Addictions Anonymous column

Column by Julian I. Taber, Ph.D.

Addictions Anonymous: Introduction
In this series of columns I describe a universal and secular self-help program for recovery from addiction. It is universal because it includes all addictive behaviors in a single program. It is secular because it avoids controversial references to on

Addictions Anonymous, 1: The Challenge Of Normal Living
If you are addicted to something there are people out there who will offer to fix your problem in a hurry, with little effort on your part, and without having to change anything important about your life. These people lie. They will take your on

Addictions Anonymous, 2: Self-help, Professionals And The Role of Religion
If mental health professionals find problems with my ideas, senior members of the various Twelve Step groups may well join them in the complaint department because I suggest, in the pages to follow, some re-wording of those basic Twelve Steps. on

Addictions Anonymous, 3: An Incident on the Boardwalk
I like to write about addictions and about how to live without them, but if you don’t happen to have an addiction, you may be reading this for the wrong reasons. If you’re reading it when someone close to you should be reading it, someone who on

Addictions Anonymous, 4: A Bit Of History
Historically, people made moral judgments about addictions without doing much about them. Calling addiction a sin, of course, is not very effective in bringing about a change in behavior. The early moralistic period is the First Level of our on

Addictions Anonymous, 5: They Sneak Up On Us
Addictions usually develop over time, and that’s why I think addictions are problems of human development. Although they can and do happen quickly, it usually takes time for an addiction to develop fully. Addictions tend to begin at critical on

Addictions Anonymous, 7: Common Elements In Addictions
Earlier I mentioned dark feelings and this, I think, is a common factor running through all addictions of whatever sort. Knowing how to live with, control and even eliminate unpleasant emotions is a survivor skill that people have in different on

Addictions Anonymous, 6: Triggers
What addicts do involves either a substance such as alcohol or a behavior like gambling, but that’s just the surface. Addicts often describe themselves as crazy; non-addicts look on in horror and agree. Once again, however, let’s listen to what the on

Addictions Anonymous, 8: Risk Factors
Just as I ask addicts to consider all the different addictions, I urge them to think in a very general way about potential risk factors, situations that may help set the stage for the development of an addiction. These risk factors, like triggers, on

Addictions Anonymous, 9: How Attitudes, Beliefs And Values Create Vulnerability
If you’re miserable you probably know it even if you think you can’t control it, and you can very likely tell exactly what is making you miserable. On the other hand, some people have been so miserable for so long that they actually don’t recognize on

Addictions Anonymous. 11: The Addiction Cycle
We can summarize the conditions that create addictions this way: Risk Factor(s) + Attitude + Dark Feelings + A Trigger = Vulnerability to Addiction If someone is careful in taking an inventory of risk factors, attitudes, feelings and on

Addictions Anonymous, 10: Dark Feelings
Euphoria is a good word that today has a negative meaning; it is often used to describe the artificial high or altered state of mind produced by an addictive trigger. It’s earlier meaning was joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and exhilaration. Euphoria on

Addictions Anonymous, 12: The Stages of Addiction and Recovery
While interviewing hundreds of addicted clients over the years it became obvious to me that addictions are what mental health experts call developmental disorders. That is, they develop over time as the result experience, genetics and growth. on

Addictions Anonymous, 13: A Universal Secular Twelve Steps
There are two important thoughts to keep in mind when we consider what have been called the Twelve Steps of Recovery. First, each step is really an important idea that can be incorporated into every aspect of life. These ideas are intended to make on

Addictions Anonymous, 15: Living With Higher Authorities
Step 2. Came to believe that The Program, as a power greater than ourselves, could help us toward normal living. The term higher authority, in the original context, referred the God of whatever nature the individual chose to believe in. In the on

Addictions Anonymous, 14: The Art Of Being Powerless
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable. The mind of the active addict works in a hazardous environment surrounded by a swirling fog of mistaken ideas, a world that swings rapidly back and on

Addictions Anonymous, 16: The Surrender Of Ego
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Program and to the loving care of this group. Hopefully, as you come to the third step, you have accepted one or more earthly higher powers. No spiritual or on

Addictions Anonymous, 17: Self Knowledge
Step Four: Made a searching and fearless inventory of our character for ourselves. The word inventory is a bit misleading, but this step comes down to the adage, “Know thyself.” In business, an inventory has important value. The store owner can on

Addictions Anonymous, 18: Confession, Honesty And The Open Life
Step 5. Admit to our Group, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. If loneliness is your problem, confession may be a solution. There’s nothing like holding secrets to shut you off from others. Leading an open on

Addictions Anonymous, 19: Growth Through Practice
Were entirely ready to practice the program in order to remove all these defects of character. The word practice in this step means to become good at something by repeating it, by doing or practicing it over and over as a part of life. In other on

