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Mindfulness in Recovery

Posted by tbranston
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on Thursday, 17 October 2013
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Staying sober requires that we develop skills that further long-term abstinence. While there are many ways to achieve recovery, I would like to discuss Mindfulness as a tool that has been valuable to me and a host of clients I’ve worked with over the last 28 years.

Mindfulness is a concept that talks about the practice of focusing your attention and awareness based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness continues to be taught independently of religion.

My sense is that while Mindfulness is a relatively new approach to addiction recovery I have found this concept to have merit. It’s very likely that you’ll find this approach does not conflict with your current program of recovery. I quit using alcohol and drugs over 33 years ago and feel like incorporating the practice of Mindfulness has been very helpful in various parts of my sobriety…..and my life.

While I am certainly not an expert I would like to give you one way to practice mindfulness.

Perhaps you’re at a stage in your recovery where urges, cravings and addictive impulses overwhelm you. Perhaps you feel anxious more than you’d like, or perhaps you’d simply like to add another tool to your toolbox. I sense this method might be helpful to you. I like to explain Mindfulness by way of the acronym S.O.B.E.R:

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My Gambling Addiction ~ Part 3 & 4 Of an Interview by

Posted by kitcatlyon
I live life in Recovery, but my PASSION is writing and blogging to help others a
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on Wednesday, 09 October 2013
in Gambling Addiction 0 Comments

Hello Addictionland friends & new Visitor's,

I have shared parts 1 & 2 of "My Gambling Addiction" story done by Here now is parts 3 & 4 of my story.....

My Gambling Addiction: Lessons Learned (Part 3 of 4),

By Leanne Hall, Fri, September 27, 2013

In this exclusive interview with, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.

*What was your lowest point?*
After both stays in the recovery crisis center in November of 2002 and April of 2006, some of what I had NOT learned was how to actually "break down" the "cycle" of compulsive gambling, piece by piece, and understand – and how to use all of the recovery tools and skills to do that.
At the same time, after my release in 2006, the GA group I was attending was having some trouble within our group. People would gossip about others. We also didn't have many members who had good, solid or long "clean" time. Trusted servants were not "utilizing" all of the by-laws and guidelines from GA. There was no one willing to give up themselves to become sponsors to new members, and no Financial Pressure Relief group meetings were being held. I offered many times to help, and I did, but I couldn't do it all on my own! The reason it's so important, especially for new members, is that we come to GA so in debt and financially broken that we have NO idea where to start on taking our financial inventory.
I had always felt I never really got any financial relief most of my recovery, or trying in vain to stay in recovery, so much so that it lead to my third major event – and lowest point in my life! From April to the beginning of August in 2006, I'd really gotten a good foothold on a clean recovery, but life challenges and financial events turned all of that into a tailspin! Long story short, I had been cleaning homes to make a little money. I was cleaning a friend's home while she was on vacation, and I'd gone home one day for lunch, and my power was turned off! I checked the mail and had a shut-off notice from my gas and phone companies as well. That just put me in panic mode. Instead of working things out with my husband and figuring something out, my old habits and behaviors of my addiction took over. I got into that "have to fix this quick" mindset.

That's why, when you're in recovery, you also need to work on your old way of thinking and learn to solve life's challenges in a healthy way. I hadn't gotten that far in my new recovery. Even though I was not "in gambling action," I'd still used the old habits to try to deal with this financial crisis. I never had that "financial relief" like the GA combo-book had said we would when we stopped gambling. So I did the unthinkable and stole from my friend! When she got back, I could have told her, but I could not bring myself to do it. Just when I got my nerve up to do it, it was too late; she had already called the police. They showed up at my home, asked me about what had happened, arrested me, and off to jail I went. She wanted to press charges against me to learn a lesson.

Needless to say, I did – the hard way. I had a few court dates to go to with a public defender. I was just going to plead guilty; I had to be accountable for the poor choices I had made. This was not only the lowest point in my life, I was so humiliated; people seeing me handcuffed and put into a police car. And if that was not enough, I live in a small town, so of course there was my name in the local newspaper with what I'd done! There went my reputation. All NOT because I was gambling, but worse (and dumb) because I stole from somebody to try to solve my financial problems.
So please learn from me: Make sure you work on all areas of your recovery! I had to learn the hard way. I will say this: Even though I'd not gambled when all of this happened, I still consider the last day that I gambled as Jan. 29, 2007 – my last/sentencing court date. It is my constant reminder of the lowest point in my life....

