The Beyond Belief Sobriety Podcast features the personal stories of people who have found a secular path to addiction recovery. We also post interviews with authors and experts in the science of addiction and explore all secular recovery options.
Podcast episodes are posted weekly and we live stream every Friday at 7:00 pm Central on YouTube and Facebook.
Episode 278: About Relapse
Although relapse is often a source of shame, it needn’t be. As we learn on this episode, there are ways to understand such stumbles as part of the larger process that is recovery. This livestream conversation features co-hosts John Sheldon and Mary C., who together explore the healing opportunities available to us when we respond to, reflect on and ideally avert relapse altogether. They are sharing personal experiences as well as fascinating highlights from an article, “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.”
John and Mary cover the emotional, mental and physical circumstances commonly associated with relapse as well as useful strategies for identifying these pitfalls before tumbling into them. We also look at the biggest risks to sobriety (lack of self-care is at the top of the list) and some of the most toxic reactions to relapse (pride, which breeds silence and self-loathing).
It’s a free exchange of ideas, including candid and thought-provoking comments from viewers on a range of topics. You’ll come away with a deeper perspective on what it means to relapse and the tools available to manage through even the most challenging of times. The most important takeaway: Remember that the quickest way to recover from a relapse is to confront the reality. No denial, no hiding — and no fear of judgment, at least not among those who understand that it’s all part of your recovery.
If you would like to watch the video of this conversation on YouTube, click here. And you can read in its entirety the 2015 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine article about the stages of relapse discussed on this episode here.
If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider clicking here to become a patron. Your contribution of just $1, $3 or $5 a month goes a long way towards building this community!
* Mary C. Shares the story of her relapse 11 years ago, when she lit up a joint that led to a brief break from what is now 27 years of sobriety. Lessons learned.
* Sobriety dates can be a strong incentive to remaining sober — until they aren’t. Mary shares her perspective on the counterproductive pride associated with wanting to keep her sobriety date. She was out of integrity and justifying lies.
* John recognizes that recovery is a process of change and that a relapse doesn’t have to hammer us or negate all our time in recovery.
* You can’t really go back to where you were before a relapse, but you can move forward with meaning and deeper understanding.
* Secrets Are a Sickness: Shame does not serve us, even in the wake of relapse.
* Is relapse part of recovery? There are varying philosophies about whether it’s an inevitable part of the process.
* John shares some of the ideas offered up by Steven M. Melemis in his Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine article, “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery,” according to which there are four main ideas:
* Relapse is a gradual process with distinct stages (and the earlier the stage we disrupt, the better our odds of success).
* Recovery is a process of personal growth with developmental milestones, each of which has its own risks for relapse.
* The main tools for relapse prevention are cognitive therapy and body relaxation,
Episode 277: Martin Lockett | Prison to Purpose Pipeline
Highjacked by trauma and a profound desire for validation, Martin Lockett attached himself early on to gangs, drugs and violence – all in the name of fitting in. It was a path that took him into a world of trouble, including a DUI accident that resulted in the death of two people. Sentenced by the state of Oregon to 17.5 years in prison at the age of 24, his life might have been ruined by addiction and despair. Instead, Martin chose hope and believed in the possibility of redemption. More importantly still, he was willing to do the work. “I determined that the only way that this tragedy would not be in vain was if I carried on (my victims’) legacies by doing the work in the recovery community,” says Martin, who methodically went about earning a master’s degree in psychology and acquiring tools and credentials to lift others out of the pain and self-loathing he once knew.
Martin found in substances an easy way to get comfortable with peers, and himself. He didn’t recognize the role that hypervigilance, low self-esteem and a fractured ego could play in feeding his addicted mind. That understanding came only through time, and intention. You’ll be inspired not only by Martin’s honesty but also by his mission to enfranchise young people impacted by trauma and social pressures of which they’re not aware.
Released from prison in 2021 after serving his full sentence, Martin is today a 43-year-old man committed equally to recovery and advocacy. He works full-time for Lines for Life, supporting individuals at risk for suicide and substance abuse. He is also the author of two books, including most recently his compelling memoir, “Prison to Purpose Pipeline: How One Sentence Led to a Life of Service.” There is power in accountability – to ourselves and to others. Martin epitomizes the ideals of service that fuel recovery and our best hopes for becoming our most fully realized selves. His resonant life story, rigorous self-reflection and commitment to change have something to say to all of us, wherever we are in our journeys.
