Ok, this is the first episode of the Bill Tierney Recovery and Discovery Podcast. Welcome. Thanks for joining. I’ll start out his first episode by telling you a little bit about who I am and how I got here, and what I’ve done to get here, and where I got the idea to do the podcast.
First of all, I’ll start with 1982, that’s not the year I was born, that’s the year that I got sober, and that happened in Kalispell, Montana. At the time I was twenty-seven years old and was married and had two kids. And it’s a story that I’ll probably tell in another episode because the getting sober process all by itself was an interesting story that may be relatable for someone that might be listening to the podcast and might be wondering for themselves if recovery is possible, whether recovery is something they should consider or whether it’s needed or not. So let’s skip over that for now and I’ll post an episode later that details and breaks down that entire process that got me to the point of recognizing that I needed to do something about my drinking.
I will just say that I had spent some years smoking some pot and doing some speed which apparently is now considered meth…maybe it’s all the same stuff. I’m not an expert in the chemical makeup of all the things I was doing.
I can tell you that when I was nineteen years old I moved away from home and although I’d been drinking for a couple of years by then, I’d never smoked a cigarette and I’d never smoked pot, and I had a roommate that helped me by introducing me to both pot and cigarettes, and immediately I found myself addicted to both, or so it seems.
We’ll probably in later episodes get into definitions of what is addiction, what is an addict, what is recovery. Lots of different opinions about that and my position is of curiosity.
The truth is that I’ve been sober now for over thirty-five years. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in that long and yet I’m still in a place of curiosity and really of not knowing. I don’t know that I have any answers for anybody other than for myself. And even then, I wonder if the answers that I’ve found are valid for myself because I’m constantly searching, and I’d say I’m always teachable.
So, sober in 1982. After seven months of being sober, I had what I’ll describe as an emotional breakdown. And my theory about that is that I had used alcohol to deal with the challenges of my life for roughly 9 years, and after seven months of no alcohol at all in my system I believe that I reached my threshold and my capacity for storing all of the emotions that I’d used alcohol to pack down and suppress. It didn’t start with my first drink in what year would that have been – 1971 probably 1970 – that I began to suppress emotions. I think it started long before that, but I employed alcohol to help me to manage emotions and my management style is basically to suppress them. After seven months of being sober at the age of twenty-eight now, I was working in a grocery store, and I had an emotional breakdown. And what I mean by that is that my body just decided that that was probably a really good time to begin to release all of these emotions, and they came out. The energy of that came out in deep weeping and sobbing. So, if you can imagine I was in a grocery store building a toilet paper display on – I don’t know what day of the week it was but it was during the week. There weren’t a lot of people in the store, thank God. Because it was quite embarrassing, and I was really shocked that it was happening. I had no apparent control over the experience at all. My efforts in control had me running to the back room, going into the bathroom, splashing my face trying to get some composure so I could go back out and continue to work, but after about three different efforts to do this with refusal of my body to cooperate, I ended up under a desk in a louvered door office that I shared with other department managers, locked the door, hid myself under the desk hoping that at some point I was going to get control of these emotions. And several hours passed by before my old roommate from when I was nineteen years old showed up and quickly diagnosed that I was having a mental and emotional break down at seven months of sobriety, got me a bed in Great Falls, Montana, at the Deaconess hospital in their recovery unit and that’s where I spent the next twenty-eight days.
You know, when I showed up for that treatment I’d already been in Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years, excuse me, for seven months and kind of figured I knew everything already about the 12 steps and about recovery and so I spent my first nineteen or twenty days or so in that treatment center acting as if I was a counselor. In fact, many of the other people in treatment for themselves thought that I was a counselor. Until I got confronted one day and was on the hot seat in the group room and had my BS kind of pointed out to me in a really not very gentle way. That’s another story. I’ll leave it at that.
My wife and I, we had been married for seven years by the time I got sober, and part of what got me into sobriety was my fear was that if I didn’t stop drinking I was going to lose my wife, and I also had a fear at that time that she was having an affair with her boss. Now that turned out to not to be true, but there was nothing at all that could have convinced me that she wasn’t having an affair with her boss. I was a very insecure and jealous person and knew that because from the very first date with my wife that had happened ten years earlier, I had had this tremendous fear that she would leave me. Almost from the very first date with her I needed her to feel complete or whole or good in any way and the fear – it went beyond fear – terror that she may leave me some day, at any day. You know, my thought really was that she’d made a mistake. Here’s this beautiful woman whom I absolutely adored, and I couldn’t believe that she had picked me, and every day that went by I was still just amazed that she continued to pick me, and I was surprised that she hadn’t left yet.
