David Chaloner is an addiction survivor and has written this book to help addicts and their families take their first steps to recovery. With many addicts and their families suffering in silence, this life saving book is poised to bring solace and hope to thousands.
Whatever the dependency, the ASK Addiction Survival Kit is designed to help you on the journey to recovery. It calls upon the experience of hundreds of fellow sufferers who have shared their fears and experiences with David.
David shows you how to view addictions in a way that enables you to connect with the problem differently. It provides a new rationale that will help addicts.
This book will provide you with the motivation and the wherewithal to make that important start. It may well prove to be the catalyst you need to prompt you into action.
Clean Date: November 24, 1987
This episode was brought to you by Sober Nation.
Here are David’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer:
Tell us about how your life is today, your hobbies, your exercise. Take us into your normal daily routine, including recovery and tell us a little about the Addiction Survival Kit.
David: It’s there and it’s available and it’s had good reviews and it took me a very long time to write it and I’ve been working the field for 26-27 years now and it’s a synthesis of what I have learned about the addiction’s world. It’s interesting and it’s a very easy read and so I recommend it as someone who has read thousands of textbooks and studied and done all sorts of things. I think for someone who simply wants to try to find a way to understand the apparent insanity of addiction. I believe I do it in a way that is honest and understandable and simple. What drove me was that it should be capable of being opened to any page by anyone who was reasonably interested. In fact, I had it checked by a school counselor in London who assessed it as being capable of being understood by an average 15 year old.
So I wanted it to be as broadly informative as it could possibly be, not only to someone who might have a problem, but also to someone and there are 2-3 times more of those in the world, someone who is being affected by somebody else’s addiction, a partner, a family member, an employer so it was a book that just tries to say this is the insanity of addiction set out in a way which hopefully can be understood with the capability to be able to understand paradoxes, to understand, if you want to understand an addict, don’t think rationally because that just gets you into more trouble because it’s like if you were to speak in your native tongue and I was to speak in a strong Scottish brogue, no one would understand each other. That’s what happens in this. The person that has the problem has a completely different mindset and understanding of who and what they are in relation to a drug behavior to the person who is trying to get them to see there’s a problem and all the old finger wagging and threats and withdrawal of love and force trying to get people to see in that sense are largely unproductive. There’s a bigger question as well that I only hinted at in that little book.
It’s only 13,000 words or so because I found that every time I started to write in the old way, I started to write a textbook, which there are thousands. Literally thousands. I remember walking into Barnes & Noble in San Francisco and thinking “Oh, I’ll just go have a look at the addiction section and see what’s going on” and my mouth just dropped open. I was like a boy from the country looking at thousands upon thousands of titles and I thought “how can I write anything which is going to help make a difference or even be noticed” and that later thing is always problematic, being noticed. I thought “at least if I write it in a different way, maybe it’ll add something to what is out there”.
So I’m happy with that and my life today is one of continuing expansion and exploration. I turned 65 on Sunday and that’s almost surreal because subjectively, as I know it is for many people, I only feel 35-40, but maybe some of my friends would suggest I’m also pretty immature at times too so that’s part of it, but I feel good. I broke my ankle recently, but that was because I was out hiking and I spend as much time as I can in the outdoors as I can and it’s fixed now. I love walking and I adore listening to blues and classical music of various kinds. I start each day with prayer and meditation. I will walk and then I’ll eat and then I’ll work with people wherever they are in the world on Skype for example and I have rooms both in England and New Zealand. I will never see more than 20 or so clients a week, but those 20 clients when I’m with them get my entire attention.
O: What’s your recovery routine?
David: My recovery routine has only changed in the intensity of my attendance to certain kinds of groups. Now I’m more flexible and I can have those conversations on the phone and in my room with people who are like minded, but I maintain contact with those people, but I’m a great believer in the anonymity of those projects for a variety of reasons. I have come to believe that the power greater than myself is in fact within the tradition. My entire presence that God of my understanding which inhabits me and I inhabit and everything that I do is a reflection of that which placed me on this earth and that everybody I speak to and look at looks back at me is a reflection of that God and so I have a duty to treat everybody [unclear 6:02] once wrote that, funny enough he was an American with a [unclear 6:10] father and that’s what made me feel good. He said that if we understood the extent to which the divine exists in every person we would spend our time on our knees worshipping each other.
