Khi from Northampton explained the importance of the Three Principles method
One of Dr Margo Livingston clients is 23-year-old Khi, who developed an addiction after going through physical changes, as he wanted to “block out” the feminine side that he was originally born with. He has not taken any drugs or alcohol for more than a month now but mentions it being a “daily battle.” Things like meditation and Three Principle sessions helped him a lot to understand his mind and what is going on within, which is why he thinks replacement drugs are not a solution.
Having been through the gender change process when he was 18, there were other mental health issues that Khi had to face. He said, “I developed drug and alcohol problems to block out what is going on in me.”
“The Three Principles method helped me to look beyond of what we’ve all been taught. The universal thought is quite powerful.”-said Khi, who is currently on the route to recovery.
Testimonials taken from The Mariposa Study (Banerjee et al. 2007)
The 3 Principles Difference: Illuminating what Research Cannot Measure:
True case stories of clients in substance abuse treatment at Mariposa Lodge who have learned about the 3 Principles. Names and some identifying details have been changed, and each woman’s race has been omitted, to protect confidentiality.
Trisha is a 51 year old bisexual woman, a former drug addict, who now has multiple years of sobriety. To meet her today, you wouldn’t image the story behind her life; her relaxed outlook and easy smile lie in sharp contradiction to her history and her struggles. Trisha openly declares her sobriety miraculous, and people who really understand her and her life, know this true. In fact, many people who knew Trisha prior to her recovery, literally still can not believe she is alive, let alone functioning. That she is enjoying being alive, that she finds sobriety easy and that life itself seems rewarding to her is beyond comprehension.
Trisha entered Mariposa Lodge for treatment on May 20th of 2001. This treatment admission was her twentieth attempt at treatment with Mariposa, her 54th treatment attempt in total. Trying to clean up was nothing new to her; she had been attempting to get sober since age twelve when she began seeing a Christian Science practitioner to be “healed”. Persistence is a quality that saved Trisha’s life, and certainly no one could accuse her of a lack of determination. For Trisha, the treatment environment was a haven, a refuge. When her life got too horrific to bear, Trisha removed herself from it - for a rest. Many times she entered treatment freshly raped or recently beat up. Some treatments were a way out of jail for her. This last treatment episode began the same way – Trisha had almost died, trapped, lost in the Santa Cruz Mountains for three days with no food or water, coming down off of a life threatening physical and psychological addiction to alcohol, methadone and klonopin. She, to this day, has no recollection of how she got disoriented in the woods, or why she was even there. All she knows is that she came out of a blackout, alone, in the wilderness.
To understand Trisha’s addiction requires an appreciation of her life. Trisha’s early years were a dichotomy; raised in the Christian Science faith, she loved God fiercely with all her being, and yet hated herself with a severity few people can even grasp. Her family was dedicated to Christian and metaphysical values and was, to the outside world, the model of a loving home. Inside the home, Trisha describes a feeling of suffocating oppression; heaviness and harshness escalated into mental, verbal and physical abuse that tortured her and left her constantly running from the home others thought was so perfect and wholesome. At age eleven, Trisha discovered alcohol, and for the first time, fun; from her first drink she drank alcoholically – every day, and for the effect. Every night when Trisha returned home from a day of “fun”, her mother would attack her, choking her and screaming at her for coming home drunk once again. Her mother’s anger impacted Trisha in a manner opposite its’ intention; rather than preventing Trisha from drinking again for fear of the consequences, it fueled her drinking even further, pushing her into an isolated world of self-hatred and self-loathing.
“No one could hate me more than I hated me. I resented being on earth. I hated life on earth and wanted off. I hated my parents for having me, because they didn’t want me anyway. I was very suicidal . . . seriously suicidal . . . serious attempts.”
Trisha’s substance abuse progressed as her life continued. She graduated to more and more substances in ever increasing quantities. Her chemical dependency history includes long term relationships with not only alcohol but heroin, crank, cocaine, benzodiazepines and opiate pain medications. Staying loaded was her most important goal in life, and as a means to this objective Trisha found ways to obtain what she needed, whether it be cleaning houses and motels, stealing or prostituting. Trisha, like many others who suffer from substance abuse, also suffered mentally and often, during treatment received diagnoses that included ADHD, severe depression, dementia and personality disorders that “they didn’t talk to me about”, she says. In her drinking and using career Trisha, always violent, enraged and full of hate, often came face to face with the criminal justice system and thinks she was probably arrested between twenty and twenty five times for charges ranging from under the influence to drunk driving to assault and battery on police officers.
