Neuroplasticity holds great promise in holding the key to addiction recovery. This is especially true with alcoholism, the mechanism of which relies heavily on hardwired patterns in our neural pathways. While it is certainly true that alcoholics are born with a predisposition towards alcohol addiction, it’s not a fact that we are powerless to change. Joining Tim Westbrook in this episode, addiction consultant and addiction recovery expert, Dr. Robb Kelly explains how we can work with the human brain’s plasticity to change the neural pathways responsible for alcohol addiction. He also shares the highlights of his powerful recovery journey, which he documents in his book, Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking.
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Neural Pathways, Neuroplasticity And Addiction Recovery With Dr. Robb Kelly
My team and I over the course of many years have helped thousands of people find their path to long-term recovery. We started this show because there’s so much bad information and misinformation about treatment, addiction recovery, the treatment world in general. We bring guests on this show as a way to provide accurate information, to provide the truth as a way to help people realize how much more there is to recovery and treatment than just going to treatment for 30 days, working a 12 Step program and quitting. There’s a lot to it.
I’m grateful to be here with Dr. Robb Kelly. He has a PhD and a renowned addiction consultant who believes in treating the problem of addiction, not the symptoms. He has worked for many years helping addicts and alcoholics to recover their lives from the disease of addiction. Based on his own experiences working with addicts and alcoholics for many years, a PhD in Psychology from Oxford University, and as a recovered alcoholic himself, he is a triple threat against the disease of addiction. Dr. Kelly was the CEO of a thriving telecommunications company when the walls came crashing down on him due to alcoholism. He ended up homeless and broken on the streets of Manchester, England until he found the courage to save himself.
He’s lectured on the subject of addiction at many high-profile universities, national conferences, public schools, churches, business organizations, hospitals and is recognized as the leading authority on addiction recovery methods that are changing lives all around the world. Dr. Kelly’s methods may seem unconventional leading some people to refer to him as the Gordon Ramsay of the addiction world because of his direct, no-nonsense and candid approach to treating addiction. Dr. Kelly works to make the road of recovery less of a mystery tour. Welcome to the show.
Thank you, Tim. It’s great to be here. Thank you, guys, for reading. It’s going to be a great show.
It is going to be a great show and we’re going to talk about it a lot. We’re going to talk about neuroplasticity and its role in changing neural pathways. We’re going to talk about trauma and addiction, returning to the scene of the crime. We’re going to talk about the grateful and recovered alcoholic from being hopeless to being hopeful, which I don’t know about you, when I first got clean and sober, I started going to Twelve-Step meetings, started going to AA meetings. I would hear people say, “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic and drug addict.” It’s like, “What? That doesn’t make sense.”
I was sick of hearing that sometimes when I first came around, but the Twelve-Step meetings helped me. The fellowship alone is good. There are many ways to get sober and many other outlets. The latest we’ve found with brain science is years ago, we found we could change the way the brain thinks. They are like plastic. We can direct and mold neural pathways into great thinking. It’s nothing less than a miracle in 1939 when they wrote the book, they were talking about neural pathway Zen, but they call it psychic. Many people think a psychic is somebody around a crystal ball, but no. Psychic of the mind, psychiatrist, psychologist, they were talking about a change of mind back in 1938 and ‘39.
I’ve got your book here, Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking. I’ve got this and if you want to learn more about Dr. Robb Kelly, this is a good, quick read and you can learn a little bit more about him and more about his story. Why don’t you tell us, Dr. Kelly, what happened? Tell me a little bit about where you came from.
