Recovery Rocks – Beth Leiphotz

Beth Leipholtz is a 22-year-old college student from Minnesota currently majoring in Communication with plans to enter the journalism field after graduation. She is the editor-in-chief of her college paper and a committed rugby player.
Beth’s passion for recovery shines through on her amazing blog ‘Life to be continued’ where she is inspiring young people who are trying to get sober.

Beth Leiphotz

Beth Leiphotz

1. Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My rock bottom was somewhat ongoing, almost two years ago. At that point, on an average weekend night out with others, I would probably have about 8 drinks in a period of 2-3 hours. Obviously this varied a lot depending on the night and the setting, and whether I was able to sneak into the bar or not. Typically if I was able to get into the bar I had to hold myself together so as not to draw attention since I was underage. If I wasn’t able to get in, I’d just go back to the party house and drink with the people still there, or occasionally just make my way home instead.
While I never drank daily, I did drink excessively and occasionally alone. In retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking in justifying drinking alone or before class. I liked the buzz because it made my life less routine. I didn’t think anyone could tell the difference when I was drinking vs. when I was not, and it made me feel better, so I didn’t see the harm. Looking back, they could probably tell. To be honest, I’m surprised no one ever confronted me sooner than they eventually did.
My lowest point came on May 7, 2013. I was at a party with friends and I remember sitting by the bonfire smoking hookah and drinking green apple Burnett’s, then going to the bar. I managed to get in even though I was underage, as I had done many times before. I don’t remember anything from being there. Bar close came and everyone left and for whatever reason, I refused to go with my friends and insisted on walking home alone. The police ended up picking me up and my BAC was .34. They took me to the hospital, and the next thing I remember was waking up in the early morning hours very disoriented. I saw my parents in the room and knew I wouldn’t be able to get out of this situation without consequences. I thought my life was over, but in retrospect, ending up in the hospital that day was the best thing that ever happened to me.
(Here is the more in-depth version;

2. What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
My first 30 days were really rough. I hadn’t accepted that I had a problem, and therefore I was resistant to getting any type of help. The only reason I went to treatment is because my parents forced me to do so. I took part in an outpatient program that met four times per week, and was about a 40 minute drive both ways. I was resentful of everyone and everything – my parents for making me go, making me drive and pay for gas, the counselors there, the other patients, myself. The list goes on.
The hardest part of my first month was watching my relationship with my mom deteriorate. We have always been closer than most mother/daughter relationships, and maybe this was the reason that I couldn’t bear to open up to her. I thought she would love me less. So instead I shut her out and barely spoke to her, and when I did, it was not kind words. I was probably about a month into the program when my mindset began to shift and I realized that I belonged there. I think I just started to realize that I enjoyed waking up in the morning without a hangover and without having to deal with any consequences from the night before. I read a quote that said, “An alcoholic is anyone whose life gets better when they stop drinking” and it really resonated with me because my life had already begun improving. I realized I didn’t need to be in jail or have lost everything in order to admit I had a problem.

3. What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
My life is fuller than I could have imagined. Once I stopped drinking, everything just fell into place. My relationships are more real and genuine, and I have managed to repair most of the damage I created while drinking. I have gained the respect of many people, something I didn’t know I was missing before.
One of the biggest effects drinking had on my life was obvious in my physical appearance. I’ve never been stick skinny as I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but I was always in shape. I maintained this to an extent my freshman year of college, but I really let myself go my sophomore year (the height of my drinking). Where I came into college at about 140 pounds, I weighed about 170 at the end of my sophomore year. Drinking accounted for a lot of calories, but so did the drunk eating that followed the drinking. It wasn’t only the weight gain though. When I look back at photos, I can tell that I just look bloated and have a yellowish cast to my skin. I just looked all around unhealthy but really did not care. Now, about a year and a half after I stopped drinking, I weigh 145 and look much more like my old self.
One of the best outcomes of my struggle has been the opportunity to help others. Through blogging, I have forged relationships with many other young people in recovery and have been published multiple places, including Huffington Post and If I had still been drinking, I doubt I would have put forth the time or effort required to be successful in blogging.
Fellowship has also been enormous. I have met so many other young people who understand what being sober is like. Some of them have remained sober, others have relapsed. It can be hard to watch friends go back out, but it also makes me more determined not to. It’s hard to believe that people who are such a huge part of my daily life now are people I didn’t even know existed two years ago.

4. If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
Oh gosh. I don’t think I would have listened to anything I, or anyone else, had to say. I guess the biggest thing I would say is tell myself to acknowledge the warning signs of a problem, because they were all present. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had confronted them. But then again, if I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I like where I am. I can be totally honest in claiming I would not change anything about my journey given the chance.

5. What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
I’ve always struggled with depression and being a perfectionist, and I’ve learned how that played a role in why I drank the way I did. I don’t think I drank specifically to overshadow either of these things. I think I just honestly thought I was a more likable person when I was drinking, and I liked being drunk, so that high became addictive. I didn’t know who I was or how to act anymore when I was sober in social settings, so I solved that by not being sober. I have no excuse for myself other than I really, really liked the feeling of being drunk and how it allowed me to let my guard down.
Since getting sober, I’ve learned that I am a likeable person the way I am. I embody strength, even if I don’t always feel like I do. I still struggle with seeing myself as the person other people see, but my image of myself as improved immensely.
I think my largest takeaway is just that things can always get better, even when they seem utterly hopeless.

6. Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
This is going to sound sappy, but I met an incredible guy and I am in the first real relationship I have been in in years. I would never have met him if I had not gotten sober, for a variety of reasons. While drinking, my “relationships” consisted of random hookups here and there, or having legitimate feelings for someone, but screwing things up when I drank. It’s so relieving to know where I stand with someone today and to be in complete control of every action. My boyfriend is very supportive of my choice to maintain sobriety (he is a normie, he drinks) and I can’t be more grateful for that.

7. What are your favorite recovery slogans?
I’m not sure. As a writer, I’m not huge on the cliché phrases. The two I do like are “Nothing changes if nothing changes” and “The first thing you put ahead of your sobriety will be the second thing you lose.”

8. And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

I could go on and on in answering this, but I’ll keep it brief. It rocks because it works. That’s really all there is to it. If you put the work in, the results are beyond worth it.

An addict died today…..

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

An addict died today.
He was beloved by his family and friends.
He was in treatment and getting sober. He was doing really well. Friends said he was becoming the person they used to know. The one they had lost with when all the madness started.
He was finding himself again. Learning the tools he needed to get through life clean and sober. He was learning how to feel again without wanting to run away or numb. He was learning to be honest and vulnerable.
He was learning how to be whole.
Then the holidays came and memories came flooding back and everything he learnt got lost for a moment. He only remembered one way to take the pain away.
He found a dealer.
He scored.
He used.
And he died.

That one stupid time, when it was all too much, was all it took. Because his system was clean it didn’t take much to push him over.

‘We lost him’ came the message.
‘He was doing so well.’
‘How did this happen?’

That’s the question that can’t be answered. People relapse, it happens all the time. Many make it back to recovery, some don’t. Some die. That is the terrifying nature of the disease of addiction.
It can be fatal. We are serious when we say this is a matter of life and death.
I don’t believe any addict means to die. We just don’t know how to live and we get lost. We loose ourselves, loose our way, loose focus on what matters.
It just takes one, goodamn stupid moment, for us to loose our lives.
It could have been you or me.
But it wasn’t, it was him. And the world has lost someone incredible.
Because underneath our addiction is a person. An incredible, wonderful spirit. Full of hopes and dreams, passions and fears. Someone who had something to offer. We are so much more than the drugs we take.
Remember the person, not the addiction.
Which means there is much more work to be done. We couldn’t save him but maybe we can save the next one. Maybe they can take their rightful place in the world and become the person they should have been all along.
Because in all the years I’ve been clean and sober it never gets easier to hear, ‘an addict died today.’

Recovery Rocks – Jim Savage

Jim Savage is a licensed chemical dependency counselor who has specialized in adolescent substance abuse treatment since 1984. He opened the Dallas Recovery Center in April 2013, where he maintains a private practice specializing in assessment, referral, drug awareness education, and supporting parents in managing treatment for teens and young adults.
In addition to his clinical skills, Jim is an accomplished professional musician and producer. He plays guitar, piano, bass, percussion and Native American Flute. From boogie-woogie piano to handling the John Lennon parts in a popular Dallas Beatles cover band, Jim has managed to incorporate his wide variety of musical interests into his work with young people in substance abuse treatment. His rock musical “The Journey” is used as an educational program that teaches about addiction and recovery.
Jim is committed to personal recovery, and his own experience of addiction and to recovery adds to his effectiveness in working with young people and their families.
You can follow Jim on Twitter here.

Jim Savage

Jim Savage

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
Two moments that stand out specifically for me that symbolize my rock bottom. They are both part of the bigger overall picture of the fact that I was a relapsed drug counselor working with kids in the local school district in a small community outside of Dallas, Texas. Getting sent to treatment created a huge public scandal and was a humiliating experience. (At least that’s how I felt at the time.) But as far as some specific events that illustrate how bad things were:
1) I had just gotten married and moved into a new house with my wife and her children. She did not know I was using. (I had relapsed shortly before the wedding—just as a little “fling”, and was going to stop before the wedding. I wasn’t able to. I never got around to dealing with a lot of the unpacking, and the garage was piled high with moving boxes. A day before I was to go off to rehab, I had a little cocaine left. I went out in the garage, hiding between the head-high piled boxes to snort the last of it. For some reason, the only thing I could find to cut it up and draw out the lines was—an AA preamble card. The image I carry in my head of that scene represents how low I had sunk.

