May 16, 2014 – Bill White – SPIRITUALITY AND RECOVERY

A new book, Experiencing Spirituality, co-authored by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, has just been released. It will find a broad and appreciative audience and will be of particular interest to addiction professionals, recovery support specialists, and people in recovery. It is not a treatise on how to recover, but it offers profound insights about how to live one’s life in recovery. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, Experiencing Spirituality is one of those rare books readers will return to again and again as a balm for old and fresh wounds and as a meditation on how to live a life of greater balance, fulfillment, and self-acceptance.
Kurtz is best known to readers of this site for his classic text, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ketcham for her co-authorship of Under the Influence and Beyond the Influence. In 1992, Kurtz and Ketcham co-authored The Spirituality of Imperfection, which used classic stories to explore the spiritual legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Spirituality of Imperfection is one of my all-time favorite books. For years, I have returned to its pages and recommended it and sent copies of it to friends facing major challenges and life transitions. Our collective appreciation for what the book offered at critical junctures in our lives created hopes for a follow-up book by the authors. Now, more than two decades later, that long-awaited follow-up has arrived.
Experiencing Spirituality continues the use of carefully selected, well-crafted stories drawn from diverse cultural and religious traditions to reveal profound truths about the human experience. The stories operate at two levels–the enjoyment and meaning contained within each story and the topical juxtaposition of stories within the book that creates larger breakthroughs of perception and understanding. The stories are used by the authors to explore tragedy, grief, hate, wrath, envy, and pride, and to elevate us through discussions of awe, virtue, gratitude, listening, forgiveness, fidelity, justice, loyalty, humility, humor, prayer, recovery, and community.
If asked. “What do these vulnerabilities and virtues have to do with addiction recovery?” some would say, “Nothing,” while others, including myself, would declare, “Everything.” The corruption of character is a near-universal dimension of the addiction experience, making the reconstruction of character, identity, and interpersonal relationships central tasks within the long-term recovery process. Experiencing Spirituality vividly illuminates these tasks, relying on the inherited stories of those who previously traveled such journeys of personal metamorphosis. No reader will appreciate Experiencing Spirituality more than those in the process of healing and rebuilding their lives. Recovery is ultimately a process of recasting one’s own story–weaving new meaning into the past while transforming imminent tragedy into redemptive drama. Readers in such circumstances will find this book a source of hope and light.
There is also an aged simplicity and solidness to Experiencing Spirituality that readers will find deeply comforting. The stories and lessons Kurtz and Ketcham have selected are ones that have withstood the test of time. Reading Experiencing Spirituality will provide continual opportunities for self-reflection, but, as one will discover in its pages, spirituality is in its essence something quite different than self-exploration. It is about helping us, in an age of obsession with self, to connect with resources and relationships beyond the self. It is in that leap out of self and self-consciousness that one finds the potential for authentic connection and communion and the path through experience and knowledge to wisdom. My deepest thanks to Ernie Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham for offering us maps to guide us on this journey.

March 1, 2014Bill White
Media 1.jpg
The major media outlets have long been chastised for the content and style of their coverage of alcohol- and drug-related problems. Such criticisms include the glamorization of drug use, the demonization of drug users, and charges that the media is complicit in ineffective drug policies. Few have raised parallel concerns that popular media coverage of addiction recovery is rare, often poorly selected, and told through a lens that does little to welcome the estranged person back into the heart of community life. If media representatives do not “get it” (“it” being recovery), then what precisely is it that they don’t get? What are the mistold and untold stories and their personal and public consequences to which media leaders ought to be held accountable?
I have just posted a new paper that offers the following twelve points from the perspective of a long-tenured recovery advocate.
1. Distorted media coverage of active addiction fuels social stigma and contributes to the discrimination that many people in recovery face as they enter the recovery process.
2. Media coverage of addiction recovery is rare and tangential.
3. The media mistakenly conflate recovery with active addiction and addiction treatment with addiction recovery.
4. Media outlets portray addiction recovery as an exception to the rule.
5. Media coverage of drug-related celebrity mayhem and death contributes to professional and public pessimism about the prospects of successful, long-term addiction recovery.
6. When the story of recovery is told, it is most often told from the perspective of the recovery initiate rather than from the perspective of long-term recovery.
7. When personal recovery is conveyed by the media as a dramatic story of redemption, the media often inflate and elevate the recovering person to a pedestal position and then circle like piranhas in a feeding frenzy at the first sign of any failure to live up to that imposed image.
8. The media seek to make the personal recovery story as dramatic as possible by emphasizing the details of the addictions story while glossing over the processes and fruits of long-term personal and family recovery.
9. The media fixation on celebrity addiction and recovery is a diversion from a much larger and more important story.
10. The media tell the story of recovery only as a personal story rather than a larger story of the role of family and community in addiction recovery.
11. The rare media portrayals of recovery often depict only a single pathway of addiction recovery.
12. Media representatives are only just beginning to recognize newly emerging recovery support institutions and the existence of an ecumenical culture of recovery that together are uniting people from diverse pathways and styles of long-term recovery.
Media 2.jpgAs the eternal optimist, I await with great anticipation a new quality of media coverage of addiction recovery. The Breaking Bad stories have been told ad nauseam. It’s time for a new generation of journalists, scriptwriters, and filmmakers to convey the Breaking Good stories.
For those wishing to read the complete paper, click here.


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