Getting SMART in Boston

It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since I put up that summary of Maia Szalavitz’s excellent article. Busy time since then. But now I’m in Boston, visiting my friend Matt Robert and a few others, and sitting in on SMART recovery meetings. Matt has been a SMART facilitator for over six years. I came here to learn more about SMART and to hang out and relax with a dear friend.

A couple of things happened recently. First, I haven’t told you that my review article (summarized here) was finally published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It came out roughly two weeks ago. This is a very high-impact journal — (approximately) every doctor in the Western world subscribes to it. And I’m pretty proud that I published a paper criticizing the disease model of addiction in a medical journal. I’m going to tell you more about that paper (and the blowback it provoked) in an upcoming post. But for now I feel two things: (1) that’s the last scientific journal article I’m ever going to write, because it takes so much f…ing effort, and (2) I’m really good at rational argument — I’m a pro!

But my most moving experience lately wasn’t resting on my laurels. It was the realization that I’m not such a pro when it comes to influencing people’s thinking, changing their minds.

I was talking with someone I know here in Boston… Just a conversation in the backseat of a car. We were talking about this and that, and then the topic of gun ownership came up. Both Jane (pseudonym) and I are lefties, very much opposed to gun collection2the proliferation of gun ownership in the US and the political voices that advocate it. I guess you could say it’s an emotional topic for both of us. But we differed on a sort of thought experiment: What would it be like if people could make guns on a 3D printer and those guns were entirely untraceable? Would that be a bad thing because there’d be more guns around (her point) or a good thing because the NRA and its right-wing supporters would lose their influence (my point)? The content of the argument hardly matters. Neither of us had ever thought about plastic guns before. We were speculating, and then discussing, and then debating.

Things got heated. Jane said what she thought; I said what I thought. Of course she countered the points I made and I countered the points she made. That’s what an argument is — right? — and arguments can be valuable. But something else was emerging. My motive was no longer to arrive at a consensus or even a conclusion. My motive was to win. I’m fencingmaking really good points, I told myself. I’m winning the debate. Through parry and thrust (in the language of fencing) I tried to take her down. To defeat her. All I really cared about was being right.

human target2What I didn’t see until the next day was that Jane was hurt. She perceived my arguments as weapons — and indeed they were. I had thought: given competing positions,  someone’s going to win, and that’s going to be me. She had thought: why is he putting me down? Why is he trying to cast my opinions as groundless and stupid?

When I realized I’d caused her to feel attacked, I felt like shit of course. But that sensitivity dial had been tuned to zero during our argument.

So what?

I spend a lot of time refuting, invalidating, quashing, debunking the disease model of addiction — as I’m sure you know. The question that confronts me now is how am I debate competitiongoing about it? Do I really want to change the minds of people steeped in medical thinking, addicts who believe they’re ill, their families, their doctors? Or do I just want to win a debate?

smartlogoSo I’m watching Matt facilitate a SMART meeting in Boston last night. SMART sometimes construes itself as “the alternative to AA.” SMART offers psychological tools, such as focusing on one’s own thought patterns and beliefs, and the potential that offers for behaviour change, even by small increments. SMART lends itself to mindfulness practices, it neither shames nor exonerates those who’ve “relapsed.” It is inclusive, it does its best to avoid dogma. And it values honesty and fellowship — as does its sometimes querulous cousin, AA.

But what impressed me more than any of these qualities was the warmth and sensitivity that characterized last night’s meeting. Here were 9 or 10 very vulnerable people, all of whom were “in recovery.” At the start of the meeting they seemed shy and uncertain. Matt’s job was (in part) to encourage them to to review and modify their smart meetingthinking habits, to see their substance use more rationally, more comprehensively. But more than that, he was listening carefully to what people said and grasping what they were feeling: their fears, vulnerabilities, and their (often tattered) self-esteem.

The result was a spreading aura of self-acceptance, mutual acceptance, honesty, and empathy. By the end of the meeting, people were smiling and patting each other on the back or hugging and saying “until next week.”

That’s how to change minds — and hearts. Not to pound them with the superiority of one’s logical arguments, grounded in evidence. Who really has evidence for their claims when it comes to the hard questions, like whether it’s best to define addiction as a disease or not?

