Back to White Knuckle Sobriety. The Duke Ellington Cure.

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane In A Sentimental Mood.

Moderate drinking finally proved too dangerous after five months successful harm reduction. So I’m back to white knuckle sobriety. (AA jargon for the no slogan, non-Zombie, no-crawl-to-the-cross method.) I never surrendered to their system although some of it once helped me through eight and half years abstinence.

It’s very risky for alcoholics to start drinking again but I managed five months very occasional, very moderate drinking – inspired by Smart Recovery and the abysmally low success rate of 12 step. Till two weeks ago.

I had a two beers maximum, with the occasional bottle of spirits. It never got out of hand because booze isn’t ketamine, what I really want. (It’s a year since I’ve had any dance club drugs, achieved by a failsafe method which will beat any addiction: poverty. And ketamine may be permanently unavailable now due to a crackdown in India. It’s too risky and expensive to import. Now that actually was a cure for depression, if a tad unpredictable.)

The final drink relapse came out of nowhere, on a whim, the sort of inexplicable snap decision I was supposed to be writing about last time. (How a relapse can kill heroin addicts, RIP Harris Wittels, a superb screenwriter and so much more. Which I either forgot about or realized there was nothing to say about a shadowy nemesis I will never understand.

An ABC impulse control strategy was recommended during my brief farcical entanglement with Rational Emotive Behaviorial Therapy. Yes, even the title contradicts itself. And why would you pay for anything invented by ‘Windy’ Dryden? (His actual name, the one he uses for professional purposes. I assumed it was a misprint and referred to him as Wendy Dryden during the first session.)
‘A’ was the impulse. You were meant to put something at ‘B’, (deep breaths? Soothing words?). This would prevent the impulse ‘A’ becoming uncontrolled anger at ‘C’. In those days ‘C’ arrived all too quickly. I might as well have had a magic spell to prevent lightning strikes. It was as much use as a water pistol against a flash fire. The rage kept on coming.

The slight improvement I’ve made recently may just be becoming more docile with age. Or I’m more conscious of mortality or failing health. Maybe I’m growing up, as I approach sixty? Fat chance. Whatever, somehow I managed five months of very careful occasional moderate drinking before I snapped.

I bought a bottle of rum and two bottles of 6.1% Bishops Finger – don’t like the taste or the name but it is the strongest good brew available locally. (They stopped the off licenses selling 10 % Viking death lager, which is harsh on us occasional headbangers who would like a significant consciousness alteration for a quid. Bloody do-gooders!)
Maybe this was the rare intoxication day you’re allowed in Smart Recovery? (As long as you keep counting the drinks and stay watchful as you return to moderate drinking.) Unfortunately I didn’t feel drunk or even remotely merry after a bottle of rum and two half litres of strong ale. Maybe it was over too long a time or I was on an upward bipolar energy surge but I didn’t feel a thing.
Money down the drain, for nothing, except a massive intake of useless calories, way too many brain cells torched and no exercise instead of the hundred press ups I’ve managed most days this year. Plus you age very quickly on such a regime. You look like your own ghost.

For once, miraculously, there were no psychotic internet posts – psychotic used correctly in the clinical sense, as insisted upon by the public school Bin Laden groupies at the Al Grauniad. They recently amended face-ache Marina Hyde’s drivel to that effect. (She’s just so effortlessly superior, a cut above, which must be why she went out with, er, Piers Morgan.)

So, no death threats or ‘extremist’ ranting (ie anti-Marxist, counter Jihad). My armchair thug must be running out of testosterone. Perhaps he’s taking female hormones in preparation for gender reassignment. Maybe he’s taken up Buddhist meditation, like my hero Herbie Hancock. (Whose autobiography is highly recommended)
A mild trance did ease the pain of listening to England’s feeble cricket performance on Test Match Special (I know how to party…) but the only positive was the realization this was the abyss, ‘hitting bottom’, after which the only way is up.

Many abstinent months are needed before playing with fire again. Feeling very good two weeks in.

I read somewhere that Duke Ellington may have stopped drinking eventually upon realizing he was sober after the intake of what should have been a stupefying quantity of booze.
Enough is enough. This drug doesn’t work.


