How to Heal an Addiction

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My name is Gabby and I’m a recovering addict.

I hit bottom at age 25. At the time I was running a PR business in New York City, representing nightclubs and restaurants. I thought I had it all: the big career, the fancy clothes, access to the hottest clubs.

My life looked exciting, but I was falling apart

But no matter how exciting my life looked on the outside, on the inside I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. In retrospect I can see that I was having an existential crisis. I was looking for God in all the wrong places. This search for peace, safety and happiness became addictive. I was addicted to work, love, drugs, food, you name it. My addictive behavior took over my life and in time I had a severe drug problem, workaholism and debilitating codependency.

My spiritual surrender

I intuitively knew there was much, much more, but I struggled to clean up my act. Then on October 2, 2005, I prayed for a solution. I said, “God, Universe, whoever is out there, I need a miracle.” I woke up that morning and I heard an inner voice say, “Get clean and you’ll live a life beyond your wildest dreams.” Thankfully, that day I was willing to hear this inner voice. Thankfully, I listened. Since that day, I’ve been sober — and on a steadfast journey inward.

Helping others live a miraculous life

My sobriety and spiritual practice has become the most important part of my life, and I am committed to growing my faith each day. I owe all of my career, love, health, happiness and success to my sober recovery. My prophecy is true. I am living a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Today I am a motivational speaker and self-help book author, committed to guiding people through their spiritual bottom back to the light and magnificence within. Throughout my career I have heard countless stories from people who have gotten sober with the help of my personal story, which I tell in my book Spirit Junkie. I am deeply moved by these people and their commitment to stay clean and embrace the miracle of recovery.

Just last week I got an Instagram message from a 19-year-old woman who said she was trying to get clean and wanted my advice. I emailed her instantly. I heard her call and I carried the message to another addict in need. I shared my experience and offered guidance. In the midst of our back-and-forth emails, I realized it was time for me to share even more about my recovery. It was time for me to blog about it, to share my steps to recovery from addiction.

These steps are for any type of addiction

So here we are. In this blog I will outline the steps I have taken to live a life of sobriety. These tools are not just for alcoholics or drug addicts. These steps are for everyone. I believe that we all suffer from addiction in our own unique ways. Maybe you’re addicted to social media, or food, or love, or maybe you’re simply addicted to fear. It doesn’t matter how addiction plays a role in your life. What matters is that you learn there is a way out of the cycle.

How to break an addiction

Step 1: You gotta want it

Your willingness is crucial in getting sober. When you become willing to choose to get clean, you open an invisible door and all the resources you need will be given to you. Your willingness opens that door. If you’re reading this blog right now, then you have the slightest willingness to know more. Continue to strengthen this willingness daily by reciting this affirmation: “I am willing to change and I welcome guidance and support.” This simple statement will put your recovery in motion.

Step 2: Turn inward

Addiction stems from searching outside yourself for what you already have within yourself. That’s the sneaky thing about it. You can look far and wide for happiness, but as long as you’re looking outside rather than toward your own inner wisdom you’ll always fall short.

The key to recovering from addiction is to establish a deep inner awareness. You can call this intuition, a connection to the Universe, spirit, higher power or even God. It doesn’t matter what you call it. All that matters is that you choose to turn inward. The way we do that is through prayer and meditation. Through prayer we ask for guidance and through meditation we can hear it. Redirecting our search for peace from the outside in is the most crucial step to getting sober and staying on a path.

If the concept of prayer is bugging you out, don’t sweat it.

Prayer is the beginning of the most powerful conversation you’ll ever have. Tweet it!

When we say a prayer we’re setting an intention to turn inward for guidance. We’re surrendering our own ideas and welcoming wisdom from within.

The response to our prayers can come to us through meditation. In stillness we receive the guidance we’re longing for. If you’re new to meditation and eager to begin a practice, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Meditation.

You can also check out this video, in which I teach the Kundalini meditation for healing addiction.

Humbly surrender to a daily conversation with your intuition, and in time your inner wisdom will speak louder than your addiction.

Step 3: Find spiritual running buddies

Whenever I counsel folks who are newly sober, they complain that they have to let go of their old friendships and can no longer hang out in the same places. They’re not wrong. In the 12-step community it is often said, “If you don’t want to get a haircut, don’t hang out in the barbershop.”

