William White Book Review – Recover!
Stanton Peele with Ilse Thompson. Recover! Boston, MA: DaCapo. 2014. 320 pages. $24.99 (hard cover), ISBN: 978-0-7382-1675-1
Something quite interesting is happening in the world of addiction publishing. The unending stream of books on drugs, drug policy, addiction, and addiction treatment are being supplemented with a new genre of books focused,not on how to initiate recovery from addiction (a break from an unending stream of early recovery memoirs), but on how to live as a person in long-term recovery. This reflects a larger shift in the alcohol and other drug problems arenas from pathology and intervention paradigms toward a recovery paradigm as the field’s central governing image.
Stanton Peele’s name is familiar to anyone who has worked in any capacity within the modern addictions field. Stanton is a prominent speaker, commentator and prolific writer, who,in addition to hundreds of articles and blogs, has authored such books as Love and Addiction, Diseasing of America, and The Truth About Addiction and Recovery. His gadfly attacks on the portrayal of addiction as a disease, abstinence -only treatment and Alcoholics Anonymous make him one of the most polarizing figures in modern addiction treatment, but Stanton Peele has made significant contributions to the addictions field. He was one of the first writers to move beyond a focus on drugs to what came to be called process addictions — destructive relationships with people, sex, food, and work. His biting critiques of prevailing approaches to conceptualizing, treating and recovering from addiction and his proffered alternatives have moved discussions of addiction from scientific and professional enclaves to subjects worthy of broader public debate.
And more than any other author writing for the general public, Peele has brought attention to alcohol and other drug problems and their patterns of resolution beyond those seen in addiction treatment or mutual aid fellowships.Having corresponded with and shared speaking platforms with Stanton for some years, I sometimes think of him as a cross between a bullfighter waving a red cape before the leaders of the addictions field and the Trickster of Native American folklore whose actions puncture and deflate prevailing institutions and ideas. Stanton Peele is a lawyer as well as a psychologist,and he revels in a good fight. And that is the challenge in reviewing his written work: Stanton’s persona can dwarf his written words, leaving both his most avid supporters and rabid critics more focused on him and his most inflammatory rhetorical flourishes than the more nuanced points that can be found in his books.
So for the purpose of this review, let us focus on his latest written work.Recover! offers what is described as the “PERFECT Program” of addiction recovery – PERFECT being an acronym for
Embrace (self-acceptance and forgiveness),
Celebrate (joy), and
Triage (realignment).Addiction is portrayed as a “destructive expression of a person’s outlook in reaction to his or her life circumstances”rather than a brain disease requiring specialized medical treatment. The recommended approach instead involves one of self-empowerment and self-assertion —
believing that one can and should outgrow addiction. Addiction recovery is portrayed as a process of maturation and self-development.
Recover! is a well – designed and well – written book that will find many appreciative readers among the general public and among some who have struggled in 12- Step programs and mainstream addiction treatment. Even those in 12-Step recovery will find some discussions
helpful, though the periodic potshots at A.A. will likely be distracting.
Each of the main chapters of the book introduces one of the seven elements of recovery and then outlines the changes in thinking and daily living through which that element can be integrated into one’s life.
Recover! contains case studies, suggested activities and resources that many readers will find of potential benefit. The book also offers many
helpful tips on managing feelings of loneliness or unworthiness, anxiety and depression, cravings, impulses to use, and abusive relationships—
all within the larger context of addiction recovery.