Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Consumer Critique: Spirit Recovery Medicine Bag

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Living life to the fullest is not a 'one size fits all' journey – especially when it comes to the principles of recovery. Spirit Recovery Medicine Bag by Lee McCormick and Mary Faulkner offers the tools that get readers on the right path to finding their own individual answers. Spirit Recovery Medicine Bag is organized around wellness. The book complements most healing paths including 12 Step programs.

In Part One, Lee McCormick reflects on his personal sex, drugs and rock 'n roll story, which led him to recovery and transformation—and ultimately to a life of helping others find their own sense of self and purpose. Part Two is a medicine bag of healing practices designed to guide readers on their own journey of awakening and recovering a sense of power—specifically the power of choice rooted in personal values and commitment to living those values. The authors believe that spirituality is about discovering your truth and the creative expression of that truth--or finding your thing and doing it! They offer tools to assist readers on a journey to a happier, more joyful and fulfilling life.  

I couldn't really relate to the recovery aspect, but did find it interesting even without that side of things. It's helpful to empathize, especially if you know someone in recovery - or if you're just trying to find a spiritual awakening for yourself.

I had a chance to interview Lee to learn more.

What inspired you to write your book?

Our main purpose is to be of service to our community—therapists working in the treatment field as well as those who are receiving services. Our book is also helpful to anyone in search of authenticity. 

We were inspired to write the book by the unfavorable statistics in the treatment field; the success rate among those receiving traditional treatment is only 25 to 30%. Addiction isn’t a one size fits all disease and neither is recovery a one size fits all process. We feel there is room for improvement. We both have experience in the healing arts. We acknowledge that some approaches help folks who are struggling with addiction get well—but the numbers aren’t all that inspiring.

The treatment field like other healing institutions tend to get attached or invested in what they are offering even when it isn’t as successful as it possibly could be. They tend to accept the low rate of recovery as inherent in the disease or as a personal failure of the person they are helping. We see it rather as a challenge—a call to arms!  We see it as a clear indication that changes need to be made in the treatment process. If we can help raise the recovery rate even a little, it would be worth trying.

• How does your approach differ from traditional 12-Step programs of recovery?

Both of us recovered from addiction by working the 12 Steps and hold them in high regard. And while they worked for us we know that the relapse rate is high even among 12 Steppers—between 75% to 80% don’t make it to the 5-year mark when the rate of success greatly improves. Everything we are suggesting is offered in addition to what’s already available—as a way of increasing the numbers not as a replacement to existing models. Our efforts are toward improving the numbers by offering alternatives not in putting down existing programs—particularly 12 Step recovery.

In the last 75 years since the beginning of 12 Step recovery new discoveries have been made. We know, for example, that many addicted people are living with trauma and that their addiction began as self-medication. We are offering ways to help heal trauma and move the client into his or her life process. Addiction is often a symptom of the problem, not always the primary problem driving addiction. Although, in many cases, quickly becomes the primary problem.  

There are also high numbers of people who become addicted through prescribed medication. The medical field is relatively uninformed about the dangers of many of their practices. Although our book is not directed toward correcting this situation, we point it out for the benefit of people who can educate themselves and their healthcare professionals.

It’s estimated that 90% of treatment centers advertise that their program is based in12 Step recovery. However, the Steps are only half of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous on which all the 12 Step programs are based. The Twelve Traditions guide the process at the core of 12 Step recovery. The Traditions work to assure the spirit of the program remains intact—they are the keepers of the soul of recovery. Here are the Traditions as printed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

1.  Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

2.  For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3.  The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

4.  Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.

5.  Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

6.  An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7.  Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8.  Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9.  A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11.          Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12.      Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The Traditions are as important as the Steps. They hold the form keeping 12 Step recovery on track and free of outside influence. 12 Step recovery is meant to be given freely—one addicted person reaching out to another. Professionals are just like everyone else in 12 Step recovery. There are no dues or fees, only free will contribution s and even the amount of a donation is governed. It is clearly for the purpose of maintaining the spirit of altruism and service that is the heart of recovery.