People and places play a major role in your sustainable recovery. As you make spiritual shifts in your life, your energy will change. Your new, light, elevated energy may no longer be a match for the folks you used to hang with. That’s okay. You’re not better than them. You just chose to wake up.

Throughout my recovery I’ve made it a practice to cultivate strong, inspirational spiritual running buddies. Whether these folks are sober or not doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that they live in alignment with my spiritual and sober beliefs.

The way to create these friendships is to hang where the happy people are. Go to more yoga classes, hang out in juice bars, check out recovery meetings. Be around people on a spiritual path and in time you will create a power posse of spiritual running buddies.

What does it mean to live a life of sobriety?

One of my dearest spiritual running buddies is my best friend, Elisa Hallerman. My sober sister Elisa has been in recovery for well over a decade. She is a drug and alcohol counselor with a PhD in psychoanalysis and somatic studies. Today she runs a service called Recovery Management Agency, offering support to families and individuals seeking all types of guidance through their sober recovery.

In this video Elisa and I sit down and riff on what it means to be an addict and how to live a life of sobriety. Watch here.

Recovery 2.0 spiritual community

Another spiritual community that I LOVE is Recovery 2.0 run by my friend Tommy Rosen. Recovery2.0 is an incredible brand offering the world a life beyond addiction. Tommy is so committed to spreading these tools that he’s offering a free program in which you can watch interviews with leading experts in the recovery field, including a heartfelt interview with me!

Check out this clip from Tommy’s interview with me about my sober recovery.

Finally, there is an awesome social networking site called intherooms.com. This site rocks. They offer beautiful guidance, blogs and a safe spiritual space for sober people to connect online.

Step 4: When you think you’ve surrendered, surrender more

when i think i've surrendered i surrender more | gabby bernstein card deckWhen people ask me how I’ve stayed sober for nearly 10, years my response is: Daily surrender. On October 2, 2005, I surrendered to a life of recovery. I’ve been surrendering every day since. As you practice step two and establish a spiritual relationship of your own understanding, you’ll come to know what it truly means to surrender your will to a power greater than yourself. This practice requires faith and trust that there is a spiritual plan for you and guidance working on your behalf at all times.

If you’re new to recovery you may be thinking, “WTF is this girl talking about? A power greater than me?!” That’s all good. This was my reaction when I first got clean. But trust me when I say that your spiritual faith will be your greatest tool for maintaining and sustaining a life of recovery. You don’t need to know how or when you’ll gain this faith. It will be bestowed upon you as long as you stay in constant dialogue with your inner wisdom.

The way I stay surrendered on a daily basis is through prayer. One prayer in particular has helped me stay humble and receptive. I recommend that you say it on a daily basis to remain willing to surrender to a power greater than yourself. This prayer is recited at the end of every 12-step meeting:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

These four tools are among many spiritual solutions on the path towards addiction recovery. I suggest you “keep it simple” and start here. To further guide you on your journey I’ve outlined a list of resources that will help you every step of the way. Finally, I welcome you to leave comments below and ask me anything about addiction. I’ve invited my friends Elisa and Tommy to show up on the blog this week too! So post anything here. I want this blog to be a safe space for people to reach out for help and receive the guidance that they need.

Resources for getting sober

gabby bernstein relaxing with a mug of teaIf you’re looking for a book on a spiritual path to addiction recovery check out Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. This is my memoir and a guidebook that I’m proud to say has helped many people get sober. Grab a copy here.

Check out some of my other blogs on healing addiction: The 5 Spiritual Tools I Use in My Sober Recovery, How to Get Sober and Change Your Life and How to Trust in the Healing Path.

Elisa Hallerman of Recovery Management Agency is your go-to resource for families or individuals seeking guidance on their recovery path.

InTheRooms.com is a beautiful social networking community for people in recovery.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Google AA alongside the name of your city, town or county. Listings will come up and all meetings will welcome you.

If you’re not sure you’re an addict and need further guidance, check out the book Living Sober.

If you’re struggling with feeling healthy, embracing your body or feeling at home in your own skin, enjoy my Body Love guided meditation.

Another beautiful book on recovery is by my friend Noah Levine. Check out Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction.