My Gambling Addiction: Recovery and Life After Gambling (Part 4 of 4)

By Leanne Hall, Mon, September 30, 2013

In this exclusive interview with, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.

*Who helped you the most in your recovery?*

An "angel" came to my rescue when I was going through the legal process of my theft conviction. His name is Boyd Sherbourne, PsyD. At the time, he was an Addictions PsyD from the crisis center I was admitted to. Since the friend I'd stole from was also in my treatment program, they were going to kick me out of the program. I'd never met Boyd, but a little problem came up with my husband and my treatment councilor, and Boyd overheard them heatedly talking and asked my husband if he could talk with him in his office. He helped and talked with my husband for a while (while I was still in jail waiting to be processed and released). Boyd told him what had happened and also explained to my husband most likely why I did what I'd done due to financial stress, even though I was not gambling.

Then a few days went by, and Boyd called me on his own even though he didn't know me. It was a God intervention moment. He asked if I was willing to meet with him, so I did. He wanted to help me with support and teach me how to not only breakdown the "cycle" but also learn better ways of handling life challenges in recovery. He taught me how to change the unhealthy, lingering habits and behaviors of addiction. I thank God every day for Boyd taking me on, and he did it a whole year! I can never repay him for helping me get my life back and save my marriage. He helped me stay on a healthy, clean, balanced recovery.

*What advice do you have for other compulsive gamblers?*

We are truly blessed that we live in a world with wonderful technology, and it has turned the recovery process around! For those of you who gamble but are not sure whether you have a problem, you can take the "20 Questions" quiz on the Gamblers Anonymous website. If you answer those questions honestly, you'll know if you're a problem gambler. The Internet has provided "safe and secure" websites for recovery help. There are places with live chat rooms 24 hours a day, on-line meetings, free treatment and therapy. A support group is vitial to a balanced recovery plan. I attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, of course, but Safe Harbor compulsive gambling hub is another great support community! They offer online meetings, 24/7 live chat rooms and a fantastic "Resource Recovery Room," which includes the "top compulsive gambling recovery sites."

There you will find the top 100 recovery sites on the web, which is how I found this great site, I believe that in order to have a well-balanced recovery, you also need to have a "spiritual" well-being. We reach out for help with such broken spirits, souls and hearts. Not everyone has faith per say. But I do believe in a power greater than myself has helped me return to sanity from the insane, cunning addiction of compulsive gambling. My own quote, which I say all the time, is, "Addiction and recovery have only one thing in common: They are both selfish!" We are very selfish when we are in the depths of our gambling addiction. And you have to be selfish and put yourself first in your recovery in order to be successful! Just remember: No one person on this Earth is perfect. We are all a wrok in progress.

*What are your favorite activities now that you don't gamble?*

I enjoy so many things now that I have not placed a bet in six years. It's like I shared before, having a well-balanced recovery is important. There are activities that I feel are vital to my recovery which keep me from getting too complacent. I enjoy writing, and I love to read all kinds of books. Now that I'm a published author, I have met so many great writers and authors (even a few famous ones!) who have really helped me develop as a writer – along with some good book clubs. I love to cook, and I love gardening (growing flowers mostly). I also enjoy volunteer work; it really helped me fill a lot of the free time I had.

I've been unable to work outside the home for the past few years due to some health issues and the medications I take for my bipolar II, panic and agoraphobia disorders. My husband and I enjoy the first Friday art walk each month in our community, which helps me to get out. In the Summer, we like to river raft and hike on my good days.I have my blog in which I'm able to "visit" with new friends I've made in recovery. I use the Gamblers Anonymous blue and red books daily. I write in my journal daily. I attend online 12-step meetings. I read and post daily on Safe Harbor and still go to some GA meetings as well. I've also started writing my second & third books.

*My Mission today through my Book, and my New Recovery Blog: I invite anyone who may need Support and Recovery Resources from Compulsive Addicted Gambling. I continue my On-Line Journel of my story*......
**Thanks for taking time to read *My Story* and visiting me here on *Addictionland**

Warm Regards & Blessings,Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

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I am Catherine, I am a Compulsive Addicted Gambler

Posted by kitcatlyon
I live life in Recovery, but my PASSION is writing and blogging to help others a
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on Saturday, 05 October 2013
in Gambling Addiction 0 Comments

Hello friends and visitors,

I thought I would *Share* a 4 part Article & Interview that was Kindly asked by to share my experience of what I went through when I was addicted to gambling. Sharing our won stories can be very POWERFUL, as it may help others, and give them *HOPE* that they TOO can recover from this Cunning Disease. Today I'll start by sharing part 1 & 2....The Beginning.......

