I am an alcoholic and I quit drinking on my own for good in 2004. Wait, wait, hold your thunderous applause. Here’s why I don’t recommend that. It was a trainwreck in very slow motion, so slow I couldn’t see it in real time.

I quit drinking on my own a few times. The first time I was able to abstain for a straight month, to which I reasoned, “Hey, I’m not an alcoholic, I didn’t drink for 30 days, that’s proof positive.”

So I decided to reward myself with moderation.

My two-drinks-per-night rule quickly devolved and in short order my drinking was worse than it was before I’d abstained. It’s an old story, the one of stops and starts. I would come to hear variations on the theme over the years, and later at the Red House, the Island’s peer recovery support center where I am currently the program coordinator.

The third and last time I quit drinking — which was when I was 26 — was precipitated by a moment of grace disguised as despair, a very simple event that rang an inner gong of deep understanding. I had no business drinking ever again because if I did it would just be more of the same, and I didn’t want more of the same. I wanted relationships, I wanted to remember things, I wanted to get off the treadmill of feeling ill, I wanted my life back.

I just didn’t know at the time it would be a new life.

I got cracked open that afternoon, which let a little light through. And then I got busy busying myself. I walked the streets of Manhattan. I put on sneakers and ran, watched movies at night, read books again — often at night to keep the goblins of night thoughts at bay. I sought refuge in these things; they were like blankets. I sought refuge in women. I wasn’t a philanderer, never was, but I built my world around relationships. I dove into other people.

In other words, I avoided the reasons why I’d sought refuge in drink.

I am an anomaly in the sense that I haven’t relapsed. But I relapsed in other ways without touching alcohol. I relapsed with weed, becoming “California sober” for over a decade — on and off, and mostly only at night and when alone. I was engaged in harm reduction without even knowing what harm reduction was.

I sought outside people, places and things to fill a void inside, relapsing with relationships, essentially leap-frogging from one to the next. I wasn’t aware of this inner, God-sized void primarily because I wasn’t seeking help. I wasn’t doing any of the inner work discovered through mutual aid groups like AA, Recovery Dharma, Life Ring and others. I was left to my own devices.

In other words, for over a decade after I quit drinking, I sponsored myself. Sponsoring yourself means you’re accountable to no one. You’re free to operate out in the world with your so-called character defects in full bloom, completely unchecked. It’s easy to deflect all your problems onto other people, places and things in your life when that happens.

You take the alcohol out of the alcoholism, you’re left with the “ism.” The “ism” is what the recovering alcoholic has to address daily in their reprieve from alcohol, in their successful journey of recovery.

The inability to cope normally with life’s ups and downs without alcohol is the “ism” part. It’s also an acronym for: I Sponsor Myself. I Sabotage Myself. Internal Spiritual Malady, etc.

To quote a very smart fellow: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Solo recovery is very much a thing, and it can work. It just usually works in wonky, messy ways, and the “success” rate — however you decide on success metrics — is nominal at best. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll think, but I’m different! That’s called “terminal uniqueness,” the “terminal” being the word that ought to give one serious pause.

The opposite of addiction is connection. Connection with peers, a re-connection with yourself and, most importantly, a connection with a Higher Power — call it God, call it Source, call it Divine Spirit, call it the Universe, call it what you will.

A place like the Red House fosters connection with all of those. Mutual aid groups like AA and Recovery Dharma also foster connection. But AA isn’t for everyone, and many are initially resistant to it (prejudice and discrimination play a huge part). The Red House embraces all paths to recovery and all stages of recovery.

There are many pathways available. A crucial point to understand is that your brain will say you can do this alone. But you can’t. No one can. Like many others, I stopped some behaviors by myself, but I didn’t begin recovery by myself, and I don’t sustain recovery by myself.

The world of difference between sobriety and recovery is a chasm bridged by surrender, humility and fearless honesty that only others can bring to light.

David Ferguson lives in Oak Bluffs. He is the program coordinator at the Red House, part of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.