The second moment occurred a couple weeks later in treatment. Part of what I did for my job was to assess and send people to treatment. A few weeks earlier I had assessed a 19 year-old cocaine addict. It was basically a situation of the pot calling the kettle black as I confronted him on his “stuffy nose” when he denied doing cocaine. I sent him to treatment. 2 weeks later I checked into the same treatment center I sent him to. He delighted in making my life miserable. But the worst moment occurred on the Sunday afternoon that families were arriving for family week. I was sitting in the day room watching TV when I saw his parents through the window as they were entering the building I was in. Terrified of having to face them, I ran out the back door. I was heading down a sidewalk when I saw another patient towards me with her parents. I knew her mother from recovery circles and had had no idea it was her daughter in treatment with me. In total shame, I ran off the sidewalk up towards the swimming pool, and sat down among several others in hopes of not being seen. It was during that moment that I truly realized what Step 1 is all about. Hiding like a caged animal, I recognized the depths of the unmanageability I had created due to my powerlessness over my chemical use. A short while later when my new bride showed up with her really angry kids, well that was like the final nail in the coffin.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Well, there are two ways to answer that. I was in treatment for thee first 30 days, and that was definitely different from the first 30 days after I got out. Those 30 days in treatment definitely involved some painful and humbling times, but they also included a lot of support, healing and growth, and fun— playing basketball, hanging out at the pool, etc. But by far the most important thing that happened at that time was in the area of my spiritual growth. I went through a spiritual awakening that included a pretty intense “burning bush” experience while out in the desert on a spiritual quest. I describe that experience as a symbolic life and death experience that opened the door to being reborn—leaving the old me behind, and beginning a new journey.

Returning home, however, represented a return to real life, which included having to deal with dealing with the consequences of my relapse. Being a relapsed drug counselor meant I was an unemployed and unemployable drug counselor. With a brand new house and a brand new family, I had a lot fear and shame. I was a musician, and could have made money playing music, but I knew that going back into the clubs to play music was not what I needed to be doing. So I remain unemployed.

I also needed to humble myself reestablish my recovery, acknowledging that, although I had been dry for several years, I had never really been in recovery. I had to return to the recovery rooms and do all the things I knew I was supposed to do but had never done before. Like get a sponsor. I had to go to meetings where people didn’t know me as the local drug counselor, rather, I had to become anonymous in some bigger groups away from my small community, and go in as a newcomer. As I said, I was very inspired by my newfound spiritual interest, and I began studying a lot of spiritual traditions. But I knew from experience, I couldn’t lose focus on my 12 Step literature. Bottom line is, during those first 30 days I had a lot of time on my hand to go to a lot of meetings, and sit in my back yard and read program literature and spiritual books and learn how to meditate. It was scary and required a lot of reliance on all of the tools I gained in treatment. I believe it was grace that I became willing to remain dedicated and disciplined to stay focused on making my recovery my number one priority and learned a lot about humility.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
First and foremost, a spiritual path that includes a relationship with a higher power of my understanding that, in a sense, is synonymous with my sobriety.

Second, the ability to be a good family member: Husband, father, son, brother and grandfather. I think it’s safe to say that they actually like me.
As far as my career, I eventually got back into drug counseling, and as a result of my experience, became committed to helping others with the spiritual aspect of recovery. I developed ways of using my interests in music, Native American ceremony and ritual, storytelling, and meditation to open the doors for others to have their own spiritual experiences. This led to opening my own adolescent drug treatment program. I wrote a rock musical that told my own story of addiction and recovery, but it also shows that as addicts we all have the same story. It’s called The Journey, and I develop stage productions of this with young people in recovery. It’s a really awesome experience for everyone involved.
Also, for the past 20 years I have been taking young people on wilderness retreats where they are able to do a Vision Quest—a night out “on the hill” to reflect on who they are, where they are going, and to let go of old things that don’t serve them anymore. Many, many young people, along with their families, have identified this experience as what helped them find a higher power.

To sum up, I have had the opportunity to use my talents and gifts to pass on what was given me with regard to the spiritual aspect of recovery.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
Wow. Is that assuming I would have listened, also? When I was about 12 I used to sit out in the garage huffing gasoline, chasing the ultimate hallucinogenic experience. I would have told myself that what I was doing was trying to achieve the spiritual connection I didn’t even know I was missing, and that there’s a better, more effective way of doing this by getting it from inside, rather using something outside of myself to achieve this.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
First, as I just alluded to, I believe my addiction is directly related to my desire for spiritual wholeness. As I look at what happened for me in recovery, it’s fascinating that I was so into chasing that psychedelic experience—I really liked “trippy” stuff—and I ultimately became so involved in the spiritual experience. I like to create “mystical” experiences, which is really just another term for “trippy.”

The other most valuable thing I’ve learned is the importance of self-examination, and that the two most important words associated with this are “humility” and “teachable.” I believe the power of the 12-Step program lies in how effective it is in keeping the focus on ourselves. The reward of being able to stick to this goes way past simply remaining abstinent from drugs and alcohol.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I got a call from a guy the other day who was celebrating 12 years of sobriety. He didn’t know if I remembered him, but was asking if I would give him his chip this month. I had his daughter in treatment 12 years ago, and told him I wouldn’t treat her if he didn’t do something about his own drinking. He was expressing his gratitude for having introduced him to this way of life at that time.
He went on to say that his daughter died three weeks ago. She was actually sober at the time—she had made it through a rough detox and died in a treatment center, a victim of 12 years of hard living as an IV heroin user. Her heart just gave out. The first thing he talked about was he was grateful for the good times they had with her, that she had seemed to hit a bottom and was making an attempt to turn the corner. As he talked I was overwhelmed at how evident it was that he was very involved in 12-Step recovery, and this was reflected in the remarkable way he was dealing with the ultimate tragedy.
It’s so incredible to see what recovery can provide us—way more than “just staying sober.”

