Interview with Richard Anderson

Contributor: Interview Contributed By: Richard Anderson, author “From Darkness to Light: A Primer for Recovery
Interview Richard Anderson

What drew you to author “From Darkness to Light: A Primer for Recovery”? And why?

The material in this book is drawn from the material that I have used with my sponsees for many years. I have spent many, many hours one on one with my sponsees reviewing the questions and answers in this book and sharing my experience with them.

It is a powerful tool for understanding addiction and recovery. It clears away the denial and sets the stage for real and meaningful recovery.

While I have helped a number of people in this way, I saw a need for others to be exposed to this material. My hope was that by writing a book and making it available to a broader audience, the principles found in this book might benefit addicts at large.

Even when I am the speaker at meetings, there is simply no way for me to explain the fundamentals of understanding addiction and recovery in the thirty five to forty minutes allotted me in a meeting. I really needed a different medium. I mean how do you fit 28 years of learning into a time slot that small?

Over the years I have been in thousands of meetings and met countless addicts seeking recovery. How could I reach those people? How could I help them to find answers to their questions?

How could I help them to find answers to questions they didn’t even know they had? I have so much to share, much more than I was able to fit in this book. I can see a need to write at least one more book just on step work.

I have seen addicts stay clean for a period of time and never get real recovery. Their behavior is reflective of anything but recovery. They don’t know what they are missing out on and it makes me feel very sad for them. For lack of a little bit of the right kind of work they continue to leave a trail of devastation behind them even though they are now abstinent.

I have seen addicts relapse over and over again, going from one treatment center to another, bankrupting themselves and their families all for the simple lack of the right kind of information. This really breaks my heart. The lack of hope pervading their lives is a terrible thing indeed to behold.

What keeps you in this work, day after day?

I have seen the results of not finding real recovery. One guy I met admitted to me that he was on his way to go and sit on the railroad tracks and end it all. Today that man has a vital recovery and a life he cherishes. He has been reunited with his family, found meaning and purpose in life and enthusiastically shares the message that was shared with him.

I have seen suicide, overdose and death. I have seen the vacuum left in the lives of those that loved a struggling addict and seen that life cut short by tragedy. Addicts do not suffer alone. The consequences of their addiction affect more than themselves. What about the children of the addicts? The parents? The siblings? The wives and husbands? The friends? How many lives have been destroyed or harmed by addiction?

I talk in the book about a man I used to see at meetings who had attempted suicide after a relapse. The results of his failed attempt to take his own life, was a devastating and a stark reminder of the consequences of not finding real and lasting recovery.

I want to alleviate as much of this suffering as I can. I want addicts to find something real and lasting. My life in recovery has taught me a tremendous amount about what works and equally importantly what doesn’t work. It might sound corny, but I hope to leave the world a little better than the way I found it.

What is your philosophy on addiction treatment?

Treatment works. I started my recovery in a treatment center. Having said that, treatment is really just the on-ramp to a real and lasting recovery. It saved my life by helping me to break through my denial. What I have learned since then could fill volumes.

My best advice to those seeking treatment is to take the fullest advantage of your time there. Of course I would suggest taking my book with you. I believe it would be an invaluable tool for you in a treatment center and the therapeutic environment there would be an excellent place to process what you experience in the book.

I have the highest regard for the talented professionals that work with addicts in this way.

What tools would you like your participants to gain from reading “From Darkness to Light”?

I would like for them to learn how to stay clean. More than that, I would like them to move beyond simple abstinence and into real recovery. I would like them to understand core concepts like substitution, powerlessness, unmanageability, honesty, hope, belief, trust and faith.

Many people think that they understand what these concepts really mean, but may find themselves surprisingly enlightened by what they find in this book.

I hope to bring understanding of what recovery is and is not. One man I worked with simply would not do the work I gave him. He was looking for an easier way. He came to me one day and showed me a very nice new truck he had purchased with the money he made from a good job he had acquired.

He showed me his check stub. He told me of a girl he had met and how he was now living with her. He told me of the relationship he had with this woman’s son. He relapsed shortly thereafter.

You see, none of the things he showed me or told me about had anything to do with real recovery. These things are just “window dressing”. Anyone can get a new job, find a significant other, buy a car, etc.

Recovery is an internal process, not an external event. Having and acquiring things in this way is just a way to try to shore up our lacking self-esteem by trying to convince others that we are something that we are not. We hope to impress others enough so that they can then convince us to feel about ourselves the way we wish to feel about ourselves but cannot.

What do you envision the future of addiction recovery and treatment to be like?

I am hopeful that at some point there can be more reciprocity between those that have real and valuable first-hand experience with recovery and those that work in the treatment center industry.

Having worked in treatment centers I have seen occasions where the ego of those with formal training precludes their ability to listen and learn from those that have some hard-won answers. I have seen it work both ways of course.

I have seen those that live a life of recovery regard those with formal training with contempt. We all have something to bring to the table. We all have something of value to add. We all want to save and change lives.

I recommend that addicts take my book to treatment because the therapists and counselors in the treatment centers are in a perfect position to help addicts process what they have learned from the book. This isn’t mild stuff. I would see all of us that are invested in the outcome of treatment working in harmony with clearly defined roles.

I hope to see less nonsense. I hope to see more real teamwork and recovery.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5th, 2014
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