Q: Scott, I understand you recently celebrated 13 years in recovery. Congratulations! How did you do it?
Scott: By dealing with the underlying issues that drive addiction, mostly through mindfulness, non-dual awareness, inquiry and bodywork that focuses on trauma. That work culminated in a loss of interest in trying to escape the present moment into some future state and trying to run away from uncomfortable feelings.
Q: I understand you began in the 12 step program and then moved to mindfulness and the other things you just mentioned. When did you switch and how did that change affect your recovery?
Scott: In the beginning the 12 steps worked to keep me clean and sober. It was a struggle at first. After a year in the 12 step program, I found myself holding a handful of painkillers (my drug of choice). I was about to swallow them and probably spiral back down into full blown addiction. At that point, I threw the pills down the toilet and vowed to go deeper in my recovery. I realized that true recovery isn’t about staying clean and sober. Sure, abstinence is very important. Science tells us that it takes at least 14 months of abstinence for the brain to really heal after a history of drug and alcohol addiction. But I realized at the one year mark that recovery is really about dealing with the underlying issues that drive the addiction. Although the 12 steps talk about spiritual awakening, when I looked around the 12 step rooms and asked people with 10, 20, or 30 years, “what is a spiritual awakening and have you had one?”, the answers didn’t satisfy me. Sure, a small handful of people seemed to have had something like an awakening, but mostly what I heard were people with many years clean still seeking spiritual awakening, struggling with self-esteem issues, anxiety, unresolved trauma and process or secondary addictions to food, sex/porn, caffeine, etc.
So I set on a course to find out for myself what authentic spiritual awakening really is. That’s when I discovered mindfulness and non-dual awareness. Spiritual awakening happened. Then I began to develop the Living Inquiries and other somatic-based trauma work, to deal with unresolved trauma and self-esteem issues that lingered on after the awakening. That somatic-based work led to what I call “full recovery from addiction.”
Discovering present moment awareness as the foundation of my experience paved the way for all of my addictions, not just drugs and alcohol, to fall away. They didn’t fall away all at once. It was a process. But today, I feel so removed from that constant urge to use something to escape.
Q: You’ve recently released the book, “Natural Rest for Addiction,” through New Harbinger Publications. Does this book contain all the insights and practices you used to deal with the underlying issues?
Scott: Yes. That book contains all of it.
Q: In the Introduction to the book, you discuss the various addictions you have had through the years – painkillers/opiates, alcohol, meth, food/sugar, sex/porn, caffeine, love, tobacco, spiritual seeking, self-improvement, attention, etc. As you celebrate your 13th year of recovery, are you abstinent from all of these things now?
Scott: First of all, that list of addictions you mentioned is just the short list. I feel I’ve been addicted to just about everything a person can be addicted to. There are certain substances that I desire not to use at all including drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. I’ve lost interest in using them by dealing with the underlying issues discussed above. Some substances such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco are so highly addictive that it is best just to stay away from them completely unless one is able to moderate in a healthy way (which is rare but it does happen). I had testicular cancer three years ago along with a major surgery. I was prescribed painkillers after the surgery. I used them, of course, because the pain was extremely intense. So can I say I have remained totally clean and sober from painkillers for 13 years? No. But I took them as prescribed and quit taking them well before my doctor suggested. After that experience, I realized that although abstinence is important, life is complicated. Full recovery, as I define it, is not about the length of time one has remained abstinent. There are plenty of people who fall into the category of “dry drunk,” meaning they are abstinent but not content, at peace and emotionally, psychologically and spiritually clear. Full recovery for me is about being free of the enslavement to addictive substances and activities. For example, although I used the painkillers, the enslavement wasn’t there. Although I eat sugar sometimes, the enslavement isn’t there, and so on and so forth.