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.
Chapter Three: “The Monster in Your Head, and How It Enslaves You;” will continue with the study of addiction, but this time with emphasis on the psychological and sociological aspects. Why do we see the world the way we do? Why are those urges so strong, and where do they come from? We will find that our addictions hijack the primitive areas of our brains, and become entangled with our most fundamental drives, those of self-preservation (eat and avoid being eaten), and reproduction. The “gotta have its” we experience, emanate from our reptile brains, and this chapter discusses the implications of this, and how it effects our view of the world, and our behavior. If we know where these thoughts and feelings are coming from, we will be in a better position to understand and deal with them.
Chapter Four: “They Were Not Powerless, and Neither Are You;” will explore the concept of powerlessness, as inculcated by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and most of the drug and alcohol treatment industry. Are we really powerless over our addictions? Do we really have to “turn them over” to some ephemeral power greater than ourselves? Have any studies been done that give an indication of the truth of this concept? Turns out that yes, there has been considerable work done, and over 80 studies in the last 40 years prove conclusively that 75%, or more, of all addicts recover on their own, without treatment centers or 12-step groups! We will examine several of the studies, including some which prove that some addicts, who formally met strict dependency criteria, had successful non-abstinent recoveries.
Chapter Five: “Harnessing the Power of Self-Change, Breaking the Chains;” discusses in detail the seven stages of change an addict passes through in order to affect change in themselves. Although all addicts don’t go through all of the stages, they are a good starting-point for a discussion on how any individual, including you, could go about the process of self-directed change. Some tools are introduced to illustrate what constitutes advancement from one stage to the next. For instance, studies indicate that the number one necessity for self-recovery is a cognitive decision that the disadvantages of using outweigh the advantages. In other words a process known as a “Cost/Benefit Analysis,” so this is introduced here as a tool to advance an addict from denial into a state of self-change motivation. Also mentioned in the chapter are four points that are common among those who’s self-change was referenced in Chapter Four, with a discussion of how these points relate to the stages of change.
Chapter Six:”Choosing Your Personal Pathway to Change;” is a detailed analysis of the various pathways for change available for you. Each of the four general choices: Without any help, with informal help, self-help groups, and professional help; each have multiple pathways included within them, and decision criteria which must be addressed by anyone wishing to recover. This chapter focuses upon the options, with emphasis upon the decision criteria themselves. The object is to help you decide what might work best for you, by giving you some guidance from studies and surveys that provide an idea of the kinds of things that are important in making this type of decision, depending upon your own feelings, beliefs, and grasp of your own situation. This chapter is a preamble to Chapter Seven, which covers the various recovery options in detail.
Chapter Seven: “Your Choices for Action, and How They Compare in the Real World;” discusses the main recovery options, beginning with quitting completely on your own, all the way through professional help and treatment centers. Special emphasis will be placed upon the most common self-help option, 12-step, with and without formal treatment, and SMART Recovery. Other self-help groups, LifeRing, and Moderation Management will also be discussed, as will some specialized treatment options. Some new studies will be presented, which address the effectiveness of the various options, especially 12-step, which has been around the longest, and has the most data available, of the self-help groups.
The object of this chapter, together with Chapter Six, is to provide some of the information you need to make a decision on your personal pathway for change, realizing that none of these pathways are mutually exclusive! My own pathway involved components of more than one of these options, including another one that I haven’t addressed yet – ZEN.
Chapter Eight: “Obtaining and Maintaining Your Motivation, and Controlling Urges;” concerns early recovery. In Chapter Five, I began the discussion of motivation, the single most important component of recovery from any addiction. It was the number one factor mentioned in every single survey and study that addressed self-recovery from drug, alcohol, or nicotine addiction. I address methods of obtaining the motivation to abstain if you don’t already have it, and how to maintain it, if you do.
Almost as important as motivation is the ability to control urges to use. These urges, no matter how irresistible they seem, need the conscious cooperation of our thinking brains in order for the drug to be made available and delivered. Your reptilian brain can’t get the car keys, drive down to the corner package store, and buy a bottle, it needs help. Your help! Your feelings drive your actions, while your thoughts control your feelings. You can change the way you think, which changes your feelings and your actions. There are many cognitive, and simple behavioral tools you can use to modify your thinking and control urges, and we will cover them here.
Chapter Nine: “Proven, Non-Magical Tools Designed for Living in a Reality-Based World;” discusses how to live in the real world, with all of its frustrations, stressors, and fears without having to alter reality with drugs or alcohol. Due to permanent changes in the response of certain systems in the brain of the addict, we are more susceptible to stress than most others are. While these changes are not reversible, we can deal with the additional stress using some of the same tools we use to deal with urges. By changing our thinking, we can eliminate this additional stress, in fact almost any stress, thereby maintaining our mental balance, and our sense of perspective. Long before the adversities of the day begin to build the tensions that can eventually lead to an irrational decision to drink or use, we can manage and dispense with them by developing the ability to see them as they really are. The tools used to do this are suggested by the surveys in Chapter Four, and are today common psychiatric tools used by professionals in the treatment of many mental disorders, including substance abuse. We can learn to apply them in our own lives, and that’s the purpose of this chapter.
Chapter Ten: “A Realistic, Balanced Vision for You;” is a wrap-up, a review, and a discussion of obtaining lifestyle balance, the outlook and attitude that allows addicts such as ourselves to lead normal, happy lives without resorting to mind-altering substances. The process of reorientation from a focus on short-term goals, which is what we do when we are using, to a focus upon long-term goals has another name: It’s called “growing up,” which is something many of us never did. When we were using, we set lots of goals for ourselves, the only problem was, we never achieved any of them. Why? Well, there was always “something,” wasn’t there? There was always some short-term gratification that we allowed to come between a long-term goal we thought we really wanted to achieve, and what we knew we had to do to achieve it. Even if we knew the particular gratification would preclude the goal, it wouldn’t matter; we would take the short-term irrational path every time.
This chapter teaches the skills of balancing short and long-term goals and satisfactions in order to achieve a healthy balance in your life. Learning to set specific, achievable, measurable, realistic and timed goals is one of the most important life skills you can learn. With knowledge of the proper tools, anyone can balance their lives to achieve the maximum of personal joy and satisfaction, and you know what? It’s contagious!