Trisha guesses she tried to kill herself seriously fifteen times, with many more near death experiences due to overdosing during blackouts. She injected herself with ammonia and with bleach on two occasions, purposefully overdosed on her antidepressants and tried to shoot herself with a gun on another occasion, leaving a bullet hole in her parent’s bedroom wall. She recalls waking up many times in county hospitals after overdosing on the streets and being saved by passer-by’s who called 911. When asked how she could have been schooled in such a spiritual manner and loved God so truly and intensely, yet hated herself so viciously that she wanted to die, she responded that she simply thought she really had a double personality. In the midst of this world of pain and self-destruction Trisha, at age 37, had a baby. More than anything, Trisha loved her child and wanted to be a good mother; her child was the only reason she felt she had to stay alive, and yet she knew deeply that she was in no position to care for another human being. Eventually her child was placed with family, and Trisha, knowing this was best for her baby, could only hate herself all the more for her failures and inabilities. Her substance abuse reached new lows during this time, and she lived on the edge of death as a lifestyle. When asked how she survived, Trisha responded that “truly only the hand of a loving universe protected me from myself”. Ultimately, and fortunately, she failed at killing herself with her own hatred, her substance abuse and her suicide attempts.
When she checked into rehab for the final time, barely consciousness, Trisha remembers that although she felt the same, the facility she knew so well felt different to her. For the first time, she didn’t feel a condescending or patronizing attitude from the staff:
“The usual staff attitude towards me was, ‘Trisha’s back again to wreak some havoc and blow out of here with another broad as a hostage’. I don’t blame them – that’s what I did. That’s all I knew.” This time, something had changed, and despite her confusion and physical condition, Trisha noticed it. For the first time, she felt people cared about her, not the condition she was in, the position she’d put herself in, or the advice she’d ignored. Trisha felt a genuine concern from the staff, and a feeling of hopefulness for her despite her relapse history. She felt the staff saw her now, not through the lens of memories about her, how difficult she was, and how she had failed previously. She could tell she was being seen as healthy, as a person with possibilities, and not being seen for her behaviors, her difficulties or even her personality.
When asked if it could have been her that had changed, Trisha was adamant: “No, the entire feeling at Mariposa changed”, she says. “I felt it the minute I got back. I always wanted help, I was always hurting, but this time, people loved me even though I didn’t love myself. I felt so much love I just felt like I couldn’t let this staff [who believed in me] down. And the only change at the facility was “Health Realization.” The staff was the same- same people. The structure was the same – same schedule, same rules. The difference was “Health Realization” had been brought to the staff – they were different.” Because Trisha had such a lengthy experience with 12 Step recovery, therapy, traditional psychoeducation and cognitive behavioral approaches, and because those approaches had not worked for her, she was a prime candidate for the 3 Principles-based tract at Mariposa. Treatment in this tract, a separate subprogram on the Mariposa facility, was based solely on the 3 Principles, the new paradigm based on the principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness discovered by Sydney Banks and developed by Roger Mills, Ph.D. and George Pransky, Ph.D. as a clinical and community approach.
In treatment, Trisha’s physical and psychological wounds began to heal as she learned the same principles that the entire staff had been asked to embrace to whatever degree they could. She, along with 21 other women in her unit, learned the basics of the new approach: that each human being, including her, has within them a wellspring of mental health that is accessible at all times; that this health can not be created nor destroyed, it just is. And that her mental health could only be held at a distance from her temporarily through the use of the power of Thought brought to life by Consciousness. For the first time in her life, people pointed Trisha to what was already whole and healthy within her. Fairly quickly, coping mechanisms that had saved Trisha, and yet almost killed her at the same time, slipped away. Her mental well-being re-emerged and she began to make decisions she had never before considered: engaging with her mental health team, taking medication and working in tandem with her doctor to adjust her dosages, accepting disability as a safety net to allow her access to services and support in the community until she was strong enough to return full time to the work force; staying away from unhealthy relationships and forming friendships with sober people, and finally, slowly, contacting her family and her child to earn their trust and faith. All of these decisions Trisha made on her own. No one recommended to her what she should do. Instead they asked her what she wanted for herself and accepted each answer as it came.
