BOOK REVIEW: LEARNING ABOUT ADDICTIONS

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As part of my development in becoming a Life Coach, I have a reading list that I had compiled as I worked my way through the Blackford Centre course. After I completed the module on addiction, I was recommended to read more about it. If you search books on addiction online at the moment, the top search result will be Russell Brand’s ‘Recovery’. I had tried to read one of his books in the past, but found it quite difficult to get into because he has a very 'train-of-thought’ writing style. I find watching and listening to him fascinating as his intellectual thoughts are free-flowing out of his mouth, which I am always awestruck with, because he is so eloquent and articulate with a masterful grasp of English language that seems so unbelievable, considering he has had no particular privilege in his upbringing. While I find he really uses this talent to perform on stage, on television and on the radio, and he has made a lot of money from it, I personally don’t find it translates well to the written page, much to my disappointment.

I couldn’t get through the first chapter of one of his books, due to this writing style, but I thought I would really make an effort with his 'Recovery’ book. I did struggle with it, but I persevered in the interests of getting to know the thought-process of a confessed addict; and what better addict to get to know than Russell Brand, who confesses to have been addicted to drugs, sex, alcohol, fame and attention and is so brutally open and honest about it.

Russell Brand has taken part in and is a strong advocate for the Twelve Step programme for addicts and this book chronicles his celebration of how it has changed his life for the better, taking the reader through each step and giving his own take on it and how this has related to his life. One of Brand’s key characteristics is that his attention span is very short. His pattern of thought meanders like a rogue whirlwind from one subject to the next, taking his audience on a captivating journey through the world inside his head. This is also the case in this book where one moment he is technically explaining the process of the steps and the next moment he randomly ventures into an irrelevant personal experience of an encounter with a friend or an observation while he was walking his dog, followed by a lengthy description and analysis of the conflict he faced in his own head or of the person or people he was interacting with. Sometimes I enjoyed these anecdotal analyses of Brand’s everyday life, but most of the time I found they distracted away from the overarching analysis of addiction. They alienated me as a reader as I felt Brand was allowing himself to become victim again to the kind of destructive vanity that he is trying so hard to break away from.

On reflection, however, I feel that this was perhaps a very appropriate style of writing if you really want to experience and develop an understanding for someone who is in the grip of intense addictive behaviours. It left me with a deep sense of compassion for Brand, who seems to have really suffered with this condition and he is trying so hard to be transparent with his thoughts in order to gain control, harness the energy for the greater good and battle the constant pull of his ego for fame and attention. We can recognise the characteristics of addiction in all of us to an extent and like all characteristics, they do exist in us all on a scale. The difference between what society classes as 'addicts’ and what society classes as 'non-addicts’ is how much the addiction impacts our lives, our relationships and our physical health, but we all have the potential to become addicts.

The Twelve Steps programme requires you to work hard if you really want to improve your life and it seems it is a powerful way to make fundamental changes. It is my belief that we all benefit from exploring our internal thought-processes, in whatever way that may be, in order to raise our awareness of the origins of the decisions that we make and the way we react in certain situations. By doing this we enhance our skills in reacting with wisdom, intellect and positive emotion rather than irrational actions that originate from past upsets or even trauma, which can confuse and upset others.

I may encounter clients with mild addictions in my work as a Life Coach and I feel reading Brand’s 'Recovery’ has helped me to tap into that compassion for those who are suffering, knowing that some people are battling with addiction every day. My job is to help the client stand up to it and, using empathy, stand with them, experience it, learn about it and help them feel that they are not alone. I would be able to advocate the Twelve Step programme and explain to clients what it is and what it does, giving them the opportunity to think whether it may be an option for them. 'Recovery’ also provides contact details of other organisations that support addicts that I will be able to draw on for my clients. There are now hundreds of Twelve Step organisations and a quick online search will help you find the right resource in your area.

Of course those with extreme addictions that are causing serious and dangerous harm to themselves or others may have to be referred to a specialist and it will be my job to recognise when the client has conditions that are beyond my experience or ability as a coach.

Have you read 'Recovery’? Or have you suffered from addiction. Let me know your thoughts and please comment if you like on my reflections.

Take care.
Oliver

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