I still see things the way I see them. (I still don’t want to call addiction a disease.) But maybe I can do a better job of seeing things the way other people see them. Wouldn’t that be valuable? Either in the case of intellectual argument (as in journal articles) or in sharing emotional concerns in the backseat of the car.



58 thoughts on “Getting SMART in Boston

  1. David November 20, 2018 at 4:17 am #

    Excellent blog. Thanks

    • Timothy Greenwood November 24, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

      Hey Marc. Thanks for this. Been thinking dialogue and empathy are what are called for in our divisive polarized world. The gift of really listening to another and having them experience being listened to. My wife shared with me the story of the black blues musician (you can find it on NPR by googling) who has converted literally hundreds of KKK members by listening to them, hearing them and then challenging them in clever and instructive ways. I think in our world today it is not about Left or Right but like the Buddha taught us it is the Middle Way
      Tim G

    • Mia December 19, 2018 at 9:19 am #

      This was amazing and definitely want to learn more about SMArT

      • Carlton December 20, 2018 at 11:25 am #

        Mia, a unique thing about SMART was witnessing people leaving.

        When a persons efforts and focus change from the Addiction and the Recovery efforts,
        people naturally drift away..i.e., leave.

        Of all the recovery programs I tried, I never saw this happening, but it was the first time I saw the trajectory of recovery occurring.

        Strength, control, or the recovery community were no longer being relied on.

        It was inspiring and motivating, and eventually occurred with me, too.

        I am working an a new model of Addiction and Recovery that reflects little known or researched phenomenon.

  2. Annette November 20, 2018 at 5:04 am #

    Thanks, Marc. Very honest and revealing. We were all taught to compete and win, weren’t we? And condemn people who aren’t like us. Compete, condemn – I hated it as a kid. Hated it!

    No wonder we ran away from ourselves, and climbed into addiction. Anything to avoid the labels as we scapegoated others. And it’s so good to see the choice now available to people in recovery.

    SMART and Open Dialogue therapy (you have it in the US too) are much gentler, more holistic ways of enabling change – in ourselves and others. To accept others as they are is so much wiser. That enables them to open up too – we’ve been taught to create and hide behind so many masks. Asking questions and allowing people to speak their truth – powerful.

    • Marc November 25, 2018 at 2:58 pm #

      Well, there has to be a way to express opinions without trying to squash or condemn those we disagree with. One concern is that we get so “sensitive” that we’re afraid to say anything pointed at all. I really don’t know quite where the middle ground lies.

  3. William Abbott November 20, 2018 at 7:10 am #

    Excellent thoughts here. But please dont give up the crusade – getting it right can only help people avoid sinkholes but find their way faster

    Debate on gun control in US.??? YOu aint seen the real deal in MA– most here all are for it . For some real fun head to TX or another open carry place

    • Marc November 25, 2018 at 2:59 pm #

      No, I won’t give it up, Bill. Just want to make it as effective as possible.

  4. Scott A. Knapp, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS November 20, 2018 at 8:49 am #

    Very self-aware, Marc! I think the majority of us initially gravitate toward a belief (of whatever kind) based on the way it makes us feel, and only later begin to attach some rational observations to it as supportive evidence. We’d like to think that research based upon “empiracle evidence” is purely rational and logical, but I’ve known several ideologues who would die to defend their work, based on what I suspect is based on philosophical loyalties. There are a great many times when philosophical differences warrant a parting of ways, and there are also some times when those differences should be set aside for the common betterment…wisdom is a valuable commodity to make those decisions. I’m quite conservative in my political, social and religious viewpoints, yet I find quite a bit of common ground with my “lefty” associates to work together to help dually-diagnosed clients. Keep up the good work, “lefty” comrade!

    • Marc November 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

      What a great response. You’ve captured the conundrum beautifully. It’s true that emotion precedes the construction of argument. The amygdala responds to triggers far faster than the prefrontal cortex. Greetings to you my conservative comrade, from Logan Airport.