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
It’s not actually a slogan you see on the wall, but one of my favorite phrases is a line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. On page 86 where it’s talking about how to deal with moments of indecision it says “We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle.” It’s very simple, but you can get really deep on what that means. It’s really quite profound, as it goes to the heart of practically any spiritual or philosophical ideology.

The other favorite (again, a line from the Big Book) is “God either is or He isn’t. What was our choice to be?” That just cuts to the chase. It’s sort of like, “Do you want to dink around arguing about this?” I find it especially helpful for dealing with fear. I happen to choose “God is.” And based on my understanding of what “God is”, it means that the universe is on schedule. And when I’m experiencing fear it’s because I think something’s going to happen that’s not how it’s supposed go. The ability to recognize that this is a product of my thinking rather than reality has been one of the most valuable gifts I’ve received by being on this path.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Where to begin? I frequently say, “I love being a recovering addict.” The fellowship that exists among recovering folks is indescribable. I see the spiritual journey of life as being a Hero’s Journey. We are all heroes who have faced life and death ordeals and have successfully returned to the Kingdom—and there’s a rocking good time happening in the Kingdom because of what the Hero accomplished by being out there and making it back.

Soul Work

Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at

Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at

When we get sober we constantly hear that we have to ‘work on ourselves.’ But what does that even mean? I really believe that getting sober and staying sober means we have to work on our ‘insides.’ We have to go inside and start healing the darkness that led to our drinking. So I wanted to give you an exercise in ‘soul work.’

We can live a lifetime without knowing who we really are. That is a tragedy. This is particularly true of alcoholics. The purpose of this exercise is to begin to dig deeper, to start the discovery process. It is designed to get you asking profound questions of yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. A very good principle my counselling tutor taught me was to ‘observe yourself with curiosity, not judgement’. This is what I would like to invite you to begin to do.
All the answers to the following questions will come from within. You will know the answers. You always have, you just didn’t listen. Now is the time to practise real self-honesty, to listen to that voice inside you, and to trust what it says.

1) What lights up my soul and brings me joy? It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant, just list everything or everyone that makes your soul light up (eg some particular music, a certain place or person).

2) What are my secret fears? Again, it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant, just begin to identify and list all the things you have kept hidden that frighten you (eg rejection, the dark…).

3) Who would I be if I were free from these fears? Just try to imagine what kind of person you would be if you didn’t have these fears, if they were removed. What would you do?

4) What is the best thing about me? Don’t say ‘nothing’! Most people find it hard to say anything positive about themselves. Alcoholics are no different. But there is something: maybe you have a great laugh, or are kind to strangers. Don’t be shy. Think back and identify the parts of yourself you do like.

5) In my last days, as I look back over my life, what do I want it to have been about? This is a very powerful question, so take time to think it over, no matter how old you are or what your life is like at this precise moment. The future is ahead of you. It has yet to be determined. You have time to remake it into what you want. So imagine now what you want that to be about.

These are powerful questions and you may feel you don’t know the answers to them, or, the answers you do get may even frighten you. Please don’t panic. You don’t have to change your whole life in the next 24 hours. All you have to do is awaken and understand that this is a journey that will take the rest of your life and can start today.

It starts with knowing, really knowing yourself. By starting this process you are also on the path to self-acceptance. We are not looking for perfection here. What we are doing is trying to be the best version of ourselves we are capable of being. That means accepting our humanness, embracing our imperfections, and accepting that we are just works in progress. You are neither good nor bad. As alcoholics, we may in the past have behaved badly, but that does not mean we, ourselves, are bad. As we move forward, we have to take responsibility for our behaviour, good and bad, whether it was under the influence of alcoholism or not. We also have to forgive ourselves and begin learning from the way we feel and how we behave. This is growth. Spiritual growth.

Recovery Rocks – Michele W. Miller

Michele W. Miller photographed by Dorri Olds

Michele W. Miller photographed by Dorri Olds

This is just one of those stories that will make your jaw drop. It’s a story that needs to be told and is a great example of why I wanted to do the Recovery Rocks interviews. I was just fed up hearing about rock-bottom stories and not enough about recovery. I wanted to provide a place where we can share our recovery stories and demonstrate that recovery is possible and amazing.
Michele W Miller has been practicing law for twenty years, she is the mother of 11-year old twin boys. She lives in Manhattan and is a black belt in the Jaribu system of karate. In her spare time she writes books and recently published: The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery. I have to confess to being a complete ‘geek girl’ and am literally obsessed with the zombie apocalypse (I know, my husband doesn’t get it either). So this is literally the perfect book for me Recovery + Zombie apocalypse!

Please read Michele’s incredible and inspiring story of recovery.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

It would be convenient to say that my bottom was being arrested and locked up on New York City’s notorious Rikers Island, facing 15-to life in prison under New York’s Rockefeller Law. But that was only the beginning of years of degradation, including homelessness, poverty and domestic violence. I tried to stop but couldn’t seem to do so. At one point, though, I knew I had to either stop using or I would have to live the rest of my life as an addict. I knew that, if I chose lifelong addiction, a nightmare lay ahead, which would be worse than the pure hell I was already in. I decided it was time to stop and miraculously stayed stopped.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

