The book we review here, “The Couch of Willingness” by husband and wife team Michael Pone and Maureen Palmer, gives us keys to sobriety from the inside-out. It tells the story of an addiction treatment professional who got caught up in alcoholism: after two decades of helping patients battling addictions, our protagonist finds that he cannot cope with the pressure. And while Michael has it all – he is successful, well respected man with a beautiful family – alcoholism runs deep in his family. And he put all his experiences in a book, so that anyone struggling with alcohol problems can relate and learn.
Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate. There is no vaccine to protect you from it, and while some people do have genetic programming ripe for its development, no one is immune. So how can you get and stay clean and sober? Here are some of the main points we took from the book, and why we recommend it for anyone looking to get and stay sober.
#1 Facing the problem
The title of the book describes the exact spot where surrender can occur for people looking to get sober: a couch. The couch on which Michael struggles with detox symptoms in the recovery home he attended was the first step of his recovery – admitting that the substance is the stronger opponent. Complete surrender is critical and demonstrates how important it is for the friends and family of the addicted person to stop enabling their addiction. While enabled, addicts think that they are the ones controlling the addiction, and not the other way around.
#2 Do you have to kick rock bottom before you quit?
Addiction, as with any other disease, is best treated if discovered early. Bottoming out costs everybody too much – it cost’s a career, personal life, relationships, and even the healthcare system in whole.
Mike was given a lot of chances to rise from the bottom, and to still be able to get his life back together, if not the same as before – really close to that. Today, he is able to practice therapy, to reunite with his sons, to start a new life, new relationships, and to be the respected person he used to be. He’s the “comeback kid” we want to see in every book, or movie – only Michael Pond is very real, and so is his story.
#3 Addiction impairs brain cognition
Another lesson we got from this book is that addiction robs people of the capacity to make reasonable choices, or firm judgment. Pond is not trying to explain the science behind it, but paints a really good picture of how addiction changes you as a person. In a way, addiction creates a whole new person that has to grow into a new role, like learning to walk and talk again. Only, it’s not a nice and kind person.
“It’s part brain disorder, part genetics, part learned behavior, part self-medication, and in some individuals, part CHOICE”- Michael Pond explains in the last pages of his book.
Can you imagine a power that transform a perfectly normal, intelligent, good hearted individual, into a beggar and thief, person that would sell you for a bottle of vodka, person that is able to harm yours and his/hers life? Because the sad truth is that this is what’s happening, this is what happened to Michael – a professional therapist, and it can happen to anyone.
#4 How to get and STAY sober?
Of course, there is no only one simple answer to this question. But there is one thing that is certain – you have to WANT to be sober, more than you want anything else. However, your inner motivation and reasons that will strengthen your will may vary.
#5 Self-analysis can really help
Reflecting on actions and consequences is a kind of self therapy anyone can perform. In the moments of clear thinking, Michael made a list of things he did to harm himself and other people around him.
#6 Seek help from others
Looking in the mirror and seeing the person that caused so much pain will cause a hurricane of emotions that are hard for any person to contain. Unfortunately, this may cause the addict do become suicidal and do harm to him/herself. No one should be alone or feel lonely during this process.
#7 Using all the tools
In conclusion, this book will teach you how to succeed to survive through example. You’ll learn how to get on top of the situation and stay sober thanks to a few main things:
- Being with people who understand what you’re going through:A.A., 12 step groups, or support groups
- Motivation from within
- Support from certain authorities
- Being given several chances
- Distance yourself from people that are a bad influence
- Create new, healthy relationships with supportive people
- Focus on self development
- Write a book
What can friends and family do to help?
Addicts are in need of positive interactions and support from their family and friends, so the system must take care of them too – they are part of the process. According to Pond, for the families and loved ones, there are 3 most important things:
- Educate yourself on nature of addiction. You’ll have to learn what is happening in the brain of your loved one and why he/she is acting like that.
- Gather information. Read and learn, addiction is not something you can eat, or play with – it’s people’s mind and mental health. To learn not to be judgmental and treat your loved one with kindness, is not as easy task as it may seem. Make sure to find adequate program and healthy surroundings.
- Step up and join in the fight for better tomorrow. Government need to be pushed to address the addiction problem with compassion and not by criminalizing the addicts. Putting addicts in prison rather than finding proper treatment, is costing much more and is a total waste of resources.
What do you think? We invite your comments, questions, or opinions in the section below.