Treatment was long for Trisha, 7 months when the average length of stay allowed for clients by the county at that time was 45 days. Because of the severity of her addiction and her previous treatment attempts, extra time was given to her by the managed care system until she was ready to leave the facility. When asked if the extra time may have been what helped her, Trisha again seems sure it is not. Previous long term programs had failed her. She credits what she came to understand about the Principles as the critical difference for her. The change in the way the staff approached her allowed her to thaw, to trust, to try, to hope, and to learn. And, what she learned for herself about her own psychological functioning, her mental health, is what she credits with sustaining her in her recovery. Today Trisha has a life she never imaged her could have – she sees her child regularly but does not disrupt the stability of his home. She is maintaining a chemical free life, and she now works full time at Mariposa, helping other women just like herself. Her cognitive functioning has, to an astonishing degree, repaired itself. She is happy to be alive; she enjoys her life and is glad she is still on the planet. Above all she is grateful that something new emerged within the field of dependency treatment, something new that helped her save her own life. She is, to those of us that know and love her, an unbelievable miracle.
Arianna’s story is similar in ways, yet also different from Trisha’s. For Arianna, the impact of the Principles was very personal. It was not tied to the facility environment but rather to the purity of the Principles. Her story is as dramatic, and her recovery just as amazing, but the details of her recovery highlight important differences between a principle based and the traditional models of addiction and mental health recovery. Arianna was born in 1970, making her 36 at the time of this interview. She describes her family life as difficult; there was a great deal of anger, frustration and disconnectedness, as well as frequent physical outbursts. While she recalls that time as painful and she also chooses not to dwell on it or even discuss it publicly out of respect to her family members. “It’s not that I’m in denial”, she says, “It’s just that I have a different understanding now of what happened. At the time I didn’t understand and so I took it personally; what happened to me in that environment I took personally and the older I got the less I was able to recover emotionally from the constant negativity. At the time I felt lost, alone and unsafe. That’s really all you need to know to understand.”
As a result of her difficult feelings, Arianna’s late teens and young adulthood years included two involuntary commitments to psychiatric lockdown facilities, at least ten separate stays in juvenile hall, multiple group home placements (from which she always ran away), and in her adulthood, more than twenty arrests for various drug related offenses. Many times the authorities would place Arianna in a mental hospital instead of jail. Doctors and therapists diagnosed her with different disorders and felt her behavior was not the result of a criminal mind, but rather a manic episode. Despite these difficult times and what now amounts to a very long ‘rap sheet’, Arianna is grateful for her rebellious spirit as she knows it saved her life. In her mind, her choice was to either fight back and survive, or surrender to the emotional pain within her and die. This choice to rebel instilled in her an unquestionable need to not be controlled by other people and an amazing sensitivity to people with an agenda of their own. Her tendency to revolt and need to protect herself was misunderstood by most people who, instead of seeing a healthy individual trying desperately to survive, saw a sick young woman who needed to be diagnosed and institutionalized. Her doctors saw her through different lenses, with ideas like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, but really understanding Arianna and her mindset about life explains these presentations. However, her coping styles had a difficult side effect, resulting in years of incarceration and severe drug addiction – her method of coping with feelings of insecurity and wildly changing internal realities.
Despite trying to get clean and sober since her early twenties, Arianna approached her middle 30’s suicidal, mentally ill, and gravely substance dependence. She had nearly killed herself numerous times, at one point almost losing her arm, and her life from an abscess due to intravenous drug use that spread towards her heart. Eventually she contracted hepatitis and in the late stages of her using, became critically ill. Of those difficult years she recalls: “It’s mind blowing how your soul simply cannot be stamped out, not even by yourself.” Finding herself in the county jail once again, Arianna was mandated to a series of classes that included a class that taught the Principles. It was in this therapeutic boot camp that she met a DADS Principles based instructor. She describes the majority of the classes there as painful or not helpful. This class, however, stood out as different to her. “I looked like I was present and accounted for, but I wasn’t. I was in a fog. Being in and out of custody so often, everything was a blur to me. But this teacher’s class, it did something to me . . . Her class was the only class I wanted to go to because I liked the way I felt there. It was different. For the first time, I wasn’t treated like a case or a number, or given a label. I was told I had wisdom – It was a completely different message than I was given – ever. I was completely opposite from my other classes. It was opposite and it was accurate.” To appreciate the context of this comment requires understanding Arianna had participated in literally thousands of hours of therapy, counselling and various programs designed to help her change her behavior. Some she found temporarily helpful, although not sustaining. She describes this kind of help as having an unwelcome consequence of often overwhelming her with how sick and damaged she was and which she found painful and confusing. In fact, Arianna had been labelled “treatment resistant” due to her inability to significantly change despite interventions.
