Did I mature out of alcohol addiction?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on January 26th, 2010 - Last updated: February 3rd, 2014
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For 30 years I went to AA, did the Steps and had a sponsor, and stayed sober 3 months at a time. I was in treatment perhaps 35 times and in the state penitentiary once, plus several local jails. I gave up the idea of ever being sober. My wife in 1990 suggested I see a psychologist. I did on October 20, 1990 and have been sober ever since. I specifically do not attend AA or any religious groups.

I was 52 when I quit and am 61 now. Is my history what you mean when you say “maturing out”? I think the doctor showed me I could change my behavior and I did it.


Dear John:

I think yours is a case of finally finding treatment that was appropriate for you. Greater maturity no doubt had something to do with it, and people do mature out at all points along the age spectrum. But yours was a case of finally finding the right treatment. Indeed, it was probably true that AA was prolonging your problem. In any other area of medicine, your long history of failure at one treatment (AA/12-step programs) would have shown anyone who was paying attention that you should have been in a different kind of treatment. (Thank goodness your wife finally had that idea!) But virtually all treatment programs just keep having at it with the same failed approach. Think of all the Hollywood stars (Christian Slater, Robert Downey, Jr.) and others you hear of who fail in treatment time and time again — and are immediately sent back to exactly the same kinds of programs!

The answer, of course, is to have a wider range of substance abuse treatments for people, and to react to failure at one with changes in the treatment prescription. We simply cannot learn this is the U.S., where virtually all treatment is 12-step in nature and failure at the treatment is simply calculated as another failure for the patient.

Your life must be a blessing now that you see you have the power to overcome your alcoholism.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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