Upside of Robin Williams’ Suicide? Orange Papers. Communal exorcism for recovering 12 Steppers

Sincere condolences to Robin Williams’ family and friends. Many thanks for much entertainment and enlightenment.

In the wake of this tragic event a Doctor wrote, ‘Depression is a terminal illness’. Thanks, mate. I was already massively bummed out – for if Robin Williams couldn’t fix it then who can? The Quack might have put that a little less bleakly. Well, I’ve been on death row for more than fortyfive years now.
I’m aware there may be no cure for depression, not for everyone, not all of the time. But it can be managed. Unfortunately I’m about as much use as a BBC middle management drone, without the salary or the job security. Although, like them, I have this position for life.

Robin Williams’ death hurt, especially coming at a time of particularly grim world news. I had a wallow in gloom and doom. Then a Facebook friend mentioned that the troubled star had been back in AA. It hadn’t worked and look what happened. Is their policy of belittling and breaking down new recruits correct? Is it even safe, if you’re especially vulnerable? (My own guess would include a possible anti-depressant malfunction, which can also trigger suicidal thoughts). She cited Orange Papers, an online resource where people seek abstinence or moderation through logic and scientific analysis. Mostly they have a blast sharing 12 Step horror stories, a sort of communal exorcism.

So, sorry to be selfish, but I was guided to something positive as a result of his death. (You could also say, to be appropriately respectful to a great man: he is free of pain, he lived ten lifetimes in one, he excelled in more ways than he could initially have hoped for, he grew as an artist, he helped many people not just with his work, he experienced reciprocated love, and he had children, which is most of what the universe wants us to do. All in all, one of evolution’s finest products.)

While we’re bitching at 12 step it’s worth mentioning the rational variation: – all the benefits of group recovery without God Junkies preaching and leeching. 12 step may work for you, although there is no statistical evidence to prove it’s any better than willpower. You’re more likely to meet a Christian vampire getting high from spreading the gospel. Hey! Physician, heal thyself. Get a dopamine hit from something else. Model trains. Mini golf. Cultivate your own garden.

So if you feel you have been used or abused by 12 step groups, or if it didn’t work for you and you want to know why, a veteran will tell you all you need to know – and sometimes more 🙂 – at Also on Facebook.

If you’ve been affected by suicide, particularly the inexplicable choice made by someone who had everything to live for, find a sympathetic friend or a professional who can help. Don’t read Night Train by Martin Amis – which just muddies the waters, unless you’re determined to top yourself, in which case fill your boots.

This short, clumsy novel is deliberately inconclusive, and the ending doesn’t make sense, in the unlikely event you can work out what is actually happening. Art imitating life? Or just shoddy and slapdash? – what you’d expect from an experimental writer whose chief concern is looking clever. H’mm, more than ten years since I read it and I’m still furious.

LIFE AFFIRMING FINISH. (fade up happy music. Cue dancing girls) Currently I’m feeling mildly positive: exercising more, just got a big SAD light therapy lamp (only £50 + p+p as opposed to the £100 I paid twenty years ago., hardly any drink or drug use this year, further improvements to my diet. Things are getting better, despite the serious long term challenges, And I’m convinced that pumpkin seeds are improving, ahem, male vitality. (Could be the zinc.)

Maybe depression is a terminal illness. But remission feels good. You’ll have to drag me aboard the Night Train. I’m not buying my own ticket.

………………………………………… ‘We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.

Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.

We run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals.’

The 13 Satanic Steps – Addiction Recovery – No God required. The Odinic 9 step plan The Elmore Leonard Jailhouse Serenity Prayer

Recovery: The 13 Satanic Steps

if you’ve ever tired of God/Higher Power based recovery.

(The original AA 12 Steps are reproduced below. As are the rock hard Odinist 9 steps, which will help those wanting to recover without being a pussy about it…and, there is also the highly recommended – rational, cognitive, behaviourial motivational group therapy – the appliance of science. Also available in America.)

The 13 Satanic Steps

1 We admitted we didn’t want to be victims. Actually, you think what you like, I don’t want to be a victim.

2 I will rely on myself.

3 I will stay alert. Freedom from addiction rquires 24/7 vigilance.

4 I will not burden anyone with my confession of past sins or set myself up to fail by seeing myself as incurably ill.

5 I will not recognize God, or his rebellious rival – however much more glamorous and seductive s/he may be – with supreme earthly power, hot horns and hooves, a stonking great hard on and a serious pair of hooters. Although I may wear a Goat of Mendes/ Baphomet pendant – being a sulky teenager, currently rebelling against the onset of senility.

