A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz

ernie_kurtz_egyptI was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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The Recovery Scholarship of Ernie Kurtz

Ernie GLAATC InterviewHere’s some great reading for you, from one great scholar and storyteller about another. Bill White starts the New Year with this excellent posting on his blog. Enjoy!

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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I Am Not Anonymous: Lauren’s Story, ‘Will To Bear Discomfort’

LaurenText-1024x682(pp_w1000_h666)I’m starting 2015 with some powerful writing from the I Am Not Anonymous website.

‘When I walked into the door to rehab in early 2008 at the age of 29, I was given a lengthy input questionnaire. I decided it was time to be honest for once.

There was just one question I had to leave blank. I pondered it for the better part of a day and kept returning to it with no decent answer.

What is spirituality? I didn’t have a clue. I reluctantly left it blank. By the time I left rehab almost three months later to return to the life I had left, I had a much better understanding of what spirituality was and how it could help me.

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I Am Not Anonymous: Faith’s Story, “One More Chance’

Faith-Text-1024x681(pp_w1000_h665)Another wonderful story from I Am Not Anonymous, which helps us feel what addiction is like and experience the personal joys of recovery. Thank you, Faith.

‘Until I got clean and sober, I never knew that other people experienced the same pain and emptiness that I used drugs and alcohol to escape from. Even when I was a little girl I felt like a part of me was missing – I felt alone, afraid, uncomfortable, and incomplete.

I remember looking up in the sky at airplanes and wishing I could trade places with someone on them. It didn’t matter who it was or what the destination was, I just wanted to be anyone else and anywhere else… and I didn’t know why.

I started using drugs and alcohol in my early teens and they took me very temporarily to the place I thought I always wanted to be. They gave me relief from myself, my insecurities, my fears, and my loneliness. They made me feel “okay” with who I was, where I was, and who I was with, but they came with a price. At the time they seemed worth it.

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‘Living in an Age of Melancholy: When Society Becomes Depressed’ by Douglas Bloch

“Depression is not just a private, psychological matter. It is, in fact, a social problem … The fact that depression seems to be “in the air” right now can be both the cause and result of a level of a societal malaise that so many feel.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

dblochIn a recent Ted Talk, Depression is a Disease of Civilization, Professor Stephen Ilardi advances the thesis that depression is a disease of our modern lifestyle. As an example, Ilardi compares our modern culture to the Kaluli people – an indigenous tribe that lives in the highlands of New Guinea. |

When an anthopologist interviewed over 2,000 Kaluli, he found that only one person exhibited the symptoms of clinical depression, despite the fact the Kaluli are plagued by high rates of infant mortality, parasitic infection, and violent death. Yet, despite their harsh lives, the Kaluli do not experience depression as we know it.

Ilardi believes this is due to the fact that the human genome of the Kaluli (as well as all humans) is well adapated to the agrarian, hunter gatherer lifestyle which shaped 99% of people who came before us.

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’10 Ways To Build Self Respect’ by Christopher Burn

Unknown-10This is a very helpful blog I found on the Castle Craig website.

‘Most people who are recovering from addiction have a problem with self respect. After all, if you have indulged in addictive behaviour that may have included lying, cheating, aggression and laziness, it is quite difficult to respect yourself.

The alcoholic who invents a ‘business meeting’ so he can spend more time in the pub instead of going home to his family, is acting against his conscience: he is lying, he is being selfish, he is causing distress to his family and he is spending his money in ways he should not.

Deep down he knows this, his conscience tells him so, but he does it all the same and it makes him deeply unhappy – he will probably need another drink to help him cope with the bad feeling! Such behaviour, repeated regularly, cannot fail to erode self respect.

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‘Spirituality and recovery’ by djmac

Wisdom-300x199‘Spirituality and recovery – do they go together? Hang on a second; what is spirituality and why are scientific articles on the place of spirituality in recovery falling into my inbox on a regular basis? Yes, I’m calling them scientific articles because they appear in peer-reviewed journals.

I was at a graduate art show last night and got talking to a hospital chaplain about the nature of spirituality. I don’t come across hospital chaplains too much in my day-to-day life, but oddly enough, I’d been listening to one on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’ slot only a day or two before.

I was quite surprised by the lack of religious content to the job. The minister on the radio was much more focused on supporting people as they faced challenges, on helping them get through and on finding meaning in the difficulties they were experiencing.

Last night’s chaplain explained that in the ‘old days’ the hospital chaplain was expected to be ‘a witness for Christ’.

Now the focus was on helping ill people and their families find spiritual health and address social and practical need too. It’s about holistic health. I talked about the growing evidence of the link between spirituality and recovery and began to realise as we talked that spirituality can be part of building recovery capital.

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‘Spirituality and Recovery’ by Bill White

Experiencing SpiritualityA new book, Experiencing Spirituality, co-authored by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, has just been released.  It will find a broad and appreciative audience and will be of particular interest to addiction professionals, recovery support specialists, and people in recovery.

It is not a treatise on how to recover, but it offers profound insights about how to live one’s life in recovery.  Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, Experiencing Spirituality is one of those rare books readers will return to again and again as a balm for old and fresh wounds and as a meditation on how to live a life of greater balance, fulfillment, and self-acceptance.

Kurtz is best known to readers of this site for his classic text, Not-God:  A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ketcham for her co-authorship of Under the Influence and Beyond the Influence.

In 1992, Kurtz and Ketcham co-authored The Spirituality of Imperfection, which used classic stories to explore the spiritual legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The Spirituality of Imperfection is one of my all-time favorite books. 

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“Healing Voices” Promo

I don’t know where this film is in terms of production but it looks as if it will be very good.

‘HEALING VOICES is a feature length documentary currently in Production, examining mainstream mental healthcare in the US, and the experience commonly labeled as “psychosis”.’

’12 Things Happy People Do Differently – And Why I Started Doing Them’ by Jacob Sokol

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExcellent blog from the Huffington Post, from Jacob Sokol of Sensophy. All makes perfect sense to me!

‘A lot of people have midlife crises. Me, I had a quarter-life crisis a few years ago, when I turned 24. There was no impulse purchase involving a red Mustang or electric guitar, but as my iPhone alarm woke me up bright and early for work one morning in my two-bedroom NYC apartment, I pondered, “Do I have everything – or nothing at all?”

My gut said that there had to be more to life than the rat race of what I was doing (IT consulting). But I just wasn’t sure what it was or who I could turn to for wisdom outside of “the Matrix.”

I decided to embark on a journey to find out. I quit my job, minimized my expenses, went to Hawaii and got very serious (in a wild sort of way) about discovering what made me tick.

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Marion’s Story: ‘My Spirituality’

Marion’s spirituality is very important to her and is central to everything else that matters in her life.

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Marion’s Story: Conclusion

Marion’s family have faced adversities, risen above them, and taught Marion to be the resilient person she is today.

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Research on Spirituality and Recovery From Addiction

Robert Weathers PhD of California Southern University summarises two recent and authoritative research studies (from Harvard University and the University of Michigan) which focus on the crucial contribution of spiritual resources in the process of recovery from addiction, for example, in 12-Step programs.

I found this video to be very interesting. Robert also mentions the Buddhist Recovery network website which contains a number of resources and is well worth a look. This network was co-founded by the late G. Alan Marlatt, one of the all-time great researchers and clinicians in the addiction recovery field.