Author Archives: Veronica Valli

About Veronica Valli

Mother, therapist, coach, writer, speaker, wife, recovered alcoholic

Ben Affleck: addiction superhero

I have to confess I am not a Ben Affleck fan. I tend to avoid movies that have him in it. However, right now I am giving him a standing ovation.

You may have seen his brief, but poignant Facebook statement about his recent stay in rehab. In case you missed it, here it is:

“I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do. This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery”.

This may seem trivial, but what is amazing about his post, is how positive and how lacking in shame it is.

I’m so tired of the celebrity rock bottom/rehab/trite confession to Opera cycle. Addiction is a medical issue, a disease of the brain and a mental health problem. It is not a moral issue and we really need to stop treating it like one. This is not unlike other celebrities issuing statements to let people know have sought treatment for Lupus/breast cancer/Diabetes. But when it comes to addiction, celebrities are usually hounded and shamed into admitting they have an alcohol/drug problem. This has not been helpful to ordinary people who suffer from the same illness. Shame stops people seeking treatment when they need it. Hiding our disease in the myth of anonymity/secrecy keeps everyone sick. His honesty, straightforwardness and lack of shame, gives everyone else permission to do the same.
Ben Affleck has treated addiction like the disease it is, may others follow.

Do you want to go to She Recovers in NYC?

Well now you can!
Tickets are sold out and there is a huge waiting list for cancellations, HOWEVER the event is going to be live streamed.
So you can attend She Recovers from anywhere in the world!
You will be able to see and hear keynote speakers Marianne Williamson, Glennon Doyle Melton, Gabrielle Bernstein and Elizabeth Vargas.

In addition to the above you will also have access to:
– TWO yoga sessions with Taryn Strong and Elena Brower
– listen to a talk by She Recovers founder Dawn Nickel
– go behind the scenes with the Sober blogging team
– Spoken word performance by Elena Brower
– Musical performance by Elizabeth Edwards
– Speakers including Nikki Myers from Y12SR

And there’s more! You will have access to the content for 60 days after the event, the keynote speakers will ONLY be available via the LIVESTREAM.

and finally… can take part in the She Recovers community online, chat with other She Recovers attendees and ask questions of the panelists and speakers.

All this for just $79 (if purchased by the end of March, $89 after). You can buy tickets for this exclusive event here: BUY MY TICKETS NOW!!!!

His name is Luke……

Image courtesy of chrisroll at

Image courtesy of chrisroll at

I was sent this very moving essay by a mother in Illinois. It moved me greatly. It is about her son Luke who is struggling with addiction.

“I am here to see my son Luke.
What is his number?
His name is Luke.
Mam, what is his number?
His name is Luke. Luke…Luke.
Lady, if you don’t give us his number, you will have to leave.
But his name is Luke………………
And his number is M164874”.

John Mayer has a song that says:

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
You roll outta bed and down on your knees
And for a moment you can hardly breathe

But I wasn’t dreaming…I was talking to the guards at Statesville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. Luke had barely turned 21. He was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal destruction to property over $300. His probation was revoked because he didn’t do what was mandated. They put a warrant out for his arrest. I remember the day he called to tell me was running because he couldn’t go back behind bars. He had spent two weeks in the county jail before his hearing, and he was like a trapped animal. I would visit him at the county and talk to him on a phone with glass in between us. Just like you see on TV folks. And I would put my hand on the glass and he would put his hand on the glass and I knew my heart was never going to beat the same. Luke has always been a free and creative spirit. When he told me that he was going to run, the fear took my breath away, but I also couldn’t tell him not to do it. We met on the sly for lunch a couple of times. I could have turned him in. I should have turned him in. Instead I would give him a hug and watch him walk away down an alley never sure if I would see him again. I knew he’d get caught, and he did.

Enter Statesville Prison in Joliet. Two hours drive there, two-hour visit, two hours drive back home. Every single week-end. They would call him up from his cell. His room was in a huge building at the end of a courtyard the length of a football field. I would hurry into the visiting room and go to the window so I could watch him walk across the courtyard. I watched every single step he took. My baby. And I would try to get my tears out before he entered the room. But I also knew that before he could enter that room, he would first have to go into the guard station to take down his pants, bend over, raise his balls. And after I left from the visit, he would again have to take down his pants to bend over, raise his balls.

He would call me non-stop during the week. Sometimes we’d only say a few words. But he needed to hear my voice and I needed to hear his. On my visits on the week-ends, the first time we talked and talked. But with each visit, the talking became strained….his world never changed, and it was difficult for me to talk about the world outside that he was missing.