Click here if you’d like to buy Martin’s book: “Prison to Purpose Pipeline: How One Sentence Led to a Life of Service.” You might also enjoy listening to Rock the Bottom, the podcast he co-hosts about rebounding from low points through our shared humanity.
If you’d like to support The Beyond Belief Sobriety Podcast, please consider clicking here to become a patron. Your contribution of just $1, $3 or $5 a month goes a long way towards building this community!
* Out of prison for a little over a year, Martin is living his best sober life and doing the work he set out to do after he committed a fatal DUI that sent him to prison for the better part of two decades.
* Martin’s parents worked hard to keep him away from the “wrong crowd,” but for a shy kid who wanted to embolden himself the crime, gangs and drugs proved impossible to resist. Everything else was secondary.
* An afterschool job at an ice cream parlor exposed Martin to white, middle class kids. He quickly adapted – code switching between Black street gang clothes and preppy designer labels to fit into what he perceived as a more upwardly mobile world.
* Coming out of a stint in juvenile detention, Martin was separated from his peer group and placed in a school where he was given personal attention. He blossomed, achieving straight A’s – until his 45 days were up and life returned to busine...
Episode 276: My Story for the 34th Time
Today, July 20, 2022 marks thirty-four years since my last drink, so in the spirit of sobriety anniversaries, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my recovery story. It’s a story I’ve told many times over the years, but each telling is a little different as I continually gain additional insight and learn from my past. In this talk, I didn’t spend a lot of time on my drinking years, but instead I focused more on my experience with recovery.
I used to put more weight on recovery stories and my own personal story than I do now, but I still think there’s some value to be had from these stories. It’s good for me to think about where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, and where I’m going. Hopefully, someone will hear something in what I say that will be useful. I hope that’s the case. Thirty-four years is a lot of time to cover, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about my drinking years, nor will I give a blow-by-blow description of each of the past 34 years since I’ve been sober. What I will do is briefly describe my background, so you can have an idea of how I grew up, and I’ll break my time in recovery down into three phases, each lasting roughly a decade.
My family of origin
I grew up in a military family, and I think that’s important because there are certain issues with Army, Navy, and Air Force brats that are unique. One of those things is that I don’t have a strong connection with a place in my past. We moved around a lot, which was always a great experience, but I don’t have a strong connection with the past. I can’t tell you who I went to kindergarten with, or who I went to first grade with, or who I went to fourth grade with, I don’t have those kinds of memories like a lot of people. There were advantages to growing up this way as well. One thing that I appreciate is having been exposed to different cultures and experiences early in my life.
I am fortunate that my father learned to appreciate diversity from the Army, and he instilled that in me, my brothers, and my sister. Our family was very adventurous. When we moved to a new place, we always wanted to go out and explore the area. I spent four years of my childhood in the Netherlands, and while we lived there, we went camping all over Europe. Like I suppose anyone, there were certainly problems in my family. Most of those stemmed from my mother who suffered from serious depression. Mental illness ran through her family, and still effects the present generation. When she was in high school, her father committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. That trauma undoubtedly had a significant impact on her life and was passed on to her children.
Like her father, my mother suffered from depression. When I was growing up, I was exposed to her mood swings, and dagger-like attacks on my self-esteem. Yet, she could also be loving and fun, so there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my relationship with her. Much of the time, she was under the influence of drugs that kept her sedated, and she spent hours sleeping.
My father was an officer in the Army. He was a veteran of the war in Vietnam, and he was a tough person. He could be a lot of fun and he took a real interest in his kids. I enjoyed talking with him about current events as he had coffee in the morning. On the other hand, this engaged and fun father, was also a very strict disciplinarian. Any punishment was severe and physical. This caused me to fear him. I still remember the stress and fear that I felt simply from hearing the car door close when he came home from work.
