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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Originally Posted @

One of the biggest paradoxes in recovery is the idea of ‘surrendering to win’. In our society, the idea of admitting defeat is seen as a sign of weakness. When it comes to addiction and alcoholism however, conceding to the fact that you have a disease is the first step in getting and staying sober.

Many people struggling with addiction and alcohol abuse are experts at rationalization and denial. Working at a detox or treatment center, it is common to hear people argue “I don’t have a problem, I can stop when I want!” or “It’s not like I got a DUI, it can’t be that bad”. In fact, almost every person struggling with substance abuse issues try to come up with excuses as to why they don’t have a problem. An addict or alcoholic in denial may say things like “I have a job and a house, I’m not an alcoholic”. Often times people think of an alcoholic or drug addict as the dirty old bum panhandling and sleeping under a bridge drinking warm wine out of a brown paper bag. The reality is that addiction comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. One thing that research into addiction has discovered is that substance abuse seems to not discriminate between race, gender, or economic status. It has also become obvious that addiction is a progressive disease, and that some people can function at a high level, be very successful, and still struggle with addiction.

Why Surrender?

Getting sober, it is important to come to terms with addiction as a disease. I encourage people to research the disease concept of addiction, and to realize that addiction is not a matter of willpower or strength, but instead a medical anomaly that the person suffering can’t control. This is where the concept of surrendering to win comes in. Once the person comes to terms with their situation and accepts that they can’t fix their substance abuse problems on their own, a foundation for sobriety is laid. In 12 step programs the first step is about admitting our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. This is very similar to surrendering, because it requires the person to admit they need help and can’t handle it on their own. Once they become willing to take suggestions and become open-minded to new things, recovery can occur. Some people find strength in therapy, spirituality, fellowship, or service. When surrendering occurs, the previously close-minded person is often more willing to try unfamiliar actives that will ultimately bring them relief and strength.

When it comes to recovering from drugs and alcohol surrendering is actually a sign of strength and courage. It goes against our human nature and society to admit defeat, but in doing so we actually become willing to overcome our setbacks. Admitting powerlessness over substances does mean you have to be a slave anymore, instead it is a sign of upcoming freedom and growth.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

Tagged in: 10th tradition 12 step 12 step recovery AA abstinence accurate self-appraisal action program action steps addict addiction addiction help addiction memoir addiction recovery Addiction Specialist addictive behavior addicts affected affirmations Alcoholics Anonymous answers anxiety anxiety and recovery ask for help Asking for help attitude of gratitude awareness balance being a loving mirror being a loving person being of service Big Book Caring for those who still suffer co-addiction co-occurring disorder compassion courage dealing with a using loved one depression discomfort drug abuse drug addiction emotional management emotional maturity emotional regulation emotional sobriety emotions faith family recovery fear first step goal setting goals gratitude gratitude journey Guest Blogger guilt healing HELPING OTHERS higher self inadequacy inner satisfaction intervention inventory letting go Life Challenges life on life's terms literature memoir mental health mindfulness mindfulness and recovery Motivation My Story openness positive energy program of recovery recovery recovery talk relapse prevention Resilience right action right intention self care Self Love self-compassion self-confidence self-esteem self-help self-honesty serenity shame sobriety sponsor stepwork struggle substance abuse suffering suffering addicts Support surrender tenth tradition thinking thinking errors Trying to save a Life turn it over twelve step recovery twelve steps Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions twelve steps of aa twelve traditions twelve traditions of aa why i used drugs

Posted by on in Alcoholism

I am honored to be the December Expert particularly because this first day happens to be my birthday. Yet the date does not mark the only time I was shifted from a place of comfort to a visceral shock to the system.

I’ve been given the most precious gift of life three times. I was physically born in December of 1961, almost died in 2001 and then tested fate again in 2008. The 46-year journey was a roller coaster of addiction, emotional chaos and nonstop searching for a way out.

Although I can't remember the first few celebrations of the date I entered this world, all accounts indicated they were joyous, happy and fun. I’ve been told people poured attention on me with beautifully wrapped boxes to open and cards read by others with messages for a future far better than their own.




Posted by on in Alcoholism

The Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." The principle behind this step is Surrender. The 3rd Step and is also closely related to the Three Jewels of Buddhism.

Step Three and Surrender

In Step Two, we open ourselves up to a bit of hope and faith. In the third step, we surrender our lives to something greater than ourselves. The Oxford English Dictionary defines surrender as to "cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority." In this sense, we are ceasing to resist running our lives, and submitting to the authority of a power greater than ourselves. Where we previously resisted and turned away from any sense of a Higher Power, we submit to its authority.

It is important at this step to investigate what the term "power greater than ourselves" means to us. For those of us that enter the program with a religious background, it may be a good idea to use our previous concept of a Higher Power. However, most of us do not enter the program with an existing Higher Power. If we are agnostic, we may investigate the power of the twelve-step rooms or of our sponsor. We recognize the rooms hold more power than we do ourselves, as we were not previously able to stay sober alone. For those of us that enter atheistic, we may find trouble with this step. However, this does not mean we must shy away from this step at all. For example, as a Buddhist myself, I use the Dharma as my Higher Power. It is not a greater person nor a sentient being. Rather, the Dharma is a Higher Truth. Merriam Webster defines the word God as "the supreme or ultimate reality," which the Dharma absolutely is for me. I, daily, turn my will and my life over to the practices that the Dharma lay out for me.

When we turn our will and our lives over, we are submitting to something greater than ourselves. Whether it is Jesus Christ, the universe, a Twelve-Step room, or a set of atheistic teachings, we must surrender completely. To do so, this decision must be made at once, and fulfilled in our everyday life. We must give up running the show ourselves, and allow our thoughts and actions to be run by something greater.

Step Three and the Three Jewels

In the Third Step we surrender to a power greater than ourselves. One might say we "take refuge." In Buddhism, we surrender to the Three Jewels. This is called taking refuge. The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. As we surrender and turn our wills and our lives over to a Higher Power in Step Three, we turn to the Three Jewels for refuge in Buddhism.


Posted by on in Alcoholism

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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Posted by on in Other Addictions

A question I am asked frequently is, "What does it look like to 'Live and Let Live' or 'Surrender to Freedom' or 'Turn it Over' as suggested in the 3rd step?" Increase

I had a sponsor who always reminded me that whenever I am disturbed I am the problem. I am in fear of either losing something I want or never getting something I think I need. My real problem is my perception of what I need and my perception of how God is or is not working in my life. In order to connect with the solution, which is always spiritual and will never be my own thinking, I follow certain daily steps and so far they have worked.

To bring the slogans to life-no matter which slogan you choose-I pretty much follow the same disciplines. In no particular order:

1. Read 12 step literature or a spiritual meditation book when I arise to set my mind on spiritual, rather than material, goals.

2. Attend a 12-step meeting for the same purpose, as well as to be available to other women in need or to ask for help


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