I could purchase a card to get food out of a vending machine for Luke when I was visiting. I know it sounds so minor, but it was a major event and one of the things that would make me cry. Momma bear knowing that food was a comfort. Luke longed for the food…crappy microwave sandwiches and Mountain Dew and some chips. But half the time the card machine was broken or the vending machines were empty. And I would sit there and cry because it meant something, and Luke would look at me and say “Mom, don’t worry about it, just please don’t cry.

As time went on, I continued to be a mess on the inside. Some friends and family changed the subject if I mentioned his name. It was awkward to talk about my son being in prison. I became two different people…I went through my days as normally as I could, but I was also heart broken by his imprisonment and by the system. And I knew the importance of visiting each weekend, but it was SO difficult to get into my car and drive the long drive and endure the pain of seeing him in his prison jump suit, losing weight, and losing touch with the outside world. And Statesville…it’s like an Alcatraz in Illinois. Frightening.

So with each visit I became more and more agitated. The guards sitting at the front desk, watching every move we made in the visiting room while they sat there with their feet on the desk, eating food and tapping on the window if I got too close to Luke. It got to the point where I felt like the scene in Terms of Endearment when Shirley McClaine becomes a maniac when her daughter, dying of cancer, needs pain medicine. If you haven’t seen the movie, she screams at the nurses “I don’t see why she has to have this pain it’s time for her shot, do you understand? Do something…my daughter is in pain! Give her the shot, do you understand me? GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!! Just like that, I wanted to scream:


The Dalai Lama once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” I wish I could post that at the guard station at Statesville. But this isn’t about the prison system per se, it’s about the understanding of pain which is always trumped by love.

Where he is today:

That was in 2011-2012. Luke did really well the first year and a half out of prison. Fast forward to today, 2017. Luke is a mess. He is probably the worst I have ever seen him. He admits he is addicted to drugs and alcohol, so much so that without either in just a day’s time, he begins shaking and having withdrawal. He refuses to get the help he needs. He recently went for an involuntary evaluation prompted by the police, but within 4 hours he was released.

He has five felonies, two active. He also has two Orders of Protection against him. He will most likely be sentenced back to prison. That’s if it even gets that far….because, as in the past, he’ll run. He’s like a wild animal that can’t be caged. And if he does run, he will end up dead because he can’t keep doing the abuse over and over again to his body. And how will I know where he is? And how will I know if he is dying?

This was his latest text message to me from last week:

“You are fucking stupid.
You’re the worst mom ever.
Fuck you.
I hate that you’re my mom.
I hate you.

And an hour later:

“I don’t hate you.
I am going to kill myself.
I am going to kill Rachel.
I wish my son would die so you all know how it feels to miss someone.
Good-bye mom.
I’m going to fucking kill myself and you all have yourselves to blame.“

He is terrorizing every one that he loves. You are watching him terrorize himself. You take him for food because he is hungry. You drive around for hours listening to him talk, watch him cry, then watch the anger return, and you’re paralyzed when he pounds the dashboard, pounds his own head, and pulls at his hair. You give him a hug and he is filthy…that smell of alcohol, BO and cigarettes. And you actually go home and don’t want to take a shower because that disgusting smell is all you have of him.

Mental illness and drug abuse. I don’t even know how to begin to understand it. But it is the devil. I don’t know how to kill it. I don’t know how to help my son. I don’t know…and I am exhausted and terrified.

I attend a support group. I listen to similar stories. These complete strangers instantly become your life line. They tell their stories and it somehow gives you comfort that you aren’t alone. You cling to their every word. You hug, you cry, you exchange emails, you give fake smiles, and you tell each other that it will all be okay. And you walk out the door believing that.

For a moment. For a moment.

But then you get in your car to drive home, and the pain returns immediately. The fear returns. The hopelessness returns. You hear a siren and wonder where your son is. You get in bed and toss and turn. You fear your phone will ring in the middle of the night. You wake up the next day and he is the first thing that enters your mind.

Every once in a while you see him and he looks healthy and he is smiling. Or you get a nice text. And he tries to say something meaningful and thoughtful because he knows his own mom is afraid of him. And just when you are feeling calm, you get a text from the demons inside his head and the euphoria-hope-please dear God moment you had comes crashing down.

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of

Lyrics from Hate Me by Blue October about a son singing to his mom so she will hate him and it will take her pain away.

“Hate me today
Hate me tomorrow
Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you
Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you.”

But it doesn’t work that way.

