Today we have Dr. Dean Robb joining us on The SHAIR Podcast. Dean is a recovery coach and the founder of Next Stage Recovery.
“I believe that we are all called to a path leading toward the “true self” or an authentic, congruent identity. Every person has an essential, God-given individuality – their unique “inner gold” – that is meant to be shared with a larger community. We are meant to be who we really are, and one important purpose of life is for us to discover, express and share our true self with the world. Conversely, I believe that emotional dysfunction and mental illness arise when we are not living authentically; i.e. when our outer lives are not congruent with our true inner self.” – Dr. Dean Robb
Clean Date: December 10, 1984
This episode was brought to you by Sober Nation
Here are Dr. Dean’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights:
Omar: Dean, let’s dive right in here. Tell us about how your life is today, your normal routine, including recovery and tell us about what you do, being a recovery coach, and about Next Stage Recovery.
Dr. Dean: Sure. Let’s start with that last piece, because that’s probably the easiest. I’m a recovery coach. I work with people in recovery from alcoholism, addictions of various kinds or codependency, and help them rebuild their lives, and often gain a greater sense of who they really are, and build a life that is more aligned with the true self, the authentic self. The idea for Next Stage Recovery came to me mostly from my own experience over the years of being in recovery. I have a little bit over 31 years now of recovery.
Dr. Dean: What I’ve noticed, and I include myself in this, but many, many people I’ve witnessed get sober, get clean, get better and then after a period of time … It could be a few years, it could be five years, it could be 10, it could be 20 years. They suddenly aren’t doing so well anymore. They’re hitting a bottom again. They’re not using, but things are not going well. Their life is falling apart. Their relationship is falling apart, their career is falling apart or they themselves are falling apart. That happened to me. What I have found personally and also working with and witnessing quite a few people is that’s the point in which I call it Next Stage Recovery.
You’ve gotten clean. You’ve gotten sober. You’ve learned how to live a so-called “normal” life, whatever that is. But now enough time has gone by and what I call your deep core issues, your deep, buried inner demons start coming up to the surface. What I’m talking about is the experience of childhood abuse or abandonment or trauma or just general dysfunction that really messed you up on a really, really deep level, but you stuffed it. You’ve held it down for many years, but that’s worn out. It’s not working anymore. Your life isn’t working anymore because the coping skills that you adopted as a child in that atmosphere of neglect or abandonment or abuse or trauma led for some dysfunctional coping skills that eventually subverted your life and caused a lot of things that you had built to come tumbling down. That’s the time to get down into that next layer of recovery, the next stage of recovery.
I discovered that I am really, really good at helping people with that for several reasons, one of which is I lived it personally. I went through my own literal hell in recovery and I came out the other side. I have natural gifts, I’ve discovered. One of the wonders of recovery is figuring out who you are. I have a lot of gifts of insight into people. I also went back to school and I got a doctorate in human development. I wanted to understand this process of living. In particular, what’s going on in people? Because I think this can happen over and over again, where you build a life. Part of it falls apart. You fall apart. Then it comes back together again and you come back together again. You’re stronger and wiser and more functional, if you deal with it appropriately. This can happen several times. I studied that and what’s going on there, why that happens, how it happens, how people move through that and grow and change and come out better.
That’s what I do. That’s the kind of people I work with. There’s a thousand recovery coaches that work with people in early recovery. I certainly will do that, but that’s not my specialty. I tend to work with people that already have first stage recovery down and they’re coming into this deeper level of recovery. On a daily basis, I work with clients on the phone or Skyping, either just audio or audio/video, if they wish. I do a certain amount of reading. I do a lot of writing. I go to some meetings and try to work on myself, work on my relationship with my wife, work on my spirituality, which is still growing and changing, and attend to my life.
Omar: Right, right. Now real quick, because you just mentioned one of my questions here, which is how do you maintain your spiritual condition, that conscious contact with a higher power? Do you meditate on a regular basis? What’s the spiritual connection you have on a daily basis?
Dr. Dean: I’ll tell you. I’ll be very honest with you. My spirituality is not on that basis. I do pray. I don’t pray on a daily basis. I pray when I feel something that I need to discuss with a higher power or when I feel awe in looking at nature, I’ll just talk to God about that. I’ll ask God about my parents, who are both gone. Sometimes I’ll ask God, “What the hell? What are you doing right now?”
Dr. Dean: To please inform me at least a little bit. Give me a clue. It’s very informal. As I’ve grown, I find my spirituality extending to all of nature. I don’t know why, but the natural world has become very, very sacred to me. I didn’t used to be that way. I watch what’s happening ecologically right now, and I feel this deep, deep sorrow. I just want to cry. It’s some kind of development in my spirituality. Carl Jung … Are you familiar with Carl Jung?
Dr. Dean: He was very, very important to me in my spirituality. I think that he is probably the most important influence in my personal spiritual path is the work of Carl Jung in dealing with the deep self, the unconscious, the archetypal deep self and dealing with dreams. I dream a lot. I try to analyze my dreams. Sometimes I’m successful. It’s very informal with me, but nonetheless, I feel it. It’s a deep part of who I am.
Omar: Absolutely. The reason why I ask this question is because it’s unique and special for everyone that I interview, and there has been more than one interviewee that has expressed their connection with a higher power through nature. Touching the ground, being out in nature, being able to be amazed and be wondered by what is out there. In many cases, that’s where they find their ability to meditate, to be quiet, to connect and to allow the messages to com in. Yeah. No, it’s all very, very personal. Everyone has their own spiritual practice, and it’s the reason why I ask the question, because there’s a lot of people that first come into the program. They hear that it’s a spiritual, not religious, type of program. What does that mean then? What is my spirituality? How does that look? How is it going to look?
