Post-Apocalyptic, Do-It-Yourself Addictions Recovery

In a surreal, post-apocalyptic scenario where I exist in a wilderness while living in the richest country on the planet, I have a feverish child in my arms. A loudspeaker intones criticisms of the choices I’ve made in my life, about my lack of readiness for change, about my lack of willpower and spiritual connection. The voice gaslights me with hints that I have a perverse need for selfish self-pleasuring. I’m allowed to use the Internet to consult WebMD and learn that, to safely bring the child’s fever down, I need ibuprofen or acetaminophen. I am not allowed to take the child to a doctor or to access the medicine.

How in the world this happened is irrelevant: the child mewls with distress. Because I am human, I have humanity. I cannot let this child suffer. WedMD says do-it-yourselfers use a lukewarm bath. I find I’m near a creek and I’m allowed a fire and a pan. I start warming the icy water.


After nearly 3.75 years of attempting to recover from addiction to alcohol – of being my own feverish child in my own arms – and of attempting to get and provide help to others in misery, of discovering the wilderness of limited knowledge of addiction and what effectively treats it, and of becoming thunderstruck by limits to access and resources, many of them artificial – such that it takes a 3,000-word document to describe how to even begin to get help with addictions in my locale – I am done.

I am done attempting to organize tame events like this one, this one, and this one, trying to gently bring understanding of addiction to my town. While the conversation continues, the 16,000+ people with alcohol and other drug problems in my locale are tormented needlessly in their homes, on the streets, in the emergency room, in jail. And the many I’ve encountered who truly want to help – family members, medical personnel, pharmacists, police officers – don’t know what to do or are restricted from doing what’s helpful. I’ve done my best to work within the system, to try to build consensus, to be patient. I’ve seen too much needless suffering too often. Enough.

We have not derived a standard of care – a best practices protocol – for treating addiction. Worse, the addictions treatment profession does not agree on what addiction is or what effectively treats it. That means each person requires a one-on-one assessment and gets trial-and-error treatment. This results in gross inefficiencies, under-treatment, maltreatment, and massive, prolonged, tragic heartbreak for the people with addiction and the people who love them.

I declare a citizen’s state of emergency. I see nothing else to do but for people with addictions to take matters into their own hands and engage in do-it-yourself treatment.

Disclosure and disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my employers, co-workers, family members or friends.  This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.

The current state of understanding of, and public policy about, addictions keeps us in the Stone Age of addictions treatment. If we’re only going to be allowed rocks and sticks for tools, how shall we best use them?

Here’s how I’ll try to use my skills as a scholar, writer, teacher and counselor to contribute to answering that question:

  • Study what the research says effectively treats addiction and express that in straightforward, brief terms with minimal jargon, prioritizing what seems to help most people, most of the time, most efficiently.
  • Study what the research says defines addiction and try to explain that in simple terms – being excruciatingly careful to not simplify to the point of inaccuracy – to give all willing minds an evidence-based vs. belief-based starting place for seeing new possibilities for all of us.
  • Answer as many phone calls, emails, texts and in-person requests for help and explanation as I can.
  • Try to explain in one-on-one conversations, in small gatherings, or in addresses to larger groups what it is really like to have this condition but to be thwarted at every turn when seeking help.

What I cannot do is lead a cause. Fighting to recover from addiction to alcohol – and having to fight against barricades and stigma and bull-headedness on behalf of myself and others to get help – takes everything I have.

And being an addictions recovery advocate and activist is lonely. I only know one other person in my locale who is publicly “out” about being in recovery from addiction. I don’t fault anyone for choosing silence. Stigma is profoundly real. But if I feel called to march in protest on the Main Street roundabout in my hometown, I’ll likely be the only one there. I’m open to doing it. It’s hard, though.

If you want to help, however privately and secretly, I have one request:

Speak of addictions with knowledge, not belief.

If you can’t cite evidence for what you’re about to say – and, no, your personal opinions and your personal experience do not qualify as evidence – please, I beg of you. Do not say it.

. . . . .

Twenty years from now, when I am 77, not 57, I expect addiction to be a non-topic, or, at maximum, a sub-topic on health and medical sites like WebMD – no advocacy needed, no community events to organize, no Recovery Month to schedule for September, no individual blogs dedicated to the subject. Just a medical problem for which one sees a physician to begin a standard, evidence-based treatment protocol.

In the meantime, while a guide to do-it-yourself addictions recovery should be a book that exists right now, I’m going to have to write it as we go. This is what I’ve got to offer so far:

UPDATE 9/14/16: The table of contents for my series of posts on do-it-yourself addictions recovery is here:

DIY Addictions Recovery

DIY Addictions Recovery: How I'm Going to Do This
Falling in Love with My Life