I white-knuckled the first 30 days at home with only two sessions a week of outpatient therapy. At 114 days, I was on the verge of using because the feelings of loneliness, sadness and boredom had become overwhelming. Determined not to pick up, I finally joined a fellowship and was somehow “struck willing” to follow suggestions. I recall a woman named Linda R., who said: Listen to how people share. People with 30 days share differently than those with a year, people with a year share differently than those with five years, and so on. I observed that people had grown in ways I could barely imagine, and that they just kept transforming the longer they remained in the process of recovery. The people with five years (“old-timers” in our fellowship back then) intuitively knew how to handle their lives. They had a serenity I wanted. That gave me real hope that I could have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I also learned in those first weeks that even a person with one day clean could help a newer person. That revolutionized my life, making me feel that my own life was worth living even though my personal circumstances were painful and difficult.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

I have wonderful memories of the bliss of falling asleep with my infant twins asleep next to me; snorkeling with 25-foot whale sharks; and hiking with my children in caves full of bats in a Panama jungle. I’ve had great professional successes and a novel published, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, an apocalyptic thriller with lots of inside jokes and serious messages for those of us in recovery.

However, one of my most meaningful memories is of a 12-step meeting two weeks after 9/11. At the time, I chaired a meeting about five blocks from Ground Zero. The authorities had just opened up the immediate area around Ground Zero for those who worked or lived there. So, I opened my lunch-hour meeting, planning on sitting there just in case anyone came. (Most of the offices in the area weren’t open yet; I didn’t necessarily expect people). No one from my fellowship came. But about a dozen people from another fellowship arrived, mistakenly directed there by their Intergroup Office. They were mostly members of a group which had met within the World Trade Center. I told them that they were welcome in accordance with the Third Tradition, and we had the most moving meeting of my 25 years. Some of them had lost dozens of friends. The ability to provide that meeting meant more to me than I can say.

I am also proud of the small part I played in securing the first successful AIDS treatment for hundreds of children who would have otherwise died. As a renowned pediatric AIDS doctor told me, we had played a part in turning a deadly disease into a chronic condition. (Of course, I played a very small part.) These type of experiences provide much more of a lasting sense of fulfillment than money, property, prestige or parties.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I tell people now that there’s no two-minute warning before you hit a new bottom. You can wake up one morning as a high-bottom weekend alcoholic and go to sleep that night in jail for vehicular manslaughter. The difference between a high-bottom and low-bottom story may just be luck of the draw, and sometimes there’s no coming back from a bottom. But I doubt that someone saying that to me would have stopped me because I was too lost and hopeless. Perhaps it would have helped if I could have convinced myself that there was hope, that I could and would survive my feelings if I stopped medicating them, and that I had a choice about using. It might also have helped if I had told myself that we addicts/alcoholics have a special gift that civilians don’t have: We save lives of other addicts/alcoholics by sharing our experience, strength and hope. That’s an amazing gift of recovery unavailable to the average person, which has inspired me on the sometimes challenging road of life.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I’m only human.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

I received funding to produce an audiobook of my novel, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery. The Renowned 2013 Grammy-nominee, Gabrielle de Cuir (Ender’s Game) agreed to narrate it. She created an amazing performance piece, available on,, and itunes, which has so far received stellar reviews. The novel itself has been out for a year and many people in recovery have let me know that it greatly entertained and even helped them. My forthcoming novel, known as Lower Power, was selected as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (top 25 of 10,000 entries). I will have more news about its release soon.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

The War is Over.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Recovery opens up a wonderful, bountiful world, containing joy beyond anything I would have imagined.

13th Step: Zombie recovery
The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery is on sale this week for 0.99 on Amazon!

Why I drank

I tried to drink like ‘other people’ because they looked ‘normal’ to me. Other people drank and they were fine; I could tell. I would judge them by how they looked on the outside and I wanted to be like that.

Veronica Valli

Veronica Valli

Something inside me was different and it wasn’t fine. Which is why I had to lie to myself – a big fat lie that ate me up and that I had to keep telling myself, because it kept a lid on the horror. I had to lie about what I was doing to myself. I had to lie about how I really felt. I had to lie about who I was. I had to lie because I was terrified of the horror inside me being exposed.
This may only make sense to someone who has had a problem with drink or any other mood or mind-altering substance. Or it may make sense to you if you have lived a life of desperate compromise and unfulfilled promise.

Do you understand?
Have you got secrets inside you?
Do you have to lie too?

Do you know what it’s like to live with such a denial of your truth that you wake up every morning in despair and feel like your soul is lying on the floor next to you and you have no idea how you are supposed to make it through the day, let alone through life?
I just couldn’t figure out how everyone else lived. How were they doing life? How come it was so easy for them?

I know I was born this way. I never felt right. I always felt that I was looking at you through a glass screen. I was on one side, alone, and everyone else was on the other side.
I’ve always felt wrong. I would measure myself up against people. I would always come up lacking, so I’d just try harder to be like them. I wanted my insides to feel like their outsides looked. So I drank and drank. I didn’t know there was another way to live this life.
And for a while, the burning pain inside me stopped because alcohol numbed everything. However, it took me further and further away from my truth; from who I was and could be.
Alcohol wasn’t killing me. Alcohol was holding me together.
I spent twelve years drinking and self-destructing. I still had a job and a place to live, but I felt like my insides were going black and I had no way of changing that. I kept drinking because it took away the pain. I couldn’t even begin to describe my internal experience to anyone else; it hardly made sense to me. In reality, the drink worked for me for two years, then it stopped working and I began to feel even worse than I had before I started drinking.