My Gambling Addiction: The Beginning (Part 1 of 4)
By Jacqueline Pabst, Tue, January 22, 2013

In this exclusive interview with, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.


My gambling was a slow, progressive decline from about 1996 to 1999. Many factors were in play at that time. My husband was in the construction field, and most of his jobs were taking him out of town for long periods of time, leaving me home alone. I was bored and I had too much time on my hands. I didn't come from a family background of gamblers, but I had a difficult family dynamic when I was younger because my father drank a lot. He was in the Air Force, so I just thought that was normal. When I was older, I went to Reno with "the girls" once a year and gambled the way any other normal person would.

I think my addiction really got going when the state of Oregon approved video poker machines – they were everywhere! So, from 1996 to 1999 I started gambling more and more. I also started going by myself because I had so much free time on my hands. That was the start of my addiction being more noticeable in my daily life.


I think it was in 1999, when my husband got a new Job. He was home every evening, and I noticed I started to lie to him if I got home late from work (I got in the habit of stopping to gamble on my way home.) And it got worse. I'd tell him I was going food shopping, something that usually takes an hour or so, and I'd be gone for 2 hours. I'd tell him I ran in to an old co-worker and we had coffee. There were just so many lies. I finally realized my gambling had become more then just a fun pastime when my husband and I took a trip to see my family in 1999. I noticed that I would get angry when I couldn't go gamble, and I couldn't stop thinking about the next time I'd get to do it.

My mom planned the whole trip for us, with stops in Arizona, Laughlin, NV, and Palm Springs, CA. The last night that we were in Laughlin, we'd all been out all day and some of the evening. Everyone wanted to go to the rooms, but I didn't want to go. They had been dragging me around all day, and every time I'd get on a winning streak, (or at least I thought), they wanted to go somewhere else. I blew up in front of everybody and confronted my husband. I made everyone uncomfortable, so everybody went back to their rooms.
The next morning at breakfast, my mom said she thought that maybe I was gambling too much, not knowing my husband had made very similar comments to me. So after that trip, I called the Oregon Lottery Helpline for problem gamblers. That was Sept 1999, and the rocky start of recovery.


For me, this question is a "mixed bag."
For my own recovery, my triggers always seemed to co-exist with bad habits and behaviors. My triggers allowed me to feel a sense of entitlement. What I mean by this is that when I felt the urge to gamble, I justified my urge by telling myself I deserved to relax, that I deserved a reward, etc. For example, if I got into an argument with my husband, that would trigger negative thoughts and behaviors, which would lead to gambling. By justifying my addiction, I got into a vicious cycle of entitlement, blame, denial and lying, which, of course, led to more gambling. I remember the days of going to my treatment group in GA (Gamblers Anonymous) – just hearing other people talk about gambling was a trigger for me, and I often went to gamble after meetings.
I think a lot of people did that, because a lot of us are in denial about having a problem. I definitely was. I also learned that triggers don't always happen immediately – I could be triggered by a disappointment, but not recognize it until a couple days later.....

My Gambling Addiction: Relapse and Finding Myself (Part 2 of 4)
By Jacqueline Pabst, Tue, February 05, 2013

In this exclusive interview with, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.


I had three major relapses. Two were from active gambling relapses, the third had more to do with my general recovery. I'd been so focused on the emotional and illness side of addiction that I hadn't been working on my financial health. It can be very overwhelming when you first reach for recovery...

This question is hard for me.

There is still a twinge of pain for me when I talk about my two major relapses. It was a very dark time in my life, I was using compulsive gambling to escape emotional, physical and sexual abuse that I'd experienced as a child. My feelings first resurfaced after my brother in law passed, right before I turned 30. I went to see a therapist for a while, and I thought I had resolved my issues. I know now that the reason it took me so long to get a real foothold on recovery was because I wouldn't accept the fact that gambling was slowly destroying my life.
I was in and out of a treatment group and GA from 1999 until my first major relapse in November of 2002, right before my 40th birthday. I'd been gambling like crazy! I was fighting with my husband, using the same lies and excuses, telling him it was his fault I gambled, that his work was driving us apart. I was gambling before work, on my lunch hour, after work, anytime I could. I'd tell my husband I was going to a friends house but he knew where I was going. He just let me go, he was tired of fighting. I started to realize that I couldn't keep up with all my lies. I had to pick up the mail before my husband did so that he wouldn't see the credit card bills, I was hiding the money I'd taken from our bank accounts. I felt like I was going insane.

