Do you know what deep, healing connection feels like?

It’s what we long for from our family, friends, God (if you believe in God) and ourselves. Not having it is one of deepest and ongoing painful experiences of living. Not having it results in all kinds of suffering, subtle and overt. This kind of suffering is under the radar for most of us. We don’t even know what we’re missing…..until we get a test of it.

Imagine feeling heard, truly heard. Imagine not having to hide anything, being able to share with who you are in a deep way and not being judged. Do you know what that feels like?

Imagine your fear, anxiety, depression, stress, cravings, self-judgement, shame, every harsh thing you might feel about yourself and things you have done. Now imagine you AND all of that being held the way a deeply loving parent, totally without judgement, holds a scared, suffering and crying child. (Note: If you can’t imagine a parent doing that, imagine God or anything or anyone that resonates with you. If that’s hard for you, really turn and sense into it with your imagination. You CAN find something that resonates.) The  scared child, in this moment, just wants to be held, in a warm, safe embrace. There is absolutely no judgement coming from the parent. There is no shaming, no lecturing, no “I-told-you-so.” On the contrary, the parent has a completely open heart, fully capable or holding anything the child can bring. The parent sits there, quietly, willing to stay for as long it takes. The parent has no thought of leaving. There is no agenda, just loving, warm openness.

Have you felt this kind of connection before? You probably have, but may have forgotten it.

This kind of connection CAN handle anything. It can dissolve the most intense anxiety, depression, craving, whatever.

The good news is that it’s learnable and I can show you how to cultivate it. It’s not any kind of special magic and I’m not a guru. It’s a natural capacity we all have. For various reasons, we just don’t do it well in our culture.

That said, other people learn it all the time and I’ve dedicated a large portion of my life to helping them.

If you’re interested I’d be very happy to share a free exploratory session with you. There’s no obligation to continue and you’ll get a taste of it in that first free session.
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A Way to Deal with Craving That Actually Feels Good

It took long before I finally found a way of dealing with craving that felt good. For years I used what everyone in recovery says to do: make calls, be with friends, attend meetings, pray, meditate, work the 12 steps, etc.

People told me, in a thousand different ways, I need to surrender my will to a Higher Power. I grew up Christian, so I knew well what surrendering meant. And I worked at it for years. I had times, which I’m grateful for, when I did surrender. Those were great. After much agonising (ie., various forms of crying out to God), I finally concluded that I couldn’t consciously make myself surrender, and do it reliably. Given that craving, for me at least, were a very reliable, even daily or hourly, experience, I couldn’t count on my ability to surrender.

Most of the things that I used to deal with craving were typically a form of distraction. And don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying don’t use these methods. I believe they have an important part to play. What bothered me about all these methods, however, is that they always left me feeling like something’s missing, like I hadn’t really dealt with the underlying issue.

Yes, I could make a call, and that might save me from engaging my addiction, but it usually left me feeling like I had to drag myself painfully away from something I wanted (porn in my case). And that left me feeling that the craving (or something about it) was left unresolved.

Even if I managed to avoid acting out, the experience was painful, and a feeling of incompleteness often gnawed on me. It felt as if I was putting the battle off for another day. It felt like something was still there to deal with, and it would come back. And it did!

I’m grateful I found another way. So much so, I’ve dedicated a significant part of my life to teaching it. Let’s try it:

Imagine you’re feeling craving for drugs, alcohol, porn, food or whatever. Imagine the craving is really on you. It fills you, starts controlling your thinking, your desires. You start getting scared because you don’t want to feel craving. You don’t want to go where craving leads. You don’t want the shame and guilt. Imagine how craving is at it’s worst for you. Take a deep breath and really sense this.

Now, imagine you turn within yourself and you connect with something in you that’s craving. You see that there is real suffering here, that the craving and pain are very close together. This is not an understanding with your mind. You feel it. You feel within just how painful it is, how it really hurts to feel this craving.

