Travel and trust

Hello! It’s been awhile. This is vacation time in the Netherlands. The kids are out of school for two weeks and we’re trying to do family-type things. I know, it’s a strange time to vacate, but the weather here is so spotty, this might be one of the few periods likely to get some sun and warmth.

So I thought! Last Saturday we rented a boat. A very large boat (11.5 meters/ about 38 feet) with cabins below deck and all that, and the four of us set off from a town called Sneek (pronounced Snake). Well named, because the waterways leading out of the harbour were so incredibly narrow and sinewy that ThroughLockswe got lost before we ever got to the main canal. Ended up in some cul-de-sac where an irate man with a house on the water kept waving us away. That’s because we kept almost ramming his house, which was very close to the shore. We were trying to make a U-turn in a narrow spot — just about impossible, especially because I had not yet discovered the “bow-thrusters” among the many Dutch-named switches on the instrument panel. When he finally realized that we didn’t understand a word he was saying, he started again in English: “Practice!” he yelled. “Go on the lake and practice!”  Yes, yes, an obvious suggestion. If only we could find the lake.

Ruben&captainAnyway, we had a lot of fun. Isabel and I mostly sitting up on the top deck sharing a big steering wheel, watching the cows and sheep going by, and the boys down below, playing cards, with occasional sojourns to the upper deck to help steer. As I am constantly reminded, seven-year-olds don’t want to watch; they want to do. But it was cold out! Polar winds blowing through us except when we were huddled under this massive flapping plastic tarp. Oh well, it was still great, and we didn’t hit a thing in four days. Well maybe just a few tiny bumps. Tiny!

Isabel and I are going to drive over to France in a couple of days. It’s only a few hours, and it’s worth it just for the food. But meanwhile I have two talks to prepare, and one of them is a TED talk. Yes, TED! I was invited to join this TEDx event held at my university, and I’m getting pretty jazzed about it. The theme of the conference is “trust,” so naturally my talk will be about trust and addiction.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to approach this topic. You can’t trust an addict, right? How do you know an addict is lying? Because his lips are moving… Hah hah. No, wait a minute, how about…addicts can’t trust the treatment community? We know that people are almost always let down by their experiences in rehab, whether in- or out-patient, and so much of the treatment world is dominated by 12-step philosophy, which is certainly not for everyone (right, Persephone?), and a 30-day stint of treatment is about as useful as a bath during a dust storm, and the revolving door of addicts coming in and out is closely matched by that of the treatment staff, who come and go at an alarming rate themselves, and most of whom really don’t have the knowledge or the credentials to help people in serious trouble. The general public can’t trust addicts, addicts can’t trust public institutions..etc, etc… Could that work?

But is seemed a bit superficial, a bit too obvious, no real bite to it. And then, about two weeks ago, it hit me: The main issue with trust and addiction is that addicts can’t trust themselves. Of course! You can’t trust yourself to take care of yourself. Because, when you tell yourself you’re going to stop, or at least slow down, or at least stop injecting, or whatever it is, and swear up and down that this time is the LAST time, and it will NOT happen again….you end up betraying yourself. Time and time again. Why would you trust yourself after you’ve let yourself down 50 or 500 times?! But it’s worse than that: you hardly even have a self to trust. You (or I) lose the sense of a grown-up conscientious self that can soothe you, hold you, get you through the rough times, tell you that it’s just craving and it will not last forever… That self is so damned hard to find after a while that you stop believing it exists. No, you can’t trust yourself. (And surely, as a consequence, no one else can trust you either.) So who/what do you end up trusting? Your addiction, of course! You trust that a hit of smack or a bottle of vodka or a few grams of coke or yet another roller-coaster ride of sex or gambling or that bowl of chocolate ice-cream or even the glazed eye of your computer screen will make you feel better. At least for a while. And it might. For a while. We put our trust in the thing we’re addicted to…because there is no one and nothing else to trust. And of course, of course, each time we do that, we lose even more ground with our self. The ability to trust ourself takes yet another soul-crushing hit. Vicious circle. And how.

This TED talk thing makes me nervous. I have to stand on a stage in front of 1,200 people, knowing that every move I make, every sound I utter, will appear on computer screens all over the world and become inscribed in the holy scrolls of YouTube for time immemorial. With no notes! No powerpoint slides at my fingertips to remind me of what I’m trying to say. Not even a podium to hide behind. Scary!

But I think I have a good talk. I’m going to present two psychological phenomena that make it particularly hard for addicts to trust themselves: ego fatigue (see previous posts) and delay discounting (the tendency to place way too much value on immediate rewards, at the expense of long-terms gains….like, oh, keeping your marriage or your job intact — a result of that dopamine/craving wave). I’ve got it down in my head, why these phenomena stack the deck against us. And why that makes it just so hard to quit. I’ve practiced it in the car. And once in front of Isabel. It’s going to be good.

And I’m going to practice it with you. Next post. Stay tuned.

