Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Earth Is Still Flat!!

For Many Recovering Addicts, The Earth Is Flat!

In ancient times, the church leaders of the day believed the earth was flat. Most people accepted the church’s views without question and it was common belief that if anyone were foolhardy enough to sail too close to the edge of the world, they would surely fall off into the great abyss and perish. (sounds a little like hell, doesn’t it?) To make a long Inquisition short, a scientist named Galileo invented the telescope, which proved that planets are actually round in shape. Religious leaders of the day were outraged to learn Galileo had dared to challenge their teachings and branded him as a heretic. When Galileo set his telescope up on the roof of Cardinal Bellarmine’s Holy Office and asked him to look for himself, the Cardinal refused. Instead, the church held a trial and declared Galileo guilty of heresy. He was placed under house arrest until his death, in 1642. The Cardinal and his organization weren’t interested in any truth, but their own.

Based on this little snippet of history, it’s clear to see how the views of a few authority figures can be used to control the majority of the population. Today’s view of addiction recovery is a good example. In recent decades, authority figures working in the addiction field have convinced most alcoholics and addicts that they suffer from an incurable disease. It’s no more truthful than preaching that the world is flat, of course, but most addicts have swallowed this fallacy hook, line, and sinker. I have no problem with addiction being labeled as a disease. Dis-ease describes addiction perfectly. But, please don’t tell me that addiction is an “incurable” disease. Defining addiction as a disease with no cure not only paints every addict with the same broad brush, it’s also arrogant, insulting and condescending. Even worse, most of the so-called “experts” on the topic have never been addicted to any substance themselves. Most have not walked in the addict's shoes.

There are many of us, myself included, that have been cured of addiction. AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, was one. For those 12 Steppers reading this, please stop wringing your hands and shaking your head in shock and disbelief. Instead, get out your Big Book, 4th Edition, turn to page 191, and read Bill’s words for yourself. You might be in for a surprise.

It’s ironic that AA’s original message of addiction as a CURABLE disease is largely ignored by its members and the addiction treatment profession. It’s no accident, however. Everyone involved in addiction recovery stands to gain, in some form or fashion. Many addicts enjoy the attention their incurable disease offers them – there is a lot of sympathy and attention to be gained, not to mention the convenience of not having to be held accountable in working on their own cure. Seeking a cure is a lot of work, after all. Plus, it’s fun to belong to support groups, where people can all agree they are victims-in-arms. Some people enjoy it so much they spend the rest of their lives talking about it in support groups, and little more.

Treatment professionals and rehab clinics love the incurable disease label because it earns them oodles of money… especially when rehab becomes a revolving door for the hopelessly incurable patient. And where would A.A. be if everyone became cured of addiction? Who would “keep coming back” to shout “it works if you work it” week after week? If most people actually worked the program, a lot of people would be out of a job.

Much like Galileo, I expect some will label my view of an addiction cure as heresy. But, like Galileo and countless others, I’ll continue to stand behind my beliefs, even at the risk of ex-communication and solitary confinement. Five hundred years after Galileo’s death, many still believe what others tell us, without question. Fear is a great motivator. Those that think outside the box might sail off the edge and perish, after all… unless we dare to step aboard our own recovery vessel and set sail for ourselves.

Read AA’s original message and decide for yourself - Big Book, 4th Edition, page 191.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Role Of Spirituality In Addiction Recovery

Spirituality fascinates me. I guess that’s because of all the years spent living in the darkness of my own addiction. For more than twenty years, the only spirit I ever felt came out of a bottle with the word “fine spirits” printed on the label. I emptied thousands of bottles looking for the spirit inside, but never was able to find it. All I ever got out of any bottle the next morning were feelings of sorrow, emptiness and pain. Ironically, those were the same feelings that caused me to drink in the first place. I wasn’t alone in my little black hole, though. Countless addicts before me have felt the same way, and there are millions more feeling the same silent desperation today.

There is a way to climb out of the darkness, though, using a spiritual approach. What, exactly, is spirituality? Simply stated, spirit and soul are said to be separate entities, yet connected. The soul is the essence of our inner being - it is the place inside us where inner peace and happiness are meant to reside. Spirit is the flow of energy that connects our soul with a universal energy. Some call this energy God, while others think of it as universal knowledge, higher self, or even an invisible, yet very real form of energy called love. Spirit is the high voltage power line that carries light (and love) to the soul. Many people, alcoholics and teetotalers alike, are often only vaguely aware that spirit exists, if at all. As a practicing alcoholic, I was completely in the dark. That’s because alcohol and drugs deaden one’s perceptions and block the ability to feel normal emotions like joy, peace and a connection with others. Emotions are a form of energy. If spirit connects us to the Great White Light in the Sky, then someone must have turned the light switch off inside me. Someone did, and it was my old pal, Budweiser.