6 I did not make a list of people I have harmed in order to apologise to them, I have made a list of people who have harmed me. But I have come to realise that revenge is counter productive and that blood feuds beget further revenge even unto the sons of the sons of the…(‘Sons? SONS? WHAT ABOUT THE TRANS PEOPLE?‘ Duly noted, Ma’am. Actually, you can’t get more Trans than Baphomet.)

7 I do not pray to God or get naked, dance round the fire and indulge in the lewd scourging of consensual adults, either as an active or passive partner. At least not for the purpose of raising Satan, not any more, anyway, whoever he or she may be. (‘Who may wish to remain gender neutral.’ Yes. Thank you so much.)

8 Having not had a spiritual awakening I do not seek to convert others to my Church of Eternal Hellfire (Membership: 1 on occasion 2, if my dear wife isn’t otherwise occupied), or to the Way of the Libertine or any other simultaneously held beliefs: Part Time Bhuddism, Occult Atheism, Stoic Hedonism. And you do need to be stoic after 3 days of chemical empathy, even if enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

9 Because I can’t be arsed telling other people what to do.

10 And, if I may humbly suggest, neither should you be. Or at least don’t tell me. The shrift may be short.

11 I continue to exercise and stay mentally alert, through the constant temptation of ‘what harm could one drink do’? As repeated by idiot friends and most other people on earth, wherever you go, forever, as if they were evangelist members of David Niven and Errol Flynn’s Alcoholics Synonymous – if you didn’t want a drink your good friend would turn up and persuade you otherwise.

12 Having progressed beyond spirituality, or using it whenever I might feel like it, I will share what might help other 12 step veterans in the interest of harm reduction. Whatever works.

13 Hail Satan! Or not, as the case may be.


While the above is somewhat facetious I genuinely admire this Odinic 9 Step plan, formulated in a Texas prison, which I will respectfully let speak for itself.


A 9-Step Recovery for Odinists

I came up with the nine steps several years ago. I noticed that many of our people struggle with addiction but had a problem with the deeply Christian 12-steps, where the message is to give up your power to God. Our theology doesn’t resonate with that idea. You will see in the 9-steps the emphasis is more about looking honestly at yourself and using your personal power wisely, not destructively. The point is to be in line with the Gods and with the tapestry of Wyrd, not to be powerless before their will…

Today there is an Odinist AA group at the Ramsey Unit in Texas. The 9-step program has been officially recognized there. The men in this group came up with the embellishments on each step.

Many thanks to Lt. Geist and the substance abuse counselor at Ramsey.

We are all proud to present this program.

Laurel Owen

Coordinator, Prison Affairs Bureau of the Odinic Rite

1) Admit we have a problem with addiction and that we have used our personal power unwisely and destructively. Noble Virtue: TRUTH.

I stand at the Well of Wyrd, and peering within, I see that addiction is poisoning my fate.

2) Make a decision to align ourselves with the Gods and to contribute constructively to the Tapestry of Wyrd. Noble Virtue: COURAGE.

I call out to the Gods for need-fire, and wisdom, to overcome that which is destroying me.

3) Inventory our behavior patterns in a searching and fearless way. Noble Virtue: HONOR.

Guided by the might and main of the Gods, I drink deep from the well of my deeds, and take responsibility for what I find there.

4) Admit to the Gods, to another human being, and to ourselves the exact nature of our wrong choices. Noble Virtue: FIDELITY.

Holding honesty as my honor, I stand before the Gods, my ancestors, and a trusted companion, and lay forth the poison I found within.

5) Ask the Gods to help us change our destructive behavior. Noble Virtue: INDUSTRIOUSNESS.

Having awakened to who I have been, I choose to lay healthy actions into the Well of Wyrd, with the Gods at my side, so I may live with honor and luck in the future.

6) Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. Noble Virtue: DISCIPLINE.

Having honestly and completely shared the poison of my past, I choose to attempt to make right what I have made wrong in the past.

