I’d like to dedicate this opening section to anyone who has hit bottom in an addiction of any kind.
You may be feeling desperate or helpless in connection with your situation. My heart goes out to you, and I sincerely wish you good health, happiness, and success in reaching your life goals. I have quite a bit of information that I want to share with you that I think you’ll find to be useful. But first I want to tell you a little bit about my background.
As of this year (2021) I am age 52 and have been sober for over 35 years. I’ve been actively participating in recovery since I was 15 1/2 years old. Over that long span of my time in recovery I’ve worked with a very large number of people from all walks of life who have been pursuing addiction-free lifestyles.
I’m not a therapist. I’ve read a great deal on therapeutic disciplines and have consulted with many professionals in the associated fields. But my knowledge is rooted in my own life experiences and in my dealings with others like myself who have struggled with addictions of many kinds.
I have found that people usually conform to one of two types when it comes to addictions and overcoming them: Those who feel inspired to overcome their addictions and are ready to take necessary actions, and those who cannot help themselves.
Any self-help program should entail incorporating sound philosophy into your life in order to make necessary changes. Both the philosophy and the program will likely involve surrender, seeking help from others, turning to a higher power of some kind, and praying. And as far as praying and seeking help from a higher power is concerned, doing those things will not make it so that you have to do nothing on your own. You must still take decisive actions to free yourself from the chains of addiction.
In the years that I’ve been sober I’ve been involved in many different types of 12-step recovery groups. I have listened to and worked with people with just about every type of addiction imaginable and with behavior patterns that would make your head spin 720°. Perhaps you’re a person involved in outrageous activities driven by your addiction.
I’ve seen a great many people in horrible circumstances get back on their feet, turn their lives around, and become enlightened. I’ve also seen people with very common psychological problems and very socially acceptable addictions die because of their problems and addictions.
One such person was one of my best friends. He seemed to have everything: He was a good looking guy with a beautiful wife, three lovely children, and a great career. But he just decided to start using, and shortly afterwards he was found dead in his bathroom.
Many people have milder addictions but are very highly functioning individuals in all other areas of life. Such people are hesitant to read books that focus on people who are hard core drug users or who have terribly out of control sexual addictions or gambling addictions. They are hesitant to read such material because they can’t relate to it.
You may be a person with one or more of what might be considered milder addictions or milder addictive behaviors. But a person who wants to break free of any addiction of any kind—whether very mild or very severe—must come to a full understanding of two things. One is what the nature of addiction is. The other is how to find and adhere to new behavior patterns to replace the destructive ones that are linked to the particular addiction(s) that he or she is struggling with.
This bears repeating. Those who have been heroin addicts for decades and those who are just struggling with things such as obsessions and romantic addictions have the same behavior patterns. The sources of their problems are the same, and the solutions for overcoming their addictions are the same.
Perhaps you have been in recovery for some time but still are struggling to get a grip on things. If that’s the case, then it’s an indication that you’re not doing the right work. It’s that simple. And that’s very good news—it means that you are highly motivated to come to full recovery but just need to make some changes in the way you go about it.
Having said that, I won’t offer you a magic pill or a silver bullet. You cannot lift yourself out of your problem by just snapping your fingers. You will need to do some work. But you can experience a bit of relief this instant just by understanding that in the process of reading this book you’ve already begun the journey to self-help and recovery.
Recovery from what?, you may ask. Recovery from forgetting the truth of who you are and recovery from the suffering that you’re experiencing.
Recovery from trauma. Recovery from grief. Recovery from confusion. Recovery from obsessive behavior. Recovery from torment. Recovery from loss. Recovery from self-centered destructive behavior.
I can guarantee one thing: If you immerse yourself in some specific self-help practices seven days a week with no days off, you will improve. The practices that I’m speaking of and that I will describe in detail adhere to laws of nature. Just as if a person who drinks water will have their thirst quenched or if a person who sits down and rests will be less tired, a person who practices certain disciplines will free themselves from their addictions.
If you do so you will not only experience addiction recovery in and of itself. You will also find your way to mental stillness and freedom from fear and anxiety, the root causes of our suffering. Fear and anxiety underlie all the pain that we seek to numb out with behaviors such as gambling, spending money, dating compulsively, watching TV, staying glued to our smartphones, smoking, drinking coffee, taking drugs, drinking alcohol, exercising excessively, and seeking adrenaline rushes.