On the other hand, addicts also use alcohol and drugs to block painful memories that have harmed our souls in the past. It’s a way to hide from the pain of emotional, physical, or other types of trauma we carry within us. It’s a band-aid approach, of course – a quick fix to escape reality, rather than face it. It’s only when the pain of addiction becomes greater than the pain we’ve been trying to escape that we’re forced to do something about it – or not, as the case might be. Some choose to continue on a downward spiral until there’s nothing left to save, including their own life. Others do choose to save themselves, on a physical and mental level, but stop at that point. While that approach does help us learn to control the urge to drink or get high, it doesn’t address the underlying issues that drive addiction. More effort is required to restore the inner peace, joy of living, and serenity that result through a spiritual connection.

This is where spirituality separates the men from the boys… or recovering addict vs. cured addict, in this case. A spiritual connection is a leap of faith. You’re simply putting your trust in the belief that a power greater than your own can, and will, help you to overcome addiction. It’s a very simple thing to do, but sincerity counts, and you have to mean every word of it.

But you also have to be willing to face yourself in the mirror, which is not easy. It requires courage. Fear is the biggest reason many of us are hesitant to make the leap. We’re afraid to face the pain, shame, guilt and other weaknesses within ourselves – and we’re afraid to bare our deepest secrets to an invisible power greater than our own. We fear we might be judged for it, rather than forgiven. For the first time, we must admit we can no longer handle our problems. And we must become willing to hand them over to something we can't see. It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.

However, as anyone who has had a spiritual awakening can tell you, fear is the first thing to disappear. Fear, guilt, pain and other issues that drive addiction can be erased in an instant and replaced with a sense of calmness and faith that never leaves your side again. Once the negative emotions that fuel our addiction have gone, the addiction is also gone… permanently. Our spiritual disease disappears along with it. We are no longer fragile, recovering addicts, always just one drink or one puff away from relapse, ruination and death.

We become former addicts, cured of addiction – the same cure AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, spoke of on page 191 of AA’S Big Book, which was AA’s original message.      

Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 Steps To Recovery Book

3 Steps To Recovery explained… some of you have seen the occasional link I’ve posted to my latest book, which is called 3 Steps To Recovery. It’s partly a memoir of addiction and partly a guide to help fellow addicts learn how to overcome their own addiction.

So why is it called 3 Steps To Recovery, and not 12 Steps, as outlined in AA’s Big Book? The answer is simple. The book is based on AA’s 12 Steps, but simply focuses on 3 of the 12 Steps that address the heart of addiction and teaches others to overcome addiction using 3 simple steps. The same steps that Bill W. and Dr. Bob used to cure their addictions. That’s right. AA’s original message was that there is a CURE for addiction.

While all 12 Steps are wonderful principles to follow, 9 of the 12 steps were written to help recovering addicts AFTER we stop drinking. The 3 Steps discussed in the book are designed to help people stop NOW. Once they’ve learned how to stop, they can later decide whether or not to pursue the remaining 9 steps. Some will, some won’t. But the most important message of AA’s 12 Steps is learning how to beat the addiction before moving on to the next step, and that is the main message of 3 Steps To Recovery.

3 Steps To Recovery was written with those people in mind and brings AA’s message to them. If you can’t take Mohammed to the mountain, then bring the mountain to Mohammed, as they say.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Is REAL Addiction Recovery?

I was doing my usual thing on the world’s most famous social website the other day – just cruising along, checking out addiction recovery groups and reading peoples’ comments on the topic, when something disturbing caught my eye. So disturbing, it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to think about the true meaning of recovery. A member of one group went out of his way to post a photo of someone who works in addiction recovery and labeled this person as a murderer. He called the person a lot of other names, as well, but most of them were too obscene to repeat. You might be asking yourself why anyone would do such a thing - least of all, a recovering addict. Well, from all appearances, the poster’s hate-filled attack against this so-called “murderer” was because the counselor uses a psychology-based, non-12 Step approach to treating addiction. This alternative to most conventional programs apparently challenged the poster’s personal view of recovery. He used slander and defamation of character as ways to convince others that his view of recovery is superior. Sometimes, fire scares caveman.