57 thoughts on “Travel and trust

  1. Janet May 4, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Thank you Marc. If your TEDTalk even remotely touches upon the points you bring up here, it will be marvellous. I had figured out the piece about no one trusting an addict. I had felt, but never articulated, that it is difficult to trust recovery professionals. I even had the piece about letting one’s self down over and over and over again. But I never got – until now – how that leaves trust in the dopamine ahhhh. Even if it lets me down, I am far more willing to forgive and to give it another chance than I am with myself. Apparently that trust is transferable – from dope to chocolate to the screen – what I’m using may change, but how I use, that’s a lot harder to address. Thank you for the way in.

    Also, how awesome was your holiday!

    • Marc May 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      I’m pretty sure I know which Janet you are. And yes, you’ve been through the gamut, your trust betrayed time after time. Putting these pieces together IS important. It’s amazing to think that the betrayal that keeps happening with the addict we love is just a reflection of the betrayal he feels from himself.

      The high IS trustworthy, relatively, as far as it goes. So you get your bang for your buck. But the next morning you wake up more alone than you thought you could imagine. Now there’s nobody AND nothing.

  2. Janet May 4, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Good Morning.. There are two Janet s! Marc, this is thrilling. I literally got a thrill reading this … first TED!!!! Of which you are so worthy. Congratulations. And then your unfolding to us what you are going to discuss. I read your words over and over about the addict not being able to trust himSELF. YES>The truth always has such power. You are SO correct. For the addict there is no reliable core, no sense of self… imagine living like that? This discussion will really enlighten and it continues to help those of us who love addicts as we struggle to understand. Thank you.

    • Marc May 5, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Ok, I’m not absolutely sure which Janet you are, except that you’re the one who isn’t the Janet above. Well, thanks. Yes, I think it’s a key idea….a eureka! moment. But it’s so obvious when you think about it. It’s what I was trying to get to in the second last chapter of my book: the self that looks back at you from the mirror is so clearly incapable of taking care of you. It’s an important idea, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me in such a neat little package if this particular TED event hadn’t come up with this particular theme.

      Well, maybe it would have, but that’s another story and I’ll save it.

  3. Richard Henry May 4, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Hahaha… Marc

    You just had to mention Chocolate ice-cream, I think you where directing that one at me? My choice addictions have changed over the past years, first with alcohol and the bright ideas under the influence never seem to materialize. Either it was the goals I set or the decisions I made, that became further disappointments. I learned to live, excepting my alcoholism at one point by saying to myself, “Yep! I’m an alcoholic, I get drunk. I fall down, and I make bad decisions” this thinking kept me from dwelling, and excepting that I couldn’t trust myself under the influence. I would further use different sayings in forgiving myself like ” I’m going to get over it sooner or later, I might as well get over it right now” It was all part of my insanity thinking. In looking back I can remember many times, waking up in the morning and saying to myself “What was I thinking” it seemed so clear at the time. When someone is under the influence and is making bad decisions, is that not a form of insanity, is he their for not responsible for is actions?. I mean you hear of many cases in court where a person is deemed temporarily insane, and is their for not responsible for their actions? But in turn receive appropriate treatment for their state of mind at the time, where as an addict is treated as a criminal and sent to jail. I think this is one of the short comings with our system in helping the addict. We need to recognize that! I think we are in a way, temporarily insane, and need to be treated under our health care, not our criminal system. Simply to warehouse these individuals with no treatment, and release them to do it all over again, only creates a revolving door of itself. I believe so many people get lead down the wrong path under the influence, thinking they came up with these bright ideas while intoxicated. In thinking those ideas could not have been realized except by that drug or drink and further enforces their use, but inevitably they become fogged and confused and cannot trust their selves. Well I could go on and on about trust, and how some people justify their lies, and blame it on their addictions, but at some point we all have to take responsibility for our choices.
    Thanks Marc always a pleasure.

    • Marc May 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      Hi Richard. You seem to go back and forth on this one. Addicts are not to be treated as criminals because they’re responsible for their actions at some level. And yet those actions are based on faulty logic, and punishment is never going to correct that.

      It’s impossible to guide one’s life successfully without self-trust, because there is no compass to go by, no standard, no assurance of what’s best at any given moment. Still, chocolate ice-cream may be the lesser of two evils. So forgive yourself and enjoy!

      • Richard Henry May 6, 2013 at 6:27 am #

        Your reply;
        Addicts are not to be treated as criminals because they’re responsible for their actions at some level.
        Well this is what i’m trying to help people understand, and in helping brake the stigma around addictions. Yes he or she broke the law while under the influence, in all likelihood to support their habit. I believe they should be accountable and repay their dept to society by, not being treated as a criminal but as an addict and sent to treatment. Unfortunately we do not have the facilities to support such a system.
        Thanks Marc

        • Jaliya May 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

          I’m reminded, in this thread, of a book that opened my eyes to the principles of restorative justice: *Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice*, by Rupert Ross. Aberrant behaviours in any form (criminality, addiction, alienation, etc.) are understood as ruptures in the circle of community … and treated as such. The intent in First Nations justice is to restore the circle of right relation, and to invite all members of a community to participate in mending the rupture. It’s an elegant, practical, and merciful approach … Here’s a link to the book:

  4. Persephone May 4, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Very interesting topic Marc, and I must admit I was on a similar bout of inspiration last night in my writing. Learning to trust yourself can be difficult, though for me, it was probably the first thing I did when I finally got clean. The decision to not use and to trust to myself was simultaneous.