My Drinking Years
My childhood was a mixed bag and if there was any trauma, it would have been the unpredictability in my household. I never knew what to expect and I didn’t always feel safe. My mother’s many mood swings and my father’s anger would often erupt into loud arguments in the house that would cause me to hide,
Episode 275: Fake It ‘Til You Make It?
Anyone who has any experience with AA has heard the saying, “fake it ’til you make it.” Often, the statement is made to someone who isn’t buying the concept of needing a higher power to stay sober. They are told to just pretend and sooner or later, they will come along. But is there another way to think about this saying? In this livestream, Angela and John attempt to answer that question with help from comments in the live chat and calls from listeners.
This was recorded live in March of 2021. If you are interested in joining one of our livestreams, we stream every Saturday at 11:00 am Central and you can always find the stream on our YouTube Channel.
What we talked about
* Importance of establishing a habit of calling people and attending meetings.
* Value of writing a gratitude list.
* ‘”Acting As If” used as behavior modification.
* Confident people often achieve more than those with less confidence.
* Scheduling dopamine hits rather than allowing them to be hijacked.
* Call from Bob K. who talked about the theory of cognitive dissonance.
* The power of the placebo effect.
* How body language impacts you emotionally.
* Developing good habits.
* Hesitancy about ending social distancing.
* We need to be agitated by making slight changes.
* Call from Steve K. who talked about William James thoughts on this topic.
* Call from Al from Vero Beach who talked about the importance of language. The word “fake” is negative and should be avoided.
* Call from Tyler who agreed with Al about why he developed a resentment toward this saying due to its negative language.
Jack Cornfield’s Forgiveness Meditation
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
Sick Souls Healthy Minds
Many thanks to Soberlink for sponsoring this episode of Beyond Belief Sobriety. Visit https://soberlink.com/bbs for more information.
Episode 274: Sober With Purpose
Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM Central, we have a meeting for listeners of the podcast, that you are free to join anytime. Typically, we’ll have a guest from a previous episode speak or we’ll play a clip from one of our episodes to use as a basis of conversation. This week, I needed to get an episode published and I was having a hard time. So, I asked the group if they would mind if I used the meeting to record an episode. They agreed and the result is what you are about to hear.
Sober with Purpose
A few weeks ago, I posted episode 270 “What is Recovery”, based on a pamphlet published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), called “SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery.” In that pamphlet SAMHSA defined recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” The pamphlet went on to list four major dimensions that support recovery: Health, home, purpose, and community; as well as ten principles of recovery. I liked the pamphlet so much, that I thought I would record episodes to cover each of the four dimensions and ten principles. So, for this episode, I will be talking about the dimension of purpose. We’ll look at what purpose is, how to go about finding it, and why it supports recovery.
What is purpose?
Purpose is my reason for being, why I get up in the morning, what motivates me to learn and grow, and the passion that makes life worth living. There isn’t any one thing that gives me purpose, either. There are many things that bring meaning to my life and motivate me to live to my fullest potential. This is true with my life overall as well as with my sobriety.
I find meaning by doing what’s important to me based on my values. This gives me a sense of purpose and it’s a freedom I didn’t enjoy while drinking. During that time, I lived from one crisis to the next. I was alive but not really living. There was no purpose, no intention to how I lived. There was no direction in my life.
Sober, if I had any purpose at all, it was this vague idea that life could be better, and self-improvement seemed to be my purpose in recovery. It was important to me to participate in recovery meetings, and to get some stability and joy in my life. This was pretty much the extent of my purpose during the first ten years of my sobriety.
But when I stop to think about it now. I didn’t have any specific goals and I wasn’t trying to reclaim any of my dreams that I lost to drinking. Before my drinking completely took over, I had this vision of how my life would play out. Education was important to me, so I assumed that I would go to college and get a degree. I wanted to have children, so I thought after college, I would get a job, marry, buy a house. I guess it was the white picket fence American dream that I gave up on when my life got crazy.
I carried a lot of guilt and shame because of my alcoholism. When I stopped drinking, I had no idea who I was. I have this memory of sitting in a jail cell waiting for my day before the judge. As I sat there, I had a thought of what I wanted out of life. All, I wanted was to be free. I saw myself getting a job cleaning offices, living in a studio apartment, and going to AA meetings. That was honestly the best that I could do.