  5. Mark November 20, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    Marc, I don’t know how much you know about Steve Porges’s work (I personally think he deserves a Nobel Prize), but I wouldn’t be surprised if, after you listen to this interview, making points and winning arguments becomes really boring …

    The Neuroscience and Power of Safe Relationships:

    • Marc November 28, 2018 at 5:57 pm #

      So…making people feel safe allows them to be more open and creative. I buy that. But how do you make people feel safe? Sometimes it’s nearly impossible. Especially when talking about guns perhaps. The phrase “trigger warnings” comes to mind. Pun intended. We can go too far in looking out for any possible sense of threat and urging people to take cover.

      But I do see your point (and that of Porges…yes, great interview). And certainly some forms of discussion and debate are designed to threaten rather than soothe.

  6. Jeff Skinner November 20, 2018 at 10:03 am #

    Great post.

    Reminds me of a Randy Newman song about a father trying to deal with his toddlers destructive behavior. It ends something like “Wait until you get older. Then I’ll show you how smart I am.” Ah, irony. Having staked our egos on demonstrating our intelectual superiority we find that mostly the world doesn’t give a damn and we find ourselves victorious and alone. Oh well.

    Keep doing what you do. The world does value what you say, some of the time anyway.

    I didn’t know you were attached to Boston. Another of our many points of intersection.

    • Marc November 28, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

      Hi Jeff. Great comment. Victorious and alone is pretty much exactly what I felt that night.

      Yup, I know a few folks in Boston. Great city!

      Thanks for the encouragement not to give up. The Buddha figured the solution to everything is balance — seems to be the thing to strive for (but not too strenuously).

  7. Gary November 20, 2018 at 11:08 am #

    I once heard, a number of years ago, that whenever you “Think” you are “Right” you’ve killed your creativity as a direct result of narrow thinking. It’s as though there are no other possibilities. Righteousness, in many respects, has a similar impact and/elements derived from similar thought processes. There are various models, approaches or even ” imperial evidence to “prove” and/provide a means to be right. I guess the ultimate question might be ” what does it actually mean just to be right”? Being right is much like a pursuit of happiness, it comes and it goes. “Awareness”, on the other hand, has no need whatsoever it the realm of “rightousness” or desire to be right. In life, as long as we operate within the confines of minds that have been “conditioned” who is right? If everyone is wrong? Wrong! Meaning distracted and/or disillusioned from that which is?

  8. Carlton November 20, 2018 at 11:11 am #

    Quite a post, and it has a few topics to reply to, but first, it is really commendable of you to ask people openly even on your blog about how you are going about it.

    There was similar, necessary, “massive change” of world understanding that occurred in astronomy.

    The Polemic model of the planets was established, accepted and entrenched.

    Despite this, Copernicus did not attack or crusade AGAINST the Polemic model.

    Although very complex, he focused on describing the Helio-Centric model in a way that made it self-evident, and eventually it became known as fact.

    The Polemic Model was not directly ‘debunked”, but became eclipsed by the growing facts and evidence
    of the Helio-Centric model.

    There is now a universal “common-sense” about the Helio-centric model which even allows the average person to comprehend, without needing to know all the complexities.

    • Marc November 28, 2018 at 6:18 pm #

      That’s a nice parallel, Carlton. Making something self-evident is indeed the most powerful tool for changing minds. I guess that’s the heart of paradigm shifts — gathering enough evidence of a novel view so that the previously held assumptions simply lose their steam. Ah, but Copernicus got a lot of flack, didn’t he? We hold onto our beliefs with such tenacity, even when their reasonableness has been chipped away almost entirely. That’s the lesson many gain from watching American politics.

  9. Donnie Mac November 20, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

    Hey Marc :
    Being a red headed , freckled face kid from the suburbs , I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age in the 70s ( was actually called minimal frontal brain disorder at the time ) I want to say I was 12 . Having an impulse control problem over the years has got me into a lot of hot water with my mouth . 20 years ago I adapted a new moto , it goes :

    “Don’t just say something , stand there ”

    It has save my Canadian bacon lots and lots of times .


    • Marc November 20, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

      Love it, Donnie! Is that copyrighted? I’m going to use it from now on, as part of my recovery plan (recovering from righteousness).

    • matt November 21, 2018 at 7:06 am #

      There’s a section in the ancient Buddhist text “The Way of the Bodhisattva” where Shantideva outlines several situations where one should “remain like a log.” This is an excellent characterization of that, Donnie!