Addictions Anonymous, 20: Asking For Help
Humbly asked the help of others in the removal of our short comings and be resolved to work to remove these faults ourselves. The first versions of this step talked about the removal of character defects, but often the removal service doesn't on

Addictions Anonymous, 21: Setting Things Right
8. Made a list of all persons we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step 8 calls for some serious writing, on

Addictions Anonymous, 22: Continuing The Growth
The last three steps in the recovery program deal with personal growth, a renewed growth that is possible after some amount of clean and sober time. By now, if the reader has been following previous articles, the ideas behind steps ten, eleven on

Addictions Anonymous, 23: Group Traditions And Management
Not long after A.A. was founded in Ohio in the 1930s, meetings began to experience problems with personalities and procedures. Recovering alcoholics proved to be a tough group to lead without firm rules. They all knew they needed a group for on

Addictions Anonymous, 24: More On Religion In Recovery
The Steps, Traditions, and Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous have become important to millions of people throughout the world. In early chapters of this book, I looked at the philosophy that underlies the steps and traditions, a philosophy that on

Addictions Anonymous, 25: Normophobia
Normophobia: I made that word up myself. At least I’ve never seen it used anywhere, but I could be wrong. Being wrong once in a while is normal and the best reason to look for and listen to critical feedback.   Normophobia means a disabling on

Addictions Anonymous, 26: Searching For Normal
Beyond finding problems and flaws in the thinking of others, a philosopher might go the next step and offer some better path to what we hold as a valuable goal. As you know by now, I do not trust religion to produce that nebulous human condition it on

Addictions Anonymous, 27: Normal As The Gold Standard—Part One
If normal is to be the standard towards which we strive, exactly what qualities of personality will be important? What will we try to measure, learn, and teach to others? In this chapter and the next, I present a list of seventeen proposed character on

Addictions Anonymous 29: The Way to Be, Part One
No one really teaches us the whole story on how to live in the world. We learn some of what works and some of what causes pain. We learn what people like and dislike about our behavior. Unfortunately, we don’t have teachers who teach us how to live on

Addictions Anonymous 30: The Way to Be, Part Two
(Continued from Chapter 29.) I remind the reader who may be studying these choices that I have not announced my own preference in terms of which of the choices, A or B, I think is most appropriate to a mature and normal way of thinking. You may on

Addictions Anonymous, 31: Does Prohibition Work?
Vulnerable Groups Experience and research show that gamblers and other addicts entering treatment are not exactly like the general population on a number of important psychological dimensions. Rather, addicts appear to be drawn from one or another on

Addictions Anonymous, 32: When a Friend Needs Help
In the days when I was working as a clinical psychologist in hospital programs where we treated addictive behavior, it was common to have members of Twelve Step groups bringing people in for help. They would turn up at the hospital at any time of on

Addictions Anonymous, 33: Pitfalls In Finding Treatment
Problems confront addicts when they decide to seek mental health services. They can be serious problems, but they are not impossible. Here are a few of the big ones:   Biased recommendations. If a fellow addict recommends a certain path to on

Addictions Anonymous 34: Therapists Of All Sorts
In general, there are two kinds of therapist qualifications: (1) earned degrees and, (2) licenses and certifications. Some clinicians, of course, may have both. Earned degrees A high school diploma is nice, but not likely to be found on a on

Addictions Anonymous 35: Harm Reduction
Harm reduction is an ancient and natural plan for minimizing the unpleasant and harmful effects of dangerous behavior. Addictions certainly are dangerous behaviors, and some experts have championed the idea of a harm reduction strategy for addictive on

Addictions Anonymous, 36: Problems with Anticipation
  While going through old notes from my therapy groups, I was reminded of many of our long and often difficult discussions of critical problems in abstinence and recovery. The next few chapters take up some of these problems, problems that can on

Addictions Anonymous, 37: Problems with Anger and Depression
A person can be angry and never realize it, especially if he or she grew up surrounded by angry people and learned to feel resentment toward the adults in life. Anger can become an enduring personal quality and is a major feature in the profiles of on

Addictions Anonymous, 38: Problems with Emotional Pain and Service to Others
Emotions   Dealing with Emotional Pain There are clinics for treating physical pain all over the United States, but emotional distress, one of the chief obstacles in the path to a normal existence, is often neglected or treated on

Addictions Anonymous, 39: Problems with Relationships and Sponsors
Relationship Problems Unhappy relationships come up for discussion in many group therapy sessions. For some of us, all of life is controlled by relationships while, for others, relationships are few and relatively insignificant. Woe unto the on

Addictions Anonymous, 40: Problems in Learning Serenity
  During one evening therapy group, the topic of serenity came up for discussion. The comments of some of the group members started me thinking. Perhaps this serenity could be teased into its component parts and described in more detail. In on

The Agnostic Pulpit: Addictions
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Every addict hears this question sooner or later. Why would any rational, mature person destroy a life with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or gambling? To be brutally honest, addicts are generally neither on

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