By Mary Elizabeth Salzmann

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I have found that, for me, Twelve Step recovery demands rigorous thinking, honest self-appraisal, and commitment to changing deep and compelling habits of mind and action. The Twelve Steps are hardly pacifiers serving to simply relieve us from having to confront the inevitable challenges life presents. The journey from compulsion to compassion requires one's constant willingness to accept reality and avoid reliance on the kinds of superficial, magical beliefs that only appear to relieve one of responsibility for his or her life.

Nearly everyone I spoke to said I had to be willing to make achieving and maintaining abstinence the top priority in my life. It was suggested that I find a food sponsor, a person who could show me more about how the program works and help me make a food plan. While a food plan seemed a great deal like a diet, I did what was suggested and asked a trim young woman who had been abstinent for several years to be my sponsor. She helped me develop my food plan and asked me to call her every morning to tell her what I was planning to eat throughout the day.

There may be a slight sense of light-headedness. But non-alcoholics can choose to stop drinking whenever they feel they've had enough. When alcoholics drink, they have a reaction to the alcohol that includes the inability to experience their limit; they can't stop until they're drunk, unconscious, or there's no more to drink. This reaction, unique to alcoholics, is what is called, in the literature of AA, an allergy. The allergy theory rests on the premise that alcoholics suffer from a biochemical condition that produces, once alcohol is Page 27 ingested, a peculiar loss of awareness of alcohol's toxic effects, and an inability to stop drinking.

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