    Now, since you bring up the treatment industry and my name here, I feel I must add that it is not just me. I hate to drag other pieces onto your blog, but I think this is relevant, especially the immense comments section.

    It’s not the 12 steps being objected to here, either, but exactly what you’re discussing, that addicts aren’t worthy of any trust–and that many former (purportedly, it is never verifiable online obviously) clients here weren’t exactly pleased with this, either.

    • Marc May 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      For me, also, the decision to stop using (I mean the time it actually worked) and the dawning of self-trust were simultaneous. It’s amazing, isn’t it. People have often asked me how I quit, and I’ve never known exactly what to say. And now I think I know. By saying “No!” and really meaning it, I became a self I could trust, and then I started trusting myself. And it worked.

      I don’t have the energy to get into a 12-step debate tonight, but I know what you’re talking about. Is it possible to trust in a higher power, trust in the group, and trust yourself….I don’t know: maybe it is. Maybe that’s when it works.

      • Persephone May 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

        Marc, well, I could say I agree, but you’re the one agreeing…lol. It is amazing, and I’m glad you’re talking about it, here and in the TED talk.

        (BTW, my point above wasn’t at all to start a debate about 12 steps, which I have no energy for either, but to expound on your statement of lack of trust. This one attitude that is engrained in centers like the one I linked to above would, I believe, be that way regardless of what “program” they claim as their model. Perhaps that is just human nature and a whole lot of just world theory all rolled up in one.)

        • Marc May 7, 2013 at 3:48 am #

          I read the article this morning, Persephone, and you’re right, it’s important and informative — and it’s not 12-step bashing. I was particularly taken with these statements:

          “But confrontation, said Horvath, is “the one thing that should not be done.” While he was only cautiously critical of certain Burning Tree practices, Horvath took a hard line against its treatment philosophy. “Confronting people is harmful, and there is very clear evidence about that now. Getting in somebody’s face and insisting that they accept the label or the notion of a disease or a particular approach to recovery—that makes people worse.”

          “The evidence appears to support Horvath” which then goes on to elaborate that evidence.


          “Burning Tree’s hard-core practices are controversial—and are likely to remain so for as long as the debate between confrontational and self-empowerment approaches continues.”

          Indeed, this program seems to epitomize the confrontation/disempowering approach, which is the opposite end of the spectrum from self-trust/empowerment.

          Is it ever advantageous to break down self-trust? In the most extreme cases? It sounds like these clients have zero self-trust to begin with — not surprisingly, given their histories. Sometimes, for example in t’ai chi, you build a certain skill by focusing on it’s opposite. Still, these seem like dangerous waters.

          Let’s leave it at that for now.

          Thanks for enriching the dialogue with this gritty example from the rehab world.

  5. Valeria May 4, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Thank you for sharing your holiday 🙂
    I was thinking about that just two days ago…’the addict is really a lier?’
    We know that the drug usurps the memory circuit. Perhaps it is possible that the addict is not telling a lie to themselves or to others when he promises not to continue to use the drug, but he just can not remember what he has promised…
    (to stop using drugs).The drug is hijacking his brain, therefore it is not his fault! He is not aware…
    Best regards

    • Marc May 5, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      That’s a very important thought. But I’ll go you one further:

      It’s not exactly that you can’t remember what you promised yourself, but you can’t remember how serious you were about it, how important it was, whether you’re the same you now as you were then. Something like that. I do think it’s possible to be so persuaded by circumstances that you lose your sense of what’s real.

      Just this week I put a mop on my head, adopted an Austrian accent, donned a pair of sun glasses, and approached my 7-year-old wielding a pair of pliers — as the famous Dr. Floogelsnoot. That loose front tooth had to go. He opened his mouth, looking right at me, and the tooth was out in a second. Then he said, you really look a lot like my Papa. And I, Floogelsnoot, said, “Of course I do! He’s my third cousin!” and then vanished.

      How could Julian have imagined that it wasn’t really me?!

      I’m telling you this because the suggestibility and suspended judgment of little kids seems somewhere in the same ballpark as that of addicts — addicts who forget who THEY really are. For a moment or an hour, we let ourselves believe in Santa Claus, Dr. Flooglesnoot, the Tooth Fairy, or our own indestructibility. Which is fine for kids, but not so good for adults.

  6. Denise May 4, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Hi Marc,
    I’m sure whatever you present will be “good.” It might even be great. Speaking of which I just returned from a vacation myself, a trip to Italy (Rome and Florence) and I finished reading Memoirs of an Addicted Brain on the way over. I thoroughly enjoyed it and find you to be an excellent creative writer. The interplay of narrative of personal experience with scientific explanations worked really well. I very much look forward to your next (?) book and as a non-scientist, hope it will be more in the narrative mode.