The pain never goes away.

And neither does the love.

‘Good people don’t smoke pot.’

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at

I’m worried about the new administration. I don’t want to start a political slanging match, god knows Facebook has enough of those. But I am particularly concerned about the new Attorney General’s attitude towards everything drugs.

Facing addiction?
When we all attended the ‘Unite to Face Addiction’ rally back in October 2015 I really felt we were turning a corner and finally, finally we were at the dawn of a new attitude and direction for treating and discussing addiction. For decades, we have been stuck in the belief system that addiction, alcoholism and any kind of substance misuse is down to some kind of moral failing of the user. Surprisingly, this attitude has been also perpetuated by the recovery community, in their one-size-fits all, attitude to recovery and the mistaken belief that anonymity = secrecy. Which therefore, lead people to believe we had something to be ashamed of.
We don’t, of course. The first ever Surgeon General’s report into addiction states: ‘Addiction is a disease of the brain, not a character flaw.’
The report itself is ground breaking and long overdue. We hope it can do for addiction what the surgeon general’s report did for smoking fifty years ago. That we can start investing in research-driven prevention and treatment programs. This is a public health crisis, not a criminal one.

Opiate crisis
I keep reading about the opiate addiction and overdose crisis but I do not see anything substantial being done to combat it. There have been a few initiatives in different areas but no cohesive nation wide strategy.
Let me remind you, that many of the kids who are dying of opiate overdoses became addicted through sports injuries. You may think this won’t happen to you, but no family is immune.
It really felt like we were beginning to get somewhere and then we have this. Our new attorney general who is, quiet possibly, the only American left who thought the 1980’s ‘Just say no’ campaign was a good thing.

His beliefs about marijuana will tell you everything you need to know about what we can expect, ‘good people don’t smoke marijuana.’


I am, therefore, not a ‘good’ person as defined by Jeff Sessions, I must confess I have smoked marijuana. You may know people who currently smoke marijuana and now you can put them in the ‘not good people’ bin. Because eventually, that’s where Sessions will put them, except his ‘bin’ is called, for-profit, *Ka-ching* prison’s.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

For-profit prisons need a supply of inmates. The purpose of for-profit companies is to, ahem, increase their profits. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Perpetuating the faulty, no-basis in science, stuck in the 1980’s, belief that good people don’t use drugs is a catastrophe for anyone with an interest, or a loved one affected by addiction.


A look at substance abuse after 2016

By Alek S.

Addiction is a problem that has been around for as long as there has been civilization. However, based on the understanding of the disease model of addiction, epidemics that are related to addiction have come and gone, throughout time. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of an addiction epidemic that has continued to grow over the past decade. After the statistics that we witnessed in 2016, it’s worth looking at how crucial it is that we address the growing rates of addiction in the United States, as well as worldwide. Here is a look at the substance abuse situation, at the start of 2017…

Overdose is #2 cause of accidental death

Currently, over 100 people die in the United States every single day, due to an accidental overdose. This alarming number is boldened by the fact that overdoses from substance abuse are the #2 cause of accidental death in this country. The main cause of overdose deaths is opioids, by far, whether prescription opioids or street drugs, like heroin. What is particularly alarming about this fact is that the rate of opioids has quadrupled since 1999. This is also true of overdoses, due to opioids. For this reason, it isn’t off base to say that drug addiction is the number one public health crisis that is facing the country, today.

Growing opioid epidemic

As stated above, the rate of opioid abuse has grown over 400% since 1999. From 2007 to 2011, alone, the rate of heroin addiction doubled in America. It’s safe to say that opioid abuse has become an epidemic here, as well as around the world. What is especially nefarious about this epidemic, though, is that it originated from the world of medicine, instead the of the illicit drug trade. The roots of our current opioid problem stem from the copious amounts of prescription opioids that were given out in the mid-to-late 1990’s. Currently, half of all heroin users reported that their addiction began from prescription painkillers long before they ever used heroin, according to the CDC.

This problem is becoming more well known

One bit of good news that we have witnessed in 2016 is this problem has been addressed and recognized for the major issue that it is more than it ever has before. During the presidential election and primaries, we saw candidates discuss substance abuse and methods to approach this problem more than we have since the Prohibition era. This is an excellent first step towards reducing the rate of substance abuse, since it cannot be done without an ample amount of awareness throughout society.