Any human being who can figure out how to do something can figure out how to do it addictively. They can figure out how to do it in a way that will bring temporary pleasure. If the temporary pleasure is strong enough, an addictive person will look to do that thing obsessively out of a desire to feel euphoria.
Where does that deep desire come from? Why are we so desperate for euphoric feelings that we would annihilate ourselves? Why is the drive to feel comfort so great? I’ll get into that, but first I want to give some more detail about the crucial self-help disciplines that I referred to a couple of paragraphs ago.
The first thing a person must be willing to do is pray. It doesn’t make a difference to me what you pray to or what your faith is. It doesn’t make a difference to me if you’re a militant atheist. If you believe in science, pray to the material universe. Pray, pray, pray, and save your ass. Later on we can talk about what you’re praying to if that matters to you.
You may be offended by the word “prayer.” If that’s the case, then use the word “meditate” with conviction and concentrate on tapping into your higher self. You can beg yourself on your hands and knees with your hands clasped together to lift yourself from destructive behavior. But you must be willing to do it. And if you stick with it you’ll experience results in the near future, maybe even immediately.
Another crucial discipline is meditation. I talk about meditation extensively in a separate book because it’s a difficult subject to explain in great detail. But it is something that is absolutely vital for an addicted person to engage in. Addicted people are prone to obsessive thinking. Obsessive thinking causes us to have stress and pain, and it eventually leads to us acting out in some kind of addictive way to get relief. Meditation is practiced as an attempt to quiet the noise in our heads.
Contrary to the belief of some, virtually any activity that you engage in can be an act of meditation if you declare it ahead of time to be so. For example, you can say to yourself (say it out loud if you prefer to), “I’m going for a walk to meditate.”
Such a walk is defined as an “active meditation” because you’re engaging in a physical activity as you do it. The meditation will entail staying in the present moment and focusing on your footsteps as you walk. Constantly drive your attention back to what you’re doing—walking—and observe how your mind goes back to your obsessions.
If you can become aware of how your mind goes wherever it wants, you are in the beginning stages of self-realization. The nature of the mind is to wander and find its way into distraction. The nature of the person who’s been affected by trauma in any stage of their life is to deliberately seek distraction from that past trauma.
We seek distraction by creating diversions. The diversions take us away from the associated pain because of the effects that they have on the chemistry in our mind at that moment. In our minds we are trying to help ourselves, but we are using destructive processes to do so. One of the primary purposes of this book is to try to get inside of our minds and unfold these subtle thought process layers that drive us that are very deep within our consciousness.
The journey to enlightenment for the person who is addictive and destructive is a journey from one polar opposite to the other. We are going from complete distraction, destructive behavior, suffering, and discomfort all the way to the other side of the continuum. The other side consists of mental stillness, a relaxed mind, a profoundly grateful state of being, a state of mind of comfort and bliss, self-realization, and a better understanding as to the nature of consciousness and the nature of reality itself.
We are all philosophers. No matter who you are, you have philosophies on something. When you embark on your own self-help journey, you are a philosopher of yourself. You are going to learn to understand yourself. You are then going to be able to control and direct your behaviors towards productive and positive things that have good outcomes. You are going to direct yourself towards compassionate things that enrich your life and the lives of others.
That is the remarkable journey that I hope you will embark on. Your journey may take you to the top of the highest mountain on this planet. There will be many obstacles in the path, you will lose your breath, you’ll become tired, and you might wander and lose your way. But if you can constantly look back to the mountaintop and say, “I will keep trying, I will keep climbing, and I will make it there,” then you will indeed make it there.
The next very important tool in your arsenal is to find a way to get yourself into therapy with the most qualified person available to you. There are many, many great therapists out there. If finances are an issue, you can find options that you can afford, such as a therapist who will work with you on a sliding scale. You have to find your way to a valid therapist a minimum of one time per week.
The therapist has to hold you accountable to your promises regarding your behavior. For example, a therapist might say something such as the following to a client who’s making no progress: “Look man, you have a deadline here. We’ve been talking about your shit for years and you’re not taking any action. I have to fill the chair with someone who’s willing to win.” A therapist who listens to a client’s problems for a long time and does not offer workable solutions is a corrupt individual.