    Regarding trust of addicts including oneself, I’m reminded of the old saying “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.” This feeing/belief has occurred to me often, especially when friends have said, “Go to 12-step meetings Denise. If nothing else you might meet people (i.e., men).” My response has always been, yeah, right, just what I need! But then the next thought is: that makes me a self-hating addict.

    You’re right. I can’t trust others because I can’t trust myself, and I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Knowing this doesn’t make the situation any happier, but understanding something often leads to resolving its inherent problems.

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 3:59 am #

      HI Denise. Thanks for your kind words about my book. And yes, the next one will also use narrative mode — this time writing other people’s stories — but again with scientific arguments underlying it.

      I find this core insight of self-trust like some sort of magical crystal. Whenever I look into it I get new insights. When I meditate (not enough) there is a firm shift, almost an audible click, when I go from “you must do this — clear your mind — listen to your breath, etc.” to “just be — you don’t have to do anything — you are exactly what you need to be”. And then comes a feeling of warmth and acceptance.

      And yes, my acceptance of others — my ability to remain unperturbed by their behavior toward me — depends entirely on my trust of myself. I see this in my marriage, my relations with my kids, and my work. Very cool!

      • Denise May 7, 2013 at 10:15 am #

        Marc, Thank you for reminding me that I need to maintain a daily meditation practice 🙂

  7. Kiffin May 4, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    It’s better to be a little bit nervous before a talk. My best presentations are always those in which I am nervous beforehand. I have to be extra sharp and courageous, and the adrenaline rush makes me perform much better. Actually, it’s easier to give a talk to a large audience in the distance and in the dark, than it is to a small group who can look you more closely in the eyes.

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:04 am #

      Then I’m all set. There is no chance I won’t be a little bit nervous. And I know what you mean about big audiences. I have found that too, but never anything this big.

      I think it’s the camera / internet exposure that is most scary. Oh well. Full speed ahead!

  8. NN May 4, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Congratulations on you invitation to TED. What an exciting opportunity.

    As to the addict not being trusted, not trusting him- herself. I’ve often wondered about
    a number of approaches that treat the addict as miserable, lying, self-deluded, evasive, conniving scum.

    Yet I don’t doubt the surface phenomenon, in any number of cases.

    Some treatments (ordeal procedures?) seem to proceed on such basis, often infusing some measure of xian dogma about the wretchedness of sinners. And some seem to work, some of the time, for some persons.

    But surely at some point the spiral or ‘attractor’ of ‘miserable scumminess’ has to get broken. Indeed some xian procedures, after the conversion, treat the sinner as brother or sister in Xt.

    It’s certainly a very odd field, where the phenomena are agreed, but the medics, psychotherapists, evangelists, 12-Steppers, ordeal inflictors, boot camp directors all have procedures, rather different, all said to ‘work.’ Unfortunately, ‘work’ is not very well defined except as ‘stopping to do x.’ What kind of compulsive world or la la land the person is in is not considered. A desired state of health, physical and mental is not well addressed in the 12 Steps’ classic formulations– not indeed in a good many medical and psychotherapy texts.

    It’s really much like a few centuries back there was debate over the handling of witches, and whether dunking them ‘worked’ or whether simple burning was best.

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:13 am #

      Hi NN. Or at least it’s like medical practice a century ago, when procedures were always based on trial and error, never on a comprehensive framework of cause/effect. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “xian” — though I THINK I get it. But in any case, you should look at the article in The Fix linked by Persephone above. This particular program epitomizes “ordeal procedures” as you call them.

      Do they ever work? Can you move from miserable scumminess to self-trust and self-respect? I don’t know. When I was an active addict I was also a consumate liar. I lied to my girlfriend(s), friends, family, and to my wife when I was married. The maze of lies became so thick that I could hardly keep them straight. If, at that time, someone had really called me on my lying, I would have been completely in agreement. It’s the massive jolt of shame that I think is harder to digest and that may poison the well for a long time to come.

    • Persephone May 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      NN, it’s funny that you mention trial by ordeal. I’ve not written of it here, but have made this comparison elsewhere as well. Thank you for writing about it.

      I realized a lot about trust in terms of this issue last night, when a woman apparently having been previously harmed by an addict went full throttle on a thread (this was social media, and nothing to do with addiction, actually it was about how shaming and humiliation rarely work as help for a different issue) against addicts. An entire thread about how shaming is dreadful, yet no one objected (but me) when this person just blasted every addicted person to some metaphorical hell demanding that they all be held accountable and should have no ability to make excuses (such as medical conditions, disease model, etc.) and should have to pay for being addicted.

      Sometimes I think there is trust in the world again for me, then I encounter someone like this. I believe she was not in any 12 step program, nor spouting any sort of religion, just venom, and all I could remember was every single person I encountered while addicted who basically had said the same thing. I suppose I’m known for rejecting the 12 step method, but whether or not it’s there there is still this idea that addicts/alcoholics are the last group left allowed to be maligned and showered in stigma. At least in some cases. It’s no wonder that so many have trust issues. You climb out of a dreadful hole, only to be damned over and over (at least by some), why would you ever truly let your guard down?

      What you describe above is exactly what I myself encountered. Trial by ordeal.