I slowly began to die on the inside.

Anyone who has ever had a drink or drug problem or has suffered from depression will understand what that feels like. And it wasn’t just the drink, drugs and nameless men I slept with that were killing me, it was the lies I had to tell myself.
I seemed to have this default programme that was set on misery and denial.
One of the earliest memories I have is of being maybe five or six and lying perfectly still on the bathroom floor, hoping the ‘wrongness’ in my head would go away. I thought that if lay perfectly still then everything would just stop. If I didn’t move, I couldn’t feel, and if I didn’t feel it couldn’t hurt. I wanted to stop ‘being’; I didn’t want to exist in the way that I was.
It was a very existential moment for a six year-old. I was totally, totally aware of my aloneness and my difference and it was more than I could bear in my tiny heart; I wasn’t strong enough to carry that load and I had no one to turn to for help with it. Most adults don’t admit to the emptiness that prevails in their own hearts, how could anyone cope with a child who was lost in hers? I saw it in my mother’s eyes once, when she caught me lying on the bathroom floor, just staring. I saw that flicker of recognition deep in her eyes that immediately got buried under the sheer fear of acknowledging it.
The absolute unbearableness of being.
I know she saw it but was powerless to articulate it. What words can illustrate that dark ache that vibrates deep inside someone? I saw also the fright that a mother would feel when she saw her child behaving in that odd way, a terror of seeing a child’s insides so nakedly exposed, and the darkness within them.

There isn’t really a particular moment when you realise you’re different from other people around you, it’s more of a series of realisations that happen slowly over a period of time, accompanied by a slow creeping feeling of fear that the last thing you can ever do is reveal what is inside you to any one else.
I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that it frightened me to think that someone else might see this. I have no idea why I felt like this; it was as though I was born with this irrational fear of anyone else seeing who I really was. I was petrified of it.
There was a point, when I was a child, when I believed anything was possible. I may have only just been at the beginning of living a life in fear; paradoxically, I still had fearlessness. I believed I could be anything. The world was there for me to fulfil my dreams in. When I said I wanted to become a doctor, a vet, an astronaut, a movie star, be somebody, do something when I grew up, I really believed that I could.
And then as time went on, fear overtook me and I forgot what I was capable of. I withdrew inside myself, ignored my dreams, my hopes, my passions, and compromised myself. I settled for less than second best and rationalised that this was reality. I became someone I didn’t recognise.
Deep in my heart, in my truest self, in my soul, I knew I wasn’t living the life I was meant to be living; I knew I wasn’t the person I was meant to be; I knew I was lying to myself, but I had to keep lying in order to keep doing what I was doing to myself.
The first lie was like a thin layer of tissue paper laid over my spirit (my inner voice) – no big deal, it just makes the voice a little less insistent. But then I told myself another lie. Another layer of tissue was laid over that voice to muffle it a little more, and so it goes on.
The first feeling I ever had was of being wrong, different, uncomfortable; my whole life experience prior to getting sober was how painful life could be. I knew something was very wrong with me; the way I felt was too terrible to try to articulate to another person, it was so arbitrary and intangible. I couldn’t begin to put it into words.

Veronica Valli

Veronica Valli

My fear crippled me. I lived in blind terror every day. Everything was frightening for me. Other people terrified me. I felt so worthless in their eyes and was sure they would see any minute what a despicable human being I was and discard me. At any given time I couldn’t really explain what I was frightened of. I just knew that I was scared. It ate me up inside. I would try and act as if it wasn’t there, try to ignore it, but it would come back stronger.
Some days it felt like I could barely breathe because the fear was crushing me. It made me feel sick. I struggled to find different ways to cope with it. Drink, of course, numbed it briefly. I tried to ask for help, but I couldn’t find the words that would make someone take me seriously. I wanted to be saved. I wanted someone to pick me up and put me in a nice padded room and tell me I would never have to worry about anything ever again. I wanted to go mad, but I was too frightened to, so I just stayed in this perpetual state of unqualified fear.

I had always felt so wrong inside, so empty and broken, that these feelings were normal for me; I had nothing to compare them with. I had never experienced real contentment or peace. I didn’t know what it was like to like myself, let alone to love myself.
And yet, when I began this journey of spiritual awakening and I took responsibility to peel off the layers that kept me trapped, something incredible happened. It was very subtle. I almost didn’t notice that anything had changed, but one day I realised I no longer felt ‘wrong’. The feelings of ‘wrongness’ had just gone, evaporated. After that I understood that it was ridiculous to believe that I was revolting or disgusting; I realised I was just an ordinary human being. I was OK. I no longer hated myself.

Something felt very different inside. I felt lighter, freer, unburdened. I just did the work and the results followed. I liked the results, so I kept doing the work and I’ve never stopped, because every day I seem to grow a little more, and finally I realised I loved myself.
How was this possible, I thought? For thirty years I had felt so totally wrong, and then in the space of a few months my thinking and belief systems had undergone profound and radical change.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Why you drink and How to stop

Forgive me. Laura Stamps wrote such a wonderful review of my book I had to share it here. Laura is a healthcare copywriter and the Staff Editor of “Stop Frying Your Brian,” a funky, informational, addiction/recovery website covering all addictions and codependency issues. ‘Stop frying your brain’ is an awesome addiction website with tons of great articles and information of addiction in recovery. It’s also funny and sassy too – which I totally love.
Anyway here’s the review:

What an amazing book! I say this for two reasons.