So, this had been going on for ten years and I didn’t treat her very good. The paradox of this is that here I adored her, and I was afraid that I was going to lose her and yet I didn’t treat her very well at all. And that too, seemed to be out of my control. I was so afraid, and I thought that the reason I was afraid was because of what she might do, what she might realize and my reaction to that was to try to control her. Amazing that she stayed with me.
After I had been clean and sober for about three years, and it had become apparent to me that my problems where mine and not hers; and not the rest of the worlds; not the job I was working, or the economy that I was living in, or the kids that I was trying to raise, or the demands of life – but something inside of me was off, and I knew it and wanted to do something about it.
So I’d read a book called the “Primal Scream” by Arthur Janov and was so convinced by reading this book that the patients that he was dealing with were just like me – that I was just like his patients. I really wanted to find a Primal therapist – lived on the west side of the country at that time, still do. And could not find a Primal therapist anywhere, but what I did find was a bioenergetics therapist – in Vancouver, Washington. At the time I was living in Hood River, Oregon and so I began to travel up the Columbia Gorge to Vancouver, Washington once a week to attend a three-hour therapy group with a therapist who is no longer alive. His name was Alex Burton and he had a place called the Brighton Center in Vancouver. And I believe I attended these 3-hour therapy sessions for about six months, six or seven months.
And when I went into it, I introduced myself and told him that the reason I was there was because I wanted to get control of my insecurity, my jealousy and my distrust. Because at one level knew that it wasn’t my wife – that it was me and yet in the living of that experience all I could think of to do was to try to control and change her to try to accommodate my discomfort so that I might feel better for a minute. I knew that my fears, my stories, my conspiracies about what was going on, and what was going to happen, were insane. I knew they were crazy, and yet I could not seem to do anything about it. And I had this hope that by attending this kind of therapy I may be able to get to the very bottom of it and actually expunge all of those old, suppressed, repressed, emotions. And miraculously after about three to four months of being in this group that, in fact, is exactly what happened. I no longer, there was a day that came, that I realized that I no longer was that insecure, jealous, distrusting person that was tormenting my wife with my demands and requests and pleas that she change so that I might feel comfortable. I was no longer concerned with her as being the source and cause of my discomfort. The fact it was I wasn’t experiencing discomfort anymore in this area. Something had changed, and it had been a fundamental core permanent change and I knew it when it happened. And it wasn’t about talk therapy at all. It was all physical, the entire experience of bioenergetics authored by Alexander Lowen, I want to say back in the 40’s or 50’s – his theory. So if you want to check that out, that’s great. It’s dry reading, but it’s really interesting information, and it absolutely worked for me. I don’t know who’s doing that now. If somebody is listening to this podcast and knows of a bioenergetics therapist, I would love to have a conversation with him or her about what happened with me to see what they’re doing now, where they’re operating and what services they offer because I highly recommend it as a way to permanently heal things that are held in the body, emotions that are held in the body from earlier traumas.
I’m noticing how much time I’m taking telling this story, so I’ll try to speed it up a little bit.
When I had been sober for seven years my wife was having horrible headaches and she was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor. My kids were eight and nine years old when she died fourteen months later of that brain tumor. Now here I was by that time, I want to say seven years – I believe – actually, I think the truth is I was seven years sober when she died so the diagnosis must have happened somewhere between five and six years of sobriety. Now here is a myth that I had held that really showed up as a myth during this time. I hoped and believed that abstinence from the alcohol was going to solve my problems. Now by the time I was five years sober, it was pretty clear that that was not true. But what I made that mean was that I must be doing it wrong. Here I am abstinent from alcohol, but apparently, I’m doing it wrong because I’m still like crazy and still struggling and still emotionally unsettled and can’t seem to land in a job. I had gone from the grocery business and from that to selling cars, and gosh, I just hated every minute of that. And went from that back into the grocery business again and so anyhow by the time she died, I went through that experience without drinking, without even thinking of drinking, but making, nevertheless making some pretty poor choices. After she died my way to deal with my own grief was to avoid it, and I avoided it by getting into relationships with women which would get very serious very quickly. This happened over the course of about two years until finally I married the fifth woman I got involved with. And I’m not proud to say that the reason I married her was because I was out of control. I had no idea how to stop the train that I apparently was other than to get married because I knew that as a married man, I wasn’t going to jump in and out of relationship. I was going to stay in a single relationship.
