Kenneth Anderson, the Executive Director of HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol, will be interviewing me on his Blogtalk Radio site at 8 PM Eastern tonight. The subject matter will be my book, Powerless No Longer. If that time is inconvenient, I will post a link to the podcast here tomorrow.
One of the ways we perpetuate our self-defeating behaviors is to convince ourselves that change may be possible for some people, but not for us. We are who we are, and that’s just the way it is. To make matters worse, we tell ourselves that even if we did somehow manage to change, we wouldn’t be able to sustain it because there were certain things we simply could not do without artificially altering our reality, or engaging in our habits.
Just a few moments of disparaging self-talk can make the change process seem to us like a towering mountain we can’t climb, and even if we could climb it we would surely die somewhere on the other side. Perhaps we have no personal examples of self-change we can recall to give us the confidence that we can climb the mountain and survive. The fact is that we do have examples, many of them, but to bring them into focus we have to look at ourselves a little more deeply than we are used to.
Who are you? If I asked you that question, there are many ways you might answer it. You might tell me a little about your background, your work history, your relationships, or your worldview. You might show me a picture, or tell me about your political leanings. You might even delve into your using history as a way of defining yourself. Even if you could tell me everything you know about “you” in a few moments, I submit that you still wouldn’t be answering the question—not really.Continue reading
I had a twenty-six year drinking career that began on my eighteenth birthday and ended in August of 1990. The last year or two were the worst. I was failing at work, my personal life was a mess, and I kept getting into one scrape after another. I was doing the kinds of things that hurt people, ruin reputations, and cause pain to everyone involved. There was one thing that would relieve the pain, but it was also the thing that caused it and so on, and so on…. Finally, I reached the point where alcohol no longer dulled the pain, but I continued to drink anyway. I had to. When I drank enough, it produced the relief of oblivion.
I convinced myself that all of my problems were caused by my wife, my family, my job, in fact just about everything, except me. I just wanted to be a good guy in a good world, but all these other people and things in my life kept screwing it up. At no point did I ever make the connection between the pain and the alcohol – never.
One night in late August, I was sitting in my living room, drinking, of course, when I was interrupted by my fifteen-year-old daughter appearing out of nowhere. She was standing about ten feet in front of me, nervously fiddling with a piece of paper in her hand.
“Dad,” she said with a tremor in her voice, “what did you think of the poem I read for you on the deck before? You said you wanted to think about it for a while.”
“What Poem?” I said. I couldn’t remember even seeing her earlier, let alone any poem.
She extended the paper in her hand, “This poem, Dad. I’ve been working on it for days.”
I looked at the floor, pretending to remember, and muttered something that I hoped was appropriate. I can’t remember what I said. When our eyes met, I watched her expression change from hurt to anger, then from anger to disgust. I saw myself, and what I had become reflected in her eyes, and suddenly I knew that she knew I was a complete fraud.
She crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it onto the rug between us. I remember how her hair swirled as she wordlessly spun on her heel and ran from the room. I couldn’t remember the poem, but I still remember her sobs.
I looked around the room, and realized that this was all coming to an end, and damn soon. We were living off sales I had made two and three years ago. There was nothing in the pipeline. I saw things that night that I had never admitted, or faced before. Not only was I a liar, a cheat, and a phony, I understood I was one of the few people in my life who wasn’t already aware of it.
I wanted the world to just stop. If it would do that, for just a little while, I could get myself together, and begin to make all these things right. I didn’t want to drink any more that evening, I really tried hard not to drink, but somehow the glass continued to fill itself. I drank until the pendulum clock on the wall bonged one, then stumbled up the stairs, undressed in the dark and fell into bed. As the room began to spin, I was filled with panic, because I knew I couldn’t face life without alcohol to kill the pain, and yet I knew that I would die if I continued to drink. I saw no third option.
I didn’t put a gun to my head, nor did I continue to drink beyond the next day. Instead, I found door number three. I discovered that there is a life out there that doesn’t require constant alteration of reality. Powerless No Longer is the story of how I discovered that life, and how most addicts discover it either completely on their own, or with minimal help.
Up to now, nowhere on this web site have I spelled-out exactly what my book is designed to do, or how it’s designed to do it. The purpose of this post, which will also become a permanent “page” on the site, is to accomplish that. What follows is a chapter-by chapter breakdown of the book, so far as I currently envision it, (after all, it is a work in progress). You will see that the purpose of the book is to help you decide, out of the myriad possibilities, what program would or would not be right for you.
Chapter One: “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover;” is an overview of “Powerless No Longer” (PNL), detailing why I’m writing the book, who it’s for, offering an “intro to addiction,” and suggesting how to use the book, depending upon what your goals are. PNL can be read in order, or used as a toolbox. Some of those reading the book will have only begun thinking of making a change, while others will be deeply committed to change and looking for a viable pathway. Still others will already be far along their own pathway, and merely looking for a few tools and suggestions. This chapter will hopefully sort things out.
Chapter Two: “Complex Causes for a Complex Problem;” will primarily address the biological and physical aspects of addiction, the actual mechanism that makes us addicts. Addiction is a Bio-Psycho-Social malady, and this chapter addresses the first, and part of the second of these three components. The study of addictive behavior crosses several disciplines, including behavioral neuroscience, epidemiology, genetics, molecular biology, pharmacology, psychology, psychiatry and sociology. We are addicts due to very complex mechanisms, and some understanding of these mechanisms makes our actions, and our personalities, a little easier to understand.Continue reading