In Part One of this interview through New Harbinger Publications, Scott Kiloby shares his personal journey of addiction, recovery and spiritual awakening.
Q: Scott, I understand you are celebrating 13 years in recovery on February 15, 2017. Congratulations! How did you do it?
Scott: Ah, thank you! I did it by dealing with the underlying issues that drive addiction, mostly through mindfulness, present moment awareness and deep somatic-based trauma work. That work culminated in a loss of interest in trying to escape the present moment into some future state and trying to run away from uncomfortable feelings. That’s the short version of how I did it!
Q: I understand you began your recovery in more traditional western-based recovery programs and then moved to mindfulness and the other things you just mentioned. When did you switch and how did that change affect your recovery?
Scott: In the beginning I did involve myself in the more traditional recovery programs found in the West. In fact, initially the 12 step program saved my life. After a year clean and sober, I found myself holding a handful of painkillers (my drug of choice). I was about to swallow them and probably spiral back down into full blown addiction. At that point, I threw the pills down the toilet and vowed to go deeper in my recovery. I stayed in the 12 step program but also began to search for answers outside of the program regarding what spiritual awakening was really all about.
I realized that true recovery isn’t about staying clean and sober. Sure, abstinence is very important. Science tells us that it takes at least 14 months of abstinence for the brain to really heal after a history of drug and alcohol addiction. But I realized at the one year mark that recovery is really about dealing with the underlying issues that drive the addiction. I spoke to some people that I knew early in recovery that had been clean and sober for 10, 20, or 30 years. These were people in all sorts of programs including Christian-based recovery programs, rational-based programs, various therapeutic programs and the 12 step program. I asked them, “what is a spiritual awakening and have you had one?” The answers didn’t satisfy me. Sure, a handful of people seemed to have had something like an awakening, but mostly what I heard were people with many years clean and sober still seeking spiritual awakening, struggling with self-esteem issues, anxiety, unresolved trauma as well as process or secondary addictions to food, sex/porn, caffeine, etc. This was very disheartening to me. I thought, “If this is where recovery leads, I’m not sure I want it.”
So I set out on a course to find out for myself what authentic spiritual awakening really is. That’s when I discovered mindfulness and present moment awareness, as it is practiced in the East. After a very diligent practice, spiritual awakening happened for me. I was lying in bed one night in 2007 and my entire reality lit up with a sense of complete oneness, light and love. It was like my ego vanished and all that was left was pure liberation – nirvana. I can’t begin to express the amount of unconditional love I felt in that moment for absolutely everyone and everything. And that experience never left me. From that point forward, I had lived exclusively in the present moment, without most of the ego-based stories and problematic thinking that people carry around.
All of that changed my life so dramatically. I began sharing about it, writing books about it. I began to be asked to speak about it. That led to traveling all over the world for many years, giving talks to spiritual seekers looking for enlightenment. Eventually this led to my development of somatic mindfulness that releases deeply-held trauma and self-esteem issues.
Q: You have just released your new book, “Natural Rest for Addiction: A Radical Approach to Recovery through Mindfulness and Awareness.” What’s the book about in a nutshell?
Scott: The book contains every practice I used that led to my spiritual awakening and that helped me find full recovery from addiction. It’s a set of practices that teach people how to live in the peace of the present moment and let go of ego-based thinking as well as deeply rooted anxiety, trauma and self-esteem issues. The book forms the basis of our work at the Kiloby Center for Recovery (www.kilobycenter.com).
Q: In the Introduction to your Natural Rest book, you discuss the various addictions you have had through the years – painkillers/opiates, alcohol, meth, food/sugar, sex/porn, caffeine, love, tobacco, spiritual seeking, self-improvement, attention, acknowledgement, fame etc. As you celebrate your 13th year of recovery, are you abstinent from all of these things now?
Scott: First of all, that list of addictions you mentioned is just the short list. I feel I’ve been addicted to just about everything a person can be addicted to. There are certain substances that I desire not to use at all including drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. I’ve lost interest in using them by dealing with the underlying issues discussed above. Some substances such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco are so highly addictive that it is best just to stay away from them completely unless one is able to moderate in a healthy way (which is rare but it does happen). I had testicular cancer three years ago along with a major surgery. I was prescribed painkillers after the surgery. I used them, of course, because the pain was extremely intense. So can I say I have remained totally clean and sober from painkillers for 13 years? No. But I took them as prescribed and quit taking them well before my doctor suggested.
After that experience with cancer, I realized that although abstinence is important, life is complicated. Full recovery, as I define it, is not about the length of time one has remained totally abstinent. There are plenty of people who fall into the category of “dry drunk,” meaning they are abstinent but not content, at peace and emotionally, psychologically and spiritually clear. Full recovery for me is about being free of the enslavement to addictive substances and activities. When I took those painkillers while very sick, there was no enslavement to them. It was easy to stop taking them. I owe that to the mindfulness work.
Be sure to read the April 2017 Edition of RecoveryView.com for Part Two of this interview, in which Kiloby provides his unique perspective on what addiction really is.