I think that because of all the failures I experienced during my drinking years, I figured that I too was a failure. I was ready to settle for something less. I have a friend who reminds me from time to time about a conversation he had with me when he first started out in AA. I was there for a year, and he asked me how I was doing. I said something like “I’m miserable, but I’m staying out of jail and that’s all I care about.” We laugh about that now, but that was my mindset.
Then, in my tenth year of sobriety, my father died unexpectedly and that was the shock I needed to begin to take a seriou...
Episode 273: Higher and Friendly Powers
Is it possible that the “higher power” concept that animates Bill W.’s framework for Alcoholics Anonymous is based on an overly narrow reading of William James, a preeminent psychologist and intellectual giant of the early 20th century? On this episode of The Beyond Belief Sobriety Podcast, author Peg O’Connor unpacks a compelling theory as well as insights from her new book, “Higher and Friendly Powers: Transforming Addiction and Suffering.”
Many people don’t naturally resonate with the Christian-centric God at the heart of AA and enshrined in the 12 steps. Although William James used “higher power” language, his writings actually reflect a broader, more inclusive and nuanced view of spirituality. He may have deployed the term “reborn” in the context of addiction, but Peg believes it was meant to describe joyful, transformational recovery – not a specific or confining religious experience.
A professor of philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, Peg offers an alternative view for those who have struggled with the concept of powerlessness as a first step towards recovery. If you yearn for healing and community but feel uncomfortable with – or even alienated by – mandates to surrender, this is a thought-provoking invitation to reframe every step towards sobriety as an expansive process of engagement and self-discovery.
* How the “higher power” concept, with its echoes of her Catholic upbringing, kept Peg from participating in AA when she initially sought help as a 19-year-old college student.
* Twenty years into her sobriety, Peg decided to try AA again in the interest of staying engaged with her recovery and enjoyed opening up new conversations, even though she still found the concept of powerlessness unsettling.
* John shares his own experience with AA’s more spiritual elements and the ways in which he has processed it through the years.
* Peg shares context for her forthcoming book about William James (“Higher and Friendly Powers: Transforming Addiction and Suffering”) and the formative role James played in Bill W.’s conversion experience, and conception of AA.
* Key facts about William James:
* William was the brother of the eminent 19th century author Henry James as well as Alice James, a well-known feminist thinker.
* All the James siblings suffered from a nervous temperament.
* William was a trained psychologist, physician and philosopher who felt helpless in the face of a younger brother’s severe alcoholism.
* William grew up with an expansive sense of religion and looked upon faith as intrinsic to life and not attributable to an external force. Actions mattered.
* Peg reflects on a potential AA paradigm shift away from religious practice to a broader faith-based centering that embraces strengths as well as moral defects.
* There can be a certain element of passivity in active alcoholism that Peg feels is mirrored in some of the AA tenets that focus definitively on a surrender to God.
* For women in particular the notion of surrender can be freighted with disempowering social and historical forces against which the fight is ongoing.
* Peg offers an alternative framework to surrender and powerlessness, substituting instead a self-proclaimed renouncement that offers more agency.
* Faith in free will opens up space for individuals to flourish, moving from merely surviving to shifting the terms on which we live life.
* William James used the term “reborn” but within the context of joyful, transformational recovery, not religious experience.
* Peg teases out human nature’s impulse towards spirituality, a sense of something universal beyond ourselves that for many transcends Christianity.
* Why Bill Wilson’s story very likely reflected some “over-belief...
Very Intelligent, Insightful Conversations
This podcast has been so insightful and down-to-earth at the same time. The guests have a wealth of knowledge that resonates with those who are in recovery or even those who are still in active addiction but want to heal. The host, John, shares parts of his story that relates to each of his guest, making me, the listener, feel like I get to know more and more about him while learning about the guest at the same time. It’s so interesting to listen to these incredible stories of overcoming and gives anyone hope.
Even better in 2021
John has really expanded his guests and is a really good interviewer. I only listen (don't watch) and it is very easy with his podcast. He delicately works with some guests like Huey who are "my way or the highway I know what is right" to allow his perspective to show as well.
I count listening to the show as a meeting!!
It not always easy to find skeptical AA views. This show hits the mark