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Living Sober PDF Summary - The Problem Drinker’s Guide to Sobriety

Holistic detoxification program to safely mitigate withdrawals and cure alcohol addiction.

At 85 pages, the Living Sober PDF has provided practical advice and tips on thriving in sobriety that has helped countless people who are navigating the early days of recovery. Written by Alcoholics Anonymous member Barry Leach, the booklet is said to have come into fruition with the help of inputs from AA members who have had continuous sobriety.

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And it is not for nothing that they have shared some methods on how to find new ways to live without alcohol. In fact, this little book of simple and practical advice has helped loads of people who need to get through the day, through social occasions, or events without taking their first drink.

However, unlike the 85-pager Living Sober PDF, this summary highlights the booklet’s greatest and most useful suggestions in fewer pages. After all, day-to-day trigger situations call for a go-to companion that those in recovery can consult while surviving another day away from a drink.

This article is going to be updated frequently until it features all 32 chapters featured in the Living Sober PDF. Please check back for updates.

Living Sober Chapter 1

The Living Sober Chapter 1 starts with a disclaimer that its contents are not intended to offer a treatment plan for recovery from alcohol abuse. But while it does not serve as a replacement for the Big Book and Twelve and Twelve, it is a great supplement to the two rather traditional books.

Bad Drinking Habits

Drinking alcohol is influenced by daily habits, namely thinking habits and doing habits. Thinking habits are emotions and feelings felt inside by an individual while doing habits are behavioral patterns that have led to alcohol abuse.

Living Sober PDF recommends identifying these destructive habits and addressing them by replacing them with new, more positive habits to cope with the urge to binge drink. It is worth noting, however, that the journey to recovery has no shortcuts and it may take some time before healthier coping strategies become habitual practice.

The chapter also indicates that the booklet is meant to be a handy manual that is supposed to be consulted every once in a while when someone needs a little push to decline alcohol at home or at work.

People whose goal is to stay on the road to recovery may benefit from most, if not all, the suggestions discussed in Living Sober. The ideas presented can also be followed in no particular order or arranged differently in a way that best works for the afflicted person.

The alcoholic can learn to completely control his disease, but the
affliction cannot be cured so that he can return to alcohol without
adverse consequences.

Living Sober Chapter 1 - Bad Drinking Habits

Two Cautions Every Reader Should Know

To get the most out of the Living Sober PDF, the author cited two cautions that have been proven to be helpful: keep an open mind and use one’s common sense. Keeping an open mind simply means not completely dismissing unappealing ideas, but setting them aside for later use.

For instance, one of the most common myths about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is a religious society. And while it is one of the key elements of the group’s approach to recovery, there is room in the organization for believers and nonbelievers alike.

Therefore, some people may keep religious ideas at bay for the time being, but they are always welcome to have a change of heart on these ideas at a later time. On the other hand, utilizing one’s common sense means making intelligent use of the ideas presented in the text.

This is critical in accurately applying the suggestions from the booklet in real life. Leach used the example of the candy-eating idea, which is obviously not recommended for recovering alcoholics who are also diabetics.

A.A. also added that they do not offer medical or scientific advice on staying sober. Therefore, anyone who has developed serious health problems should seek medical attention first before reading the booklet.

Those who are not seriously ill, however, can benefit from the advice of individuals who have once been in their position. After all, the booklet is founded on personal experiences on how to live sober. The group indicates that sobriety is the stepping stone to recovery — which can be handled better through the guidance of the booklet.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 2

The second chapter emphasizes the importance of self-control by internalizing one of the most commonly used expressions in Alcoholics Anonymous: “If you don’t take that first drink, you can’t get drunk.

Staying Away From the First Drink

Staying away involves a strong will to avoid only one drink, which is the first one. The chapter focuses on this simple concept, as simply not taking the first drink keeps a person away from the trap of drinking just one drink, only to end up taking many other drinks after the first one.

This temptation tends to keep the vicious cycle of alcohol abuse going. To escape this habit, the text suggests simply not picking up the first drink. It adds that according to experts, the first drink triggers the irresistible urge to consume increasingly greater amounts of alcohol until an individual is back to square one – drinking more than intended.

“If you don’t take that first drink, you can’t get drunk.”