Now, imagine you turn again toward yourself and you hold the craving and pain very gently, as if you holding a small, frightened child in pain. You might, in fact, gently fold your arms over your chest as if you’re holding yourself in compassion.

There is no judgement here, no condemnation. You’re just holding yourself (and the craving) in a loving way, with compassion. And you really feel it. It feels healing. If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still tracking with me, take your time here.

This is how I like to deal with craving now. It feels like a real connection. It feels like the piece I’ve been missing in my own healing. It feels like I’ve connected to something deep inside, and to the Universe or God. It leaves me feeling open and alive. And the craving either feels resolved or reduced. Either way, this deeper connection feels real, and strong enough to match the most intense craving.

Did you try the exercise? How did it go? Please let me know in the comments.

Also, I teach this way of working with craving. I call it Recovery Focusing. I offer a complimentary session of Recovery Focusing where you can try it. There’s no commitments or obligation for further sessions.
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Do I need to admit powerlessness over my addiction?

A common “requirement” that many recovery programs profess is that if you want to gain long term sobriety, you must admit that you are powerless over your alcohol/drug/porn addiction. Many counsellors, sponsors and people in recovery will, with absolute conviction, explain that you simply cannot overcome your habit until you are clear on that point.

I disagree. There are many ways to progress toward healing and sobriety and, unless you are truly compelled to do so, there is no need admit powerlessness (in whatever form that might take).

Powerlessness happens on its own

If you’re not sure, don’t worry about it. If you merely suspect have problem, and it moves you to action, that’s enough. Spending precious brain cycles stressing about it won’t help. Making healthy changes, cultivating new friends, building positive habits and attitudes, this is the real work of recovery. There’s no need to fret about admitting powerlessness to oneself and there’s  certainly no need to openly confess it in a recovery meeting.

Words don’t mean much

We can wholeheartedly admit powerlessness in one breath and then drink the next. We can passionately declare our undying love for a person in one moment and then despise them the next. We can start a diet one day and break it the next! Our sincerest admission of powerlessness, as an attempt to stop a severe addiction, is just our ego’s desperate attempt to control the situation.

It’s like like trying to stop a run-away train with heart-felt words.

But Twelve Step groups require this!

Yes, admitting powerlessness over our addiction is step one. So how can you move forward without that?

Some people do need to make very open, clear statements about their powerlessness over their addiction. For those who are convinced they need this, I support them. Everyone is on a different path and I support that.

I also agree that, at some level, there probably is acknowledgment of a real problem. Otherwise, an addicted person wouldn’t seek help (or even have a thought about seeking help). But, in my experience, a genuine admitting of powerlessness happens as a private, unspoken acknowledgement, deeper than words. It happens within one’s own heart. And like fruit ripens on a tree, it happens on it’s own. Admissions, however their done, don’t make it happen any faster.

Work your program, but follow your heart

Staying committed to whatever program your in, including 12 Step groups, is really important. With the right mix of people, these groups hold immense wisdom. But, at the same time, stay open to your own heart. Part of you may be genuinely questioning whether a certain practice or attitude is healthy or helpful. Listen to that.

I had a hard time ending my addiction and I agonized over what principles (and what programs) I needed to follow. In the end, before I finally started my long term sobriety, I decided to drop all the worry and do what I thought was best for me. I did this while I continued relapsing, so it took extra courage to stick with it. Shortly after, I’m grateful to report, my long term sobriety began (after 25+ years of addiction).

By the way, just to be clear, I was still working hard on my healing, making changes and cultivating the healthy habits I thought I needed. This included regular meditation, exercise,  sleep and eating well, cultivating healthy friends, deepening my spiritual life, and pursing long held passions.

That’s what I support in my clients and what I believe everyone who wants long term healing must do anyway. The details may differ, but the larger pattern is the same: We have to connect our own inner compass and do what it tells us. That might include admitting your powerlessness over addiction in some way. I suspect, however, many people can just drop this worry and get on with the real work of healing (which includes also living your life).

