How To Get Over Addiction in Ten Life Steps: The Ian Powell/Kilter Grips Story

Ian Powell, co-founder (with Jackie Hueftle) of the US climbing gear firm, Kilter Grips, has a long story to tell about addiction, which he did for BBC Business News.

A rock climber and gifted designer, Powell co-founded eGrips in Colorado in 1996 and made loads of money. Unfortunately, after his success, he translated the money he made into indulgence, indolence, and a crack and meth addiction, one that lasted eight years, making him homeless.

Powell went to prison for stealing. Emerging from prison after a year, Powell was given a job at a gym by an old friend. There, his climbing skills impressed Jackie Hueftle, whom he began dating, and with whom he started his new company.

Notice that no mention is made of Powell entering treatment or a 12-step group such as AA or NA. Can people really give up major-league additions as readily as Powell?

Yes. Even more readily. They don’t have to go to prison.

Let’s review the 10 life stages, or factors, that enabled Ian Powell to recovery on his own without treatment.

  1. He didn’t have a disease. Powell didn’t give up on himself, deciding that he was an “addict” for life.
  2. He touched based with his values. Hueftle knew Powell from before his imprisonment, and she was wary of his thievery. For his part, Powell was embarrassed: “”I reminded him of that, and he felt terrible,” she says.
  3. He had skills. Obviously, when someone has started one million-dollar company, he knows something about business. Powell also knew how to climb, a skill that can impresses people. Hueftle “was impressed by the holds Ian was making.”
  4. He had to develop new skills and connections. Getting out of prison, Powell realized that he had to work his way through the elementary process of simply holding a job, starting at the bottom as a gym employee.
  5. He had support and community. That someone was willing to give him his first job showed that Powell had friends and support. “When I got clean and sober and wanted to come back, I was lucky, because most people – not everybody – but many people, welcomed me back.”
  6. He could partner and create intimacy. And he knew how to open himself to another human being: “Our partnership works well because he’s the artist, and I’m the mellower one,” says Hueftle, who does marketing for their company.
  7. He valued achievement and creativity. Powell was always creative. He “designs his hand-crafted climbing holds at a studio in the barn at the back of his and Jackie’s home in Boulder, spending hours, often at night.”
  8. He wanted to contribute. He could get beyond himself. Another person in the climbing-gear field commented: “In many ways Ian has always been at the forefront of climbing innovation and creating opportunities for other innovators. From his early start at eGrips, to now with Kilter Grips, he has shown many younger generations that the industry needs creators.”
  9. He resolved emotional issues. Obviously, in some ways Powell was coming from a bad place. He says he wasn’t equipped to deal with his early success and the lavish praise thrown his way – and so his drug use spiraled out of control. “It must show a special kind of low self-esteem if you really want to destroy your life with drugs,” Powell now realizes.
  10. He developed a positive identity. Powell’s pain came from a very real place: “his father who was an alcoholic and took his own life when Ian was 10.” No one benefits from laboring under such burdens. On the other hand, Powell doesn’t define who he is in terms of his pain and trauma.

Could Powell have avoided his year in prison as a way of coming to grips with his pain and developing a new life?

We at the Life Process Program think so. By working with people at whatever point in the addiction process, going down or coming up, that they find themselves, LPP coaches know the route to recovery. Our sympathetic, positive but demanding coaches (a bit like Hueftle, really) help guide people down their own paths to overcoming addictions, finding intimacy and community, connecting with life and achieving goals, and established a new, non-addicted identity.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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