In the class on the Principles Arianna found something different. She found, even without clearly understanding the class material, she instantly felt better and more hopeful. She liked what she heard, but at the same time, in other classes she was hearing a variety of ideas about why she was addicted, why she was in custody and what she should do about it:
“It was confusing because my other classes told me something different; they told me that I was sick and needed to work on myself. I knew I liked the Principles class and that they were telling me the truth – I could feel it. But because I was attending other classes that told me the opposite of the Principles, the message wasn’t pure; it wasn’t consistent. I think that’s why when I got out, I got caught back up.” Arianna was released from custody, and was picked up by her boyfriend who was still using. She pick up her old life where she left off and got caught up again using, landing in jail once again, this time having stolen a car and been picked up under the influence. “I knew what to look for this time though,” she says. Arianna went straight towards Principles classes, and listened to the instruction about her psychological health. This time, upon her release from custody she was mandated to a drug treatment facility.
At the residential treatment program, during her first ten days in treatment, Arianna was given traditional Twelve Step based treatment. She found herself intensely dissatisfied, feeling once again not helped and seen by professionals as sick. Remembering her experience with Principles class while in custody, she approached the administrative staff demanding that she be allowed to change therapeutic milieus or else she would leave treatment. Leaving treatment, because she was mandated by the court, would have meant that Arianna would have gone back to jail and had to face the judge who at that time was contemplating sending her to prison - but she didn’t care.
“I couldn’t tolerate the negative approaches to getting better. I would get a sinking feeling, a hopeless feeling. I knew it wouldn’t work for me, and not because I had an attitude, but because I instinctively knew. I knew the truth. “ At the time, the facility was participating in a pilot program using and researching the effect of pure Principles based addiction treatment. Arianna was moved into “B Lodge”, the Principles-based tract at Mariposa. She says she instantly found a better feeling, a better fit, for herself. After two weeks of twice a day classes, in which the three principles were repeated to her over and over again without the interference of other approaches, Arianna says: “I woke up one morning and came to class and as the teacher was talking about the Principles. I was overcome with this beautiful feeling. I had sort of been feeling lighter with each day since attending the classes but this day was different. I became completely clear. Not intellectually, but in my heart. The weight of thirty two years of a traumatized psyche vanished and I was released. It was so beautiful I have never to this day been able to describe accurately what exactly it is I experienced but I understood that I was healed and the healing came from inside of me, from this beautiful feeling. I went into a state of pure well being. My mind got totally still for a minute and I got well.”
Often manic, Arianna distinguishes this feeling from the hyper euphoria she was used to, “It was real,” she says, “everything on this whole planet looked different to me, which was strange because I wasn’t expecting that. It was strange because I hadn’t expected, or even thought it was possible that I could get my life problems solved, and yet my mind peeled back and I SAW. I felt clear. I saw what I had been searching for and that it had been there within me all along. I was not excited, but instead I was very quiet inside, very calm. And it lasted and lasted.” Until this experience, Arianna reports she always struggled with cravings for drugs, which she never felt she could control. Instead she would simply resort to getting high to relieve the intense feelings of anxiety inside herself. One of the things that surprised her most was that after her insight the idea of drugs no longer occurred to her. “My cravings disappeared completely. All my compulsiveness left me. I felt sick thinking about drugs, I didn’t even want them.”
Arianna’s peace of mind and lasted for quite a while and she recalls only periodically being disturbed over daily life. However, she found being in B Lodge and attending daily classes on the Principles, her feelings cleared up right away. “It was so important to have that time at Mariposa where it was purely just the Principles and people who understood them. The teachers were pure and clear. They were deep and they could handle any question, or explain any issue I had and relate it back to how the Principles worked. That was so key for me to have that continual teaching during that stage of my learning. Without it, I would have just tried to figure it out intellectually without really understanding. The truth just kept being shown to me over and over again. There was never any exception or diversion.”