Living Sober PDF Chapter 3

Using the 24-Hour Plan

The 24-hour plan involves the wise use of 24 hours in a day and avoids making and breaking long-term promises. This section of the booklet talks about living in the now and suggests taking advantage of one’s daily life to become gradually sober.

Living Sober Chapter 3 - The 24 Hour Plan

What to Avoid When Quitting Alcohol

In A.A. the use of the expressions “on the wagon” and “taking the pledge” are avoided as much as possible. These expressions both commit to abstaining from drinking alcohol and making a vow to give it up for good.

Long-term promises, however, as several A.A. members found, are not as good as they seem. Taking pledges is more likely to result in having reservations, like only applying the pledge not to drink stronger alcoholic drinks.

The result? These individuals also get drunk on beer or wine as they do on the hard stuff. But even though this is not news to them, they still do it. Others have been successful in temporarily keeping alcoholic drinks at bay. However, when the time was up, the drinking spree went back. Only this time, it is mixed with worse feelings of guilt and remorse.

“Long-term promises are not as good as they seem”

Living One Sober Hour

Because the taboo expressions remind former alcoholics of their failures, they have learned better as they found that it is more realistic to decide not to take a drink just for 24 hours.

The promise, however, of not taking a drink just for the day, is not made to family members or fellow A.A. members, but only to oneself. After all, it is the afflicted person’s life that is at stake, so they need to exert extra effort to stay well.

The 24-hour plan is also very flexible in that it can be divided into smaller parts if the urge to drink becomes too irresistible. For instance, as the booklet suggests, deciding not to drink can begin with only one hour. A recovering alcoholic can brave an hour of cravings, then an hour more, and the rest will follow.

In fact, many recovery stories have begun with one sober hour. Additionally, the 24-hour plan can be done anytime and anywhere. Whether one is at home or at work, in the afternoon or in the middle of the night, a decision can be made to not drink in the next few minutes or the next coming hours.

Once the plan becomes a habit, the cycle of planning and coming to an end with the expressions “going on the wagon” and “taking a pledge” will be no more. Instead, deciding to live in the now by living one’s life in 24-hour segments has proven to be effective in staying sober.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 4

Remembering that alcoholism is an incurable, progressive, fatal disease

This section of the booklet talks about living in the now and suggests taking advantage of one’s daily life to become gradually sober. The 24-hour plan involves the wise use of 24 hours in a day and avoids making and breaking long-term promises.

Living Sober Chapter 4

What to Avoid When Quitting Alcohol

Some readers may not like or agree with the position that the title of the chapter is arguing. Especially today, when several treatment facilities, with the use of evidence-based approaches, have successfully guided people with alcohol use disorders on the road to recovery.

However, as the author suggested in the second chapter, it is best to keep an open mind when reading the booklet. In the same section, it was also made clear that A.A. does not offer medical or scientific advice, but is solely based on the members’ personal experience.

Making Peace With Imperfection

The chapter suggests developing better thought patterns that can help an afflicted individual gain a new perspective on their situation. Instead of feeling like they are missing a whole lot in life because they could not drink alcohol, according to the booklet, people should learn to accept their bodily limitations to maintain good health while in recovery.

A.A. is also convinced that alcohol use disorder is incurable. However, the author goes on to explain that the condition cannot be cured in the sense that people can no longer change their body chemistry and go back to being their pre-alcoholic self anymore.

Leach expounded further on this idea by giving an analogy of a pickle that could no longer go back into its cucumber form. The group also believes that alcoholism is a fatal disease, citing their experiences as witnesses to alcoholics drinking themselves to death or dying while going through withdrawal symptoms. The booklet also made mention of accidents or fatal events, which, despite not being directly associated with drinking, could actually happen because of it. These include car accidents, fire, heart attack, and even suicide.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 5

‘Live and Let Live’

The fifth chapter of Living Sober PDF talks about how giving other people power over you can negatively influence your drinking habits. Centered on the idiom “Live and let live,” the section shows how A.A.’s have used the saying to their own advantage and to aid their own recovery.

Living Sober Chapter 5 Summary

Living with and within differences

Putting the Concept into Practice

It is impossible to please everyone, no matter how hard someone tries. This remark has been so commonly expressed by other people that we often ignore how important it is to remind ourselves of this simple saying from time to time.

In fact, this reminder delivered benefits to many recovering alcoholics. When A.A.’s look back at their history of drinking, they notice that their drinking problems were almost always related to other people. From experimenting with alcoholic drinks during teenage years to keeping their drinking habits a secret from loved ones and becoming extra defensive when others mention their alcohol consumption, every circumstance involves other people.