      • Marc May 10, 2013 at 4:00 am #

        Hi Persephone. I’ve encountered this kind of venom too. One of the commenters following the WSJ review of Memoirs…. His scorn was so entirely withering…toward me and other (ex or not) addicts.

        Then in a subsequent comment he revealed that someone very close to him had been badly hurt (betrayed, broken down, etc) by an addict….and it was clear that this was the basis of his basic mistrust.

        You can’t argue that the harm addicts do to others rebounds to issues of mistrust and stigma. And we don’t like ourselves much either….

        • Persephone May 13, 2013 at 8:36 am #

          I hadn’t read those comments, but I’m not surprised you got one of “them”. I can sympathize with these people, and do my best to treat them as traumatized people who are just what they are, hurt. I always have the strong urge to say, “the person you’re really yelling at is not here!”. I just wish they would keep their anger levels aimed at whoever hurt them and not project it out onto others. Well, and that none of them would ever get jobs as nurses, that would also be a big bonus…..

  9. JLK May 4, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Ah the good old days. I used to cruise the canals with a friend/colleague who lives in Hausen (pronounced “hoozen”) outside of A-Dam.My only problem, being a Double Depressive was seeing so few Dutch and so many Muslims, the kids diving.into the disgusting canal water.(Nothing against Muslims individually.. my best friend is a highly religious Moroccan Berber and that is a true story) everything against forced cultural change in a society

    Plus..his boat is only 1 meters. I love speed, (no, not noisy drag boats for my enemies out there, just something that will top 40 mph).so a boat with an 80 BHP diesel in order to stay within speed limits drove me NUTS! or nuttier…. your choice.

    Speaking of enemies let’s see if I can irritate someone…hmmm… I know! The dissonance between the 12 Step bashers and Marc’s small short statement, that may have gotten past many, about the uselessness of 30 day “fluff and buffs”. The question is how do you spend the rest of your life on guard against a brain you don’t trust. Simple (and cheap) answer…AA
    JLK .

    • Persephone May 5, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      I certainly hope you weren’t referring to me, JLK. In any case, I’d say the question is more whether you are to regard your brain forever more as something that cannot be trusted or something than can be trusted to heal and start leading you back down the correct paths again. I’d say that is possible either way whether you choose a 12 step program or not.

      • JLK May 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

        Hi Pers

        Sorry about the late reply..I have been very busy being “semi-retired…building rental houses, trading lumber seems like it never ends. I do get to play golf once in a while and am going to Europe next month….unfortunately on business.

        Anyway it has been so long I can’t remember who are my “enemies”. I do remember the “hand grenade” I threw as my first contribution to the site.Besides as I thought about it after writing my blurb,”enemies” is a little strong a word to describe my relationship with those who I anger or dislike my opinions. The reason being I don’t care much about what people think about me. I would go even nuttier if I did.


        • Persephone May 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

          JLK, there’s no need for enemies here, though I understand the occasional need to debate or blow off steam. Completely. I’m glad you’re getting to get out and enjoy yourself a bit with the golf, you seem about as busy as I am otherwise!

          Take care, JLK.

    • Chris May 5, 2013 at 10:14 am #

      JLK wrote: “Speaking of enemies let’s see if I can irritate someone…”

      It’s truly edifying to read a passionate and outspoken member of AA as he provides a sterling example of placing principles before personalities. Such humility and wisdom are an inspiration. Thank you, John.

      • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:22 am #

        Chris, not to change the subject or anything, but how do you get stuff in italics in these comment boxes?

        • Chris May 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

          ” in front off the phrase to be italicized (no quotation marks), “” at the end of the phrase.

          The Mozilla Firefox browser has an add-on that makes HTML tags as easy to add to text as highlighting and clicking on the appropriate format style in Microsoft Word._

          • Chris May 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

            Apparently even if HTML codes are enclosed in quotation marks, they still create the effect they code for. I didn’t intend to add italics. You might try this site:


            The most commonly used text tags are listed there.

            • Marc May 9, 2013 at 5:16 am #

              Hey thanks, Chris. That’s great. I will try to drag myself further into the modern era.

            • Marc May 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

              Chris, I couldn’t figure out what you meant by the “” business. But this site — — is indeed great. Thank you!

              (I tried to paste the symbols here, in case others would find that convenient, but of course the symbols disappeared and turned my …….. text in between them into italics. Italics are not of much use when it comes to, um, dots.

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:20 am #

      Hi JLK. Our boat had very little speed. We hardly made a wake at full throttle, at least in my opinion. Though some of the guys rocking up and down at the edges of the canal seemed to disagree, judging by their body language.

      It’s true that one thing in favor of AA/NA is the commitment to ongoing work. I’ve done more and more research into rehab — check out a very recent book called “Inside Rehab” if you want the latest — and 30-day programs are, unfortunately, standard fare. But I’ve got news for you: most of these programs ARE 12-step-based. It’s their in-patient service that only lasts 30 days, and that’s often a disaster.