What put me over the edge was when my best friend in the whole world passed away from cancer – a week before my birthday. I was supposed to meet my husband and her family after work, but instead I drove to the Indian Casino. I was there most of the day, lost hundreds of dollars, and I barely remember driving home that night because I was so distraught. All I remember is dialing the phone to call my treatment counselor, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital in a white room with padded walls. There were police and doctors outside talking incomprehensibly, and then I blacked out again. I woke up in a room at the Mental/Addictions crisis center.

When I woke up, I looked around and saw that my arms and wrists had cuts on them, one very deep, and that I had a few stitches. I ended up staying in the crisis center for 11 days, with the first 4 on suicide watch. While at my stay, my primary doctor and the crisis center doctor found that I was suffering from severe depression, high anxiety, panic disorder, and symptoms of bipolar disorder. So they started me on 3 medications. I always knew I had high anxiety, but I had no idea about the other disorders. While I was there, I worked hard with my addiction counselor, and I didn't gamble for six months straight.

However, I started feeling good, I got complacent, and I decided that I could still gamble as long as I "control" it. This led to another 3 and 1/2 years of binge gambling. I was still going to meetings, but I'd lie through my teeth – I maxed out credit cards, got fired from jobs for stealing and pawned anything of value. Then, we had to sell our home in 2005, just before it got foreclosed. I wasn't working and we moved into a rental home. I felt like everyone in my life was treating me like I was some sort of "mental freak" just because I had to take meds for my mental/emotional well being.

So, I stopped taking my meds and I just kept telling myself that I could be a "normal person." The other thing that was hard for me to contemplate was that I could get "high" without ingesting any substance, that my gambling was actually an addiction like drugs or alcohol. So, with the perfect storm brewing, I was heading down a very dark path. I gambled away the money we got from the sale of our house in three months. I was constantly chasing the money I lost until I was so far gone mentally that I tried killing myself again by taking all of my meds at once.

I gave up on life, on myself, on everyone who loved me – I just wanted it all to end! Once again, I ended up in the hospital and the crisis center and learned I'd never really wanted to stop gambling in the beginning. I was so broken, in mind, body, soul, and spirit, that I made the choice to believe in a power greater than myself. I decided that God wasn't done with me, that he would show me my true purpose. I truly believe that I was meant to go down this path, and that I was meant to learn from it. And learn I have! ......

**HERE IS PART 1 & 2, as I'll share parts 3 & 4 this coming Week! MY Hope is that someone can benefit from my Story & Experience.**

God Bless All, and Have a Great Weekend!

Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon


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Recovery Is For Anybody

Posted by tbranston
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on Wednesday, 19 December 2012
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Many years before I found my way into a group room or sat in a chair before a client, I listened to a recording of Dr. King and his "I Have a Dream" speech.  Having listened to his speech I knew I wanted to help people in some way and I knew I wanted to affect change, I just didn't know how. I had a dream of supporting clients to find a way to exit addiction. I suspect I must have found a way to reach my goal as more than 28 years later I continue to support people to find a way to to achieve sobriety. When I was wandering about trying different careers, I tried selling cars for a bit.  The work didn't engage me, but in some way I latched on to the idea of sales.  In some way I sell sobriety.  I am able to highlight the various features of recovery and like car maintenance, I am able to show clients what they need to do to achieve lasting recovery.  Taking care of your car is a choice, much like recovery is a choice. To stay sober you need to do many little things on a regular basis that support you to abstain from chemicals or support you to make a decision to use in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary.  It's not much different than maintaining a car.  If you neglect the maintenance your vehicle will cease to run. To this end I think that everybody has the ability to make a choice and find sobriety.

Over 32 years ago I made a conscious decision to quit using chemicals.  I found a way that worked for me with the help of my grandparents.  The way they supported me to remain sober looks very similar to the way I have been able to help clients find sobriety.  Throughout my career I have seen various trends in the field of addiction recovery.  While the addiction treatment industry was borne out of the self-help movement, things have changed.  While I can see the benefit of attending support groups, most research has not affected the way support groups and the 12-step movement operate.  However,  great strides in modern science have brought many changes in the way addiction treatment and mental health services are delivered. We have seen the the advent of anti-craving medications, the creation of various cognitive behavioral therapies, motivational interviewing, the creation of the Transtheoretical Model (stages-of-change) short-term therapy, goal-based treatment, and the implementation of peer-led support.

