

“Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
In early sobriety, Step 1 gave me the willingness to follow the steps to take action toward my sobriety. However, as I developed the ability to resource internally I felt more empowered than ever.

“Alcoholism is a disease”
I was taught alcoholism is a disease that I was powerless over. After studying Dr. Gabor Mate’s work, my view started to change and I view alcoholism as a coping strategy.

When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. For that: I am responsible.” 
The responsibility statement plays a key role in helping many alcoholics get sober, and I will be forever grateful. But over time, I found the practice of reaching out to a fellow member when you need help or always being available for a member who needs help… leaves us trapped in a loop.

I was taking responsibility for myself instead, looking for the right professional support to heal. As I was healing and moving through big emotions, I could not help others. I knew I had to prioritize myself.

Most people don’t realise how tiring healing can be. For someone who disassociated from young, and actively numbed out with alcohol for 20+ years, I was feeling my way through years of stored emotions. I was crying so much, I did not have energy for much else 😅

How I Stayed Sober

  • Wisdom of Trauma

Understanding trauma allowed me to understand why I resorted to Alcohol as a coping strategy. I see myself and the world through a lens of compassion, and learn not to take things personally.

  • Feeling my Emotions

I meet myself in my pain. Beyond understanding with the mind, I allow myself to FEEL years of suppressed emotions, or any emotions that current life challenges brings. Each release brings me closer to who I am, leaves me lighter and disarm triggers.

  • Nervous System Regulation

I learnt to regulate my nervous system and built the capacity to meet the big and difficult emotions. Like going to the gym, this is a muscle that can be developed. Each time I met myself, my capacity to hold these emotions expanded.

  • Self love, Self Acceptance

Through shadow work, I developed the capacity to love and embrace all parts of me. As I grew spiritually, I had access to unconditional love. Connecting to the frequency of unconditional love helps me feel supported and see my worth.

Many of us today are addicted to distractions. When I stopped running away from myself, I was no longer actively looking for distractions and did not need to check out from life. Alcohol and Cigarettes lost their appeal.

I believe everyone has a unique journey, for some their life movie plays out entirely in the 12-step program and that’s perfect!

Leaving 12-Steps and Staying Sober

By Celeste Chong | November 26, 2023

Why I made the difficult decision to leave AA and how I stayed sober.

How I Healed from Anxiety

By Celeste Chong | November 25, 2023

What I wish I knew about the root cause of anxiety back when I was desperately trying to make sense of it.

My Spontaneous Spiritual Awakening

By Celeste Chong | November 23, 2023

Never in my wildest imagination! This transformational experience changed the course of my life.