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  1. I’m glad that you are open with your story. I grew up with a friend, a best friend for a time, she kind of looks like you. Very beautiful, an only child. For her, she had a clean home, jewelry, clothes, but at twelve she was dating boys who were much older. Not really dating, more hanging out with. Then drugs and alcohol, and I would say the wrong crowd. Risky behavior. I don’t speak with her now because she is far away, but I think she turned her life around. I can’t say that she was ever abused. I just thought I’d share that. I can’t seem to know what I need. I tried Al-anon, and don’t seem to care for it. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, although I do have addictive tendencies. I do like AA, because it seems more open and honest and happy also because folks are there healing themselves. But have struggled because I feel like I don’t fit the criteria. N/A maybe. I will look more into EMDR. I have tried a little of that. Thank you so, so much. I get a lot out of your teachings and knowledge. Sharon

    1. Sending you so much love on your healing journey Sharon. I’m sorry you’re struggling with addictive tendencies. Have you read my book Spirit Junkie? If not, I definitely recommend checking it out. This book has been an inspiration for so many people’s sobriety. Check out the website intherooms.com. It’s a great place for online addiction support.

      These resources may also serve you:

      SAMHSA.gov: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
      Main hotline: 1-800-662-HELP
      Confidential, free, available 24/7/365 in English & Spanish

      This helpline is for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

      Main website: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help

      Find alcohol, drug, or mental health treatment facilities and programs around the U.S. at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ (confidential & anonymous)

      You are in my prayers and I know that you can find peace and happiness. All you need is the slightest willingness to open the door to recovery. xxoo

  2. I became sober on May 11. It is been a really beautiful decision for me. I however just met someone that I think could be somebody special. So many people with an AA advise against starting a relationship before the first year. I have also met people however that did not discourage. He is not sober. I am just feeling kind of conflicted. It is still new and anything can happen. I guess I just want a little advice. Thank you so so much for your words

    1. Congratulations on getting sober, my friend. This is a really important and precious time in your life. Ultimately our decisions are up to each of us individually, so I’ll just share that one powerful lesson I learned in recovery is that we must put our sobriety before everything else. We must put our health and well-being first. Ask yourself what best serves you right now. Connect with your higher power and ask for guidance. Surrender to that guidance and be open to receiving it. It may not be what you want, or look the way you expected, but it will be what you need. And when you’re not sure what to do, call your sponsor or go to a meeting. Talk openly. It’s a space where you can be honest and vulnerable with folks who understand. Sending you a lot of love, a lot of light.

  3. Dear Gabby, I’m recovering from addiction from alcohol. Sometimes it’s normal, I don’t have a permanent need to drink. Can drink a glass of wine and to forget about it fir weeks. Just want to drink when it’s really harsh. When I cannot really suffer that pain. When I found out your blog (what a miracle) I couldn’t find out this amazing stuff I found. Do you provide personal consultations and would could you suggest? Besides, I am from Lithuania and I could offer your book Spiritual Juncie. I really want to heal!!! Warm love, Lina

    1. Hi Lina. Have you ever considered going to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting? AA has saved many lives. I suggest Googling AA in your area and checking out a meeting. This practice has saved so many lives. Also, check out the website intherooms.com. It’s a great place for online addiction support. Showing up here is a beautiful and brave sign that you are open to healing. Sending you lots of love. XOX

  4. I am the spouse of a recovering drug addict. He went to rehab and as been clean for 5 months.
    He turned to drugs because that was one of the things that would give him the escape he needed from himself and the problems from his past that were never dealt with. Physical, emotional & sexual abuse.
    What I didn’t realize was there was another addiction. He was also a sex addict. Previous behaviours were blamed on the effects of cocaine but drugs wasn’t the total cause.
    Now that he’s in recovery, he doesn’t use drugs as an escape when he can’t deal with something stressful. It’s the high he gets for a brief period from chatting online with women, sexting etc… that he seeks now. He will still say that he has not physically cheated on me. But right now I don’t know what’s true and what’s lies.
    He is still seeing a therapist but hasn’t been completely truthful about his other problems.
    I’m to my limit. I cannot bear anymore hurt. Recently I found out he had not stopped this behavior. He realizes what he’s doing and why but so ashamed of everything.
    He is willing to work harder with the therapist to deal with past issues and his self hatred so he can start living a happier life.
    I am willing to stay and help him through this if he is sincere.
    My problem is how do you even start to heal from all the hurt? How do you start the process of trusting again? What should I expect of him?
    I am reading Judgement DEtox and trying to change how I deal with things.
    Any advice would b greatly appreciated.

