addiction recovery spirituality

Robert Hammond joins us on the SHAIR Podcast.  Robert is an author, a writer and a consultant. He is the Author of self-help and consumer finance books, including Life After Debt, which sold over 100,000 copies as well as a film and television writer/producer.  Hammond’s script “C.B. DeMille” won Best Screenplay at the 2011 Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival.

He was also a dope fiend for many years where he lost everything, jobs, relationships, and his self-respect. He compromised all of his values and principles along the way and lost time that he can never get back.  Addicted to heroin, heading to prison, suffering from depression and a host of physical ailments. He was literally on death’s door.

As part of my treatment plan, Robert’s counselor arranged for him to write out his moral inventory in the form of a memoir. For more than an hour a day he poured out all my thoughts and memories. The result was a catharsis that led to emotional healing and spiritual insight.  Writing transformed his life and he has seen it transform the lives of countless others. Stories heal. Stories change lives.

Clean Date: October 31, 1997

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The SHAIR podcast YouTube channelOmar: So let’s dive right in, Robert take us into your normal routine including recovery.

Robert: I used to live in Southern California and I was a lot more active down there. I was in a lot of these big meetings, a lot of big sponsorship. I’ve been up in the Bay Area for the last few years. I’ve been to meetings up here as well.  I still have a sponsor down there so I talk to him on the phone. I’m not a super meeting all the time person as much as I used to be to be honest. I believe in the 12 steps and the process, for my recovery right now, it’s about really just doing those steps.

Omar: So what was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?

Robert: I would say the biggest things were pride and stubbornness. Thinking that I knew it all. Somebody would say something to me and I would go, “Yeah, I know, I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Omar: I remember that.

Robert: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know, I know.

Omar: I know nothing.

Robert: That’s the thing, it’s that pride. A lot of times we think of pride and self-esteem as positives and they can be as far as a sense of dignity or feeling okay about who you are. However, that know-it-all-ness, which I still suffer from quite often, it doesn’t let you learn and won’t let you change because you think you know.

Omar: At what point did you have that spiritual awakening, that Aha moment in recovery when you said that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recovery?

Robert: Oh, boy. I think the first time I really had real hope was when I first went to a 12-step meeting. I was actually about 20 and I went to this place called Crying Out down in North Hollywood. First when I went to those meetings it was like, “Oh, wow! This is a lot different than the churches that I’d gone to. A lot different than the attack group therapies. There’s a hope here. There’s a real genuine affection, people sharing with each other.” I really felt that there was a light there.

Omar: Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?

Robert: I mentioned The Bible, the gospels, those real spiritual stories. Not for everyone necessarily to convert to a specific religion. Those stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, those kind of gospels, where there’s actual healing miracles. Reading them even if you just read it as a literature and just say, “That’s a story whether I want to believe it or not.” Just know that there’s something that’s deeper. Those are some of the ones I would suggest. There’s a couple of other ones you might be probably more for maybe more mainstream, not necessarily as religious or spiritual. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. I don’t know if you’ve read that.

Omar: Yes, yeah, great book.

Robert: Definitely Road Less Traveled. The Power of Now we talked about briefly. I did read that in early recovery. Obviously we talked about the 12-step books which I’m sure most people are aware of those. Here’s one that probably most people have never read, never heard of I read recently. It’s a little book you kind of have to look for it. You can probably find it on the Internet but it’s called A Guide to True Peace. It’s a little book and it’s just about a spiritual practice. It’s kind of like what I was talking about before. It’s kind of like the inner prayer life. Look at what they call the prayer of the heart. Those are the books that I’d probably recommend.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Bible

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Trade Edition

The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth – M. Scott Peck MD

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle

A Guide to True Peace: or A Method of Attaining to Inward and Spiritual Prayer – by François Fénelon, Lady Guion, Michael de Molinos

Omar: What is the best suggestion you have ever received?

Robert: The biggest one is that I really talk about is gratitude. It’s sort of a cliché. Attitude of gratitude. It’s easy to say it. Oh, yeah just be grateful but we’re really not always that grateful. One of the things one of my sponsors says if I complain about my life. “Oh poor me. I don’t have a girlfriend.” Or “Poor me. I don’t have that much money in my bank account. I’ve got bills to pay, blah, blah, blah.” He would tell me, “You know what? This is what you should do. You should go down to the prison and find one of these guys that are on death row or doing a life sentence and tell them about how bad your life is.” See if they feel sorry for you. Find a guy in hospital with a terminal disease or somebody in a wheelchair that’s a quadriplegic and talk to them about your problems and tell them how bad you’ve got it.

Omar: If you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would it be?

Robert: The biggest thing I would say is this, it’s never too late to start over. A lot of times people think, “Oh, it’s too late for me.” I used to say that all the time. By the time I finally got sober this time I was 42. I had been in and out of jails most of my life. I had lost my marriage, my son was estranged, my family was disappointed in me. My health, I’ve got hepatitis C, I’m going to die of liver cancer.  That was 20 years ago an obviously life is much better now. It’s all redeemable.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER

“…it’s never too late to start over.”

You can start over any day no matter how many times you’ve gone out and relapsed. People think, “Oh, well, it’s too late now because I’ve gone back out again.” No, it’s not. Come back. You can come back. Keep coming back. Don’t give up. If you’ve got a breath in you even if you’re in prison doing a life sentence you still have life. There’s still something to be grateful for. It’s never too late, that’s really the big thing. As long as you have breath you have life. To add to that, look to that light within yourself. There’s a light there, the image of God that you’re created in. That’s who you are. That’s in you. It’s deep down. You need to be still for a while and look. When it’s all dark, look for that light.

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Thanks again for your SHAIR, Robert!

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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.