However, as cited from the author’s own experience when he joined the group, it was a relief to meet a different breed of people in A.A. People who did not look with disdain and showed no hostility toward them, but welcomed them with understanding and concern, instead.

But it is also perfectly natural to meet some people within or outside the circle who will not be as welcoming or understanding as others. After all, some individuals are more skeptical and may easily hold themselves back from trusting recovered alcoholics who once spiraled into social and moral decline. But that’s perfectly fine. Living Sober PDF says here’s why:

Living Sober PDF Chapter 6

Getting Active

This chapter of Living Sober PDF focuses on building better coping skills through purposeful activities. As with any other forms of addiction, coping strategies are an important predictor of an individual’s recovery from alcoholism.

It is no easy feat, though, as drinking used to be a habit that was very hard to break for A.A. members. But once that habit was gone, what they had was lots of free time. At first, they were clueless on how to spend it without drinking-related activities, but they found that it was better to distract themselves with new tasks or activities instead of becoming preoccupied with thoughts of staying away from alcohol.

Simply stopping drinking is never enough, and this is an understanding A.A.’s gained through their experiences. And on the topic of experiences, the sixth chapter also gives readers a glimpse of what happens in an A.A. meeting and what people can expect during the gathering. People in recovery need new hobbies or activities to get busy with so they can overcome negative thought patterns and curb cravings. The booklet states that people may benefit from two kinds of activities that have been proven effective as an aid to their sobriety.

Activity in and around A.A.

Recovering from alcoholism is no walk in the park. The first early days of recovery can especially feel like there is not much progress taking place. A.A. members are no strangers to this, as well. During their drinking days, their minds would be so wired that they could easily think of endless excuses to rationalize their drinking behaviors.

However, during the early stages of recovery, their minds would often go blank and they would struggle to think of any sober activities to do. As Leach puts it, this might be a result of recently just being out of the habit or maybe the mind needs more time to adjust after the absence of alcohol in the system.

Living Sober Chapter 6 Summary

This section gives a list of social activities that do not involve alcohol. Coming from A.A. members themselves, these activities are especially helpful during early recovery, when the afflicted person still has difficulty thinking of things to do instead of drinking.

Some of the fun things A.A. members did without alcohol include:

  1. Taking walks
  2. Reading
  3. Going to museums and art galleries
  4. Exercising
  5. Starting on long-neglected chores
  6. Trying a new hobby
  7. Revisiting an old pastime
  8. Taking a course
  9. Volunteering to do some useful service
  10. Doing something about your personal appearance
  11. Taking a fling at something frivolous
  12. The 12th idea was intentionally left blank, as the author gives the reader the chance to fill it out with an activity they personally want to do.

The last part of the text reminds people not to get ahead of themselves. The thought of engaging in these activities may be exciting, but try to do them one at a time. After all, recovery is a lifelong process that takes time and requires dedication to get through each step.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 7

Using the Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

This slightly altered version of the Serenity Prayer has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and can be seen posted in the group’s meeting rooms. And as initially stated in the first part of Living Sober PDF, there is no religious requirement for an A.A. membership.

However, people of different beliefs and non-beliefs have benefited from the Serenity Prayer when they saw it as useful guidance in staying sober. For instance, A.A. members have put alcoholism on the top of the list of the things they cannot change.

This is in recognition of sobriety as a lifelong process and having the knowledge that turning into a nonalcoholic does not happen overnight. Coupled with this knowledge, however, is not letting go of one’s control over their situation. They know that they cannot change their situation, but they can change their attitude about it.

This is possible when one works hard to have the courage and wisdom to transform from drunk alcoholics into sober alcoholics. The author shared how the word serenity seemed overwhelming when they first encountered the prayer. However, when they acknowledged that for people like them, serenity means maintaining a realistic view of the world while protecting their inner peace and strength, nothing could stop them from aiming for that state of mind.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 8

Changing old routines


As people who have put in the work to successfully get through the road to recovery, A.A. members know too well how important it is to avoid triggers of relapse. From times to places, old activities and even people, what could seem as small risks could sneak up on a person and distract them from staying sober.