I’ve been to at least 10 different therapists throughout my life and I can say unequivocally that every one of them took a vested interest in my recovery. They called me out of my shit when I wasn’t doing things properly. They would get frustrated. They would have similar normal human reactions that any person concerned with my life would have. They would get tired of listening to my same old moronic shit and they would tell me to take action. When you find a therapist, be sure that they agree with such a dynamic. If you choose a therapist who just sits there and lets you take your time about discovering your own solutions, you may take 75 years to make the kind of progress you need to make in your recovery.
In addition to a therapist, you will need to be in a support group. You’re going to need at least one person in your close support group that you feel comfortable calling any time. They will need to hold you accountable and tell you directly that you’re wasting their time if you’re not taking action.
The next incredible tool that will assist you in your recovery is finding someone in your life that needs your help. Then, in some way, offer it to them a little bit at a time each day. Whether it’s one of your children, a coworker, another alcoholic or addict who suffers, or anyone else who needs help, you’ve got to find a way to offer to be of service to another human being.
Perhaps you’re so traumatized that you can’t interact with humans well enough to be of service to them. If that’s the case, you might set up a system in which you’re of service to animals. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, but I imagine that this could have the same cathartic effect. Being surrounded by animals and showing them compassion and love would help your self-esteem and give you positive feelings. But the special feedback and sense of accomplishment that we get from being of service to other people would certainly be preferable.
The next crucial thing to do is to write. You will need to engage in lots of writing assignments from now until the end of time. One of the tremendous benefits of writing is taking something that’s been swirling around in your mind that hasn’t quite taken form and turning it into something tangible through that writing. Putting such thoughts along with musings about daily activities on paper (or in digital form) is what the process of journaling consists of.
In addition to journaling, there are many other writing activities that you will need to involve yourself in. Writing out the history of your life is one of them. You should write out whatever you need to to help you understand your own behavior and thought patterns. Writing has helped me a great deal in many ways, one of them being that it’s helped me understand my patterns of reacting to things.
The next priority of individual recovery should be making efforts to change your body chemistry for the better a little bit day by day. If your diet is unhealthy, your physical chemistry will be out of whack, and that will create suffering in your mind and sometimes in your body as well. For every improvement you make in your physical diet, there will be immediate improvement in your body chemistry. That will lead toward improvement in your moods.
It is also absolutely necessary to have regular physical movement. That will change body chemistry for the better tremendously. Better body chemistry leads to better functioning of the mind as well as better functioning of all the body’s organs.
Do the best you can to exercise regularly and improve your diet. We all struggle with those two things to some degree. But if we take small steps each and every day, we will see dramatic improvements over time.
In my book “The Goodsugar Diet” I discuss a variety of topics such as good dietary habits, psychological issues pertaining to eating, body chemistry relating to dietary practices, and many other matters.
I have one last priority to specify. It is for you to purchase two or three self-help books specifically focused on the type of addiction(s) that you have. Be sure that the books are by authors that are regarded as authorities on addiction recovery. Those books should be at your bedside and in your backpack and briefcase. You have to read from those books an absolute bare minimum of one sentence per book per day.
Having books on a variety of topics on your reading list will be helpful. Perhaps your books could consist of a book on a specific addiction, a layman's guide to psychology and childhood trauma, and a philosophy that you like. Your philosophy book might be the Bible, something on the spiritual aspects of yoga, something on Krisna, or something else entirely. A fourth book could be about the laws of nature, something about the environment, or something to do with human history. Perhaps you could have a fifth book that is humorous to lighten your mood and relax you, and maybe a sixth book on the chemistry of the brain.
I have some highly unusual books in my collection. One is a book on the philosophies of the aboriginals of Australia. For almost a decade that was my personal Bible: I loved to hear about these people and their rich metaphysical world viewpoints. It was very grounding to me. I have some books on psychology, but some of them are quite long and don’t hold my attention. They also tend to lose me when they get too deep into studies and don’t talk about personal experience very much.
At times, many people in the process of recovery feel some degree of despair. When we feel despair, though, it’s likely because we’re not doing any recovery work. We must be honest and ask ourselves if we’re doing work each day. You may have a good daily routine. You might get up, take a shower, go to work, go to the gym, come home, and watch a little TV to relax before bedtime. But perhaps you’re not doing any emotional work in the midst of your fairly active life. If that’s the case, you need to change that situation for the better.