      • Jaliya May 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

        Agreed re: short rehab programs being ‘often a disaster.’ Physical withdrawal has barely passed, and the brain is in such a vulnerable state … I’m reminded of the ‘short shift’ that we in Western cultures give to grief: three paid days off work (if you’re lucky), and then back to it!! Also am reminded of the recent debacle in psychiatric circles about including grief as a psychiatric disorder/’mental illness’ in the DSM V if it lasts longer than two weeks! — After two weeks, a person in fresh bereavement is just beginning to come out of shock … !

  10. Denise May 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    A couple more thoughts: Especially as someone who struggles to trust others, I’m always marveling at the trust with which my son relates to me. He is developmentally delayed, intellectually challenged, so what he knows about his mom is limited. This being the case I am so aware of the responsibility that I have to not betray his trust, and within the context of being an addict, this means to not be moody around him, to be there for him “most” of the time, and to always place him before my addictive behaviors. I know that caring for someone else, especially a someone who can’t care for him or herself, such as my son, or in many cases, a pet, helps people to tone down their addictive behavior. To a large extent we can trust that ultimately people succumb to the needs of someone needier than themselves.

    But, not always. I will never forget when my son was a baby. I was still “coping” with the realities of his birth (which included surgery of my own), and had relapsed after years of relative sobriety. I was on the NYC subway with him and sitting next to me was a much younger woman, also with a baby in a carrier. The young woman was off in a nod. Her eyes were closed much of the ride, leaving her infant basically on its own. I remember looking at her with both envy and disgust. Mainly I was angry that she would place her own need before the baby’s. I thought, “Wow, what ultimate selfishness.” And then, I realized, there was not much difference between her needs and the needs of her baby, though there should have been.

    Then, I was grateful to have seen her as the lesson came through loud and clear.

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:28 am #

      What a beautiful lesson you’ve given us here. Well, both of them. You are so right: being “there” for someone who needs you is an amazing invitation to trust yourself, at least to some extent. You realize that, even if to a small degree, you’ve taken yourself in hand to do what was needed. Those actions — relatively selfless, in one sense — allow us to feel closer to ourselves, to admire and possibly forgive ourselves. A paradox? Even, again, if to a small degree. It’s a crack in the door, but it’s precious. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. George May 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    What a great opportunity to present your thoughts to a wide audience,
    and contribute to good dialogue, thinking and acting.
    Go for it!

    • Marc May 7, 2013 at 4:23 am #

      Thanks. I will!

  12. Pete May 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Ha! That’s funny Marc . We live on a boat and I can relate to both you as a novice and the guy in the house now we are not so much novices anymore.

    The trust issue seems to of hit a chord with many on this blog, including me. I have been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it is for my partner to ever trust me again after I I have lied to her and am still lying when it suits me not to tell her what is going on with my behaviour. Trust is a major issue with her as she waslet down in that area as a child. And i am scared stiff that I will lose her. But having secrets in a relationship can be just as damaging. Caught between a rock and a hard place.
    We started this relationship on the basis that we tell each other everything, no matter how bad or what the consequences. But slowly over the years , I have been not truthfull about when I have a slip. So there has been a build up of dishonesty to the point that even if I completely stop the addictive behaviour now I don’t know how I can live with myself knowing how I have betrayed her.
    But then you reminded me that as addicts we don’t trust ourselves first and foremost. I guess we have to build up our self trust first before other people can trust us.

    I want to stop my behaviour right now as I am sick of the damage it does to myself and everyone around me. I want to feel the pain of what it has done to me and everyone else so I have that stark reminder etched into my brain every time I feel like acting out.
    I think I have the tools to do this as I have been working on recovery for probably ten years with mixed success . But now what I need is the will to want to stop for ever. No matter how hard that will be.

    Sorry for the rant but Marc’s post hit home and there are some things I needed to share and get off my chest . As I am doing it a bit tough at the moment.

    Hope your talk goes well Marc and look forward to the transcripts.
    Thanks to everyone else for your posts too

    Cheers pete

    • Marc May 10, 2013 at 4:27 am #

      Hi Pete. Your account of what you’re going through really resonates with me! Don’t apologize for going on…..this is critically important to talk about. Yes, indeed, a lot of people seem to be drawn in by the trust issue and the current post. That in itself is important information. It indicates how central the issue really is.

      What you talk about reminds me of my old life with uncanny precision. There have also been moments in my more recent life in which I’ve covered up addictive behaviors in my dealings with my wife. Especially as I continued to take painkillers after I no longer seriously needed them, after my surgery two years ago. Our relationship is/was also premised on total honesty, and yet it was very hard for me to admit what I knew I was doing. So….I know exactly what you mean about the rock and the hard place.

      Luckily for me, I was able to come clean in both senses of the phrase, before any serious damage took place. But it could have gone the other way, and I’d have been back in the hell I was in over 30 years ago.

      For you — I think you have to begin by not panicking. If you can put these behaviors to rest for good — even if there are further “relapses” — then you can start to build up a very solid sense of yourself and a nurturant and loving stance with your partner. That can be the basis of connecting more thoroughly with her, and she’ll feel that viscerally, and then perhaps the hidden lies you speak of can come out gradually, over time, and/or just fade in importance — so a signed confession will eventually become irrelevant. I fully understand your fear of letting everything out of the bag at once. And your concern is probably justified: the harm done may sink the ship in your efforts to clear your conscience. It’s more important to get yourself to a place where you can stop lying than it is to clean up past messes.