Please share in the comments below. Agree? Disagree? Other ideas? Let us know!

Need help reconnecting with your inner compass? Need help following through with what you find?

I’m a recovery coach and I specialise in helping people with both of these. Contact me about a free consultation. I’d love to help!

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Resources for learning CRAFT

Family members and friends have, by far, the most powerful influence on their addicted loved ones, much more than counsellors or psychiatrists. Helping family members and friends work with their addicted loved ones in positive ways is a huge, but do-able, challenge. Enter CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training). CRAFT is easily the most powerful of all known therapeutic approaches for helping family members and friends get their loved ones the help they need. It’s way more effective than Al-anon or the confrontation/intervention approach (You can read the stats in the resource links below). As an addiction recovery coach and guide, one of the most important goals I have is to educate people about the existence of CRAFT–For various dumb reasons, it’s not well known (though it is growing).

CRAFT is highly motivational, compassionate and strongly backed by evidence. Research shows that seven out of ten people who learn and use CRAFT are able to get their loved one into treatment.

My goal in this post isn’t to spend much time explaining it (besides the above). My goal is simply to say it exists, say it’s powerful, and provide a collection of resources that my clients and readers can follow-up with. So, without further delay, here we go:

Where to start with CRAFT

There are a few places to start when learning CRAFT. If you like to read, there’s The 20 Minute Guide or the two books (all linked below). If you’re more visual, check out the two video’s put up by HBO (YouTube, which I am not linking to, has several videos on CRAFT). Finally, if you decide it’s important enough to make CRAFT a part of your life, be sure to work with a CRAFT counsellor or get involved in the Smart Recovery online groups. Without peer or professional support, changing engrained patterns at this level, in the face of such intense emotions and situations, is hard.

  • The 20 Minute Guide is a thorough introduction to CRAFT. It actually takes longer than 20 minutes to read, but it’s well written and free.
  • SMART Recovery Family and Friends heavily relies on CRAFT and they have local and online meetings. Since peer support is hugely important, they are definitely worth checking out.
  • Then, there are a couple other options for learning and practicing CRAFT via paid online services. They are worth checking out, just to know what’s possible:

Let us know about your experience with CRAFT

If you’ve used CRAFT or you utilise some of the above resources, please share some of your experience in the comments below. Thanks!

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Long Term Sobriety and “White-Knuckling”

It feels strange writing about my past acting out/sex addiction. It seems a little forced because it feels behind me. NIne years ago, and especially before I did Ibogaine, I couldn’t have envisioned myself as free as I am now. I was so entrenched in the addiction, and had been for long (2.5 decades), that it was extremely difficult to see how life could be different. Now take my sobriety mostly for granted, which is a nice place to be. I still have a lot of healing work to do. Some of the drivers of addiction are still there. But I’m very grateful for the sobriety I have now.

I say “for the most part” because I respect the fact that things can change. I understand that if I am dumb and don’t take care of myself, and don’t keep making healthy decisions (or at least make more healthy decisions than unhealthy ones), I could end up right back where I was. It’s not as if porn doesn’t carry any attraction. It does. I just choose not to go there any more. I have more interesting things to do, things I care deeply about. And the longer I’ve stayed away, the less the cravings and temptations have become. Thankfully, now, the cravings rarely hit me. I can go months with no craving. In fact, I don’t remember when my last strong craving was!–something impossible to imagine back when I was hooked.

Just to be clear, however, it’s not as if I never want to act out. It’s just more at the level of something like ice-cream or cake. I know I shouldn’t eat sugar. It’s addictive and unhealthy for me. Sometimes I think “oh, it would be really nice to eat that.” But because my sugar addiction is basically broken, it’s more like an intermittent longing. It’s never a strong craving. Only if I eat sugar do I crave sugar. It’s the same for porn and acting out now. Sometimes I long for it. I think my brain/will is no longer hijacked as easily as it was before. So, it’s easier to stay out of the addiction.