      • Marc November 28, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

        Perhaps, but not an ideal policy when a forest fire is approaching.

        • matt November 28, 2018 at 9:04 pm #

          …or the only policy.

  10. Julia November 20, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

    I have definitely been in your situation, arguing to win and then regretting having sacrificed the relationship in the process… I think that’s why the larger part of changing minds (inasmuch as it’s possible at all) is the listening to the other, not the brilliance of arguments made.

    I think this is especially the case when we’re talking hypothetically or about something that neither of us has any actual power to affect, so that it’s essentially hypothetical anyway. In those cases, the conversation isn’t really about the topic anyway, it’s a way of engaging in a social interaction which either bring us closer or push us apart as people, since whether we agree on the subject is moot in the larger scheme of things.

    Since arguments or any conversation where we disagree are forms of verbal “combat” they can be approached either as a way of establishing hierarchy, who’s better than the other, or as “play” and a way of enjoying each other’s company.

    I just happened to read this article recently on what role reasoning has in our thinking and evolution anyway:

    I love the description of the SMART meeting and how fragile people can learn to trust and open up in a safe environment. Those sorts of experiences have been life saving for me. Thank you again Marc!

    • Marc November 28, 2018 at 6:34 pm #

      Julia, this is helpful. Arguments can be either combat or play. But again, it’s not so simple. While I was thinking about this, and talking to Matt about it, I remembered all the biology stuff I’ve learned about play-fighting in animals. Dogs, rodents….I don’t know how many species. Primates do some play-fighting too, but if things get too heated they can get very pissed off.

      Aggressive play is particularly tempting (and maybe needed) for males, including me. I wonder if Jane and I differed too much on that score.

      As a kid (with a brother) play-fighting was a big part of my life. So was that combat or play? I guess it all depends on whether (or how much) you care about winning. If you care too much, then it slides away from the “play” zone. I guess that’s what happened that night.

  11. Katie November 20, 2018 at 2:10 pm #

    One thing that bugs me is that for an addict, choosing to use CAN be a rational choice. Especially the very first time they use—in response to some uncomfortable situation. It’s rational to avoid pain. It’s rational to choose the most efficient and effective means of doing so.

    Even if there was no pain being dulled, still, their life, at that moment—with all the information they knew about potential consequences of using—it wasn’t enough to make them decide against it. Maybe their set-point for experiencing joy is lower than other peoples.

    If there is a choice here, I don’t think accruing information about the irrationality of their behavior will influence someone who struggles to feel okay just being in the world.

    I think it is some x-factor-experience that the addict needs to have to actually WANT to stop, and take actions to do so. I think of the x-factor as a range of experiences that might be described using words like grace, hope, clarity, connection, spiritual—certainly the effects of AA when that works for someone. The problem is we can’t force these experiences on people. Or even provoke them.

    A rational analysis of my experiences with addiction, plus all of the information I’ve accrued from others, leads me to conclude that some people are just too sensitive or fragile in some other way, to thrive in the world and don’t have what would be required to NOT use. We don’t say this…because it’s not helpful, right? Because there is nothing to come from acknowledging it? Or is it NOT true—is everyone capable of living a fulfilling life? I feel like a horrible person saying this out loud, and I’m constantly accused of being brutally negative by therapists. This really sucks because I really DO want to be helped, and not perceived as having a bad attitude.

  12. Dr Ron November 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm #

    I think the need to be right or avoid being wrong, although a pervasive human tendency, and maybe even an evolutionary adaptation is largely an ego driven pursuit, a large factor in my addictive behaviors.
    When I am purely in my rational mind, the urge to seek and destroy any challenge to my inflated ego to avoid being emotionally wounded negates any possibility of engaging humility, gratitude , wisdom, empathy and forgiveness in my more vulnerable though honest emotional mind.

  13. Greg November 20, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

    Does anyone know what works for extreme anxiety. I have been sober for about 4 years but now I have anxiety and I don’t know how to recover. I feel horrible all day everyday.

