Recovery Coach, Roger Stark is the co-author of newly released “Reclaiming Your Addicted Brain” he is also the author of “The Waterfall Concept; A Blueprint for Addiction Recovery.” Being a person of recovery, along with his work as a licensed addiction counselor in the State of Washington, (CDP) Roger understands what it takes to travel the Recovery Highway. It is also the message of his well-written books.
“Reclaiming Your Addicted Brain” follows one man’s recovery journey with Roger’s clinical notes as the story unfolds. It is an often humorous look at the process of healing but written in a very clear directive style. No psycho babble here! But many practical ideas about how to achieve recovery progress.
“TheWaterfall Concept; A blueprint for addiction recovery,” is a very practical approach to the process of recovery, sort of a how-to manual; short on theory but long on skills and the tools of healing. Roger made the comment in an interview, “One of the interesting results of the book is that it is just about how to live happily. The principles apply to, and could be of benefit to, anyone, not just the addicts I intended to reach. That’s a surprise I can live with!”
If you have any questions about addiction, recovery or related issues feel free to contact Roger through the website http://www.waterfallconcept.org..
Roger lives in the in the state of Washington he is an avid bicyclist. He has been married to his wife Susan for over 45 years. They raised seven children, have eight grandchildren with two more on the way. He and Susan love to travel and see the sites and cultures of the world. They indulge in the sport of Geocaching on their travels.
This is Irwin Morse’s first writing effort. Irwin writes about addiction and recovery from the perspective of his first hand experiences. This book includes events from a his life including his 26 year journey of recovery, some of those events successful, many not. He shares his experiences in an effort to be true to Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous: to reach out to the addict who still suffers. Irwin was born and raised in New York and has traveled extensively, including living overseas. He currently resides in the South and is an active supporter of both the AA and SAA communities there.
An interview of Roger Stark by Lisa Fredericksen of www.breakingthecycles.com.
How did your addiction start?
Mine is a sexual addiction. That admission elicits a wide variety responses, from “You can’t get addicted to sex,” to “Gee, I would like to have that one!” and everything in between. Is it a real addiction? Ask the hundreds of thousands of folks involved in Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and like self help groups. They will tell you that their lives are surely unmanageable, that they have learned to access the brain chemicals of lust compulsively, and have become truly powerless. They will also tell you, standing amidst the rubble and wreckage of their lives, that you, surely, do not want this addiction.
My journey had it’s beginnings when a scout master insisted on showing me some things that were not in the scout handbook. His sexual abuse created some powerful, dysfunctional emotional currents in the life of a very naive and innocent child. I was raised in a faith centered, loving home. My father struggled with ETOH and very probably fixed me up with some genetic markers that weren’t very helpful also. But my main concern after the encounters with my perpetrator was to prove that I did not like boys. (I apologize for the homophobic sound of that, but in the 1950’s our culture presented much differently.) The only way I knew to prove that I didn’t “like” boys was to “like” girls and I tried to like them a lot. It became a matter of conquest and while the level of sexual activity was on the innocent side in the beginning it quickly grew to “going all the way.” The purpose always being to gather more evidence that I was “normal.”
Over the nearly 40 years of fighting the behaviors that had yet no name, I fell into a Dr Jeckel and Mr. Hyde life. Wanting and trying, successfully at times, to live by a very high moral code, and then betraying myself with compulsive sexual acting out. The levels of shame and guilt were off the chart, and of course, over time became part of the acting out cycle.
What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?
Such an interesting question. From very nearly the beginning I wanted to be sober. Acting out broke the moral rules I was striving to live by. I believed in virtue and monogamy but as the compulsion gained power I failed so many times that hope of doing that left me. I guess my turning point was the day my therapist put a name to it. He stopped in our session, rather abruptly and said, “Roger, you do realize you are a sexual addict don’t you.” Well I absolutely did not realize that and was quite offended that he wanted to put such a brand on me. He didn’t argue with me, just gave me a copy of The White Book the Sexaholics Anonymous’s manuel. By page 38, I branded myself.