I’d like to say I married her because I fell in love with her and that I thought it was a great match and that we were going to do well together, but I frankly never really felt that way. I just thought I’d better get married so I can stop this insanity. And it was a…it could be considered a mistake. It was painful for her; it was painful for me – she made sure of that. We did the predictable thing, we had a baby together. By the time my daughter was seven years old, the marriage just had completely disintegrated, so we divorced. And I found myself in a state of remorse and regret, not about getting divorced, but about having married in the first place and dragged her through all of that. And I was not taking a lot of responsibility at that time and doing the math now, I was about twenty years sober, had just gone through a very dysfunctional marriage. There wasn’t a lot of love in the house. My older kids now are in high school. My daughter is in the first and second grade – in that era. And I could see once again that I was just a mess and that I needed to do some work but didn’t know how to go about doing that. There weren’t any more bioenergetics therapists in my area. I had been to therapy and counseling through my entire periods of recovery and needed something but didn’t know what it was. And a friend of mine, who had recently just returned back into 12 step program recovery, and I ran into each other and began to discuss the various things that we were experiencing and what we were looking for. And he and I were both were kind of looking for something fresh, something different, something new. We were both sitting in AA meetings and not really getting what we needed, not even knowing what we needed. He heard of a woman by the name of Byron Katie, and told me one Friday that he was going to drive the next morning to Seattle to see this Byron Katie because apparently, she had a method and a process that was promised to be able to help with thinking, with helping to challenge our thinking to find peace, to replace suffering with peace.
I was all in. We went to Seattle. We went to a four-hour workshop that she conducted at the Unity Church over there in Seattle, and I got her message loud and clear and have been embracing her message and embracing her practice ever since and that was probably 2002.
So here it is now sixteen years later. I just this past year – oh, let me back up a little bit. I spent thirteen years after the divorce doing a lot of really intense work on myself including the work of Byron Katy, Landmark education. I got pretty involved in that – did the Landmark Forum and the Advanced course, both a couple of times and did a couple of their seminars in between the weekends. And got a lot of help from both Landmark and continued to get help for myself with the work of Byron Katie. About seven years I met my third wife and we were married just over five years ago. We live alone and have between us fourteen grandkids and six kids and it is by far, the most healthy relationship I’ve ever had. I think thanks directly to the internal emotional and mental work that I’ve done.
In 2011, roughly seven years ago, I hired my first coach and shortly thereafter began to coach others with his help and his training and his support and with the experience that I had gained in AA by sponsoring people in AA. And then the last piece that I’ll share about myself is that last year when I realized once again that AA maybe wasn’t the best fit for me. I really wanted to find out if I even knew what AA was. And that might sound like a bizarre thing to say. Here I was thirty-four years sober. I had been going to meetings the entire time. But I still had some serious doubts frankly even about whether or not I was alcoholic, but I had serious doubts about whether I had actually worked the AA program. So, I learned from the same friend that had introduced me to Byron Katy or that discovered Byron Katy with me together, once again had come back to find recovery was doing amazingly well. And I wanted to know what he was doing and so he told me about a group that was studying the AA Big Book for a couple of hours every Saturday morning. So I checked out the group and ended up joining the group, getting an AA sponsor that had about nine years of sobriety less than I did, but who really knew the AA book and who had the kind of attitude that I could work with. I asked him to sponsor me and he took me through the steps over the course of about six months. And once I had completed all the steps what I realized was these steps worked in this way as described in the AA Big Book. This is not the experience that got me sober. This is not the experience that kept me sober. And while I have a lot of respect for the process as described in 164 pages of the AA Big Book,
it is not the experience that I had that got me and kept me sober and I no longer felt comfortable identifying myself as an AA member who had gotten and stayed sober by working the AA program. What I recognized was that I had gotten and stayed sober using a cafeteria style customized “take what you want, leave the rest” type program that worked for me. And when I say it worked, what I mean is, it worked to get me free of alcohol. I was successfully able to abstain from alcohol from day one, starting November 15, 1982. However, as my story indicates, I went through that pretty crazy. There were some crazy, crazy times, crazy behavior, crazy feelings. And I, I mean I felt very, very crazy, and I made a lot of decisions behind a lot of that crazy.