      By saying what I just said, I’m not encouraging further relapses or further lies! Stop the leak right now if you possibly can! (boat metaphors are the order of the day) But I agree with you: you have to start to establish a sense of self-trust. That will help you to quit, for good, and also not to panic, and also not to lie further. Because….besides being dishonest in way that’s causing you so much pain, you are also a courageous man fighting a war with yourself. You deserve compassion and respect for your ongoing efforts to quit. Give yourself that — and you’ll find that that is exactly the ammunition you need to help you succeed.

      I wish you good luck and the peace you deserve.

      • Pete May 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

        Many thanks Marc for your insightful and caring reply. It gives me strength just knowing that there are people out there that care and understand.

  13. Jaliya May 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Congrats on TED, Marc 🙂 You’ve told such great stories in your book … Think of this as another way to tell a story or two … Heh, I understand how having no notes, etc., could seem a peril 😉 Maybe a keyword or ten written in tiny print on your wrists and the back of your hands?

    Beautiful photos. There’s nothing like being out on the water. Pure space.

    About trust … I get to wondering if it’s the capacity to trust in the first place that’s injured … our sense of relation / relatedness. (I’ve been studying autonomic dys/regulation; are you familiar with Stephen Porges’ work –> polyvagal theory?)

    • Marc May 10, 2013 at 5:56 am #

      Hi Jaliya. Long time no hear. I’ve also thought about the breakdown in fundamental trust (in infancy and/or early childhood) as, possibly, a critical link in the chain leading to addiction. Yes, I know of Porges’ work. You may also be interested in the work of Daniel Siegel, who studies the neurobiology of attachment disorders. But I go right back to Erikson in my thinking. Basic trust is the first phase of emotional development, on which everything else is based, and if that is incomplete (or else partially wrecked by parent/child conflict later on), then we may not have much of a leg to stand on.

      For me, being sent to that boarding school seriously messed up my ability to trust others — including my parents. Was that the first leg of my journey downhill? It seems so….

      • Jaliya May 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Yes to Erikson and trust being our first and foremost ‘ground of being’! Trust (or its lack) is a deep sensory experience — felt through the whole person — in a sense, it’s the biological basis of our continued *and sane* existence —

        You know, deep in your bones, that the experience of being displaced to boarding school caused a rupture in all your relations. The fear in this, for a child … ! When all our ‘familiars’ are suddenly lost, we will cling to whatever and whomever we can. It’s part of our mammalian nature and heritage — and a biological imperative for survival.

        I was born six weeks early with grave medical traumas … and was incubated / isolated for the first three months of my life. My mother and I did not, could not, bond. It was the late 1950s, and the prevailing practice was to not allow preemies and their mothers to be together. The repercussions of that practice have played through me all my life like horribly discordant music … No one, nothing to resonate and relate with. It’s been the deepest work of my life to trust. Two books that have been lifesavers in understanding this are *A General Theory of Love* by Thomas Lewis, et al., and *In an Unspoken Voice* by Peter A. Levine. Stephen Porges’ work … I’m gobbling it up. Thanks for the heads-up re: Daniel Siegel … I’m going to look him up.

        It all makes me wonder if addiction (considered by some as ‘deranged devotion’ … think about it …) is, fundamentally, a rupture in our natural capacity and ability to trust. Being mammals, we will cling to whatever (we think) allows us to be in some kind of relation.

  14. Janet2 May 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    I am the first Janet-Poster in the thread and I am new here. I got here via the Recovery 2.0 event where Marc was a speaker, and it was one of my favourite talks. That was a fantastic happening and I am so grateful I got to find out about this blog. i have been through some older posts, and I am really enjoying the thoughtful, articulate discussions here about addiction issues. Thank you all. And as I indicated before Marc, if you are even half as engaging as you were on the Recovery 2.0 event you are going to blow the TED audience away.

    • Marc May 10, 2013 at 6:01 am #

      Hi Janet2! I hope you stay with us. Henceforth can that be your name on this blog? Janet1 has been around for a while and she’s shared some pretty intimate and heartbreaking stories with us. She can fill in other details if she wants. But thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it! And yes, Recovery 2.0 was quite the conference. What an amazing variety of people and perspectives.

      • Janet May 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

        Hello Janet2. And thank you Marc for helping us sort that out. Yes, I am the Janet who posted in the Guest Memoir… Immortal Pain, Loving an Addict. I found Marc through his book and no matter what brought you here… this is a healing place. Welcome. Janet

        • Marc May 12, 2013 at 9:44 am #

          And you have helped make it so…through the incredible honesty and intimacy you shared in your memoir. Perhaps this is too bold, but….a lot of us on this blog were or are addicts, and you’re the mother of one. I think that makes you a sort of den mother — a symbolic figure with whom we can make reparations in our minds, perhaps as a springboard to further reparations with the people in our lives. And because you don’t disguise the pain, while showing us your obvious ongoing love for your son, I think you help us reconcile these seeming polarities.