While I think many changes in the addiction treatment industry have been helpful, I have seen an intensification in the negative attitudes from some folks in various support groups or clinicians in the recovery community suggesting the "new methods" are essentially harmful.  I don't think this is the case.  I think that many people who see the "new therapies" as harmful are misinformed and narrowly focused.  It seems to me that at times people forget that recovery looks different for everybody.  I am not sure how attending 12-step meetings gives a person special insight over someone who found recovery though a therapist and anti-craving medications.  It seems to me that recovery is a choice.  How we get there shouldn't matter - what matters is that we find a way and that we get there.

This might be a contentious statement for some folks, but my sense is that recovery alone is not a job qualification.  I don't think that being sober gives us any special insight into the addicted mind or the behavior of an addict.  In some ways we could suggest that a period of recovery without a professional and educational background to complement our experience could be seen as a hindrance and allow us to be less than objective?  Perhaps recovery alone positions us to be too close to the issue at hand and would serve as a deterrent for a sober person trying to run a group in a treatment facility.  I don't think that being sober makes us special, just different.

Many times I will hear someone in recovery suggest that 'only an addict or alcoholic can understand another addict or alcoholic'.  I don't think this is the case and is essentially an urban myth.  When I think of addiction I think of people feeling helpless, powerless, and being held captive by their dark side. My sense is that we don't need to be brilliant to understand the mind of an addict, just human.

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Emotional Management: A Skill For Mastering How You Feel

Posted by tbranston
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on Saturday, 10 November 2012
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Developing skills to manage your emotional states is crucial if you want to develop long-term sobriety.  While the initial phase of recovery is often met with a 'Pink Cloud' or Honeymoon period, it is very likely that once the newness of recovery wears off the newly sober addict or alcoholic will encounter depression, mood swings, confusion, memory loss and an inability to regulate their emotions due to brain chemistry that has yet find homeostasis.  In this article I offer concrete and specific ways you can approach your "emotional mess" and posit solutions for managing feelings that are distressing to you.

If we take the position that addiction is largely the result of brain chemistry, it makes sense to me that we would approach a medical problem with a medical solution.  Make an appointment with your medical provider to discuss the possibility of being assessed for anti-depressants.  The effect of chemical use tends to create an experience where your world can feel very small.  I suspect this is due to your brain's inability to produce the required brain chemistry for normal cognitive and emotional functioning. A lack of the appropriate neurotransmitters can make you feel like you don't have the needed emotional bandwidth required to face the day-to-day challenges.  Utilizing the available pharmacology and today's research can go a long way in helping you develop a sense of ease in your recovery.

Developing skills to reframe what you are thinking is crucial if you want to stay sane.  One of the biggest lessons we learn in recovery is that we need to come to a place where we don’t personalize everything. There's a host of information available on the web if you'd like to do further study, but I would like you to consider the following ideas:

1) Take responsibility for your distress.  While negative events happen, it is important to realize that you are only responsible for your part in the situation.  Make an effort to talk to a trusted friend to get clarification on your part in a situation as well as where your responsibility ends.
2) Remind yourself that you cannot control the timing, the outcome, or how you, feel. You are only responsible for what you think.  By focusing on what you think you can change how you feel.
3) Try to see the good in every situation.  My grandparents lived through four years in a Nazi concentration camp.  When something negative happened to my grandmother after she and grandfather were released from Auschwitz, she would talk about "seeking the gift" in every situation.  She suggested there were three reasons people were unable to seek the gift: 1) the problem (or opportunity) doesn't come wrapped in the package you're used to seeing, 2) sometimes the opportunity doesn't happen on your time table, and 3) sometimes the problem doesn't happen for us, it happens for someone else, and we are merely the conduit.  My grandmother made sure that every time I was upset that I remembered that a gift existed in every situation

Realize that bad stuff happens.  My wife has Cancer. I do not see this as karma nor do I believe that 'everything happens for a reason'.  I see 'everything happens for a reason' as a trite way to wrap your brain around something you do not understand.  My wife has a family history of Cancer on both sides of her family.  It was very likely that no matter what she did, she would have contracted this horrible disease. I do not spend a lot of time thinking about why bad things happen, they just do.  Recognizing that bad stuff happens regardless of what we do or believe lets me remember that bad stuff happens, and it's okay

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Addiction Treatment for Homebound Clients

Posted by tbranston
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on Monday, 10 September 2012
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For over 27 years as an addiction treatment professional I have applied various treatment approaches in various communities.  In helping my clients find success I have learned that treatment approaches should vary not only by community, but also by client experience and milieu.  Many clients find success as a member of a community mental health team.  Homebound clients are not only mobility challenged they experience uncontrolled and unexpected occurrences that negatively impact long-term success.  Their case specific needs require different treatment approaches to support long term recovery.   In this article we will explore various reasons for this lack of success and posit some suggestions about the best way to engage homebound clients.