Image courtesy of Baitong333 /

Image courtesy of Baitong333 /

Steps to mitigate prescription abuse

Just as the awareness of addiction has continued to grow, so too has the understanding that we must take steps to stop the opioid addiction from continuing to spread from the pharmaceutical industry. Last year, we saw the first steps taken to reduce the amount of prescription opioids that were sold to the public. New procedures to determine whether an individual is at risk to abuse prescription medication have started to be tested and implemented, as well.

We see drug abuse all throughout pop culture

It’s important to note that drug abuse isn’t something that is restricted to one part of society. It affects every class, race, religion, and ethnicity in our country. Although we hear plenty of coverage about celebrities who have fallen victim to substance abuse, it is a problem that affects the working class just as prevalently (although there is evidence that suggests that creative individuals are more susceptible to addiction). Indeed, it is often the nation’s poor who suffer the most fatalities due to addiction, since they cannot often afford the treatment that is necessary to get on the path to recovery.

2017 might be the peak of the opioid epidemic

According to some researchers at Columbia University, there is a good chance that 2017 might be the peak of the opioid epidemic. In a 2014 report that was published in Injury Epidemiology, the Columbia researchers say that they ran the current numbers of opioid addiction and compared it to other epidemics in the past (as well as behavioral health issues, like obesity) and concluded that it would probably follow the same cycle of rise and decline, based on public awareness and preventative actions. Based on this model, they predict that the numbers of opioid-caused deaths will decline to 1980’s numbers by 2034.

Marianne Williamson on spirituality

Sometimes I have a post in mind and then I realize that someone has said everything so much better than I ever could. Marianne Williamson is one of the greatest teachers of applied spirituality that I know. She describes herself as a ‘spiritual activists’. Don’t you love that?
I’ve seen Marianne speak in person at one of her weekly seminars in New York City. She is the real deal. Which is why I’m super excited to see her again at She Recovers* in NYC in May.
I particularly like this interview as she discusses the ‘addictive global-mind.’ How we have been trained since birth to consume, to buy objects as the ultimate fulfillment to happiness and how so many of us find that lacking.

” -that we are addicted to certain things because we’ve been taught that something outside us is the source of our happiness. Consumerism in that sense is a form of idolatry. That cruise…that object…that whatever…will make you happy. And then, of course, if it doesn’t work out, then here’s a pharmaceutical to lift your spirits about it. When, in fact, the source of our happiness has very little to do with what we get and has everything to do with what we give. Simply knowing that, strikes at the core of our addiction to immoderate accumulation”.

She has many great insights into recovery including why relationships are so essential to recovery and spiritual growth. You can read the rest of the interview here.
SheRecovers in NYC Member Sober Blogger Team
*She Recovers has sold out, BUT there is a wait list if you still want to try and come.

Recovery Rocks – Esther Nagle

Esther Nagle found her sobriety in yoga, and her life purpose in sobriety. She is the author of Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, host of the Sober Living Rocks podcast, and teacher of Yoga for recovery. Esther loves to dance, adores the Beatles and particularly George Harrison, loves walking in the mountains, reading to herself and her little boy, and is still catching up on the sleep she didn’t get in 20 years of alcohol dependence! She believes that we can and must all work together to create a better future for us all, and knows that helping break the stigma around addiction is a big part of that work.

Esther Nagle in Om Studio CArdiff

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My rock bottom was a very slow process, which spanned many years. The moment when I realized that I had a problem, however, was when I was listening to a song I was totally addicted to, ‘I Appear Missing’ from Queens of The Stone Age’s ‘…Like Clockwork’ album. I had been utterly obsessed with the song for months, and one night, after a training course with my new job, as I sat on the doorstep to my house, smoking and drinking furiously when I should have been asleep, I was listening to this album on repeat. When I listened to the words to ‘I appear missing’ this one time, I suddenly realized that they spoke of exactly how I felt. I was utterly lost to myself, and had been for a very long time. I was going through one of the most traumatic 8 months of my life, with job insecurity, serious family health problems (including the discovery of a long hidden addiction in a close family member, a rather painful mirror for me to look into), and a very acrimonious battle with my ex over arrangements for our son. I was fragmenting more and more with every day that passed, and the realization of just how bad I felt (isn’t it strange how we can be in such a mess and not even have the faintest idea?) sent ripples through me that turned into a tsunami just a few weeks later. 4 weeks after this moment, I sat on the M5 after a festival, in floods of uncontrollable tears, knowing that I couldn’t go on. I had already decided that I needed to quit my job, and now I knew for sure. I emailed my family when I got home, told them that I was really struggling to cope with every aspect of my life (not recognising my addiction at this time, alcohol was my friend that got me through it all) and quit my job.