          That’s a hell of a contribution.

          And please feel free to give us an update whenever/if ever it seems important.

          • Janet May 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

            What a beautiful thing for you to write and for me to read. And on Mother’s Day! I am so grateful to be here. I embrace you all. I will update in time. Things are okay.

  15. Valeria May 6, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    Hi Marc,
    thanks for your futher explanation…a kind of loss of contact with reality, because it is too hard to be seen for as really it is!
    But what is a promise made to themselves or to others in comparison to the need to survive? We know that drugs act on the reward circuit, developed to allo the survival.
    I think this is the most important thing to remember and…to accept…
    not to think of betraying themselves or others intentionally.
    Don’t waste energy for the judgment, preserve it to go on…

    • Marc May 10, 2013 at 6:02 am #

      Exactly. Beautifully said.

  16. Lisa May 6, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Marc,

    First time responder after a few months of reading your blog. Thank you for your brilliant and vulnerable self.

    Trust is a super rich theme for me. You might get some fresh inspiration from Gangaji – who offered a week-long retreat on “trusting yourself, trusting life”:

    “If we try to make “trusting myself” a mental state that is always here, we will fail. That is a beautiful failure, a humbling. If trusting yourself has nothing to do with mental states, then it is the surrender of your mind into the ground of being, regardless of what is being felt, regardless of outcome. Then trusting yourself is actually realizing yourself—surrendering to the truth of yourself.”

    There’s even a great 2 minute video here, with a challenging twist about what we expect trust to give us. It can be a trap to imagine trust as yet another panacea (like substances) to finally sooth our existential discomfort.

    Enjoy! And thanks again for your rich offerings.

    • Marc May 12, 2013 at 9:55 am #

      Hi Lisa, and welcome, and thanks for your kind words. That quote takes a stratospheric leap in how one might understand trust. It’s really very enriching and also challenging. In fact, this total surrender Gangaji speaks of may be a distant stop along the road to self-acceptance and self-direction. And it may take some years to achieve it — if one ever does. But you get a bit of the sense of it even when you take the first big step and simply embrace yourself with a sense of protection and guidance.

      Lot’s to think about, and to practice! Thanks for opening up these ideas so much further.

  17. Fred May 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    For me, there are two things about trust that resonate – not trusting others (or the universe, more on that below), and trusting my addiction to provide temporary relief from boredom, stress, grief and anxiety. The idea that not trusting myself was the root issue doesn’t feel true to me. Not trusting others was a rational response to early trauma. Trusting my addiction was an understandable response given my history of addictive behavior and the payoffs I felt from using. But I actually think that I did trust myself. I was competent in my career, and had experienced success in many other areas of my life. My achievements were a result of hard work, smarts, and some luck. Of course, in the area of my addiction, I was in denial. I thought everything was basically fine. The consequences that kept popping up, the lying, and the shame, all seemed like manageable issues. I never said to myself “You’ve got to stop doing this” and then let myself down. I just said, essentially, “you’ve got to stop getting caught”. When I hit bottom and got into recovery, everything changed. I got clear that I had to give up my behavior, and I grabbed the instructions that were handed to me, and I went to work, and things got better. So I don’t think I suffered from a lack of trust in myself.

    My recommendation, based solely on my experience (which may be way off the bell curve, I realize), is that you stick to the more broadly applicable points – that addicts don’t trust others (often for good reasons based on hard childhood attachment experiences), but they do trust their addictions. The point about not trusting ourselves just doesn’t ring as true for me. The other thing I believe addicts don’t trust is the universe itself, the Tao, fate, God, whatever you want to call the ever unfolding present moment. I, and I think many other addicts, believe that we have to control how things turn out in order for things to turn out OK. Looking good, managing impressions, feeling good, having the right stuff, job, friends, spouse – these are all things I needed to have in place to be OK. I also feared conflict, so I evolved strategies of tact, perfectionism and people-pleasing, vagueness, and self-sacrifice to avoid conflict and the (exaggerated) fears it brought up in me. This is a painful way to live, and the pain relief of addiction helped me through it.

    This is just my two cents. Take what you like and leave the rest. I do trust *wink* that the talk will be excellent however you do it.

  18. Janet May 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    This is truly intriguing. If I am listening correctly, what I hear is that you functioned as a nation of one. With your addiction. And it seemed to serve you well. It sounds as if you were able to take care of your self to some degree. But you had to keep others out. I love the phrase… “vagueness”. So well put. That ghosting in and out. Unlike you, the addict I love has never been able to take care of himself in any meaningful way, but you enlightened me with your honesty about other things I believe are going on within him. Especially him not trusting the universe. I actually think the universe makes absolutely no sense to him at all. How terribly terribly lonely. I also believe that he doesn’t trust himself… but he also doesn’t know himself.
    I am happy to read that you did feel trust in yourself and that it allowed you to reach for recovery… I want to write more but my head is full right now. Thank you, Fred, for these insights.

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