I want to reiterate the purpose of this first chapter of this book: It is to give you a summary of the things that you need to do to overcome your addiction(s) and hopefully also enter into a life focused on health and wellness. If you find what I’m saying in this book distasteful at this point, you should probably get a refund for it.
I’m going to push you a little bit to help you get your life together. I spent a lot of time working on this book and did so with the intent of helping you. Even though I don’t know you, I can see you in my mind’s eye. I have empathy and compassion for you because I am you. Because that’s the case, I am writing this book to myself to make sure that I stay on track.
I know what it feels like to be afraid when you reach the bottom and you have to let go of an addiction. It’s very scary. We’re not quite sure why the fear is there, but I can guess. The fear was always there. The fear was there when we were standing in our childhood at some point. If you have addictions and compulsions, then your childhood was not the fairytale you might remember it to be. You may see yourself as being defective, but it’s not that simple. The behavior patterns that you have inherited came from addictive caregiving and from the deficits in your childhood; the childhoods of all people had deficits to one degree or another.
No one had a perfect childhood. That’s the case because no human being has a perfect mind. It’s also the case that disasters can occur, and sometimes someone with a nearly perfect childhood will encounter an extremely traumatic event such as the loss of a parent.
I myself have witnessed one perfect birth of a child. At the time of this writing I watched a perfect childhood for the first six days of that child’s life. I said to myself that it was as perfect as it could be and was completely in alignment with nature. By watching this child be born and observing the child for the first five days, I had an awakening regarding how a human being becomes conscious.
I have no way of telling you what consciousness is like inside the womb. I can tell you that in 1999 I sat with a reiki master and she somehow managed to bring me back to the womb. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not I was just having recollections of photographs of other children I had seen in my life or if it was my imagination.
What I found remarkable was that what I experienced in that session was how I recorded the experiences. Even at that time I recorded things as energy waves around me. I knew that the energy felt negative on my body, that I was absorbing it, and that it was uncomfortable.
I watched the birth of my third daughter at home in the bathtub. What I witnessed in the months before it was a mother who was madly in love with the child before birth. She was in a meditation from the moment she determined that she was pregnant. She prepared herself to be a mother to this child, and she was 100% focused and dedicated to the cause.
Her rituals and daily routines involved dancing, chanting, singing to the baby in her belly, lighting candles, meditating, and practicing yoga. The day before the baby was born, my wife swam 100 laps in the pool, practiced yoga, and was in the bliss of her final days before birth.
She made every possible effort to ensure that this child would not experience a dramatic shift from the safety, warmth, darkness, and perfection in the womb.
Her labor was relatively easy. The baby was born in the bathtub in warm water. The mother was comfortable. She was not transmitting fear or trauma to the baby. These two creatures were connected, and what the mother felt the baby felt. The mother was happy even through her labor pains. She was excited, she felt in control, and she felt humanized. She felt relaxed and was able to do what she needed to do to bring herself comfort.
The baby came out. The midwife untangled the umbilical cord from around her neck and then placed the baby on the mother’s chest. The baby just looked like a creature that had run a marathon and was really tired. Her first few breaths were gentle, but they were evident and it was clear that she was breathing. She was stunned. The baby looked like a person who was riding a bike that was hit by a car and couldn’t figure out where she was. And then in an instant she let out a couple of screeches to let everybody know that she was there. The mother was crying and so was I.
I know that the mother was crying out of exuberant elation. I was crying out of joy, but I was also crying because seeing creation was so powerful to me that I could not have had any other reaction. As tough as I am, when I looked at this baby come to life tears flooded my eyes. As I watched my wife welcome the child into the world with words of love and kindness and touch, I said to myself, “This is what childbirth is supposed to be like.”
I saw that the baby had an instinct to suck on the nipple to get food. It impressed me that this seems to be a primary instinct. It’s an instinct greater than the instinct of the baby to be able to identify the woman with the nipple as being her mother. So when we’re born we are attached to the nipple and we are attached to finding sustenance to take away any discomfort.