This was my lowest moment, or at least, the one that was particularly significant. This breakdown led to my disintegrating completely for a few months, but then I started to take the reins of my life and grab back control.

A few months later I started Yoga teacher training, expecting that I would learn to teach postures. I did, but I also learned a whole lot more. I met myself properly for the first time, started to unravel the tight knots I had in myself, to break down the many walls I had built between me and myself, and learned to relax, to breathe, to feel gratitude, to see myself without judgement, to forgive. Slowly, through the work I did on this course, I began to heal the wounds that had kept me tied to alcohol for so many years, and, for the first time in my life, to begin to acknowledge that I did indeed have a very dangerous dependence on alcohol. I could only see this once I was able to live more and more without it, and once I started to develop other coping strategies. I started to recognize situations which would have previously led me to drink, but the desperate need was no longer there, I was still binge drinking at weekends, but it was for ‘fun’, not to hide.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
On October 12, 2014, I woke up with the mother of all hangovers, and vowed never to feel this way again. I know I preferred waking up with memories of the night before, energy, clear-headed, and able to open my eyes without searing pain in my head! I decided that I wouldn’t drink the following weekend, and for the next 6 weeks, I kept telling myself ‘not today’. I had no plan at this time to quit for good, I just enjoyed getting through each day sober. When I went to my brother’s wedding and shunned the champagne and red wine in favour of elderflower cordial, and had a wonderful time, I knew I had turned a corner.

My early recovery wasn’t a struggle in any way. Because of the work I was doing on my course, I had processed a lot of the difficult emotions people often experience in early recovery, and had cleansed my body effectively as well, so I had no physical symptoms. I didn’t really acknowledge that I had quit until 6 weeks had passed, so the first 30 days were easy, I was just doing ‘not today’ and working on myself through my coursework. By the time I realized that I really could quit, I was totally ready for it, and knew that I was much happier sober then I ever was when I was drinking, and that I had the coping strategies that would help me get through the tough times.

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

• I have achieved a lifetime dream of becoming a writer, when I wrote ‘Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga!
• I travelled to India last year to speak about my experiences at the Women Economic Forum conference.
• I have become a podcast host, and have interviewed some amazing people, including Veronica Valli! (
• My children and those I love have more respect for me than they did before
• I have discovered self-respect, which I NEVER had before.
• My youngest son, who was 3 when I stopped drinking, has no recollection of seeing my drink or smoke (I quit smoking on the same day!)
• I feel that I have a purpose in life now, rather than simply drifting from one catastrophe to the next.
• I experience life in all its richness now, and can deal with problems instead of hiding from them
• I NEVER have to lie in bed trying to remember how I got there or what chaos I may have created before I got there!

Stop trying to fit in, you aren’t meant to fit in, you are meant to inhabit your own place in the world. Don’t worry about what they think of you, let it go, and love you. And BREATHE!

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
• That I can write – I had always suspected this, and been told I am a good writer in the past, but I never really believed it. Having received emails from people who tell me that my blogs and book really help them is an amazing experience, I love that in helping myself (I find writing very cathartic sometimes) I can help others as well.
• I have learned that I created a lot of the problems that I was trying to escape from, that I have far more control and power over my life than I ever realized, and that I can do anything that I put my mind to
• That I love sleep – when I was drinking, I feared going to bed, because that was when the demons would wake up and tell me what a scumbag I was, but now, when I go to bed, I sleep, it is wonderful!

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
A friend of mine is trying to have a few months off drinking to give his body a break. He was given a bottle of wine by a colleague just after he decided to have this break. Rather than have the temptation of having it in his house, he gave it to me to look after, safe in the knowledge that it will still be there when he wants it. It is in my cupboard, and I see it everyday, but I barely actually see it. When I was drinking that would never have happened, I would have been the last person to be trusted with a bottle of wine, and if it was in my house, well, it wouldn’t have lasted very long. This really shows me how much I have grown and changed in recovery and is a wonderful constant reminder of the way we can change so much.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
My biggest one is a motto I was given in my yoga teacher training, three ‘rules’ of yoga – don’t judge, don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
To take full responsibility for your life, to live life on your own terms, not at the whim of an addiction, to have clarity, good sleep, self-respect, to let go of shame and judgement, to be fully present, to be a good role model for my children rather than a great example of how not to do life, to inspire and help others, to know who I am, to know that fun and enjoyment of life doesn’t require a bottle and oblivion, to fully feel all my emotions, and to know that all will pass…all this and so much more makes life in recovery a far richer, fuller experience than I could have ever imagined. I used to think that you needed excess to be ‘rock n roll’, but recovery rocks so much better (plus, you can dance so much better when you can be coordinated!)