But in this section of the booklet, A.A.’s have shared some of the little changes one needs to make to avoid slipping back into old, drinking-related habits. For instance, starting the day with a coffee or tea instead of an alcoholic drink. A short exercise, alone time, or a morning meditation may also help with starting a new day.

Changing one’s route on the way to work to avoid triggers that may make them want to drink again is also beneficial for people in recovery. Taking note of one’s prime drinking times also helps with replacing the old routine with a new, healthier activity. For homemakers, rearranging daily chores was effective in changing routines, while for working people, really having coffee or tea during coffee break instead of an alcoholic drink worked best.

The author also added that it is good to have a companion who shares the same experiences during this shift in routines. Furthermore, instead of heading to your frequented restaurant where the staff is familiar with what you are having, you can opt for a new place and have new buddies to enjoy lunchtime with. Leach also emphasized the importance of making practical, easier changes in habits over testing one’s willpower when it comes to matters involving health.

Living Sober Chapter 8 - Summary

Building Sober Friendships

On getting rid of any alcohol drinks in the house, A.A. members have varying opinions. While some believe that avoiding alcoholic beverages forever is impossible while living in a drinking society, and therefore have kept the bottles of liquor at home and serve it only for guests, others maintain having no alcohol within the premises until their sobriety is in a steady state is much better. Those who have the latter stance   lean more on being safe than sorry.

At the end of the day, however, you know yourself better, and you get to choose your own theory. You know your drinking behaviors and the factors that may influence it. The tips mentioned in the eighth chapter of Living Sober PDF may appear simple to some people, but they have provided A.A. members with a much-needed push in early recovery.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 9

Eating or drinking something – usually, sweet

As already clarified in the early chapters, the booklet contains advice taken from the A.A. members’ personal experiences, and not from scientific reports. This is why the section does not explain how eating or drinking sweets curb alcohol cravings, at least in medical or technical terms.

What the members have, however, is anecdotal evidence that even for those who are not fans of sweets, the trick managed to work. But members of the group are also aware that consumption of sweets whenever the urge to drink arises does not apply to everyone. After all, others have health conditions in which sugar should be avoided. In such cases, fruits and other healthy alternatives to sweet food and drink may be consumed instead.

For some, it is not just the sweet taste that helps damp down the urge to drink. It may also be due to new habits that one can form instead of grabbing a glass of liquor. For instance, having a glass of fruit juice or soft drink, chewing, and swallowing are simple yet effective substitute actions for downing bottles of liquor.

Checking with a physician has also helped A.A. members realize that they are more undernourished than they know. As such, for others, any good food that can fill their stomach, from hamburgers to cheese and nuts, also does the trick.

And while others worry that replacing drinking habits with eating habits can make them gain unnecessary weight, members have seen that this is rarely the case. In fact, many of them lost weight when they replaced alcohol with wholesome food, while others have healthfully added some pounds to their weight.

Moreover, a little weight gain seems to be a small sacrifice compared with the possible consequences of alcoholism. But if one’s weight situation continues to be a cause for concern, A.A. recommends talking to a medical professional who has an expertise in weight problems and one who can also treat and advocate for alcohol addicted patients.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 10

Making use of ‘telephone therapy’


On the early days of achieving sobriety, unintended drinking sessions can happen. A.A. members have learned that just postponing the first drink and having something else in its place gives them the opportunity to remind themselves about their struggles by far. But they also know that they have another option when confronted with triggers and stressful times — make use of the ‘telephone therapy.’

The Power Of A Listening Ear

In A.A., members are encouraged to get each other’s telephone numbers and exchange phone calls whenever the urge to drink arises.

The thought of talking to a stranger over the phone may appear strange at first, but the experience turned out to be overwhelmingly positive for many A.A. members. Every person on the other end of the line has been welcoming and empathetic, as they understood their fellow members’ struggles even without explaining the reason behind the call.

They automatically understand, and the time of the call, nor the reason for it, did not matter to them, either. A.A.’s can also call each other in the face of fear, anxiety, or panic. When they communicated about their real feelings and what they attempted to do about these negative emotions, no judgment was made. As someone who has been in the same situation, the person who was telephoned was always ready to understand.

And with a little practical advice, helpful information, or tough tips, the thought of a drink easily disappeared for them. In fact, usual activities can also be done with fellow A.A. members, such as eating together, listening to music, chatting, or even camping. Although these social activities are also possible with other friends who are not recovered alcoholics, the bond you form with people who have the same goal of achieving sobriety as you do is something that is special and unique.