I found hope in the fellowship because I found others in the same struggle that had found sobriety. Like a fellow mentioned in The White Book, “I didn’t need help quitting, I have quit a thousand times, I needed help staying quit.” And there, in that group, I found the beginnings of that help.
I cannot adequately convey the excitement I felt about learning skills and finding tools that actually worked and helped me slowly extinguish the compulsion. After those first early successes, I was “all in.”
What was your initial treatment?
Much of my early treatment was self inflicted. We did not then have the recovery resources that are available today. I read a lot. If Patrick Carnes wrote it, I read it. My White Book and the Big Book were read and reread as were a host of other recovery titles. I lived in a quite remote area at the time, but found 3 recovery meetings, 2 were an hour away and the other 3 hours. I tried very hard to attend each weekly. I met weekly by phone with my therapist. I found a sponsor and worked through the steps.
Education helped me immensely. Beginning to understand brought healing. Recovery strategies developed as I understood more about what was going on inside of me.
My faith also played an important part. I have always felt a special Higher Power connection in my life. When I took this struggle to Him, I felt His sure promise that as I continued to do my recovery work, my heart would heal, (His words not mine.) I also made a commitment to Him that if He could help me find my way out of this addiction mess, I would spend the rest of my life helping others. That fall I enrolled in a local college program that led to state licensure as an addiction counselor.
Do you do anything differently, today?
My recovery does have an evolutionary feel to it. As my understanding deepens my dysfunctions slowly get shed. As I peel the onion and grow, my approach takes that new wisdom into account, and I seek new skills. Of late I have benefited from trying to truly live in this particular moment. I am working to grow my understanding of this great concept.
Working with other addicts has also created some changes. I sometimes feel selfish, that I “recover” more than they do as we work through the process. It has brought into focus the clear value and importance of carrying the message to others in our own personal recovery experience.
What is your life like, now?
From the darkest days of my addiction, my current life would have been simply inconceivable. Recovery has brought me to a belief in miracles. One example is that my wife and I are still together and enjoying life in remarkable ways. My relationship with my 7 children continues to grow or better said, heal.
I love serenity. It is such a contrast to the chaos of my addict life. Peace, calm, quiet, were unknown commodities. I feel a joy in them that renews me daily.
I continue to work with other addicts and write about recovery. For me there could be no better life’s work.
Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?
Oh, I have a thousand things! The details and nuances of individual recovery seem to be endless. But the over riding message is this: Recovery happens! It is real! Miracles happen if we submit to the process of recovery and do the work it requires. A willing heart, armed with some hope and courage, all held together by commitment makes us candidates for recovery and will carry us home.
Addicts should probably be aware that sex is a very common cross addiction. I long ago lost count of the number of clients who begin the recovery conversation with, “I had a drinking problem 20 years ago and went to AA but now I think I have a sex addiction.” (Thirteenth Steppers please take note!)
Unfortunately, the learning curve for addicts and family members is remarkably flat. This is tough stuff. Many spouses don’t survive the betrayal and feelings of rejection. I cannot fault them and only feel compassion and empathy for the uninvited struggle they find themselves in. Recovery is measured in years not months and slips can be crushing. That said, I do believe in miracles. I have seen many, I have lived one. When a couple overcomes this level of adversity, their love can take on an exquisite fulness.
What is the best part about your recovery?
Part of it is that we are having this conversation. That we can learn and grow from each other and I get to be part of that.
Life is such a precious gift. Having the blessing of living part of it in recovery, free from the chaos and carnage is of great value to me. Being able to love and cherish my family in an honest faithful way is priceless.
There have been gifts from my addiction. Things that I know that I would never have come to understand without the affliction. I am grateful for learning acceptance, finding compassion and empathy, and the joy of unconditional love. These are wonderful fruits of my struggle and I will ever be grateful for them. These gifts and the opportunity to help others, give the suffering meaning. It was not wasted, not just indiscriminate suffering, but a vehicle for becoming and discovering a better self. And, if some how, some way, my work diminishes the suffering of some other poor soul trying to figure out sexual addiction, well, I am pretty okay with that. Then the gratitude comes, that I have been blessed to learn what could be learned in no other way.