You can follow Esther on Twitter here.

Choosing to live your truth

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at

The most profound thing that happened to me when I first got sober was the discovery that I hadn’t been ‘living my truth’. I realised that each of us has a ‘truth’ deep inside us. It is the essence of who we are. It determines the choices we make and how we express ourselves. To my horror I realised I had become a ‘fake’ person. I made choices based on other people’s approval, not my own. I expressed opinions I thought other people would want to hear, regardless of whether I believed them or not. I had lost my path. I saw how this was tied into my drinking, how alcohol numbed the understanding of what I was doing (because deep down I knew). So I saw for the first time that I had to begin to be true to myself if I wanted to overcome drinking.

Living your truth is hard.

Not living your truth is harder.
Make your choice.
Only one of these choices leads to completeness, peace and joy, to freedom, whilst the other leads to darkness and despair.
I realised I had a choice in how I lived. Up until then I had no idea that I had a choice or could control the direction of my life, but I saw that every time I chose to do or say something that was incongruent with who I was, then I was choosing not to live my truth.
I had lost myself.
Who I had become was not my truth.
That’s why I hurt so much.
That’s why I had to anaesthetise the hurt.
That’s why I drank.

The emperor who wore no clothes
I was the emperor with no clothes, pretending that I wasn’t naked, surrounded by people who colluded in my self-deception. Everything was superficial and false.
I didn’t know how to communicate with anyone; I had never learnt about my ‘inside world’ and how much this mattered, how much it impacted on my outside world.
Nobody had ever told me about how to deal with my feelings, how to be true to myself, how to act with integrity. It’s only after years of personal development and seeking answers that I have finally found what I have been looking for: that my external world is a reflection of my internal world; if I take care of that, then everything else will be OK.
This is the world’s best kept secret.
Just think how different our lives would be if we were all true to ourselves. If we didn’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or confused about how we felt. Imagine what it would be like if we were all so much more authentic.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is a parable that teaches children that pride comes before a fall. Pride is bound up with what we think other people think about us. It trips us up when we place an emphasis on being happy through influencing and manipulating other people’s opinion of us. If we get trapped in this illusion then we become victims of self-delusion, like the emperor.

Alcohol steals our authenticity
There’s something about alcohol abuse that steals our authenticity, that erodes our integrity and keeps us hypnotised by all the promises it fails to deliver. It promises us joy, companionship, connection, love, popularity, fun, excitement, but when we receive those much sought after gifts they are hollow, without worth, an empty promise, an illusion created by our own longing for it to be so.
Like the emperor’s new clothes, it’s a trick, a falsehood, a lie that we are all willingly buying into again and again, because it’s not the fine clothes or alcohol that we actually seek, it’s the feelings we think they will bring us.
It’s the feelings we are chasing. We want to change how we feel.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
2013 How to Stop thumbnail 130x160
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

High Sobriety – a new treatment paradigm

Image courtesy of Zuzuan at

Image courtesy of Zuzuan at

Marijuanna has been in the news a lot lately, more and more states are legalizing the sale of it. Research is showing that medical marijuanna can have some real benefits in treating lots of conditions.
A lot of people in recovery from addiction feel a little nervous around this subject. After all, for us, drugs are the enemy. For many of us, marijuana was the entry drug. It was our first step into the dark side of illegal drug use that took us to stronger, harder more addictive substances. I had a very bad reaction to smoking pot it induced anxiety and paranoia. So I’m very clear it’s not something I can ever mess with.

So I was pretty shocked and intrigued to hear about how marijuana can as an ‘exit drug’, or to be clear, medical marijuana as a treatment for substance abuse?

Well that is just what harm minimization clinic ‘High Sobriety’ is proposing.

It’s a lot for people to get their heads around. I’ve had my struggles with the harm minimization model but I do believe it is a very necessary way we can save lives. I am skeptical when we fund things like needle exchanges (which is a good harm reduction measure, if part of wider treatment options) but we also need to fund other treatment options, so that people can move down the spectrum, to not just surviving, but thriving also.
I wanted to ask my friend and colleague Joe Schrank some questions about the new clinic. Not only does he provide some really interesting insight into medical marijuana he also raises some interesting questions about the treatment industry as a whole. Please read what he has to say and let me know your thoughts.