    1. First, I want to honor you for reading Judgment Detox and doing the deep work it asks. I honor you for being willing to see another person in his light even when there is so much darkness. And I want to remind you that you can love someone and honor their path but not stay with them if that is not right for you. If this relationship is not serving you, if it’s hurting you, then you must ask yourself whether you truly want to be in it. It’s very important for you to know that you cannot fix your husband. No matter how supportive and loving you are. That is his work. We can love others and support them but if we try to change them we are actually hurting them. I go deep into this in the final step of Judgment Detox, forgiveness. We can forgive others and see them in their light but recognize that we must step away. This is a decision you must make for yourself, but you don’t have to do it on your own. You can seek guidance from a therapist. I am a believer in therapy and I recommend it. If you have a spiritual practice you can ask for guidance from the Universe or your spirit guides. I honor you for holding him with so much love and light, but I encourage you to think about your personal boundaries and to begin to support yourself as much as you support others.

  5. Hi Gabby,

    I have been in recovery for almost 2 years now. I found your book The Universe Has Your Back online and so far so am LOVING it!! I was wondering if you attend AA meetings, have a sponsor, etc. I have been working a 12 step program throughout my sobriety but am wanting to focus more on my own spiritual path such as my meditation and prayer, practicing yoga, reading, etc. rather than doing AA book studies, attending meetings, etc. Just wondering what your thoughts were!

    1. First I want to honor you for your 2 years of sobriety and for seeking a spiritual relationship and practice. Each person’s path is different, so find what works for you. I am a believer in 12-step programs and support systems. AA emphasizes finding a spiritual relationship of your own understanding, so the work you are doing will serve you greatly. You can do these spiritual practices in addition to attending meetings. Ultimately your recovery is your choice. Be very intentional about whatever you choose to do and make sure you have a strong support system. Xoxo

  6. I was reminded of that serenity prayer a couple days ago. heard it so often. but never felt it quite like i have recently. it’s one thing to hear a nice turn of phrase and appreciate its’ cleverness…. another thing entirely to apply it to your situation.

  7. Hi Gabby,

    Thank you for this… I have 17 years in recovery and so so many miracles… and yet this past year has been tough, even in the rooms I have been feeling very lonely.

    Working on a film about recovery that is beautiful and has also brought up even more to heal… noticing my food is off right now, suddenly.

    Not sure why I am feeling wobbly and out of place in recovery. My life has gotten much bigger and there is some kind of transition going on. I have not been feeling grounded and in my body lately… very overwhelmed, tried and alone.

    Thank you so much for being a light,

    Laurie

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  10. Gabby,
    Thanks for this. And congratulations on being 10 years sober! I have been struggling with my own addictions for about that length of time. I’ve been to rehab. I have been in and out of the rooms. I’ve put together a few months here and there. In the past year, though, I struggle to stay sober for more than a day or two. I haven’t found the spiritual running buddies in the rooms – I’ve encountered more judgment and fear-based guidance than real spiritual guidance. I just got your book May Cause Miracles and plan to start tomorrow. I will use some of the meditations on your site- thanks for those! I’m rambling, but here’s to today being my last “day 1”

  11. Gabby,
    I have been following you for a little over a couple of months now. I have been reading your 40 day course in miracles book. last year I surrender to get sober I was inpatient treatment for 4 1/2 months for addiction to alcohol. The judge still sentenced me to prison, I was released on Dec 9, 2014 with a GPS monitor on my ankle which I am getting off this Friday Oct 9, 2014. I still struggle at moments. Sobriety has given me so much like you have said, I don’t want to fear ever going back to that lifestyle. Your book has taught me to replace my fears with love, and daily I give it my best shot to surrender to love instead of fear and hate towards my addiction. Thank you I am very grateful I stumbled upon you. You are light when I feel I am in darkness again. Thank you Thank you.

  12. Hi Gabby! I saw your Instagram post today and want to congratulate you on 10 years of sobriety!
    I actually met you many times at Thought So shows over 5 years ago now. I never had any idea that you were in recovery. This post hit a chord with me today because my mother has struggled with addictions my entire life and refuses help/support. I’ve often questioned my own behaviors when out and truly value my inner voice or compass, if you will, that has always kept me on a positive path of growing.
    I hope that I can share these resources some day with my mother and will definitely hold them dear for myself.
    I’m so proud of how far you’ve grown and continue to.
    Love, Nikki

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