February 15, 2018 is the launch of a new memoir about addiction, about recovery called, Parallel Universe: The Story of Rebirth. Author David B. Bohl, like all of us, has an incredible personal adventure to share. Everyone confronts certain demanding existential questions: who am I, what am I doing here, who are these others? My personal sense of identity has been a prerequisite to sanity, integrity and a satisfying, purposeful life.
“’Who’s my biological mother?’ I asked my adoptive mother as a child,” David recounts on page 16 of Parallel Universes.
What are the catalysts to the life we lead, overachieving, underachieving, addiction or recovery? Duality and addiction and later duality and recovery are challenging dance-steps for any of us. How much more challenging is an integrated sense of identity if you’re adopted; if much of your pass is locked away in a filing cabinet in an office that you have no access to.
“Two Parallel Universes, two realities. I was marked for life, destined by my circumstances to have my perception warped from the get-go.”
For anyone who's still waiting for a previously hinted about show, here's an update on the Ten-thousand Beyond Beliefs Blog: most of a show done about our book, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life was finished over a month ago. The episode recounts how it was conceived, written and some notable facts/stats upon reaching the 10,000 mark of paperbacks and eBooks now on people’s mobile devices, reading nooks and bedside tables. We reached that milestone in December. I’m going to do this story, as some of you have requested. It will include a few ideas to anyone else thinking they have a book in them. The problem is, like today, I have another book or another subject I want to talk about way more than my own efforts. There is a wealth of good books and stories going on.
Another writer, Anne Fletcher, needed help with addiction late last century. So, I would guess two things about her: First assumption: she may not have an executive-style health care benefit plan whereby no treatment cost is prohibitive. I’m a writer and I don’t have a fancy employer-sponsored health plan. Secondly, it’s natural that she might want to channel her lived experience into a narrative. That’s what writers do. From treating obese patients to penning, Thin for Life, Fletcher championed medicine, folk-wisdom and subjects held up as examples that she called masters of weight control. Thin for Life comes from the consumer/lifestyle/wellness genre whose titles flirt with best-seller-ness often. Hers became its own franchise of follow up books that inspired and helped 100’s of thousands. Channeling the Thin for Life winning formula Anne M. Fletcher, found in her own life-challenge, a new project, the 2001, SOBER for Good:
“Along the way I tried some of the conventional solutions for alcohol problems. Though I was impressed with how helpful AA was for others and I’d benefited from the support, I’d come home from a meeting feeling like the odd one out. My take-responsibility attitude—along with my tendency to challenge the status quo and want to do things my way—didn’t mesh with the program’s twelve-step philosophy. I wasn’t ‘in-denial.’ I was looking for help but felt I had nowhere to turn. So I crafted my own rather lonely path to resolving my troubles with alcohol, with the help of some open-minded therapists who did not demand that I become abstinent or that I attend a recovery group but respected my ability to make the decision to stop drinking and encouraged me to develop my own strategies to do so.”[i]
SOBER for Good, went on to quote and interview people in long term recovery, provide a consumer guide and overview of the recovery world, with—or without—AA style peer-to-peer. In 2013, she followed up with Inside Rehab after doing more research. As a respected writer, she was invited to observe in and out-patient programs and she reported her findings from the campuses of Caron, Hazelden, Promises and other infamous facilities.
I think it’s great that people investigate, criticize and report on addiction/recovery modalities. Skepticism isn’t cynicism. Yes, some find fault like there’s a reward for it; we know enough about recovery from addiction to separate the attention getting nay-sayers from sincere outcries to aid addicts seeking help.
And story-telling - be it alcoholic to alcoholic, eyeball to eyeball or print, documentary or social media accounts of experience, strengh and hope - is one of the best lessons learned from the 1939 Alcoholics Anonymous. Sharing our experience can empower others.
Similarly, to Anne Fletcher, and many of us, David wasn’t a by-the-book alcoholic that fit nicely into a by-the-book recovery.
First, David’s worldview didn’t fit the popular 12-Step recovery narrative of an intervening higher power that “could and would if He were sought.”
Secondly, imagine how one takes inventory or reconciles one’s past where “nurture” happened in an adoptive family home and “nature” is out of the reach of personal scrutiny?
Today we’re going to hear from David, who is stepping up to share his story, his memoir, Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth. We’ve talked with other authors on this podcast and it never gets old. This one’s special for me because David is a friend of mine. I came to know him the same way I have come to know many of you, online at first and eventually in the rooms. David and I, and some of you, were among the 300 or so who attended the first Secular International gathering of AA in Santa Monica in 2014. Since then, I’ve been to meetings in his hometown and he’s been to meetings in mine.
I loved David’s Parallel Universes. I sometimes take public transit and on my way to Toronto Intergroup, I was transported by the tale of David landing in India, an alcoholic on the run again. I missed my bus stop; I missed three of them. Four stops later I sufficiently snapped back to my universe and start my mile, or so walk back to my destination, in a Toronto winter. I didn't mind the unplanned walk at all. It's gave me time to think more about the book.
Just like in Anne Fletcher’s quote above, David didn’t feel right at home in AA either. He felt different because he was different; we’re all different. That’s something I trust Anne Fletcher found in her research… there is no universal solution but instead there are many paths and many absolutely fascinating stories to be shared.
If you don’t know David he as a Masters of Addiction Studies and he’s a member of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). I’ll let him tell you how that happened. Here’s David on the phone and me at my desk, talking about life and recovery and his new book, out now, called Parallel Universe: A Story of Rebirth.
UPDATE: ICSAA 2018, The International Conference of Secular AA in Toronto Hashtag #OnToToronto is six months away.
I happen to be your host-committee outreach coordinator. I’m working with Thomas, the outreach coordinator for the Secular AA board. I’m saying this because I am inviting you, if you are willing, to be a local liaison for your home group or the Agnostic/Atheist groups in your region. Send me your email and maybe a physical address too.
The www.secularaa.org site has meeting info but not always phone numbers, contact names, etc. So, I need people to get the word out at your own group and maybe your district table or your local intergroup. Not all of the secular AA community belong to atheist/agnostic/freethinker groups and we want to reach anyone, anywhere.
The Toronto ICSAA 2018 conference is just around the corner and the host committee is ready to help people plan their trip. Check out Facebook and Twitter for info on things to do in Toronto. While we’re meeting August 24th to 26th in Toronto, the Canadian National Exhibition is on before, after and during the conference. Maybe you’d like to take an extra day this summer and attend Canada’s national exhibition. There are walking or bicycle tours, art galleries, museums and shopping walking distance from the Toronto Marriot Eaton Centre Hotel.
Niagara Falls or Canada’s Wonderland are short drives away. We have local intel on how to get here by bus, plane or train but we need—I need—people to help get outreach to your local meetings. Toronto is an expensive North East city but from first-class to starving artist, there is lots to do on any budget. So check the show notes bellow or come register at www.secularaa.com and send us an email with your contact info.
LINKS for Episode 36 of Rebellion Dogs Radio Click the words and enter "Parallel Universes."
Thanks for being part of Rebellion Dogs Radio. See you on line, see you in the rooms,
[i] Fletcher, Anne M, SOBER for Good. 2001: New York, Houghton Muffin Company