We are born addicted. We are born addicted to an outside substance coming in. The next thing that happens when a child is born is that he or she needs to be warm and close to skin. We all know what it feels like to be close to warm skin that’s not our own. For most of us it’s pleasurable. So what I derive from the observations I made is that a human being seeks pleasure and wants freedom from pain. It took me 52 years on this planet to figure that out.
We will seek and then obtain pleasure by any means necessary. An infant can scream at the top of her lungs to obtain the pleasure that she seeks. After she’s fed, feels warm, and can smell her mother, the mother looks at her. Her face is a few inches away. I believe that something in our programming makes it so that looking at a face brings us comfort.
I believe that we are programmed to need each other. We need other human beings in order to survive. We need others so as to not be lost in loneliness. Loneliness is one of the great pains that many of us have that lead us to some of our addictions.
After a few hours the baby is already in a habit and a pattern. She wants to be close to that face, to that skin, to those eyes, to the smell, to the boob. When she has access to the boob and feeds herself, she’ll look up and she’ll feel comfort. If all of those things are in order, the baby's mind will leave the fight or flight mode and it will sit in the seat of comfort. In the seat of comfort, the child now has an opportunity to expand its consciousness and not stay stuck in simple moment-to-moment survival mode.
Each day the child’s awareness expands. The next thing to form after a couple of days is attachment. The child reattaches itself after it’s been disconnected from the cord and the source of all those external substances. If the child can successfully attach itself to a source, then the child’s mind will be in comfort.
If the child cannot successfully attach, though, it has instincts to try tactics to get what it needs. It will cry louder and louder. If the screaming and shouting doesn’t end with the child getting what it needs, the child’s brain chemistry patterns begin to shift. And each successive event that occurs during which a child cannot get his needs met plants additional memories that the world is not a safe place and the child must fight for its comfort.
The single most important entity that a child needs to survive is love. The caregiver, the bearer of sustenance, will show deep love for the newborn creature. If the caregiver is enlightened, they will stay in the meditation for months on end without distraction. The focus will be on loving that child by exuding energy that wraps the child in an invisible blanket. Lucky is the child that receives this. I am certain I did not.
The next thing to emerge for the comfortable child in the first three to five days is something that I find to be miraculous. The child forms opinions. The child will prefer one boob over the other, the child will prefer to be held one way or another, and when they don’t like something they will tell the mother. The child already has preferences. It has a tiny little system of judgment. It makes judgments and forms attachments centered around survival, comfort, and pleasure. It’s amazing.
What happens to us when we’re unable to get these things? We carry the anxieties of not having safety from one day to the next. We don’t simply forget; we are not designed as forgetful creatures.
Is a curse and a blessing that we are creatures with a very strong memory. We memorize practically everything. Even if it’s not accessible in the conscious mind, it’s embedded somewhere in our energy streams. It’s in the cells of our body.
If the child is traumatized, receives the energy of hatred, or is abused or neglected in some way, the energy does not dissipate; it stays in the consciousness. In fact, when we’re children any negative experience is amplified. This is so for a number of reasons, one being that we are not desensitized yet. We can remember things that wouldn’t phase us as grown-ups, but we remember them as being epic when we were children.
It’s important to understand all of these things because they are the clues to what happened to you over time to make you anxious enough to experience pain. Whatever the situation that caused anxiety was, it is a source of pain, hurt, rejection, abandonment, despair, and lack of love. The brain chemistry does not work properly under those circumstances. We did form adaptive behaviors, and those adaptive behaviors developed and evolved over the course of our lives. Unfortunately, many of those behaviors were maladaptive and self-destructive.
We could be feeling depression resulting from a loss. It may have been something that we didn’t call a loss at the time because we didn’t have the words to call it that. Nonetheless, it was still a loss. We carry anger with us deeply embedded in the fibers of our fucking bodies.
Why is it so difficult for people to understand the type of creatures that we are? We fight the reality of our chemistry in our nature. We have such denial in our minds to protect us from the grief that we carry inside. But that grief will find its way to the surface. And if we try to suffocate it and smother it, we will experience pain and will find addictive patterns to distract ourselves. Doing so is a survival mechanism.
If I was a billionaire I could set up an institution for people with any type of addictive behavior. I would give each inpatient a mother figure who they didn’t find distasteful. I would then tell them the following things: “You’re going to spend a month cuddling with this person. She’s going to sit there and praise you. You’re going to get love and praise from her (but not sexual love). She’s going to stroke your head and give you love and comfort for one entire month.