I have been fortunate enough to support client success in many environments, but I find additional compassion for the homebound and concern for their long term success.  Most of my homebound clients are unable to make it appointments outside of their home due to conditions such as chronic illness, a lack of social/familial support, diffuse mental health problems, lack of transportation or clinician resistance.  A focused team of health and social welfare clinicians can coordinate client specific treatment approaches.

As clinicians we can be easy become set in our ways and become numb to the strife of others.  We travel from place to place being creatures of habit.  It takes conscious effort and new situations requiring our attention to change.  Out of the items I mentioned above the last two items (lack of transportation or clinician resistance) can be overcome by education and community research to assist a homebound client.

The lack of personal or immediate access to transportation need not be a limitation to treatment for homebound clients.  Many communities have numerous community transportation programs.   In Seattle clients have options such as Access Transportation, Hopelink, Community Transportation, Taxi Script, or even subsidized bus passes.  The surrounding cities also have transportation assistance for community members.  I would also recommend checking with an area’s Chamber of Commerce. Some of these programs require that a medical practitioner verify that a client is disabled by completing an assessment and signing a form that a client can being to a transportation provider.

Visiting a client at their residence or at a community site can be very helpful, especially when a lack of transportation is a result of conditions beyond his or her control.  The idea of having a private and personal visit can instill not only client investment, but also a sense of control.  Many homebound clients are mentally ill and have manifestations which make it impossible for them to leave their home.  For example, schizophrenic clients can be plagued with command hallucinations that tell them to jump off a bridge or in front of traffic.  These clients stay home because the outside world is not safe.

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Posted by PattyPowers
Patty Powers is a sober coach and writer. She was featured on the A&E mini serie
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on Thursday, 31 May 2012
in Alcoholism 2 Comments

If I’m to be honest answering this question, there will be no quick way through it. I could say I became a sober coach because I was tired of going to bed at 6am and sick of having to shout over loud music to be heard  - but that’s only part of it.

When I got clean in 1988, I placed all bets on my writing. This meant that instead of taking a job that would have career advancement, I stuck with freelance work, doing anything that could finance large chunks of uninterrupted writing time. I came up during the late 70s and 80s among a scene of underground artists, musicians, and filmmakers, many of whom went on to mainstream success. After I got clean, I became the go-to girl for anyone from my previous life wanting to get off drugs. This lead to my first coaching jobs inside the entertainment industry. The calls were so random that I never considered it a real employment source. In between coaching gigs, I continued to take on whatever work paid the bills. Coaching and sober companion work felt like the right fit but I never gave it much thought as a career. At the time it was controversial and renegade.

As the years passed, I continued to write and perform. Although my work was being published and optioned, I still hadn’t made it through the “big doors". It killed me to watch my friends’ lives successfully moving forward while mine seemed, at least outwardly, frozen in time. What was i doing wrong?  My moment of clarity came at fifteen years clean. It occurred to me that I had never stopped directing my romantic and financial affairs and those two areas were not changing. I needed to let go (as they say in 12 step programs) but I didn’t know how. I definitely couldn’t think my way into a new life. I suppose I needed a spiritual experience but being an atheist this was difficult to imagine.

Right as my screenplay was gaining momentum and I was being flown back and forth across the country, the writers’ strike happened. Out of money, I went back to working in bars. The loud music and crazy hours were killing me. Like my final days with drugs, I was absolutely miserable and hopeless. At seventeen years clean, I was back at square one. Then the most amazing thing happened - I ran out of ideas on how to run my life. I was having tea with an old friend from the music industry when I asked him “You know me really well – what do you think I should do for a living?” It didn’t take a minute before he said, “You’d be perfect as a sober companion.”  I had no idea that sober coaching had come into its own as a profession. The renegade rock and roll days had paved the way and now treatment facilities, therapists, and psychiatrists were seeing positive results from setting up clients with sober companions. My friend suggested I contact a couple LA friends to see if anyone had leads.

The stars aligned and within 24 hours I had my first client outside of the entertainment industry. What was interesting to me was how everything I’d ever learnt in my life came into play - not just my personal experience in recovery but the information I’d amassed on nutrition, exercise, meditation, dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Every aspect of my life had prepared me to do this work.