Joe Schrank - recovery warrior

Joe Schrank – recovery warrior

Joe, so I see you are involved in a treatment program that is based in the harm minimization model rather than the abstinence one? Can you tell me more?

At the moment my sole focus is in developing, High Sobriety, the harm reduction program. I’m not looking to disparage abstinence based programs of give the impression that harm reduction is better or the solution. The truth is, we use harm reduction all the time, motorcycle helmets, condoms, there is nothing new about it. My aim is to expand the points of entry for some people. For many, the idea of “nothing ever again” is just too daunting and while I personally am intoxication free, like Pope Francis, who am I to judge?

That sounds very interesting. I used to work in harm minimization in the UK, but I’m curious why there seems to be very little of it in the USA. Why do you think that is and how do you think this new paradigm will be received?

There are certain things Americans don’t like. Harm reduction is one of them. In spite of overwhelming evidence of the benefits of safe injection rooms, there aren’t any in America.
Our relationship with drugs has a long and torrid history and we have been stuck in the morass of criminalization. As much as we hear “addiction is a disease” Americans don’t believe that. We aren’t what we say, we are what we do and what we do is shame addiction, marginalize people inflicted with it, we set them up for failure and worst of all, we out them in cages. There will be a day when we look at our drug policy with as much shame and regret as we now view Manzanar. For Americans relationship with drugs to improve we need truth and then reconciliation.
The first truth is that criminalizing addiction makes no more sense then criminalizing diabetes. We need to understand that drug policy needs massive reform. Part of that reform would have to be the expansion of how people enter a system of improvement and how they stay engaged.
I think this will be received with a really strong reaction. People who have achieved total abstinence in a 12 step program hold that in the highest possible esteem. The premise is based on an act of providence. Harm reduction challenges that and that will always have a strong reaction. I think there are people who are very frustrated with rehab and how ineffective it is, they will be more open to the idea. For families who have lost someone to addiction, would they take them back if it meant they weren’t totally abstinent? Of course they would. There is a tremendous amount of pain and suffering out there because of the overdose catastrophe. I have lost someone very close to me to an overdose. I don’t carry guilt that we tried to force 12 step abstinence with him, but I carry regret that we didn’t give harm reduction a try.

You make some very good points and there are some hard truths in there. I definitely came from that hard-line view that abstinence is the only way, but I came to realize that I believed everyone should have the same recovery I did. I know realize that saving lives is far more important. I’m open to the idea of medical marijuana but still have some reservations. How does it work and what is the research saying?

Works like other rehab, research is solidly in favor of it as a possibility. Amanda Reiman, the Berkeley professor will address all research questions and we will post studies.

How is the abstinence based treatment community responding to High Sobriety?

They are hostile and vitriolic. Many of them who run 65k a month Malibu rehabs are lobbing “this is a money-making scheme” grenade. We are a for profit venture, like the $40 billion treatment business. We have a pro bono mission to take combat vets who want off pills and booze. I’m a socialist. If I get rich, it’ll be funding an orphanage in Kenya to bring boys to the west. I totally understand that people hold abstinence as near and dear. I have no agenda to change that. I keep saying “that’s why the TV comes with an off switch”. There is anecdotal and scholarly evidence that people can maintain cessation of lethal drugs with using cannabis as part of that effort.

The “give me abstinence or give me death” mantra is just wrong. If the current culture of abstinence that permeates so extensively is so effective, why are there so many families with a dead loved one? There are some people, mostly skilled, seasoned and trained clinicians who can say “that makes a lot of sense”. I think 12 step culture needs Vatican 2. Religions understand this. That’s why Jews have orthodox and reformed. That’s why Catholics are moving in that direction. There are certainly mass in Latin Opus Dei people and there are people in my parish that has a large gay congregation. 12 step culture has become the tea party of recovery: opposed to science, denying change, and longing for a culture that has passed. It’s very similar to people who are “opposed to gay marriage” ok, don’t marry anyone of your gender or “opposed to abortion” ok, don’t have one. The notion of imposing your way onto others doesn’t ever sit well with me. Read Langston Hughes “the more I live, the more I learn, dig and be dug in return”.

This is a really interesting conversation and really about so much more than medical marijuana, you are disrupting the market place so in many ways this is a normal reaction. You and I are both abstinent and I know 100% there is no other way for me. But I also accept that my way, is not the only way, and we are in the middle of this crisis where so many unnecessary lives are being lost.
Could you define what successful treatment looks like for your clients? And what happens when they leave?