“I will also provide a father figure who will always be there to play with you and give you positive encouragement. These two sit-in parents will play your real parents and they will teach you all kinds of miraculous things about life, character, relationships, diet, and other matters that are important to your survival. So you will have two months of perfect parenting.”
But that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work because the therapy wouldn’t deal with the specific words and actions (or lack of them) that wounded you to begin with. The only way to get to the place of freedom from suffering is to heal the mind from whatever wounds you already carry. You might not even be consciously aware of some of them. For that reason and others, it would be crucial for you to engage in meditation, prayer, writing, and talking with professionals to uncover the wounding that was buried in your subconscious mind.
Is there an easier, softer way to deal with the woundedness? Absolutely. It’s called denial. If you have these problems and you struggle, you could spend all of your waking moments on Facetime. Or you could become an astronaut and go off into space. You could spend about three years of your life traveling into the Milky Way. It would be a great distraction and be a great visual experience, and perhaps you’d forget all your troubles because you’d be concentrating on not blowing up in outer space. But it’s likely that even then, even with all your distractions, your feelings would still be there with you.
We look for powerful things to numb our feelings. This is how we survived our childhood, because we couldn’t articulate our feelings. We didn’t have the power, the knowledge, or the sense of safety that made it so that we could express, identify, and discuss our feelings with those who could help us.
But now as grownups we can talk about our feelings. We will find relief. We will not explode like a volcano, we will not implode, we will not melt away, we will not self-destruct, we will not crumble, and we will not flake. Instead, we will blossom. Provided that we do the necessary emotional healing work, we will blossom over time.
The emotional healing work will most definitely entail meditation. I’ll discuss meditation in some detail later, but think of it now in a nutshell as a way to sit in the stream of your thought patterns. Meditation will help you begin to understand the nature of your mind. Meditation also helps us discover truths about ourselves that we can put into writing. Once we do that, we can discuss those truths with trusted others and then find ways of coping with our issues that are not self-destructive.
The vast majority of people of the world have had dysfunctional childhoods. I know people who grew up in fabulously wealthy homes but had terribly dysfunctional childhoods. From the outside people were jealous of them, not understanding the heartache that the wealthier people were faced with. Almost all children, from those whose feelings were hurt from time to those who were beaten every day by angry fathers, have had many traumatic experiences. The inner child in all people who experienced dysfunction will drive such peoples’ adult lives in ineffective, inappropriate, and self-destructive ways.
Denial is one of the inappropriate mechanisms that leads many adults to self-destructive behavior. But denial in itself is actually both a curse and a blessing. It is a mechanism that enables us to survive terrible experiences without exploding mentally, and in that way it is a blessing. But it’s a curse because it lingers and can become so rigid that it prevents us from acting appropriately to situations that are not life-threatening crises.
Of course as parents we would all want our children to experience childhoods filled with love and that were virtually free from trauma. I’ve seen many of those types of childhoods. But I know that all people who had relatively trauma-free childhoods have imperfections in them that they will have to manage as they get older. And they will often have to correct bad habits that they picked up from their parents as well.
Perhaps you suffered as a child. But don’t despair, my friends; you haven’t suffered for nothing. Your suffering can one day make you into a great master. All great masters of the sword have been hit at least one time and have been sliced and possibly stabbed. It is the suffering they experienced that made them practice more and more and learn the way of the sword until they got to the point of enlightenment.
So it is for us. Perhaps we have suffered. But the suffering we have experienced can make it so that we can help others. When we learn how to overcome the effects of the suffering we experienced, we can teach others to do the same. And helping others should become our great mission and purpose in life.
This is a core tenet of my own belief system. We are all here to lead each other to freedom. We are here to help each other as brothers and sisters. We’re here to protect each other. We’re here to teach each other. We are here to bring delight to some. We are definitely not here to cause suffering. It is my mission to live on the side of light, end my own suffering, try to help others end their suffering, and live in enlightenment.
I hope that you will join me. Let’s journey together now in this book and find light together. Find a way to lift up your mind and to commit yourself to ending your own suffering. Surrender your fear and move towards a life free of addiction and filled with love, compassion, happiness, and mental and physical health and wellness.