So what, exactly, is recovery? That’s a tough one. Recovery means different things to different people, depending on what level of sobriety each of us has reached. Someone that quit drinking or using drugs three weeks go is just beginning to view life with a new perspective, while someone with 27 years in recovery has moved way beyond that point. Or, should have, at least. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Addiction recovery is a process. Becoming an addict doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does recovery. Many would say addiction is an incurable disease and that every addict must forever remain in a state of recovery. Others disagree and claim to have made a full recovery and are no longer an addict. While the 12 Step method is the most popular choice, many addicts have recovered using alternative approaches, such as psychotherapy, holistic healing, or even sheer willpower. The truth is, people vary, and there is no one-size-fits-all technique to beating addiction. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

Therein, lies the confusion. So, how do we define recovery? Sometimes, it’s easier to define what something is by first eliminating what it is not.

Recovery is NOT –

·      Criticizing another’s path to sobriety
·      Claiming to be an expert about recovery, and which approach works best
·      Preaching from the recovery pulpit
·      Spreading resentment, anger and hate
·      Beating one another over the head with our own beliefs and opinions
·      Talking the talk without first walking the walk

Recovery IS –

·      Acceptance of our own flaws and weaknesses, as well as those of others
·      Open-mindedness to views different from our own
·      Humility – one of the greatest gifts we can receive as recovering addicts, along with learning to appreciate the true meaning of words like gratitude, serenity, inner peace, and forgiveness
·      Moving forward in a positive direction, while helping others do the same
·      Respect - for ourselves and for others

One thing most addicts in recovery can agree with is that addiction is a cold, lonely pit of darkness, at least for those that have hit bottom. Rather than climbing over one another to escape the pit, we ought to join hands and pull one another to safety. That is the true meaning of recovery.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Reader Review - 3 Steps To Recovery Book

  When you write books about addiction recovery, some days are better than others. There are days when the words flow like water and days you struggle to form the first sentence. There are even some days when you wonder if what you’re doing matters to anyone at all.
And then there are days when you receive letters like this one, which makes it all worthwhile. 
Dear Dan,
I’m overwhelmed to learn about your healing experience. I have no doubt that it happened. Over the years, I have bought a lot of books on this subject. A Course in Miracles and others, but they never got to me quite deeply enough. Because of your book, I will start to forgive my parents and end up thanking them because it is the only way to. I don’t know exactly what you wrote that made me see, but all the love flowing from every word and your beautiful, unselfish heart really got to me. I don’t know how, but I do know that your words started filling up the hole in my soul. I will read your book again and it will become my new bible. I will start to inhale the three steps and I will “ fake-it-til-I-make-it”.
I love to read about where you are today. The last time I cried over a book, a mother had lost her children, and now I’m crying over this one. Not because I feel sorry for anyone, but because of the love that speaks to me and puts things in perspective. I knew the answer all along and, then again, I didn’t. I know now that it is all up to me – that there is no one else to blame and yesterday I started meditating with a grateful heart. No angels have put their hands on me, but I feel connected to a higher power that is there for me. I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your book. It arrived three days ago – on the day that I most needed it. I will get back to you when I am not so overwhelmed and, perhaps, can give some better feedback. Right now I am just so filled with love and truth. Thank you, Dan. All my love to you and your family.
I received this letter from a struggling addict living in Europe. But the praise belongs to a Higher Power, not me. All I did was write a book to share the blessing I received with others – my Higher Power did all the hard work.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Simple Vs. Easy

Simple Vs. Easy

For most people, tying one's shoelaces is a simple thing. Most people don’t really give it a second thought, and many are even able to look the other way while tying a perfect knot. The truly gifted can even tie their shoes as they talk about the weather or discuss a movie they watched the night before, while simultaneously thinking about filling out next year’s tax form. If you’re one of those people, congratulations! You are an elite member of the Talented Shoe Tying Society and I bow at your feet.

I belong to a different organization. It’s called the Tying Rehabilitative Intervention Program, or T.R.I.P. for short. While the rest of you are off enjoying your morning run on the jogging trail, I’m still struggling to tie my shoes without drooling on myself. Shoelaces have always been a thorn in my side. While other kids on the school playground stopped, dropped, and tied a loose shoelace in seconds, I just didn’t get it and spent the entire day tripping over myself. My older sister finally taught me a rudimentary technique involving doubling each lace separately, carefully laying each bow on top of one another, and slowly wrapping one around the other to form a knot. It’s a technique I still use today, fifty years later.

You might be wondering how something so simple could be so difficult. I mean, come on, what could possibly be easier than tying a shoelace? While it might seem easy now, it wasn’t always that way. At some point, each of us had to learn how to tie our own shoes without anyone’s help. It only became simple after we observed someone else, listened carefully, practiced tying knots over and over, and finally mastered the skill. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. There is a difference between simple and easy.