    • matt November 21, 2018 at 7:18 am #

      Hi Greg
      Since anxiety is natural response by our midbrain to a perceived danger, the fight-or-flight response, some kind of aerobic exercise often helps to regulate anxiety– even just 5 to 10 minutes. Certain breathing exercises can be very helpful. And a regular mindfulness meditation practice can allow one to recognize stressors for what they are. You can let them go, or recognize a path to do something about them, if they need dealing with.

    • Marc November 23, 2018 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Greg, Matt’s advice (above) seems excellent. As for meditation, it’s not always easy to get into it but it does help. Guided-meditation apps can be very useful. Check out Headspace and Insight Timer, two apps help us get started. Headspace has different meditation mini-courses designed for people with different concerns, including two on dealing with anxiety.

      You might also consider pharmaceutical help. Many people do so without becoming addicted. Benzodiazepines are the most common anti-anxiety agent. These kinds of drugs can be used as a bridge, giving meditation or psychotherapy a chance to take effect.

      • Greg November 24, 2018 at 2:49 pm #

        Thanks everyone.

      • Greg November 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm #

        Mark can’t benzos get you addicted again?

        • Marc November 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm #

          Yes, if they are attractive to you in that way. Otherwise not. As with other substances, they don’t automatically addict you. Think of risks vs benefits. Always.

          • Greg November 28, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

            I understand. Thank you

  14. Carlton November 21, 2018 at 7:50 pm #

    Marc, you wrote;

    ” Do I really want to change the minds of people steeped in medical thinking, addicts who believe they’re ill, their families, their doctors? Or do I just want to win a debate?”.

    Behind both is:

    “How can the truth be made self-evident?”.

  15. Carlton November 22, 2018 at 7:24 am #

    An AA member once said:

    “I am glad its a disease because I no longer have to blame a good-good person
    like me for doing such bad-bad thing.”

    Those of us who DO define addiction differently have no reason to debunk or convince people like this otherwise.

    However, if it is not a disease, the professional field needs to understand this so
    work in the recovery field can progress.

    • Marc November 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

      I pretty much agree with your last point, Carlton. But one still gets hung up on the “is it or isn’t it” dichotomy. Maybe it’s not that simple.

      • Carlton November 23, 2018 at 7:29 pm #

        Marc, the once-looming question; “Is the World round or flat “ is also a dichotomy, but there is no longer a dire struggle or heated argument about it.

        And it’s not that simple to explain either.

        I think the latest trajectory of research and dialogue of Addiction and Recovery points to a major change with this current struggle and heated argument too.

        In fact, this Blog may be a significant player with this change too 🙂

      • Joanna "Nicci Tina" Free November 24, 2018 at 12:03 am #

        From my perspective, it truly isn’t that simple. Isn’t that wonderful?

        • Carlton November 25, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

          I think a new model addiction will be over-arching model, and will include the belief that addiction is a disease.

          It is certainly not simple, but will no longer be an either/or struggle.

        • matt November 28, 2018 at 9:53 am #

          Now that is a truly helpful attitude to have.

  16. Teresa Rodden November 22, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Your work has validated what I refer to as living Wholly Sober. I didn’t go looking for you as a way to debate the traditional theories and beliefs on addiction. I found “Biology of Desire” trying to understand why I never struggled or relapsed and how I can use my experience to better support others to break free from the need to misuse alcohol. I recently felt a pang of betrayal from a friend whom after a year of seemingly supporting my work disclosed that she’s done her own research and that addiction IS a brain disease and can see why I receive so much flack on my social media posts. I was caught off guard. I felt she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why now? What I said to her,”My message is not for people who are alcoholics or in recovery. My message is for women who are rethinking their drinking and providing them tools to take charge before alcohol takes over. But I will not make my message more palatable because you disagree. My message is not for you and the recovery community.” I left feeling hurt wondering how long she’d harbored these thoughts and never voiced them before and why couldn’t she had just told me from the gate that we weren’t in alignment?

    It wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t enjoy it. But I did learn from it.

    Similar to what I found with the 2016 political events, if we truly believe in our position and want any chance of influencing change we have to share space and be willing to have a two-way conversation.