The majority of A.A. members make their first telephone calls to those who are newly sober, just like them. But one does not have to become a member first to try how telephone therapy works. In fact, anyone can reach A.A. on their telephone number, which can be found on many telephone directories, and even on their website.

Anyone can dial the group’s number and be able to talk to someone who genuinely understands. After all, for many who have tried telephone therapy, reaching for the phone instead of a drink easily does the trick.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 11

Availing yourself of a sponsor

Anyone who has tried to read or research things about Alcoholics Anonymous has surely encountered the word “sponsor.”

A sponsor is a recovered alcoholic who has been sober for a longer time. New A.A. members are encouraged to get a sponsor and it is up to them to pick their potential sponsor. The major importance of having one is that a newcomer gets to have a friendly guide while they navigate their own way through A.A.

This chapter of Living Sober PDF details some tips about sponsorships given by sober A.A. members, taken from their many years of experience in the organization. Those who have remained sober believe that the following suggestions may help in knowing what to expect from a sponsor:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous encourages same-sex sponsorship to avoid the possibility of romantic entanglement, which could cause unwanted complications and could distract the newcomer away from their goal of being sober.
  • A new A.A. member may not always agree with the suggestions given by their sponsor. However, it is worth noting that the sponsor has been in recovery for a longer time and has surpassed its fragile stages. Therefore, it may be worth taking a leap of faith and trusting them with your journey.
  • The only tool A.A. sponsors have is their personal experience. They draw lessons from it, and impart them with newcomers. Sponsors are not medical experts, legal workers, or counselors. Although others may be willing to discuss other matters apart from what they have experienced, sponsors are mainly mentors or guides who have successfully worked through the difficult times of recovery, and are now willing to help you achieve the same goal.
  • Some newcomers may be inclined to choose a sponsor who shares the same interest as them. However, this is not necessary and at times, A.A. members have proven that opposites work just as well together and make a great pair.
  • There are times when sponsors may be unavailable and are completely out of reach. After all, they have personal obligations, as well. However, this temporary absence should not stop new members from getting other forms of help. Various options are available in the absence of a sponsor. One can try looking for A.A. meetings within their area, read Living Sober PDF (or this summary), or make use of the telephone therapy. The bottom line is if there is a genuine desire for it, nothing can get in the way of achieving sobriety.
    Some may prefer having a team of sponsors to gain more knowledge and support during recovery. However, having several sponsors also comes with disadvantages. The tendency to make excuses and cover mistakes related to drinking may resurface in some people. However, as someone who has engaged into the same habits before, sponsors often do not fall for the same trick. It is extremely important to develop self-awareness and keep oneself from committing the same old mistakes that have led to alcoholism.
  • Although sponsors are recovered alcoholics who are considered role models, they too are humans in every same way. Therefore, they have their strengths and weaknesses. In rare circumstances, a sponsor may give wrong advice, even with the right intentions. However, this should not be used as an excuse to take a drink again and use the sponsor as an escape goat. Instead of blaming them, one should remind themselves of several other ways to stay away from a drink, which are detailed in the other sections of the booklet.
  • A new A.A. member is not obligated to repay their sponsor in any way. Sponsors have been serving as guides toward sobriety not because they want credit, but because they have been in the same boat before and have been lended a helping hand. Someday, new members will realize that the only way to give back is to offer the same helping hand to someone else in need.
  • A wise sponsor never lets personal feelings get in the way of the sponsor-newcomer relationship. They can freely allow a new member to stumble along the way, witness them rejecting their own advice, and still be able to keep their cool. At the end of the journey, sponsors will always feel happy for a member once they get past the sponsorship stage. After all, seeing the world through sober eyes is better done with people who can relate to your experience.

Living Sober PDF Chapter 12

Getting plenty of rest

Heavy drinkers often tend to ignore their tiredness due to the initial stimulant effects of alcohol. And although drinking to excess may cause someone to fall asleep faster, their sleep is often of poor quality and they experience sleep disruptions toward the end of the night.

Sleep problems are very common in recovering alcoholics and it can also cause relapse in many people. This is why the 12th chapter of Living Sober PDF suggests something to combat this: Get plenty of rest.

Living Sober Chapter 12 - Seeing Insomnia In A New Light
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