7) Make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Noble Virtue: HOSPITALITY.

Realizing that I must let go of who I have been, I hang myself from Yggdrassil, dying to who I was, and beseech the Gods for the Runes of victory. I reach out a hand to people I have hurt, if it’s appropriate.

8) Continue on a daily basis to take personal inventory and when we are wrong admit it. Noble Virtue: PERSEVERENCE.

Having gained the Runes over addiction, I continue to live with meaning, as genuinely as I can, day to day, always remembering that wisdom not lived is a sword not drawn.

9) With the spiritual awakening as a result of the steps, we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Noble Virtue: SELF-RELIANCE.

Having awakened to the rich heritage of the Gods of my ancestors, and my own constructive power, I go forward in my life to share this spiritual awakening with others, knowing that to gift (Gebo) this awakening is the best way to retain it.

-Laurel Owen, and the Odinist AA Group at the Ramsey Unit in Texas.

And now, last and least…(if you don’t dig Christ…)

The original AA 12 Steps

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Well, anyone can argue with the programme. But should you, as advised, take a leap of faith and ‘fake it to make it’? Memorise the other slogans? Get on your knees? If you’ve really hit bottom you’ll try anything. And it could work.

It’s saved more lives than critics like Penn and Teller ever will, (their informative and amusing examination of 12 Step is episode 11, series 2 of Bullshit!). However, P& T point out that rational group therapy is now available in America and in the UK. And it’s free.


Motivational and Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy does work, especially with the added support of a group and peer pressure. Just one problem: you have to want to get better.

And, finally, the Secular Taoist silver bullet:

The AA Serenity Prayer: Elmore Leonard Jailhouse Version

If you can handle it: do it. If you can’t: fuck it.

Penn and Teller call BULLSHIT! on 12 Step recovery

12 step is a cult? Addiction is not a disease? HERESY! And who wants to be shouted at by blowhard buttface Penn – or mimed at by creepy dwarf Teller? Why excoriate something that has saved countless lives? Science evangelists can be just as boring as the let-me-save-you-while-oversharing meeting junkies you get ‘in these rooms’.

DISCLAIMER Penn and Teller are smart, very accomplished performers who raise many important issues in eight series of tearing apart received wisdom. Just sharing the tough love… They do give space to opposing views, with some merciless editing. Very entertaining in a contrarian-just-to-be-cunty, televisual clickbait way. Well, pardon them for being interesting. And informative. And funny.Despite being an addict for over forty years I didn’t know there is a network of rational recovery groups ( or that recovery rate is 5% if you do the programme or if you don’t. Hang on, statistics can be BULLSHIT! and in any case some do learn moderate drinking – if they do a long enough stretch with 12 step, use it during the initial crisis, or come to prefer clean and sober to prison, violence, crime, illness, homelessness, family breakdown, the agony of missing your children, poverty, incontinence and death. (Although I was never degenerate enough to wear long hair in a pony tail. While not noticing that the hippy look might balance a fat, self-satisfied, ever-shouting face. Thank me later.)

Whatever works.

I got eight and a half years sobriety once with the help of AA or was it because I was asked to give up while we awaited the birth of our son? In that time there were just two relapses: one beer to redirect a bad acid trip – alone with toothache, at New Year in a dark house, what could go wrong? – and another during a grueling family Christmas. Someone said: ‘just ONE beer with the in laws?’
Only two drinks so far this year: one very moderate despite the extreme provocation of my Mother’s visit – a female Basil Fawlty who once gave Michael Heseltine a bollocking despite herself being a Tory – and the other a disastrous attempt to slowly sip Lidl’s as-good-as-a-£100 whisky. As if I care about ‘superb mouth-watering gristy sugars’. Six hours of wild hilarity later…the whisky had vanished. Then a day of doom. So it’s back to the 13 Step Satanic recovery – hedonist self-interest, rational choices – without crawling to the cross or using a higher power. Step One on its own can work. Just stop. Stay stopped (the hard part).

I had already learned the fat one’s conclusion: ‘If you don’t want to be a victim, don’t drink. Your choice.’  This fascinating programme will help those riled by the bleating of slogans and preachers who don’t respect your space. It shows there is another way. Excellent work, Penn and Teller.