Approximately five weeks into treatment Arianna left the safety of the facility on a pass to appear in court. While in the community, in fact just outside the court room, Arianna was offered drugs by a friend from her past. She remembers watching her own mind create a craving, which she says lasted inside of her for several hours. It was the first time she had ever experienced craving – and not used. She credits her ability to wait out the craving to her understanding of how the human mind functions to create reality. “I didn’t have to use, because I understood where my feeling, my craving, was coming from. I saw the memories come into my mind as thoughts, and as that happened I felt myself get sick in my stomach. Then I had a brand new thought, the thought that I didn’t have to use. It was a jump in my understanding. I saw thought in action, like a movie. I saw thought creating. My physical body was feeling my thought. My physical body had nothing to do with life or the drug, but just my thoughts. It wasn’t seeing the drug that triggered me, it was my own mind. She continued, my main prison in life,” she says, “was my mind. No one had ever explained my own mind to me,” she says. “Never had all the other ideas and concepts and theories been completely set aside for me to just get some time to consider the truth – just the truth of how my own mind had been holding me hostage. I finally knew what the real kind of control was, the good kind of control. I felt pure positive power. I saw the danger was not outside me, but that the danger was only my own thoughts. Simultaneously, I knew that I needed to get back to Mariposa immediately. I knew how to take care of myself and get myself calmed down and back to safety. I had a choice then, which I never had before. It was beautiful.”
Not only did Arianna not use, she returned to treatment to share what she had learned, and to continue to learn more. Arianna feels this extended amount of time in a concentrated setting where she learned just the Principles, and not anything else, helped her get unshakably clear about her own psychological functioning and mental well being. The focus on health, rather than disease or illness, showed her what she had inside herself to work with – something that had never been damaged by her very difficult life. “All it took for me to be healed was to understand. And what it took for me to understand was to be in an environment where someone else who understood, could explain it to me clearly. I was pointed to the principles behind my life, not to the destruction in my life. There was nothing in my life to help me – looking at that did nothing for me except make me feel bad. I needed to know where it all came from. The mental and emotional distress I was experiencing didn’t come from my family, my life experiences or anywhere else . . . it came from how my mind held the experience and what it meant to me, and all that was within my own mind.” Arianna successfully completed treatment and processed through the county’s managed care system into a sober living home and outpatient treatment. She continued attending classes on the Principles offered by HRSD and feels that these classes helped her deepen and support her understanding. “I didn’t have to work at not being addicted,” she says. “I have no triggers or real urges anymore. I didn’t even have to work on all my crazy behaviors either. Everything has worked itself out naturally -- I just feel better having some understanding, and that feeling helps me have a better, more productive life. I also saw I wanted to take my understanding deeper. I knew I had only begun to understand these principles and I wanted to know more. Actually you couldn’t have kept me away from these classes; I wanted to attend and to find deeper and deeper levels of health within myself.”
That is not to say her life after treatment was easy; Arianna faced many serious challenges including finishing her dealings with the legal system, dealing with complicated family and relationship issues, and completing a year of intense treatment for hepatitis. Arianna has had her ups and downs, but her own certainty in her mental well-being has grounded and anchored her. She knows she isn’t damaged, and she knows to look to the power of Thought within herself whenever she is unsettled or unhappy. Today Arianna is an A student in college, has completed several years of training to be an instructor of the Principles, and now teaches people what she knows about the Principles and health and well-being. Everyone from recovering women in treatment to police officers are looking to understand the mentality of an addict. Of her understanding of the Principles, she says, “It was life saving, not only life saving but this understanding has given me the ability to experience a quality of life that is far beyond what I had ever imagined possible for someone like me.” Today Arianna is not only not substance dependent; she is one of the most powerful teachers of the Principles in the County. She is living example of the power of innate health. She is proof positive of what can happen to anyone who can hear the power of the message of the principles.
Bernadette’s story completes our trio. While she shares some common traits with her Mariposa sisters, her story adds something completely new to our appreciation of the impact learning about the Principles has on women seeking recovery from substance abuse. Bernadette’s life is an example of the unknown power of Principles to affect not only psychological well being, but physical well being as well. She, while being another woman who looked hopeless under the influence, has shown all of us the power of human resiliency, regardless of circumstance or condition – including relapse. She is an inspiration and teacher to those who will come after her, but even more so to those of us who came before her -- and were at one time, her teachers.