O: So then you do go to regular meetings still after 28 years?
David: Yes, the regularity might vary a little bit because I travel around a lot more but I never forget that I have to touch base with that if you know what I mean.
O: Yes and that’s exactly the purpose of the podcast, is not just to tell somebody’s story, but it’s also to have that ability to relate with everyone you listen to and to understand that no matter how much time you have, you have to stay close to your foundation, your roots, which is whatever fellowship you choose to be a part of, that you maintain that recovery foundation and also that conscious contact with a higher power.
How much clean time do you have exactly and when is your anniversary date?
David: My anniversary date is on November 24. Next month that is and I will be 28 years clean from alcohol and any other mood altering, mind changing chemicals. Eighteen years ago I gave up smoking cigarettes as well. I kept that one going for awhile. I had a lot of good justifications for that one.
What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
David: My ego. I found it very difficult to understand that I could not control something and I came from a world where a man controlled himself and pulled himself together and fought his way through and did it and I quite simply was unable to.
At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ‘aha’ moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
David: I think it was when I read that and I thought to myself “Christ, I’m an alcoholic”. I think that was the start of it. I then tried to resist God and it happened a couple of other times through, my recovery hasn’t all been roses and la-la and dancing along like Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”. Mostly because of my ego. I had a huge spiritual awakening when I was in the grip of a depressive episode of which many addicts suffer anyway and I have worked on that where I was actually into despair without ever thinking of going back to alcohol or drugs, but I was thinking there was no point in continuing and in that moment, I was completely and ultimately flooded with a sense of love and connection and a voice spoke to me and said “this is not their drama. You have work to do” and since that moment some years ago, I have never ever experienced depression.
I have never doubted that what I’m supposed to be doing. I sometimes doubted my capacity to do it, but there’s never any depression around that. Just minor concerns about some of the things and so that took a little while, but I think that the first one, the realization that even though my best efforts were to keep resisting it, in the end resistance was futile. When I was simply able to recognize that my will power was insufficient and that I was going mad trying to control the cravings and until I removed any of the sources and got through the withdrawals of that, the minor withdrawals as they were. I also changed my diet to eradicate as much white sugar as possible because that’s a major trigger of cravings. When I did that, life got better and better and the reality is today I can go anywhere, be with anyone, not need anything and be at ease with the people around me and my goal and I don’t have to explain it.
Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Addiction and Grace – Gerald May
Breathing Under Water – Richard Rohr OFM
ASK Addiction Survival Kit: Walking Back To Yourself – David Chaloner
David: Yeah. I’ve got some favorite books. One that I think every human being on the planet should read is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl because even in the death camps he describes what it is to be an addict. There is another beautiful book if you just want an understanding, which fills things in terms of science as well as the spiritual and emotional dimensions. It’s a beautiful little book by an American called Gerald May and it’s called “Addiction and Grace”. The book that I discovered not very long ago by a Franciscan monk in America, in New Mexico called Francis Rohr, he wrote a book called “Breathing Under Water” and what it is, is he read the 12 steps and went ‘wow’ and so he’s given an entire book to an expression of the 12 steps from the spiritual dimension and he’s done it beautifully.
What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
David: The best suggestion I’ve ever received is an old time member of AA who whenever I shared at a meeting would want to pass me and fire a little comment out of the corner of his mouth, which was so cryptic that I didn’t understand it, but I knew that it had come from the Big Book so I had to go read the damned Big Book again to find out what he meant. I was talking to his widow/wife last night oddly enough. He’s been dead 12 years now and he was sober for 40. On this particular occasion, he came past me one night after I shared at a meeting and he said “about time you got in the firing line” and I thought “what are you talking about now” and I reread the Big Book because I knew the answer would be in there and that line is actually in there and it is about those people who find that they should become addiction professionals, counselors and everything. He picked that in me when I was about four years sober, three or four years sober.
If you could give a newcomer only one suggestion, what would it be?
David: Don’t go away. Keep coming back until you get it.
SUGGESTION FOR THE NEWCOMER
“Don’t go away. Keep coming back until you get it.”
Thanks again for your SHAIR David!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.