For the first 3 or 4 years after Ibogaine, the cravings were much stronger and more frequent than now. To survive, I “white-knuckled” a lot. Pretty much everyone in recovery groups hears that white-knuckling is a bad thing. I agree that it’s not ideal and not sustainable over the long term. But, early in recovery, you gotta do what you gotta do. Or, at least, that’s how I thought about it. I believe white-knuckling is hard to avoid early in recovery because we just don’t know any better. And we are not yet well-practiced at reacting to our cravings (or any compulsion) with self-compassion and connection to God or a Higher Power or whatever. We just aren’t there yet. Now, thankfully, if I feel I’m white-knuckling, I know that something is off in my attitude or consciousness. I know that I need to slow down, feel into my suffering, and really listen to what’s there. Only when I truly connect, without judgement, does that the pain (the craving) transform to something that feels healing (rather than getting stuffed down again).

If you are seeking recovery and are unable to call up these positive attitudes and emotions toward yourself, I implore you to start learning. Don’t wait to learn until you have sobriety. And don’t give up if you feel it’s not working. The positive skills you learn while you are relapsing will help you when you finally stop. The skills of self-compassion and openness to learning from the very thing that’s hurting us (such as craving) is huge. Without these, as far as I can tell, we just put off for another day the lesson we need to learn now.

But, don’t give up. It takes time and practice to cultivate this kind of inner compassion. It also usually takes the help of someone who is better at it. In the meantime, if you need to white-knuckle, do that. And keep doing it until the new skill of self compassion can replace it!

Comments? Questions? Please share below!

And if you’d like some help building the skill of self-compassion, I’d love to be involved! Contact me here for a 30 minutes session at no charge.

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Ibogaine will not cure you

I hate to say it, but it’s true. Many people tout Ibogaine as a miracle cure. “Just do an Ibogaine session and it’ll fix you,” they say. On certain levels, this might be true. Ibogaine has a spectacular affect on addiction. What drug can nearly wipe out the physical withdrawal (and corresponding suffering) of a profound multi-decade opiate addiction within the space of an hour. That this plant isn’t better known and exhaustivly researched by now is beyond my understanding. I didn’t come to it with with a substance addiction, but with sex addiction. And it blew that away too. (By “blew away,” I mean it weakened my very intense cravings to almost nothing and set me on a path to gain the much healthier life I have now.)

Expect to work hard

But here’s the deal. I worked very hard on healing. I worked very hard on staying away from porn, dissolving triggers, healing trauma, cleaning up relationships, building positive habits, making profound changes to my environment. In short, I worked very hard to stay away from my addiction and build better patterns.

My cravings did come back, but I had such a profoundly helpful push from the Iboga plant, that my efforts finally stuck. And, for sure, it wasn’t easy. Iboga will help, but those of us with long term addictions, life after iboga and without our addiction (our main coping mechanism) will definitely have it’s downs.

Have a plan to continue healing after Ibogaine

Pretend for minute that you will never have access to Ibogaine. You will never receive its help. Pretend also that you MUST absolutely get sober. You must absolutely stop your addiction. You KNOW, for sure, that it cannot continue. What will you do? What will you plan be? (By the way, if you’re not sure how to create a good plan, one that you can be confident in, contact me. I might be able to help.)

Take that plan and start executing on it. Start implementing it well before you do Ibogaine. Act on your plan as if that’s all you got. And, just an aside here, if you use, drink or act out while executing your plan, don’t take that as an reason to give up. Pick up and keep trying. Keep at it until parts of your plan are becoming second nature. Then, when you do Ibogaine, you’ll have some great momentum for picking up where it leaves off. Suddenly, for a time after Ibogaine, you’ll be completely free from your addiction, including the cravings and withdrawal. Suddenly, for a time, you’ll be able to stay clean and easily flow into your new life, and the plan you’ve initiated, along with the new habits you’re building, will already be partly in place.

This is more or less what I did. And it’s what most of the Ibogaine providers are advising. Please take this seriously.