Bernadette is what you would call a “professional”, a career woman who is now in her late 50’s. She was born in Pennsylvania, one of three girls with a brother who was born at the same time she had her own son. She was raised in an idyllic middle-class home that she describes as “high in expectation and low in tolerance”. She was raised to be polite, to succeed and achieve, while also marinated in a bigoted and prejudicial ideology. Her rebelliousness against her family’s fixed and rigid ideas, which initially protected her from adopting the family philosophy, evolved into a way of life for her, an obsessive, “you can’t make me” attitude which included a complete disrespect for all authority. She was pregnant with her own child by age seventeen and had already embarked on her career of emotional “fixing” . . . a career she nurtured along side her work career. She fixed with men, she fixed with working, with being a ‘star’, with making money, and later with getting married (four times) and with drinking a lot. She calls it “a lot of success and bizarre sickness going on simultaneously.”
By her late 30’s she was ill from her alcoholism – much to her own surprise. A series of blackouts (conscious behavior that is unrecorded in memory) coupled with the obvious and embarrassing lapses, as well as a severe physical dependence on alcohol illuminated her unrecognized shift from ‘liking’ drinking to ‘needing’ alcohol to physically and psychologically make it through the day. In 1984 Bernadette went to her first Alcoholics Anonymous gathering where she was welcomed with warmth and love. At that time, she embarked on a thorough application of the twelve steps in order to try once again to ‘fix’ herself, this time through the program’s suggested footwork and spiritual surrender. While she did find some sobriety, she says she doesn’t remember ever feeling peaceful. The intensity of her recovery and her lack of inner confidence resulted in relapses for her, a common and almost predictable aspect of recovery for most. She entered formal treatment at a local hospital program in 1986, achieved more time sober, relapsed again and re-entered treatment again, interestingly enough at Mariposa in 1992. At that time, Mariposa was a purely Twelve Step based, social model recovery program and Bernadette fit herself right in, staying for five months and again achieving some time sober, six years to be exact. She remembers that phase of life, sometimes sober and sometimes trying to get or stay sober, as an interesting time. She refers to her sober time then as “rigorous sobriety”, meaning she was sober at times, and working hard at it. When she wasn’t sober she found she would just simply “wake up drunk” – she remembers no conscious decision to drink. When asked to explain how that happened, she says, “I think I was in so much internal chaos that I didn’t even realize what I was thinking.”
In 1996 Bernadette was given devastating news; her increasing levels of physical pain were explained by a diagnosis that now hung heavily on her body: rheumatoid arthritis. She was given large doses of three different arthritis medications to help her deal with her physical illness, and incorporated the disciplines of regular exercise and pain management. For several years after the diagnosis she continued to stay sober, but eventually the tedium of day-after-day pain issues led her back to the desire for numbness promised by alcohol. At age 53, sick from alcohol, Bernadette returned to treatment at Mariposa. Seventeen years total of Twelve Step recovery, including diligent step work, faithful meeting attendance, being sponsored and sponsoring others was still no match for her drinking and pain. She was detoxed and moved into the new Principles-based treatment tract – a last ditch attempt to offer her something new in hopes it would help a woman who had already received the best the field had to offer. Bernadette seemed to blossom in the new program, learning things that were eye opening for her. In one of her first Principles-based treatment groups, Bernadette remembers one of her counselors leaning over to her and telling her, “Bernadette, you aren’t broken.” She calls this her ‘landmark moment’ - the moment when she first saw hope. When asked why that statement was so important to her she replied, “I had been in the ER’s for years because of how sick I was. I was dying – dying from my drinking and deteriorating from the arthritis. I had no confidence that I could get well again. I had tried to get sober for eighteen months straight – tried and failed. That was the first time I saw myself differently. I saw hope.” That moment allowed Bernadette to become interested in learning something different. She had not realized there was a new approach to addiction entering the treatment field. She was interested and hopeful enough to listen. She attended regular lectures on the Principles of learning about Thought, Mind and Consciousness. “Next I heard about THOUGHT. Not my thinking, but THOUGHT. I noticed what they said was true. I was creating. I noticed, just around the facility, how much I was making up and it propelled me into a state of ongoing insight. I recognized the ‘habits’ of thinking that were part of my addiction, too.”