What happens when they leave? They are beloved, they have said “you know, drugs are bad! Why didn’t I think of that?” And they become counselors. Just like on TV.
One of our goals here is to figure out what happens with solid outcome studies. My sense is Outcome studies are skewed to people doing well because people who have been to an AA indoctrination camp are afraid and ashamed to engage if they haven’t done this perfectly. My sense of what happens is life. Ebb flow, hurdles and victories, grief and loss the whole enchilada.

Please check out the High Sobriety website for more information on their research and goals.

The beauty of failure in learning to succeed

Adobe stock

Adobe stock

by Rose Lockinger
Most of my life I was afraid of failure. I suffered from the belief that I had to be perfect at everything I did and anything less then perfection was unacceptable. This caused me to go around in my life with unrealistic expectations for the way things should go. I would weigh out every step I took in life with a seriousness that did nothing but hinder my progress and paralyze my ability to move forward and grow. I realized quickly in sobriety that part of learning to live life meant that I was bound to make bad decisions, however those decision did not determine my future rather they were experiments in learning.

The interesting thing about this is that living my life in this manner all but ensured that I would fail. By having to be perfect I would often times not try something because I was afraid that I couldn’t do it, or couldn’t be the best at it and by doing so I failed before I even started. I would put mental roadblocks in my way that I felt would keep me safe, but in reality they just kept me down and kept me living in fear.

This is something that I have heard discussed by many alcoholics and addicts in my time in sobriety— how their lives were a dichotomy of perfection and failure. How the fear that they would fail kept them from truly living and truly succeeding and how once they got sober they had to learn to deal with this.

When I first came into the rooms of recovery of I felt like a complete failure. For all of my attempts to control the outcomes of my life and live in a way that would result in my experiencing the least amount of resistance, I still felt like a total and utter failure.

My marriage had come to an end. I had used drugs and alcohol to the point where I now needed treatment, and my ability to be a mother to my children was painfully lacking. And so I entered into recovery thinking that my biggest fear, being a failure, had been realized.

To a certain extent I was afraid that this feeling was going to follow me for the rest of my life. That because I had “failed” I was bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over again and that there was no way that I could escape what I believed to be my own inadequacies as a human being.

This however, if you haven’t already been able to tell, was completely unfounded and it was nothing but my mind and my disease attempting to keep me down. Every day of my early recovery I struggled with this fear of failure. I struggled with feeling like a complete loser and I struggled with whether or not I was going to be able to overcome my problems. Part of me just wanted to give up, because at that point I didn’t think I was good enough and I didn’t think that I deserved a better life.

Luckily, though I didn’t give up. I pushed on and in doing so I learned one of the most important lessons I have discovered in my life: that failure is never the end of the story but is rather the beginning. That all of the messy feelings and pain that failure brings up for me allows me to learn life lessons about myself that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. In a sense, even though I had been afraid of failure my entire life, it became one of my greatest teachers and one of my greatest accomplishments.

That last part might sound be a bit strange, but it is true. If I wouldn’t have used drugs and alcohol to the point where I completely destroyed my life I don’t think that I would be sitting here typing this out at this very moment. I would not have been introduced to God in the manner that I was and I would not have taken to a life of sobriety in the way that I have. I probably would still be out there somewhere, totally lost and afraid to admit it to anyone. I would probably have just wandered through life unaware that there was a better way.

Getting sober wasn’t the only time that failure has been my teacher, or has been a new beginning for me though. I have noticed many times throughout my sobriety that what I deemed to be a failure was often times a blessing in disguise. That often times having failed, lead me to something entirely new, whether it be a greater understanding of how my mind works, or a deeper appreciation for the things I have, but each failure has been a lesson that I needed to learn, and truthfully I probably couldn’t have learned those lessons any other way.

I have also noticed that my failures have in many cases turned into my greatest assets. For instance I was never really able to be honest in the past. I seemed to have an almost pathological need to not tell the truth and as you can probably guess this caused a tremendous amount of trouble in my life. But as my lies piled up on top of each other and eventually led to my undoing, I learned a valuable lessons from this, and today, while I am not 100% honest, I am able to share honestly with other about what is going on with me and I do my best to tell the truth.

So while I am not completely free from my fear of failure and sometimes I still get paralyzed thinking that I am going to choose the wrong path or do the wrong thing and everything is going to come tumbling down, I at least understand that there is nothing in life that I can’t learn from, or can’t come back from. I sunk lower in my addiction than most normal people ever go and yet today I am not a broken woman. My addiction didn’t totally ruin me and since that is the case, I know that no failure is too large for me to overcome, and no lesson to large for me to learn.

Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

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