Without putting any sort of a definition on it, you get the opportunity to define that on your own. As your time progresses, much like yourself, it has evolved to what it is today. Correct?
Dr. Dean: Absolutely. One thing I didn’t mention which probably I should is how radically different it is today. I was brought up in … I’m not going to really go into names, but a very fundamentalist religion. Very rigid, dogmatic, fundamentalist religion with a very punishing view of God. It damaged me. I became an atheist in high school, basically in rebellion. I was an atheist all the way up until I surrendered to my alcoholism. I had a spiritual experience that inaugurated my recovery, that broke through that atheism. It took me years and years in recovery to undo the damage that was done by that rigid, fundamentalist, dogmatic, punishing God that I grew up in. A lot of the Carl Jung stuff was extremely helpful to me in undoing that and in fact, helping me to read and interpret the scriptures that I was taught in an entirely new way that did not have anything to do with the punishing shame-based God concept that I grew up with.
Omar: Let’s talk first about the newcomers, and then let’s talk about the Next Stage people, guys that have got a little bit more recovery. If someone is coming in for the first time, into recovery, what are some key points or key suggestions that you would give someone that’s very new to recovery?
Dr. Dean: Immerse yourself. Complete immersion. Don’t put one toe in the pool. Jump in. Start going to meetings, lots of them. Share. Get a sponsor and actually use that sponsor. Start getting into the steps if you can, when you’re ready. I could barely read when I came in. It took me a little while. I was so messed up from the drugs. I could barely comprehend a sentence. That’s what I mean when you’re ready. Join a group. Get involved in that group. You’re looking at making a wholesale change in your life. You might as well just do it. Don’t half ass it. Do it.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER!
Omar: Yeah. That’s perfect. That’s absolutely perfect. Now that is a lot of what the suggestions that is given by many of the people that I interview, because I always ask that question, what would you recommend to a newcomer. Now let’s discuss someone who has got somewhere in the neighborhood of two to five years. They’ve worked the steps. They’ve worked the program in their lives. Their lives have gotten better. They find that it’s become redundant, boring. They’ve lost their connection with the program. They are starting to miss meetings. They’re starting to become disillusioned with the idea that maybe somehow, some way, they’re not an addict or an alcoholic. What would you tell someone in that predicament?
Dr. Dean: Well, there’s several things in there. One is just becoming … I don’t know what the word is. Disillusioned or it’s lost it’s luster.
Dr. Dean: Some of that just has to be born and nothing is pretty forever. Everything loses its luster. It will change again. You’ve gotta stay true to what will get you better and don’t abandon what is getting you better. But by the same token, you’ve gotta go inward and say, “What is missing?” Something is missing. Meetings by themselves are no longer enough. Maybe what’s happening, what you described is the early inklings of a life crisis, that if you don’t take care of it can lead to a life crisis. I’d say stay true to your recovery, even though it’s no longer la-dee-da, love and fun all the time. But you have to turn inward and find out what is missing, because it sounds like you’ve got a hole in the soul. That is one of the core reasons, in my opinion, why people use. That hole can come up in recovery and you have to go in it and find out what is it?
Is it your spirituality that’s lacking? Or maybe you’re hung up on a religion that no longer works for you but you’re afraid to admit it. Maybe you need to think about a new career. Maybe you need new friends. Maybe your life is just freaking boring and you’re not doing anything interesting. You have to ask, “What the hell is going on right now? Why am I feeling this way?” Find out what is wrong and deal with it, because it isn’t going away. I’ll tell you that much. Sticking your head in the sand is not going to help. Going back to drinking won’t help. It will plunge you right back into hell or your addiction. You were just having the little bit of a dark night of the soul, which is something that’s recognized among all people who follow a spiritual path. It indicates something needing to be done at a deeper level, that you’re not dealing with. I can’t say what it is because I don’t know who you are.
Dr. Dean: It’s different for each person.
Omar: Wow, man. That is just beautifully, beautifully put. I found the book here. Is this the one you’re referring to? “Spiritual Bypassing” by Robert Augustus Masters.
Dr. Dean: I believe so. Yeah.
Omar: Okay. That’s it. Are there any other books that you would recommend to our listeners?
Dr. Dean: For Next Stage type stuff, I would recommend buying, you can get it online, the ACA … What’s called the Red Book. It’s like their version of the AA Big Book. It’s called the ACA Red Book. All you have to do is Google that and you will find somewhere that you can buy it. It’s a hardback book and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read for dealing with this stuff. Another one that I think is very important, and it was written a long time ago, but it’s absolutely still one of the best, most pointed, most illuminating books is “The Drama of the Gifted Child” written by Alice Miller, I believe. It talks about how children get damaged and traumatized and it illuminates all kinds of subtle nuances that you were totally blind to prior to that. It is absolutely mind-blowing. When you read it, suddenly you start understanding everything that happened to you and what it did to you as a child. I would say those two books were very, very important to me.
DR. DEAN’S BOOKS
Omar: Beautiful. Folks, I’m going to have this listed on the show notes. Be sure to go to the website. Click on those. More importantly, Dr. Robb, do you coach people online?
Dr. Dean: Yes.
Omar: Okay. You can do it physically. You do it online.
Dr. Dean: Yes.
Omar: Tell our listeners the best way that they can reach you if they’d like to ask you to coach them.
Dr. Dean: Sure. You can call me. I’ll give you my phone number. It’s 1-908-757-4721. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Dr. Dean Robb!
See you then!
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.