I’m very grateful to be able to report that there’s not a lot of crazy in my life today. And I really firmly believe that’s as a matter of, as a result of, so much of the work that I’ve done, so much of the help that I’ve gotten.
So moving on to why am I doing this podcast now. Now that I’m free from identifying as an AA member, I no longer consider myself to be an AA member. What I am interested in doing is discovering if there’s another path to recovery. I know that AA works. I’ve seen it work for a lot of people. And a lot of those people did just what I did. They found a fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and they found a community and found that that was the support that they’d been needing and didn’t even know it. They also recovered because they worked the steps in whatever fashion that they did. What I now believe is that there’s probably as many members of AA or as many people as have tried AA, there’s that many versions of the AA program. And I would just like to discover what it is, I’m very curious about this, that works to help former addicts to recover, to recover long term. I’m curious about things like what do you consider recovery to be. We can measure it as complete abstinence from whatever substance the addict was addicted to whether it’s alcohol or heroin or porn or food or TV or work or whatever the addiction might be.
Abstinence from that addiction is a way certainly to measure and say, “Yea, I’ve got successful recovery.”
But abstinence, I don’t believe, can be all of it. What I really was seeking, and am grateful to say that I have found, is emotional recovery, emotional let’s say, sobriety. And that’s been my experience. But the mystery is what were the key elements? Can this be duplicated? Are there others in the world who also have found what I have found with or without a 12-step program, with or without a faith and reliance upon God, with or without a treatment program, with or without let’s say, punishment, which is so prevalent in how we treat addicts. And to discover, another reason I’m wanting to do this podcast and have this conversation, is to discover – is there a repeatable process that any addict can go through and find recovery.
I’ll talk in another podcast about the philosophy that I employ as a coach and how it may actually be able to support addicts who are coming into recovery.
In the meantime, let me wrap this first episode up by talking about what the podcast is going to be about. I intend to interview addicts who are still in their addictions, addicts who are in early stage recovery, friends and family members of addicts that are either in recovery or still in their addiction, people who have been in recovery for a long time, experts in the recovery field, service providers that try to help addicts successfully or not, and the show is for all that I’ve just listed. Those would be the listeners of this podcast, those are the people I think that can benefit from this conversation and why should people listen is a question I want to address right now. Many people have tried 12-step solutions, and 12-step solutions have worked for many people whether it’s the church version of it or the AA version of it or a treatment version of it. The 12-steps have been around since the late 1930’s. I know Bill W got sober in 1935 and the book was published for AA in 1939. At some point, the 12-steps were identified and then the book was published, and that’s been the guideline for recovery using 12 steps since then. Now that’s been over 80 years ago and of course, we’ve learned a lot of things since then, but the AA program hasn’t really changed. So I’m curious, what has happened since then that we should be paying attention to and trying to really use to help ourselves if we’re in recovery ourselves and to help our fellow addicts who are trying to get into recovery, and to help family members who are so impacted by addiction?
I want to give you one thing that I got out of a book that I read that had a big impact on me recently. The name of the book is “The Sober Truth” and it’s by Lance Dodes. I don’t know for sure how to pronounce his last name. Correct me if you know how to pronounce it. One of the things that he said and I don’t know if he was quoting someone else or if this is from him is that, “The opposite of addiction is connection.”
And so the purpose for this podcast is to bring all the people that are concerned about addiction together to connect in a conversation where we might find a solution that’ll work for the addict, the recovering addict, and the family members and friends of them.
I’m going to host a show every week. We’ll do a new episode every single week. Occasionally I will have co-hosts and I will be interviewing guests. So, thanks for joining me for this long first episode and I look forward to connecting with you as we move forward in discovery and recovery.
The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov
The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003AU0DR2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_z2jUBbPRSA095
Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen
Bioenergetics: The Revolutionary Therapy That Uses the Language of the Body to Heal the Problems of the Mind https://www.amazon.com/dp/0140194711/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_B5jUBbZN5SV6W
Alcoholics Anonymous https://www.amazon.com/dp/1893007162/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_k7jUBb0AVB3VW
The Work of Byron Katie
Bill Tierney Coaching
The Sober Truth by Lance Dodes
The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry https://www.amazon.com/dp/0807035874/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_M.jUBb22R2GMC