Again, don’t expect it to fix you

It will help you fix yourself. Like Moses did with the Red Sea, it sort of parts the waters of a large and deep ocean. That’s your chance to walk out of there. You can’t dilly-dally or be confused about which direction to go because the water is going to crash back. You have to walk out before that happens.

Expect that most of  triggers will return. How are you going to handle that? Life is going to get stressful and overwhelming again (which is actually pretty normal). How are you going to deal with that? Your girlfriend is going to cheat on you (with your best friend), someone is going to shoot your dog, and your house is going to burn down, all on the same day. When an old friend arrives and, in a seemingly warm and caring way, thrusts a bottle of vodka (or heroine, or meth, or cocaine, or porn) into your hand, how will you handle it?

Ibogaine does not live life for us. It does not clean up our messes. It doesn’t make us wake up happy in the morning. That’s all on us.

So what are your plans?

How are you going to stay sober after Ibogaine when things get tough? How are you going to handle cravings when they come back? How are you going to deal with old triggers (especially very painful ones)? I’d love to hear about what you’re planning — please let me know in the comments below!

By the way, if you’re not completely sure what to do after your Ibogaine treatment, contact me. I care deeply about these issues and I love helping people on their healing journey.

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Ibogaine: The Nuclear Option

There are many people at their wits end, trying to stop acting out their addiction or some other intractable pattern of thought or behaviour. I have vivid memories of sitting in recovery groups and watching exasperated, desperate people who, as far as I could tell, genuinely wanted healing. Many of them, including myself, had been trying for years to stop their destructive behaviour, but just couldn’t quite get there. These are people who, like me, spent countless hours working 12 steps groups and many other recovery/healing programs. I’m hoping some of them will find these pages and, in so doing, find an option that they had never considered.
It’s not often that someone suggests using a hallucinogenic plant for dealing with personal issues. If I had known a few years ago how impassioned about this topic I’d be, I might have wondered (as perhaps many of my friends and family might now) what demon (or brain imbalance) had possessed me. Well I’m not possessed! I promise!

Despite the fact that social consensus sits squarely against this option, if you find yourself “possessed” enough to consider Ibogaine, you have thousands of years of worldwide healing tradition on your side. Ibogaine and many plants very similar to it have a long history of producing positive outcomes. In Gabon, one of the west African countries that Ibogaine comes from, it has been declared a national treasure. Tribes within and around Gabon use it to promote spiritual growth, stabilise families and communities, and aid physical and psychospiritual healing. The current negative social consensus is mostly western, relatively new (relative in terms of the age of shamanic cultures), and based in ignorance and fear.

As far as addiction treatment modalities go, Ibogaine is the nuclear option. (Okay. Calling it “nuclear” maybe be overstating it, but it’s hard to find an adequate metaphor.) When some stuck behaviour or thought pattern needs to be unseated, Ibogaine is in its own class. Some have described the experience as akin to 10 years of psychotherapy in one night. While I think the psychospiritual dynamics in question are more complicated than that, I definitely understand the sentiment.

For many of us, the Ibogaine experience stands on the level of a major life event, on par with the birth or death of a loved one. It compels us to re-order priorities. It pulls the crap off of our stuck internal compass, so that the needle reorients to what’s truly important. It helps people get unstuck and move on with their lives. A common feeling after the treatment is one of being given a second chance. Because of it’s ability to significantly weaken craving or compulsion to the substance or behaviour of attachment, the feeling has substance behind it.

That said, despite it’s powerful and near miraculous nature, it’s not a magic bullet and it usually won’t stop an addiction (or other emotional issue) permanently. It doesn’t remove free will. It gives powerful insight and, for many of us, a cosmic kick in the ass. The actual work of long-term healing is left to us. We have to make the daily effort to build better patterns. This is why all the recovery groups and other healing modalities are still important. Ibogaine opens a window of opportunity. We have to climb through that window, before it closes.

Comments? Questions? Please share below!


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