“Now keep in mind, I had been on a spiritual pursuit all my life, attending workshops, classes, churches, following new age philosophies, astrology, meditation, anything I thought would help me. And so the idea of MIND settled in nicely for me. We are all connected to life energy. That’s true. When I heard the science of it, the logic spoke to my own personal spirituality.” Bernadette completed treatment and transitioned to the community. Six months passed, and Bernadette returned to Mariposa after a relapse. This time, she knew exactly what happened. Someone very important to her died suddenly and she didn’t know how to handle the overwhelming pain except to drink. Because Bernadette had found hope again, she did know what to do to get her bearings back despite her alcohol induced haze, and she readmitted herself into treatment. After a brief stay, she discharged again to the community only to return after drinking several months later, this time over the shock of a good friend stealing a very large sum of money from her. This last treatment admission was a look at Bernadette that no one wanted to see. She was wheeled back into treatment at Mariposa in a wheelchair. Those who saw her could not believe the physical deterioration we were witnessing. This once feisty and passionate woman, now hunched over, shaking and feeble looked like she might be beyond the point of return. Honestly, some staff members felt Bernadette’s needs were greater than the facility could handle, but the county’s managed care policies saved the day. They insisted Mariposa admit her to treatment.
Once again, she was received into the Principles-based program where the staff knew she was whole and healthy despite her relapses. Her treatment plan was customized more specifically, focusing this time on how the Principles created both her hope for recovery and a beautiful life, as well as her feelings of emotional pain, devastation and betrayal. This additional treatment episode was the tailoring of the principles that Bernadette needed and it took her understanding to a deeper level, a level that is still, to this day, maintaining her and her sobriety. “Understanding three psychological principles helped with the intense busy-ness in my head. I had been so busy for so many years and as I saw that that was me, in the moment, making up so much, it got quieter up there. Living in reality is remarkably simple. It’s much easier than it was to live in my head.” “I realized the difference between ‘coping’ and ‘recognition’ – coping with all the stuff I made up, thinking I had to deal with it all, and realizing that I was the thinker. Realizing that one truth changed everything. I realized how joyful life can be. I’ve realized that in order to struggle with anything, I first have to have made up ideas about how (or who) it should be. Now I know the experience I’m having is being created by me, so I’m not so terrified of it. It takes the fear away; I can see how silly most of my ideas are. That I’m the creator, now there’s one principle for every occasion – it applies to everything!”
Bernadette completed treatment at Mariposa and transitioned to the community with a new found sense of peace. Recovery was now simple and easy for her, and to date she has five years sober. She feels this place of recovery she has found now is different. “If I’m accelerating in my head, if I’m not peaceful, it gets my attention really quickly. I’ve had more peace in the past few years knowing how my mind works then I had in my whole life, even in my years sober.” “When I was drinking, I was coping with my biology. When I was sober [before], I was coping with my psychology. Now, I’m not coping with anything; I’m at peace. I’m calm. I’m not thinking about drinking or not drinking – drinking one way or the other isn’t in my mind anymore. I respect that my biology cannot tolerate alcohol and that’s the end of it. There’s nothing else to think about!”
Looking at Bernadette’s level of peace, it’s hard to understand that the past five years have not been easy for her. What’s obvious is that she is not drinking over anything. In fact, she has carried on with a beautiful feeling despite her life challenges. Usually you can find her laughing even though she’s had difficult things to deal with, including a lump in her breast (not cancer, thankfully), her significant other of eleven years undergoing six medical procedures and almost dying and her son going off to serve in the war in Iraq. You wouldn’t really expect this woman to be carefree and content, and yet she is. She beams and infects you with her amazing feeling state. “I’ve learned to pull my imagination back,” she says with a real smile. Interestingly, especially to her doctors, is Bernadette’s progress with her rheumatoid arthritis. This woman, once unable to walk, nearly crippled and heavily medicated has gone two thirds of a year off all arthritis medications. She attributes this amazing physical progress to a knowing about her herself, “Before I was under the constant illusion that I needed something to be ok . . . . a guy, a job, a book . . . something. I imagined my well being was somewhere – somewhere else. Now, my well being is never missing. I also know I am not my body.”
Today Bernadette stands strong and stable; she works full time at a major university and calls her job the “job my whole life has prepared me to do”. In her spare time she teaches classes on the Principles to women addicted to alcohol and other drugs. She has written many short essays on the principles and her experience of physical pain, and she is an award winning poet with a published book of poetry to her credit. She cooks, enjoys her partner and is beyond everything else, a humbling inspiration to all of us.