    I really appreciate your work and wisdom. It gives me hope that we can create a new standard way of addressing addiction and support for those who refuse to get help because they’d rather be drunk or high than feeling trapped in traditional recovery (AA, incurable disease, twelve-steps.)

    • matt November 25, 2018 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks, Teresa

      You point to the fact that it’s not what you say, but how and why you say it. (and what you do, for that matter). It wasn’t that your friend had another opinion or belief about her recovery, it was the way she said it…in the context of disavowing and devaluing yours. And that belies acceptance, a basic tenet of all effective recovery traditions.

      • matt November 25, 2018 at 9:57 am #

        …and how belief and zealous certainty underlie the human need for feeling safe and secure.

      • Teresa Rodden November 25, 2018 at 11:22 am #

        Matt, I think you missed the point. I understand people in traditional recovery rely on their belief system and discouraged to question anything—“Their best thinking got them there.” I respect anybody’s choice that follows that path. Effective? Not always.

        • matt November 25, 2018 at 1:42 pm #

          Thanks Teresa

          But I never said anything about effectiveness. I think anything that’s denigrating or crammed down one’s throat is ineffective.”Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness” are only helpful notions when not paid lip service or wielded like weapons and used to make another person wrong, damage relationships or worse. Your friend sounded like she had to decide between your friendship and her ideas about the nature of addiction. Did I get that right? If so, that is just unhelpful and unfortunate. I also agree that my best thinking didn’t get me into my addiction. that tone was not helpful to me. My best thinking got me away from it.

          Thanks again for your thoughts!

          • Teresa Rodden November 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

            I must have misunderstood your “effective recovery treatment.”

            It was more than her being dismissive or devaluing my position. She had acted and said that she supported my work for a year. I was blindsided when she made her comments. I have been navigating the push back and traditional recovery champions for years. But I had no idea that was her position. But even with that I had to make the decision to not respond the same if I want to influence expanding or changing views.

            • matt November 27, 2018 at 7:35 am #

              I’m sorry you had to go through that. It is not helpful, not prosocial, dishonest, and defensive. Not something conducive to a successful recovery or life-turnaround. Yet this is often the landscape…people hiding their opinions and positions like we did our addictions. It sounds like you took the more compassionate response and didn’t let it dissuade you from the important work you continue to do.

            • Carlton November 28, 2018 at 7:47 am #

              Teresa, curious about your work, could you post it here on the blog or have a link?

              • Teresa Rodden November 29, 2018 at 7:58 pm #


                A lot of women simply don’t reach out because if they do it’s a one-stop-shop:

                Incurable disease
                Twelve steps
                Alcoholics Anonymous

                The “alcohol-ISM” is a one-size-fits-all package deal.

                I just finished my second book, The Primed Drinker: Alcoholism is not always the problem and Recovery is not always the answer.

                In it, I explore with the reader a continuum of alcohol use between normal and alcoholic drinking that I’ve identified as the “Primed Drinker.” In this space, you can change your drinking habit and take charge before alcohol takes over. I also address a lot of the untruths that are rarely challenged.

                My work:

                I support women through an assessment process I created to help them shift their focus from fighting and resisting to Going After Life Sober. Followed with support and accountability. The work typically ends up having little to do with alcohol.

                Pink Cloud Coaching When Recovery Is Not The Answer

                Wholly Sober – How I Stopped Thinking About Drinking and Started Loving My Life, is my first book. I share how I was primed to misuse alcohol and not born an alcoholic. I journey through the mess, through traditional recovery, and how I had to choose my sobriety over recovery.


                • Carlton November 30, 2018 at 9:23 pm #

                  Ah, interesting, thanks for posting these brief descriptions.

                  Your first book is on the AMAZON link, and what blew me away is the 100’s of new books out there on alcohol and addiction (!).

                  Back when I was struggling (1990’s) there was only a few, by Anne Fletcher, Stanton Peele and and a “new” book by Caroline Knapp I think.

                  Very briefly, as a former Addict, (alcohol) I also have a deep compassion for those who innately do not relate to AA’s, incurable disease model, or feel the continued use of tools to maintain strength and control over an addiction (SMART_like), but BOTH these approaches can lead to discoveries of major life-changing realizations, which many people apparently have discovered on their own, (natural recovery) but very little is known and even less it heard from them.