First, Veronica Valli is a recovering alcoholic and an addictions therapist. She has written a handbook so comprehensive it might be the only book an alcoholic needs. It covers every aspect of alcoholism from denial to acceptance, as well as how to stop drinking and where to go from there. If you’re looking for a roadmap to recovery that includes most of the valleys and mountaintops you might encounter along the way, you’ll love this book.

Second, it is unique in its approach to “dual diagnosis.” Alcoholism generally isn’t the primary “problem.” It’s a quick fix for an underlying mental or emotional issue. To be successful in recovery you must address this issue.

Valli calls it a “spiritual” issue. Spiritual in this book doesn’t mean religious. She’s referring to the connection with your spirit, the real you. Valli explains the link between alcoholism and spiritual imbalance like this:

“Alcoholism can be described as a spiritual disjunction, which alcoholics try to fix by rearranging their outside circumstances. The result of this behavior is that alcoholics forget who they really are.” (page 19)

“In order to overcome alcoholism, stopping the drinking of alcohol simply isn’t enough. Alcoholism is an internal (spiritual) illness. Drinking is only a symptom. Alcoholism’s key motivator is about changing how you feel.” (page 20)

Valli says the most profound thing that happened to her when she began the recovery process was the realization that she hadn’t been “living her truth.” She’d become what she calls a “fake person,” meaning she had made all her choices in life based on other people’s approval. This revelation horrified her and made her more determined than ever to confront the fear that had kept her from living authentically.

“Fear is the engine that drives alcoholism. However, there’s something about alcoholic thinking that twists all our emotions and makes the unpleasant ones dominant in us. We seem to take fear to a whole new level, much more than ordinary people do.” (page 35-41)

“There is no recovery from alcoholism without spiritual growth. Spirituality can be viewed as a way of having a healthy relationship with yourself, one that is based on self-love, self-esteem, and integrity. Addiction is defined by disconnection from self and everything and everyone around you.” (page 79)

The goal of this book is to bring the reader from fear to a sense of wholeness, from spiritual disjunction to fully functioning. Valli says sooner or later you have to stop running from your true self and discover the “real” you, which is more wonderful than you could ever imagine.

The good news is you’re not alone. You’ll find 151 pages of step-by-step instruction in this handbook. As an added bonus, each chapter is filled with the stories and struggles of others who have walked before you.

If you’d like to not only recover from alcoholism but also become the best you can be, look no further. This is it.
by Laura Stamps

Am I an alcoholic?

Well that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it?
It’s the question many people who drink to excess find themselves asking at some point or another.
Could I be an alcoholic? A sinking feeling in your stomach followed by a desperate scramble to try and reassure yourself that you’re not, usually follows this thought.

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

I know because I’ve done it. When I was going to college and drinking vodka in the toilets before a 9am lecture it occurred to me that this is what alcoholics do. My stomach lurched in fear and I thought to myself, ‘no, I can’t be an alcoholic, because alcoholics enjoy drinking alcohol and I’m only drinking because I have to’.
I use to get really bad panic attacks and the only thing that really worked in calming them was booze. At 23 years old I couldn’t be in groups sober so I really struggled in college and work environments where I couldn’t drink. I would often nip to the pub at lunchtime and have a drink or two to get me through the afternoon. Not enough to get drunk, just enough to calm the fear and enable me to function.
But I was screwed if I had to do any kind of group activity in the morning. I had to go to college and I had to go to work, these things were important so I had to find a way to get through without having a panic attack. Prescription drugs only ever seemed to work for a while. Booze was the only thing I could rely on.
Which is why, in my desperation to rationalize that I wasn’t an alcoholic, I came up with the conclusion that I wasn’t alcoholic, as I was drinking out of necessity.
Of course now, I can see how crazy that is. But the truth is I actually had no idea what an alcoholic really was. I thought it was a smelly old man on a bench. I thought there were certain qualifications that you needed to fulfill in order to be classed an alcoholic. I was certain homelessness was one of them and I was a college student for goodness sake. So definitely not an alcoholic.

I was wrong.

I was in full-blown alcoholism and it took be 4 more years to see this. I resisted right till the end because I was never physically addicted to alcohol, and I thought physical addiction was definitely one of the qualifiers. I couldn’t see I was psychologically addicted and my whole life was defined by drink. When that last delusion was stripped from me I had nowhere left to hide.
Still unable to accept the truth, someone told me something that changed my life.

They said alcoholics do 3 things:
They drink
They think about drinking and,
They think about not drinking.

Oh wow, that was me. Right there. That was all the qualification I needed.
I was an alcoholic. And strangely the feeling that followed that admission was actually relief. Because when I finally accepted and realized what my problem actually was, it meant I could finally start doing something about it.
It was when I started doing something about it that everything changed.
How about you? Have you ansered the question yet?

Recovery Rocks – Jake D Parent

Jake D Parent is the author of ‘Only the devil tells the truth’ a novel about addiction, friendship, love, poverty, growing up, and the search for purpose. His background includes personal hardship, scholarly achievement, and several humanitarian pursuits – all combining to make him a unique and powerful voice in contemporary literature.
Read his incredible story of recovery here:

jake author pic b&w

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

2006 was a horrible year.

