Substitute Addictions

There are two kinds of addictions. Substance Addictions create pleasure through the use of products that are taken into the body. and include all mood-altering drugs (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, etc.), food-related disorders such as overeating, and so forth.

Process Addictions, in contrast, consist of behavior that leads to mood-altering events that provide pleasure and distraction from our core issues, to which we can also become addicted.

imagesWhen we get right down to it, recovery from addiction is about learning to deal with the stresses of life in a healthy way, “living life on life’s terms,” as they say in the 12-Step rooms. Early in recovery these stresses include the process of learning to do without our drugs of choice, whether chemical or external. This is withdrawal, and it creates a very real chance that we may look for and find other addictions to take their place.

Some of the activities that frequently become substitute addictions are listed below. Continue reading


downloadWe talk about “triggers” a lot, but do we really understand what they are?  We say things like, “I walked into Joe’s Bar, and the sounds and smell triggered me!”  Is that what happened?

Dr. Pavlov taught us about stimulus and response.  He conditioned dogs to salivate when they heard a bell by ringing the bell and then immediately giving them food.  The bell was the stimulus, and the salivation was the response.  Simple.

We’re a little more complicated, but we too have our conditioned responses.  Some of these may be wanting to act out in our addictions when we’re exposed to certain sounds, smells, places, people — even things.  We may respond to certain situations, but we have to ask ourselves how we got into those situations. Continue reading

Five Studies: New Approaches in Treating Addiction as a Disease




Thoughts On Approaching 26 Years Of “Sobriety”

I had my last drink on September 14th, 1989, at about noon.  At the end of the month, I’ll go to an anniversary meeting and pick up a coin stamped XXVI to denote my 26 years of “sobriety.”  I’m not braggin’, I’m just sayin’.

IMG_20150925_102611Don’t get me wrong: if I hadn’t become abstinent from alcohol and drugs, I’d be dead now instead of approaching my 71st birthday.  There is absolutely no question about that, and I am extremely grateful for the 12-step fellowships that supported me during those years and that continue to support me today.  I owe the past 26 years of life to the people and the institutions that blazed the trail to abstinence.  I take nothing away from that.

On the face of it, twenty-six years of abstinence is pretty impressive; but was I really sober?  Continue reading

Blaming Has No Place In Recovery

By Bill

There is much debate about the causes of addiction: environment, genetics, moral failing, physical changes, emotional trauma and so on.  While interesting intellectually, these things have nothing to do with quitting.  If I’m acting out, the reasons for my alcoholism and other addictions don’t really matter; what matters is stopping.
Continue reading

Laughing At Ourselves

To itself, a small child is the center of the universe.  It cannot differentiate among itself, its surroundings and its caregivers for some months, and can’t detach completely for years.  Since, to begin with, it’s consciousness is the only one it is able to recognize, it naturally believes that it is the center of everything, and that other people are there to tend to its needs.


As we become older and wiser, we usually gain a sense of perspective and proportion regarding our place in the scheme of things.  However, for those of us whose emotional development was stymied by trauma, abuse, using alcohol or other drugs, or losses of other kinds, it may be difficult to move out of the “me-me-me” stage and through the various passages that lead to maturity and adulthood.  That is almost universally true of alcoholics and other addicts.

That being the case, most of us addicts have problems adjusting to the world by understanding and adopting a sense of ethics, discipline, and other such attributes — most definitely including a sense of humor that allows us to laugh at ourselves.  Like the small child, we take ourselves far too seriously to find humor in our fumbles through life.

One of the first signs of healthy recovery is the ability to find ourselves and our foibles amusing.  The ability to find humor in our mistakes and gaffes gives us a sense of proportion and our place in the world.  Instead of constantly grading our dignity, which leaves us rigid, vulnerable and fragile, we gradually develop a sense of our true importance as human beings — to ourselves and to those around us.

One of our greatest needs as social creatures is to be well-regarded by others.  As addicts, we largely blocked others out of our lives for fear of being thought unworthy. (We call that shame.) Now that we are are beginning to believe that we have self-worth, we can let down our guard and see the ways the amusing human condition shows up in our own lives, instead of merely laughing meanly at others.

By keeping our self-importance in perspective, we learn to grow up in ways that we were previously denied

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by Bill

My friend Rodney died a year ago today.   He wasn’t defeated by his addictions, because he had plenty of experience in dealing with them both inside and outside of treatment.  He was killed by his choices.

Rodney and I were roommates in treatment.  I was there — after 23+ years “sober” in the beverage and pharmaceutical programs — to deal at last with my sex addiction issues.  Rodney was an equal opportunity addict like myself.  He had varying lengths of time abstinent in AA and NA (several years, this time), but had never dealt with the feelings surrounding his sexual issues, including early abuse.   He knew his triggers, too: he’d pick up the wrong guy, have a little liquid courage to facilitate the relationship, and eventually they’d end up doing drugs together.  That had led to HIV and acute pancreatitis, among other things.  He could not afford to drink again.

I don’t know what demons of his remained to be exorcised, but a few weeks after leaving residential treatment but while still in Intensive Outpatient, he made the choice to work on his chemical addictions while “taking a break” from his sex addiction program.  A couple of weeks after that, he began avoiding my phone calls, and within a few more weeks I heard at a meeting that he was dead.  He’d been found in his apartment, surrounded by empty beverage containers.

My friend knew that a relapse would kill him.  He had trouble managing his physical issues when he wasn’t drinking.  He also knew, from many previous relapses, that his Achilles’ heel was relationships.  He sponsored people in AA.  He was active in his fellowships.  But for whatever reason, he failed to heed the multiple warnings of his experience, his therapist, his medical team and his friends in the program.  He made the wrong choices, despite knowing better.

I’ll never know why, but I can make a pretty good guess.  As a gay male, he had faced harassment all his life, including both sexual and emotional abuse from childhood.  He had sought solace and to silence his demons through drugs and sexual acting out, but whatever those demons were, he ultimately made the choice to do the very things that he knew would probably kill him — and I know he knew, because he said so to me on several occasions.

We are powerless over our addictions, but we are not powerless over our choices.  Relapses occur before we act out, and there is always a point where we can head in another direction, choosing our recovery over our fear of discovering more about who we are.  Rodney taught me that, and a lot more.  I miss him every day.

Rest in peace, my friend.  You were a powerful support for lots of folks, including me.  I sure wish you hadn’t chosen to be an example as well.

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