                  But I think they may have startling insights from a perspective rarely considered.

                  When you wrote:

                  “I also address a lot of the untruths that are rarely challenged.”

                  It reminded me of this.

                  Could you share a few of these on the blog?

                  • Teresa Rodden December 1, 2018 at 5:38 am #


                    I inadvertently named a few above. What I have found in my journey and through the women I’ve worked with:

                    Untruth -alcoholism runs in the family.

                    Alcoholism doesn’t ’run’ in the family as much as unresolved pain and learned coping skills and behavior.

                    I’ve talked to women who seek alcoholics out in their family to substantiate that their drinking problem is alcoholism.

                    Untruth- alcohol is the problem.

                    If they remove alcohol and are still miserable, they are going to be pulled back into drinking. This “proves” they can’t help themselves and are powerless.

                    The truth is they haven’t done the work to identify the “pain.”

                    Untruth- that any struggle to abstain is alcoholism

                    As Marc so brilliantly makes clear it’s a habit and habits can be tough to change especially if we don’t have a compelling reason to do so and popular opinion is telling us it’s impossible and an incurable disease.

                    Untruth- You can’t change on your own.

                    I come from a legacy of people who abused alcohol that could have easily qualified as alcoholics. Each one quit in their own time without being diagnosed alcoholic and no treatment. They just quit. BUT even though they no longer drank I wouldn’t call them sober.

                    Untruth- Sober means abstinence

                    Sober in the true meaning of the word is the ticket to freedom.

                    I started with outpatient treatment and followed up with AA. But I would have gotten drunk again if I wouldn’t have chosen my sobriety over the traditional recovery path of managing a disease.

                    It’s not about the alcohol.

                    • Carlton December 2, 2018 at 11:38 am #

                      Eventually, when the many different experiences of addiction replace the either/or terms; “truths” and untruths”with a phrase like ; “A percentage of people have found”..a new model of addiction will begin coming clear.

                      Thanks for the swift reply, and glad your discoveries can be freely voiced like this in a Blog with the very purpose of understanding addiction in a way that it has not in the past.

                      Eventually, when the many different experiences and discoveries of addiction are revealed, absolute terms like; Right/Wrong, Good/Bad, Truth/ Untruth will be replaced with a phrase like ;

                      “A percentage of people have found”…”

                      Perhaps a new model of addiction will eventually become apparent, clear, and self-evident.

  17. Karen November 23, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    “Discussion is always better than Argument. Because Argument is to find who is right, and Discussion is to find what is right”

    • Karen November 23, 2018 at 9:23 am #

      Addiction is a complex thing, so it’s never going to be a simple discussion.

  18. Dr Ron November 23, 2018 at 11:26 am #

    And at the end of the day, “Whatever gets us through the night”…Clean and sober of course,
    Agreeing with the “one size does not fit all premise”, I wonder if anyone has looked at the differing approaches to recovery having appeal and benefit to differing personality, character or demographic traits and if patterns emerge.

  19. matt November 25, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    Hi Ron. Thanks for bringing this up.

    There have been some, mostly inadequate; others are being developed as attitudes change.

    I’d like to hear what others have to say on this before derailing the discussion into tangential looping arguments. I think the issue is more systemic. If you truly embrace the notion in Marc’s model that addiction is deep habit learning, a developmental coping behavior that took time to emerge and manifest, then it may take an equal amount of time and effort to discover and develop a new habit behavior for coping– “in recovery” (a true misnomer if there ever was one!) If being human is a disease, then the entire planet is in freaking recovery. Expediency and most effective “evidence-based” approaches seem a long way from incorporating this reality.

    I don’t believe issues of human motivation, learning and behavior can be reduced to elements of rational, logical argumentation. Patience and perspective taking are critical for us to interact as civil, yet emotional beings all trying to survive. How do you teach and develop that?

  20. SocraticGadfly February 7, 2019 at 10:24 pm #

    In Lifering, we have even less of a structure than SMART; no 4 points or 12 steps.

    We simply encourage people to individualize abstinence-based recovery within a group support context.

  21. Upcoming SmartPhones in Details May 13, 2019 at 6:04 am #

    good article

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