The real test came on day three when my client’s prominent psychotherapist called for an update. Until then I had been working intuitively and unlike managers, agents, and the people I was used to dealing with, the person on the other end of the phone was skilled in mental health work. If I was a fraud she was going to call me out. Nervous, I took a deep breath and told her honestly what I saw and what I was working on with the client. The phone went silent and my stomach flipped. “I have been working with ___ for three years and you nailed every single item on my list”. His words confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

For me, falling into coaching was a spiritual experience. When I finally “let go” sober coaching came into my life. I loved it and had great results with clients. From that point on, doors kept opening. One day I got a call from the producers of Intervention about a new mini-series they were casting. Over night, this semi-secret career of mine became very public.

The television series shifted the direction of my life yet again. I received many heartbreaking emails from addict viewers who were without financial resources for treatment. I decided to set up a website and share freely what I do with clients. Currently I’m in the process of writing several books on recovery. What started as a part-time job to finance my writing has become the subject of my writing. No one could be more surprised by this than me.

To read what I do with clients as a sober coach, visit


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Anatomy of a Relapse

Posted by tbranston
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on Wednesday, 16 May 2012
in Alcoholism 0 Comments


A random poll among newly sober clients, recovery counselors, and people who have achieved years of clean time would probably produce a varying consensus about the most pressing need for successful recovery.   Most respondents, however, would likely agree that relapse is often an indicator of stress.

The process of recovery, like the process of grief, is fluid and dynamic.  Exploring relapse before it happens is a good way to identify potential problems so you can be prepared for them.  Thorough preparation can help you minimize or even avoid issues may hinder your recovery.

Most people don’t think though the actions which eventually bring them to the point of relapse .  They simply had a desire to drink, and acted upon that without any thought for the consequences.  If they did indeed have any thoughts and feelings about the consequences of use, those thoughts and feeling were ignored or rationalized away.

In the recovery process, your recognition of that lack of forethought and insight should be a powerful lesson.  You can learn that anticipating the ultimate results of your behaviors will help you make much better choices.

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Having a difficult time staying sober?? Maybe it’s not you – maybe it’s brain chemistry.

Posted by tbranston
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on Tuesday, 01 May 2012
in Alcoholism 0 Comments


You know the drill: you have spent countless hours in meetings, on the phone with your sponsor asking endless questions about your desire to use.  You have worked the steps and you’ve even consulted specialists.  In a moment of desperation you found help by attending treatment. You’re able to rack up six to twelve months, but eventually you find yourself in the throes of your addiction. None of this seems to work.  You find yourself questioning your commitment and ability to stay sober.  Maybe your sponsor was right when he said you lack willingness.

Not so fast….

What you are likely experiencing is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS.

PAWS consist of a set of impairments that occur immediately and at times simultaneously after the withdrawal from alcohol or other substances.  These impairments affect three distinct areas of functioning and last six to eighteen months from the last use of alcohol or drugs as your brain tries to regain homeostasis.

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Recovery Brings a Perpetual New Year!

Posted by coachbev
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on Saturday, 31 December 2011
in Co-dependency 0 Comments

This blog could fit in the category of co-addiction or food addiction. More importantly, it is about recovery from whatever imbalance comes your way. While New Year's Resolutions attempt to bring balance to a life yet often fail to do so, recovery offers a tried and true way to observe ourselves when we are out of balance and to choose the tools that will help us regain balance as we face whatever life offers.


One of the great things about the New Year is the opportunity it gives us to begin again. No matter how many times we have tried and failed, the New Year invites us to pick ourselves back up and do it again. Recovery goes so well with this concept, as for many of us, including and especially family members, starting over is pretty much what we do.

We communicate effectively with our loved one and then suddenly, something happens and we lose it again. We detach for moments, hours or days at a time, and then find ourselves upset again by the actions of those we love.

This process, one that one of my recovery teachers referred to as “Practice, Practice. Fall, Fall. Practice, Practice. Fall, Fall” can happen at any time of the day or year. But the New Year offers a reminder of how important it is to make a new beginning. Turning the page on the past seems easier on January 1st. Somehow, it’s expected. It’s time for new resolutions. AS the old saying says, “Out with the old and in with the new!”