Addiction recovery is a little like learning to tie our shoelaces. Although there are some simple steps we can follow to overcome addiction, applying those simple steps is anything but easy. It’s hard work, especially in the beginning. Addicts are notorious at complicating even the simplest things in life. Many practicing addicts even go out of their way to complicate things, because it gives us an excuse to drink or get high. Instead of embracing the simple recovery concepts we’re taught at face value, we like to over analyze, convolute, and challenge them. We could screw up the recipe for ice cubes. Concepts like surrender, acceptance, and gratitude are simple enough for any child to learn. In fact, we could learn a lot just by watching them run and play. Yet, most of us focus only on turning a simple task into a difficult one.

How do we make recovery an easier process? Simple. We do it by closing our mouths and opening our ears. We practice each step of our recovery program step by step, one at a time. Make a list of priorities and write them down on a sheet of paper. Pick the one that’s most important for you today and make it your priority. Stick with it until you’ve completed it, before moving on to the next. Don’t analyze it. If gratitude is on your list of the day, for example, don’t spend hours defining the word and 1,000 ways it can be applied. Just be grateful for the food on your table, the roof above your head, or grateful that all four of your limbs are intact. And be grateful you’re not shoelace challenged, like some of us. Keep it simple. Simple is good.

3 Steps Vs. 12 Steps

3 Steps To Recovery… some of you might have seen the occasional link I’ve posted to my new book, which is called 3 Steps To Recovery. It’s partly a memoir of addiction and partly a guide to help fellow addicts learn how to overcome their own addiction.

So why is it called 3 Steps To Recovery, and not 12 Steps, as outlined in AA’s Big Book? The answer is simple. The book is based on AA’s 12 Steps, but simply focuses on 3 of the 12 Steps that address the heart of addiction and teach others to overcome addiction using 3 simple steps. The same steps that Bill W. and Dr. Bob used to heal their addictions.

While all 12 Steps are wonderful principles to follow, 9 of the 12 steps were written to help recovering addicts AFTER we stop drinking. The 3 Steps discussed in the book are designed to help people stop NOW. Once they’ve learned how to stop, they can later decide whether or not to pursue the remaining 9 steps. Some will, some won’t. But the most important message of AA’s 12 Steps is learning how to beat the addiction before moving on to the next step, and that is the main message of 3 Steps To Recovery.

Of course, struggling alcoholics and addicts could choose to attend AA meetings and find a sponsor for free, rather than buying a book written about the same topic. But joining groups and attending meetings are not everyone’s style. 3 Steps To Recovery was written with those people in mind and brings AA’s message to them. If you can’t take Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed, as they say.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ego and Recovery

Ego and Recovery

Egos and addiction recovery go together like cupcakes and garlic. There are some combinations that just don’t belong together and leave a bad taste in your mouth. You see it every day in addiction recovery forum discussions. One person’s road to recovery can’t possibly be any good because it’s not the same as another’s. What?! You overcame addiction some way different than mine? IMPOSSIBLE, IDIOT. Can’t you see that? What is wrong with you? You must be blind to the one and only truth, which is, of course, my truth.

It’s ironic, really. The same over-inflated egos we use to beat one another over the heads also block our own path to recovery. In its simplest form, ego is defined as one’s “wants and needs” – the same wants and needs that cause many people to view ourselves as the center of our own tiny universe. The same wants and needs that kept us in denial and fed our addiction when we were using or drinking. And the same wants and needs that assure us our views and beliefs are superior to others and blind us to the true meaning of recovery.

Acceptance plays a huge role in the recovery process. Before any of us could learn to stop drinking or using, we had to accept the fact that we had a problem. Most of us also had to accept the problem was out of control and that we needed help to fix it. Many used a 12 Step approach, while others found solutions through alternative support groups or non-traditional methods. Some even learned to kick the habit alone, with no one’s help. The latter group is a favorite target for some and they’re often labeled as dry drunks, not recovering addicts, and are dismissed as fools. Just because we’ve been told its impossible to beat addiction alone doesn’t necessarily make it so. While it might be true for some of us, it might very well be different for others. Why? Because people vary and there’s more than one way to peel an onion. Who are any of us to ridicule other techniques or point fingers at those who choose a path different than our own? Dire warnings of relapse and ruination, followed by claims that there is only one true path to recovery, is just another of saying it’s my way or the highway. Such thinking is the exact opposite of the recovery lessons we’ve been taught and should have learned. If we haven’t learned yet, then we need go back to Acceptance 101 class and start over.

If I were a struggling addict looking for online recovery group help and saw so-called recovering addicts pounding one another over the head with their beliefs, I’d probably walk right back out again. Recovery is all about sharing the blessings we’ve received with others, and acceptance is the key to recovery. Not just accepting my recovery program, or yours, but everyone’s.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Can Addiction Be CURED? Yes.

