Breaking Good: What Breaking Bad Can Teach a Recovering Alcoholic

breaking bad

Be the Reverse Walter White

The great television show Breaking Bad is all about transformation.  It grabbed people’s attention because it showed such a shocking transformation, which was the centerpiece of a very controversial and hard-to-watch story.  We watch, season after season, a school teacher getting into the manufacture of crystal meth, becoming known for the purity of his product, getting mixed up with fearsome criminals, building a web of lies, killing people, destroying his family, and ultimately losing himself.  People love crime and gritty TV shows, but it’s also disturbing, thought-provoking, and a bit sad, watching an otherwise sympathetic man becoming a serial liar, a purveyor of junk, an egomaniac.

There’s something you can take from the saga of Walter White as you confront your alcoholism and get sober.  When you do something like that, it’s important to have a framework.  You have to have a way of thinking about it and stays with you, that allows you to keep focuses, and that makes sense.  Here’s one way: think of your sobriety as a TV series, one with as many seasons as it takes.  During the series, you’ll be going through an amazing transformation, basically living Breaking Bad in reverse.

Now, the first thing you have to confront is this idea that it’s really cool to be a thug or a middle-class drug dealer, etc.  You can’t think it’s square to just get sober, etc.  Remember, that TV shows are just TV shows, just fantasy.  Obviously the legions of fans of Walter White wouldn’t really want to be like him, to harm the folks he’s harmed, and to face the consequences he did.  The man ruined his life.

We’re in the real world here, as real adults.  Going through a positive transformation is what will help your life; it’ll bring you closer to your family; and it will take you into a higher realm overall.  Ultimately, it will be sexy in its own way, and it will ultimately bring you the respect of those important to you.

So, here’s a look at how to take what may be one of your favorite TV shows and turn it into a life-changing experience.

Oh the Tangled Web You’ll Unweave

Think back to the episodes of Breaking Bad.  Focus on seasons 2 and 3.  Remember how Walt made up a crazy story about having gone into a fugue state?  Then he had to have all these various cell phones.  Then he and Skyler opened up a car wash to launder money and then they concocted a story about Walt being a gambler to explain the money to Skyler’s family. Walter continued to have lies from everyone else involved.

Now, you may not think of yourself as having some great web of secrets or a big roster of lies.  But if you stop and think about the times when you simply told your boyfriend or someone analogous that you didn’t have a drink that night, that you weren’t hanging out with a particular bad influence, etc., you may realize that you have a lie or two on your resume.  Further, you’re definitely hiding the secret of your addiction from a lot folks.  One way or another, you have things others don’t know, that you don’t want to know.

As you go through your recovery, no longer having drinking to hide, and having come clean on some of your previous tall tales, you’ll see strand after strand of the web unraveling.  You’ll feel relief and satisfaction, more and more as the webs untangle.  The improvement in your relationship will help all areas of your recovery.

Better Associates

During Walt’s trip into drughood, he became entangled with insane kingpins, junkies named Spooge, and the diabolical Gus Fring.  Fring, to a casual observer, might look like a doctor or lawyer, a bespectacled middle-age man with manicured looks.   To Walt, he initially came across as rational and professional, even if his profession was trafficking meth internationally.  But he was an ice-blooded sociopath, striking fear into Walt’s heart and causing a kill or be killed situation.

If your case is like mine, you are associated with some problematic characters.  They may not be murderers or kingpins, but they may be hangers-on, they may drag you into bad emotional places that facilitate drinking.  They may actually entice you to drink or fail to shield you from drinking situations.  None of these is any good.

Think about Walt and what he went through, the difficulty the danger and fear.  That’s not very appealing, and thinking of the opposite process should be cheering.  Think about how great it will be to run the film backward and go, like Walt, from running from criminals, to running with people who care about you, such as your family.  I mean, think of it: who can replace your friends?  Family.  Even if you have sketchy relationships with some of them, you’ll be cleaning that up while cleaning yourselves up.  In the majority of cases, your blood relatives will be a positive factor in your life.

No Law Troubles

In Breaking Bad, Walter White is in danger of being caught by the law at all times.  It’s something that makes me uncomfortable to watch, and yet I know I was in danger myself back in my dark days in the 80’s, since I got into a car while drunk a number of times.  Once I got sober, I had a tremendous sigh of relief, since I never had to worry about going to jail, having my license revoked, etc.  It’s a tremendous freedom.  And as you get and remain sober, you’ll run the film of Breaking Bad backwards, getting yourself into less and less trouble with the law, more and more freedom.  You’ll go back to episode 1 of season 1, when Walt didn’t have a care in the world in terms of getting in trouble.



Breaking Bad is all about a man who gained some thrills and an awful lot of money, but lost his soul in return.  He ultimately put himself in a place where he was on an island, sealed off, by his own hand, from his family and from his entire life.  Wherever you are on this continuum, it’s now your chance to reverse things and to gain integrity.  How many people have that chance?  As you go through season one of your recovery, then season two and so on, you’ll find yourself being more respected by those around. More importantly, you’ll respect yourself  more. There’s no greater thrill than feeling better and better about yourself, giving yourself a gift no one will ever take away.  It’s difficult, but you’ll understand what you’re working toward.

No Ego

One of the things that plagued Walt—or that he plagued himself with—was his towering ego, something that ruined everything.  I know when I was an alcoholic, I had a certain ego.  Essentially, I felt that drinking was an interesting quirk to which I was entitled.  I also felt that I could decide to quit if I felt like it and could do so if I damn-well pleased.  I can tell you first hand that without a doubt I lost a lot of ego when I went dry.  And that felt amazing.  That means that my self esteem went up, good healthy self esteem replacing attitude, which is a false kind of self esteem.

We can learn from television.  TV narratives are all about transformation.  A lot of times, the producers and writers dump a lot of misery on their characters.  In the case of Breaking Bad and how it applies to recovered alcoholics, the blueprint is there to inspire you to a great change.  Looking at it from the perspective of Walter White, you can see how great it would be to make a positive transformation.  Feel the positive changes and let them ispire you to even more.

Photo Credit Jay Gen on Flickr