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.