Can Addiction Be Cured? Yes.

In today’s world, most addiction treatment professionals view addiction as an incurable disease, which can only be managed and controlled using ongoing aftercare programs. In other words, every addict will always be a recovering addict, and cannot hope to become a former, or cured, addict.

Bill Wilson, founding father of Alcoholics Anonymous, told a different story. In regards to a conversation with his friend, Ebbie, Bill wrote the following -

Then over and over Ebbie would say something like this: "Bill, it isn't a bit like being on the water wagon.  You don't fight the desire to drink -- you get released from it.  I never had such a feeling before."

Such was the sum of what Ebbie had extracted from his Oxford Group friends and had transmitted to me that day.  While these simple ideas were not new, they certainly hit me like tons of brick.  Today we understand just why that was . . . one alcoholic was talking to another as no one else can. Two or three weeks later, December 11th to be exact, I staggered into the Charles B. Towns Hospital, that famous drying-out emporium on Central Park West, New York City. I'd been there before."

Of course, I'd once hoped to be among the small percentage of victims who now and then escape their vengeance. But this outside hope was now gone.  I was about to hit bottom.  That verdict of science -- the obsession that condemned me to drink and the allergy that condemned me to die -- was about to do the trick. That's where the medical science, personified by this benign little doctor, began to fit it in.  Held in the hands of one alcoholic talking to the next, this double-edged truth was a sledgehammer which could shatter the tough alcoholic's ego at depth and lay him wide open to the grace of God.

In my case it was of course Dr. Silkworth who swung the sledge while my friend Ebbie carried to me the spiritual principles and the grace which brought on my sudden spiritual awakening at the Hospital three days later.  [Dec. 14, 1934]  I immediately knew that I was a free man.

According to Bill, his addiction was cured. Vanished, erased, gonzo. Bill’s spiritual awakening was an experience he wanted to share with other alcoholics, which is the reason he, Ebbie, and several others founded Alcoholics Anonymous and wrote the 12 Steps. They wanted to tell the world that they had discovered a spiritual cure for a spiritual disease, which is how Bill defined alcoholism – as a spiritual disease.

A.A. is a well-intentioned organization, which has helped untold numbers of people suffering from addiction. But, somewhere along the way, A.A.’s original message, which is that people can be cured of addiction, has been lost. Instead, we are told that addiction is a wolf always waiting just outside the door, ready to devour us. Bill Wilson’s empowering message that we can become freed from addiction has been replaced with a victim mentality. We’re told that without ongoing, lifelong aftercare treatment programs, we are sure to fall prey to addiction. Relapse and ruination are certain, we’re taught, because we suffer from an incurable disease called addiction.

I’m not sure quite how Bill Wison’s original message was lost in the shuffle, nor why attitudes have shifted from the original view of addiction as a curable disease towards an incurable disease. But, in my personal experience with addiction, one thing is certain. A.A.’s original principle that a spiritual disease can be cured using a spiritual approach is true. I know this approach works, because it worked for me, using 3 of Bill’s 12 Steps. A spiritual awakening followed, which literally removed my own twenty-year addiction overnight. Sixteen years have since passed and the overwhelming urge, which drove me to drink for two decades, has never returned.

While there are many roads leading to recovery, and a spiritual approach might not be for everyone, it’s high time the addiction community return to its founder’s original principles, which teach that not only can addiction be controlled, it can also be cured.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recovering Addict vs. Cured Addict

Hi, my name is Dan and I'm an alcoholic a former alcoholic.

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my addiction blog.

When landing in a rehab hospital 17 years ago, one of the first things my fellow addicts and I were told was that addiction is an "incurable disease" which we could only learn to control, at best. The concept didn't set well with me then, nearly two decades ago, and it still doesn't.

Addiction treatment hasn't changed a lot in the last twenty years. Most addiction professionals will still swear up and down that no addict or alcoholic can ever be cured and will forever remain in a state of recovery. They will have you believe that every addict is always just one drink or pill away from relapse, ruination and an early grave. Addicts are simply far too fragile and helpless to ever hope to defeat our addiction, they assure us. Our only hope is through rehab, group therapy, and attending 12 Step meetings for the rest of our lives. While this approach might be helpful for some people – and I’m not saying it isn’t – attending A.A. meetings and 12 Step programs isn't for everyone.

But there is a simpler way. If conventional treatment methods haven't worked for you or a loved one, then you're not alone. There are many of us who have learned to beat addiction on our own and countless others still searching for answers. This is a place to post questions, exchange views, or share your personal story with others.