Failing to adopt the Traditions changes the essential character of 12 Step recovery. Treatment centers do good work, but they do it through professional care and are profit making. There isn’t anything wrong with charging a fee for services rendered, but charging for a program that is built around 12 Step recovery is in violation to the traditions and a breach of trust. We are not recommending denying clients the benefit of 12 Step recovery, but suggesting that it be offered in a 12 Step Spirit.

Authenticity requires that meetings run in accordance with the traditions. This calls for peers working with peers. Many centers take clients out to meetings, which is in compliance with the Traditions. 12 Step communities guide by offering suggestion and sharing hope, strength and experience with newcomers—it means walking the talk. Blurring the line between professional/ psychological services and 12 Step recovery is confusing and may interfere with clients getting the help they need to sustain their recovery after treatment. The bottom line on this is that treatment centers, no matter how pure of intention are not offering 12 Step recovery if they are not in compliance with the Traditions. 

What was your personal recovery story?

Lee’s story is in the first half of the book—it’s a whirlwind trip through sex, drugs and rock and roll. Over the years I’ve attended many different 12 Step groups as well as time with traditional therapists and non-traditional ones. I’ve used Chinese medicine, Native American, Hindu, and Buddhist practices along with spiritual guidance from traditional Judeo/Christian sources. It all helped me find myself.

How does your book pull from other cultures in its explanation of the healing process?

Both authors have studied outside of western culture and draw from Native American, Peruvian, Buddhist, Hindu and other non-western as well as traditional sources. We understand healing as organic to the human experience. When given enough support (food, rest, emotional support, encouragement, and information), we are able to transcend most pain and illness.

We reinforce client’s personal power, their innate healing instincts—or what we call the Inner Healer as we encourage them in their journey to realizing their innate wholeness. Many (maybe most) treatment models do the opposite often relying on clients adopting an identity of themselves as powerless and sick imposing limits and instilling fear.

Our purpose is to support clients in connecting with their authentic selves.

Perhaps most importantly, is our pledge to continue doing our personal work as well as working with others. If your healing paradigm doesn’t shift to a holistic/wellness understanding, even alternative practices may not translate to empowering clients.

What makes your book different to all the self-help books out there?

I believe the main difference is the shift from understanding power from outside of self to realizing and connecting to our personal (God given) power. We are working from the inside out—helping clients have a different experience of themselves—an experience of themselves as sacred and powerful—what might be called a transcended sense of self. At the same time, laying out a game plan based in transformed behavior is part of the process. With the internal changes, transformed behavior seems to flow and clients are able to sustain a healthy lifestyle that reflects their true self.

We aren’t the only people singing this song. There are many others in the healing world that are holding a similar worldview and doing the work that we talk about in this book. The practices we offer are road tested—we’ve been using them for over 30 years. We wouldn’t keep doing something that didn’t work—we don’t have an investment in being right or continuing to repeat processes that don’t help people make the changes they have determined to make.

We support people in identifying their personal truth and making their own choices based on that truth—accepting responsibility. This is what we consider living authentically. The biggest difference is that clients come to understand that they are what they seek—that they are an aspect of the Creator at the level of the soul.  

About the Authors:

Lee McCormick is the founder of The Ranch Recovery Center in Nunnelly, TN, and The Canyon Treatment Center in Malibu, CA. He is also cofounder of Nashville's Integrative Life Center and IOP/PHP Community Recovery program in Nashville, TN. Through the organization Spirit Recovery Inc., McCormick facilitates the production of healing and recovery conferences and spiritual journeys around the world. He is the executive producer of the documentary Dreaming Heaven, in which he plays a leading role. He is the author of The Spirit Recovery Meditation Journal: Meditations for Reclaiming Your Authenticity and coauthor of Dreaming Heaven: The Beginning Is Near!

Mary Faulkner holds a master's degree in religious education specializing in spirituality. She has written books on the topics of spirituality and recovery, including Women's Spirituality: Power and Grace and Easy Does It Dating Guide and The Easy Does It Relationship Guide for Recovering Couples. She is a cofounder of Integrative Life Center, former director of women's services at Cumberland Heights both in Nashville, TN, and currently, the trauma specialist and a spiritual advisor at The Ranch in Nunnelly, TN. Mary certifies counselors and healthcare professionals in Integrative Hypnotherapy for Transforming Trauma.

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