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My Trigger: Daylight

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Monday, 30 May 2011
in Alcoholism 1 Comment

IncreaseAnother concept often discussed in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous is triggers-- people, places and situations that create an environment where relapse is more likely.  At face value, being aware of situations or people that can make you more prone to drinking or using drugs is certainly valuable, particularly in early recovery when we're more vulnerable to the physical urges and mental obsessions that are part of the disease.

But the concept of triggers comes not from Alcoholics Anonymous but from the rehab industry, where the philosophy of recovery is more about fighting the urge to drink than it is removing the urge to drink.  While it's certainly well-intended, the idea that the chronic alcoholic can fight pitched-battles against urges for the balance of their lives, and win, runs completely counter to the idea of powerlessness as presented by the program of AA. Yet the fellowship of AA, by and large, embraces the idea of triggers and perpetuates the myth that we can stay sober by controlling our environment and interaction with others, that we are forever "recovering" and vulnerable, and not "recovered" and safe.  We seem to have forgotten what our textbook says on page 84 and 85:

"...we have ceased fighting anything or anyone--even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thoughts or efforts on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality--safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been remove, it doe's not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition."

Further, the idea that my disease is catalyzed by situations is fundamentally flawed.  I drank always, when the sun came up, when it went down, when life was good and life was bad.  When I begin to analyze conditions that led to drinking, I fall into the very trap that my alcoholism loves-- thinking that I can somehow control it. That is conditional powerlessness.  It was only through a very thorough understanding of my first step that I was able to realize the futility of these efforts.

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Lost, then Found

Posted by Joelle
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on Thursday, 23 September 2010
in Drug Addiction 0 Comments

I’ve spent years in the rooms and in therapy “working” through my life experiences. I’ve done several 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th steps, adding character defects to my 7th step list with each new 5th step, and on a daily basis asked for each individual defect to be removed. The 8th step list that grew out of my 4th and 5th steps is a living document and I have made all of the direct amends that were humanly possible, and taken other suggested actions regarding amends that could not be made directly. I lived steps 10 through 12. And I achieved many goals; became a productive member of society, a loving daughter, sister, aunt and friend. I did well for myself on the material plane.

But in all of the years doing the steps and working the program – living the program – I did not allow myself to sit with feelings related to the aftermath of traumatic events.  I became aware of them, then spoke of them, cried a little about them, and then moved on.  After all, what good would it do to REALLY cry – to sob until I couldn’t breathe?  I didn’t allow myself to just BE – to truly process; to chew the food of my emotions until finely ground and easily digestible.  I bit off chunks of my life, chewed hard and fast, swallowed, and moved on.  I didn’t even wash them down with water because I was too busy achieving my goals, too busy making up for lost time.

Then I picked up again.

I am in a place now where the universe is forcing me to sit with myself and just BE.  My initial reaction was that I had failed.  And then I was paralyzed, moving neither forward or backward, living in a kind of twilight zone; not dead but certainly not alive.  I hoped I would die but I didn’t.  I wanted to, though I would not take an affirmative action to make it so.  My heart kept beating and my brain sent signals to keep the rest of my body functioning.  I existed in the most basic way.  I ate, I slept, and I woke up each day to do it over.  I silently choked on the past, didn’t care about the present, and saw no hope of a future that would be any different.

The universe eventually brought me to my knees and I had a moment of clarity.  In a flash I remembered the epiphany I had 20 years ago in a NY subway station -- I knew that I didn't have to go where my addictions were taking me.  I remembered I could go to a meeting.  Thank G-d for sober reference, and for not allowing me to completely throw my life away.

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Posted by Cate
Cate Stevens. Founder of, has over fifteen years of recovery f
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on Tuesday, 14 September 2010
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

As a person who regularly attends 12 step meetings, I am troubled by the low percentage of people who stick and stay in the rooms. The amount of pain an addict can handle before he or she loses her mind, valuables and/or life is beyond comprehension. Death by alcohol, pills and drugs happens more frequently than people imagine.

I have also heard many stories involving an addict in despair who puts a gun in his mouth or hangs himself because his hopelessness was too great. Sometimes, the person has years of abstinance but no longer attends meetings, helps others or works a program of recovery. Therefore, I beseech my readers to consider this stark fact about addiction-it can be a slow form of suicide or it can take your life in an instant.


Early in recovery, I was told that seals which swim away from the pack are the first to be eaten by sharks. Too many people attend a few meetings, feel better and then assume they no longer need the program or fellowship. Addiction is a serious enemy who  operates best when an addict is isolated. It takes a lot less effort to stick and stay in recovery than it does to clean up the horrific mess of addiction.

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