I’m not an addiction professional from the standpoint of education or training. What I am is an ordinary guy who had a problem, solved it, and would like to help others to do the same. This effort grew out of curiosity that began over twenty years ago, when I was attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, but didn’t buy the “higher power” concept or believe that I was powerless. I never worked a step, used a sponsor, prayed, or followed most of the other “suggestions,” except for one: I didn’t drink. Why was I successful when studies indicate that only 5 out of every 100 people stay sober for a year in AA? I drifted away after a few years, never to return.
It wasn’t until Mike Werner, one of the founders of SMART Recovery®, introduced me to their scientifically-based program a few years ago that I learned most addicts recover on their own, or with minimal informal help. Mike and I started a SMART meeting as co-facilitators that’s still going strong in Wilmington, North Carolina.
As I continued to learn more about the ways in which people actually recover from addiction, I became curious about how addiction works, why I behaved as I did when I was drinking, and why I had continued to drink even when I received little benefit from the drug. I did the research necessary to learn the answers to these questions, and many more, which clearly show that the conventional recovery establishment is based upon principles that have little or no relevance to how addiction works, or how addicts actually recover
Powerless No Longer is intended primarily for those who are currently in the process of questioning their own drug or alcohol use, or who have tried 12-step or other programs and not succeeded. Perhaps you have been told you are “powerless” over your addiction. I will show that this is simply not true. I will describe in detail a self-change method that works for the overwhelming number of addicts, three-out-of-four, who successfully recover on their own, and show you how to apply these principles in your own recovery.
What separates this book from others is the viewpoint and experience I bring to it as a recovered addict, and that I have combined in one place:
I will make some suggestions based upon the available science; there are no “musts” in this book. There is no single system or program that will work for everyone, there are only methods and principles that have worked for most and these have been uncovered in scientific surveys and studies.
Three-quarters of us who have abused or were dependent upon a substance or activity have either self-remitted or moderated to non-abusive levels, either completely on our own, or with minimal help. That we have done so without formal treatment or self-help programs has been well-established by the scientific community in many detailed studies over several decades. In fact, at least 34 studies have indicated that the single most effective treatment method for dependence is a single brief intervention from a trusted healthcare provider, such as a family doctor.[i]
In 1999, I was sitting on a hospital bed, waiting to be released, merely five days after a major heart attack, wondering how to convince my wife to stop on the way home for a carton of cigarettes. Before my cardiologist signed the release, she looked me right in the eyes and told me that if I started smoking again, my chances of dying, and doing it quickly, were four times greater than if I didn’t. If that wasn’t enough, my wife told me on the way home that she would leave me, should I ever smoke again, because she couldn’t stay around to watch me die. I have never smoked again!Continue reading
This excerpt from chapter 5 of “Powerless No Longer” covers the next two stages of change, the Preparation and Action phases. Both will be discussed more fully in subsequent chapters.
Preparation – making plans to change and deciding upon the method
Entering this stage, you have done your CBA and decided that the benefits of making a change outweigh those of continuing the way you were headed. You have taken care of the “why,” and are now considering the “how.” The good news is, there are many choices available, and, if you are really convinced that you want to change, many, if not most of them will work just fine for you. The bad news is that if you are still wrestling with the decision to quit, and many still are at this stage, some of the available choices may do you more harm than good. As I mentioned earlier, these stages are not cast in concrete, and people often drift back-and-forth between them, they are only a framework we use as a starting point so we can have a discussion about a difficult and complex subject. At this point, you are experimenting with taking control of your own life, and for some of you, this is a new and frightening experience.Continue reading
Have you ever known someone who has quit smoking without the benefit of formal programs, self-help groups, or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) (patches, pills, gum, etc.)? According to the American Heart Association, nicotine is one of the most addictive of all substances, weaving itself into virtually every facet of a smoker’s life. From an article by The National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Research has shown how nicotine acts on the brain to produce a number of effects. Of primary importance to its addictive nature are findings that nicotine activates reward pathways — the brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure…nicotine increases levels of dopamine in the reward circuits. This reaction is similar to that seen with other drugs of abuse… For many tobacco users, long-term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction.” [i]
So, nicotine works the same way, and to the same extent as other drugs of abuse. We will look further into the addiction mechanism in the next chapter, but I’m sure that anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking understands how addictive it can be.
In 1986, the American Cancer Society reported that: “Over 90% of the estimated 37 million people who have stopped smoking in this country since the Surgeon General’s first report linking smoking to cancer have done so unaided.” [ii]
An article in the August 2007 edition of the American Journal of Public Health indicated that over 75% of those who successfully quit for 7 to 24 months did so without any help, as opposed to 12.5% who used NRT (patch or gum).[iii] A study in the February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that almost 65% of quitters used no help, while around 30% used medication, and 9% used behavioral treatment.[iv]
The following appeared in PLoS Medicine, an open access, peer-reviewed medical journal in February of 2010:
“As with problem drinking, gambling, and narcotics use, population studies show consistently that a large majority of smokers who permanently stop smoking do so without any form of assistance…[T]he most common method used by most people who have successfully stopped smoking remains unassisted cessation…Up to three-quarters of ex-smokers have quit without assistance (’cold turkey’ or cut down then quit) and unaided cessation is by far the most common method used by most successful ex-smokers.” [v]
The evidence reveals that unassisted quit attempts have a much greater chance of success than those using the help of NRT’s, hypnosis, or any other method. In spite of that, the pharmaceutical industry continues to fund advertising campaigns aimed at convincing the general public, and physicians, that quitting “cold turkey,” without help, is a waste of time, and doomed to failure.
Because most assisted cessation attempts end in relapse, such “failure” risks could be interpreted by smokers as ‘I tried and failed using a method that my doctor said had the best success rate. Trying to quit unaided — which I never hear recommended — would be a waste of time.’ One review stated: “Such reasoning might well disempower smokers and inhibit quit attempts through anticipatory, self-defeating fatalism.” [vi] In other words, if the pills and patches don’t work for them, they will probably just give up.
The evidence clearly shows that empowering people with the belief they can quit smoking on their own is much more effective than feeding them the nonsense that they’re powerless.
[ii] Chapman S, MacKenzie R (2010) The Global Research Neglect of Unassisted Smoking Cessation: Causes and Consequences. PLoS Med 7(2): e1000216. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000216
[v] Chapman S, MacKenzie R (2010) The Global Research Neglect of Unassisted Smoking Cessation: Causes and Consequences. PLoS Med 7(2): e1000216. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000216
[vi] Gillies V, Willig C (1997) You get the nicotine and that in your blood: constructions of addiction and control in women’s accounts of cigarette smoking. J Community Appl Soc Psychol 7:285-301