I was 25 and had already been in the hospital (the year before) twice for pancreatitis. The first time, I stayed sober for three whole weeks. The second time it was only like five days.

Anyway, the first part of the year was disgusting. I was drinking an eighteen pack every day, and usually lots of Vodka to go with it. Along, of course, with just about any pill or powder I could get my hands on.

But, motivated by the threat of losing my then girlfriend, I didn’t drink for six months.

And was miserable.

Each day I cringed and complained and more-or-less hated every atom in the universe. My anger was thick. It oozed from my pores and either pushed people away or made them miserable.

Well, unsurprisingly, I picked up the bottle again. And hit it hard. Beer was almost completely out, replaced by Jameson and vodka. All the time.

My boss started making comments (I still can’t understand why I wasn’t fired).

The woman I thought I was in love with could hardly stand being around me. And who could blame her? I hated her happiness, just like I hated everyone’s happiness.

The weekend before Halloween, I was blackout drunk by 8 PM Friday.

I did some pathetic stuff – things I won’t repeat here, in order to protect those involved. But, needless to say, when I awoke on the morning of October 30, 2006, it was to a world that I’d pushed away with all the resolve I could muster.

Luckily, the desperation and despair I found myself in was so deep and painful that my mind finally opened to the idea that maybe I didn’t have all the answers.

The woman I was dating made it clear right away that she wanted nothing to do with me (we haven’t spoken since).

For some blessed reason, however, this time I decided to try getting sober for myself.

With that tiny seed of hope planted, I attended my first recovery meeting. There I met people who knew me better than I knew myself. Their stories showed me that my weak and fuzzy vision of happiness was, in fact, a complete underestimation of life’s possibilities.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

A strange combination of hope, relief, anxiety, and fear.

There were some times when I knew I was headed in the right direction, and a lot of times when I really struggled to imagine anything other than life as an alcoholic. It was such a part of me that I couldn’t think of myself in any other way.

That’s why I think sharing our stories is so important. It allows people to see that new ways of thinking and living are possible for anyone who is willing.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

It feels almost cliché to say so, but the gifts of sobriety have blown away my wildest expectations.

First off, it has given me a sense of self that doesn’t involve a driving need to take from the world. It allows me to live a life I feel good about. One where I (at least on my good days) pay attention to how my actions affect others. It has allowed me to finally develop some positive and mutually respectful relationships in my life.

I also went to community college (after dropping out of high school with no GED), eventually ending up at a university, getting two degrees, and even went on to get a masters.

I co-founded an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan, which now houses 17 boys.

I started my own marketing consulting business, giving me the chance to work with great people from around the world.

I found the perfect wife.

And recently I accomplished my long-held dream of publishing a novel. It’s called Only the Devil Tells the Truth and is about a poor California teenager who falls into addiction. So far, people seem to really relate and draw strength from it.

Being able to empower people in this way is something that never crossed my mind when I was shaking on the floor that first day of sobriety.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

Unfortunately, one tough lesson I’ve learned in sobriety (mostly by seeing friends relapse) is that when people actively suffer from addiction, they are pretty walled off.

But I supposed I would try to connect my younger self with some kind of positive role model. Someone who could help me imagine a better life.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learned about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I’ve learned to shut up every once in a while. As a writer, the best thing I can do is be quiet and listen to the world. It’s something I almost never did in sobriety.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

My book. It was released at the end of November.

No matter how bad things got in my life, I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I wrote my first story at 6.

While I was in my addiction, the best thing I could ever come up with were ranting complaints about how unfair life is.

But I spent more than eight months working on this book… 14-16 hour days, reworking it until I got things just the way I wanted it to. Over and over again and enjoying (almost) every moment.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

“Resentments are like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

I spent most of my non-sober life believing that the more anger I could channel toward life, the better my chances were of displacing that giant, invisible boulder that always seemed to be holding me back.

What this saying (and a lot of other things) taught me was that there are near infinite factors determining the outcomes of our lives, and we as individuals control so few of those inputs that worrying about the ones we don’t control is just a giant waste of time. It does nothing for a person except make them miserable.

On the other hand, when I can get outside of that desire for control, I actually get a whole lot done!

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Life is for living.

Recovery has taught me that my dreams matter. That the fire inside me is something valuable. And that my passions can bring me a lot of happiness, if I pursue them in a way that helps build a better world.

You can follow Jake on Twitter.

How to get sober – online course

How to get sober

How to get sober

I’m pleased to announce I have just launched my online course ‘How to get sober’ with Udemy. This 3 hour course complied of video, audio, lectures and handouts guides you through everything you need to do to get sober and achieve successful, sustainable sobriety. I have poured all my knowledge as an addictions counsellor and my 15 years experience as a recovered alcoholic into making this course in the hope that it will give you the tools you need to get sober and stay sober.
This course will retail for $99 on January 1st but right now it’s 80% off! If you would like to sign up for this course for only $19 then please click here: HOW TO GET SOBER ONLINE COURSE


I’m really eager to hear your feedback and answer any questions you have so please get in contact on the Udemy discussion boards and leave a review when you’re done.