I was thrown on stage with a musical family at the age of nine. I was a bass guitarist, very gifted. I have some of my first drink at the age of nine in Liverpool over in the UK. Because I was nervous, my uncle gave me half a beer and I drank it. For the 1st, 2nd, 3rd mouthful, I went down and that changed my life completely. It was the best thing that happened to me. I got confidence, went back on stage the second half and I played my heart out and everyone said it was amazing. That set off my alcoholism, although I didn’t know it then. I truly believe you can’t drink yourself into becoming an alcoholic. You can drink yourself into becoming an abuser of alcohol, but we’re born this way, predisposition along with maps neural pathways as a child because there’s always trauma, whatever it is alcoholism. Three schools, still drinking, nothing crazy. I went to Oxford, I put myself through that. I wanted to go to the best university because I’m an alcoholic. No matter all in all out, that’s my deal with everything.
When did you think that you might have a problem with alcohol?
The day I realized I was at a real problem and couldn’t stop drinking was the last day on the streets. I was homeless for fourteen months. On the last day on the streets, I realized I can’t stop drinking. Other than that, I was fighting against it. I didn’t believe it. I was in denial 100% and wrecked everybody’s lives around me, but didn’t think I had a problem.
I can relate to that. There are lots of people that can relate to that.
It was heartbreaking when I found out, but it was years and years. I was 28 when I found out what was going on, which was scary.
Once you realized you were an alcoholic or you thought you might be an alcoholic, then what?
There was a bunch of stuff that happened before that, but the actual breakdown was on a Monday morning, 2:30 in the morning. I dropped down to my hands and knees. It’s a cry from my belly. I wasn’t crying because I lost my kids, my wife, my houses, my medical license and all that stuff. I was crying because for the first time, I realized that I can’t stop drinking. I remember looking for the sky at the time and saying, “If there’s a God up there, I can’t do this on my own anymore.” Thirty seconds later, a guy walked around the corner. It was Missy’s last boss from his Bible study, and he bumped into me and that’s where my life started onto the road to recovery. It was crazy.
What specifically happened? You bumped into this guy and then what?
He took me back to his house and he said, “You can stay here.” He was a Christian, he wasn’t an alcoholic, which I was a bit pissed out because I thought God would send me an alcoholic with a bottle of vodka in his hand. We’re at his house and he said, “You can stay as long as you want, Robb, but you’ve got to come to these AA meetings with me.” I’d been to the AA meetings. They were horrible, but I had to go because he had a nice house and it was a dry bed. I went and while I was there, the same old war stories and halfway around the room, this guy called John talks about the book. He talks about permanent recovery. He talks about life beyond my wildest dreams. Every time he said it, he would point to the book page and the paragraph.You can’t drink yourself into alcoholism. You were born that way. The minute you take alcohol, all bets are off. Click To Tweet
I knew he knew what he was talking about. He gave me hope saying I will recover from being an alcoholic because that’s what I am now. I’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body. I went over to him asking for help. As a fact I said, “Can you be my sponsor?” He said, “No,” which was a couple of breaths and going, “What?” He said, “I’ll be your spiritual advisor for a period of eight weeks.” Every single week, 10:00 on a Wednesday, I would walk to that man’s house for about an hour because I can’t afford the bus fare. I’d sit with an hour for him and I will walk an hour back. It’s three hours every Wednesday night. I would read the book during the week and he gave me four highlighters.
I marked off God’s words, messages and promises. During the week, I would make 4 or 5 pages a day, and then back to his house on a Wednesday. He showed me much stuff in that book that I’d never seen before. I want to share the Twelve-Step meetings that are aghast of what it is, especially the wording in there. I did the steps with him overnight because that’s what the book says, “After step five, go home,” which I did. I walked out of that man’s house and I knew if I continue the program, I’d never drink again. He told me things were going to happen, “The next day, Robb, things are going to start happening to you.” The very next day, I got a part-time job, which during the week turned into a full-time job.
After my first two weeks, I got my first paycheck and I went to the gas station or the petrol station in England. I bought him a little teddy bear and a card. I wrote on it, “Thank you, John, for introducing me to God, that took the compulsion to drink away.” I walked back to his house or his apartment when I got there, there was nobody there. I was banging that loud on the door. The next-door neighbor came out, a lady and she says, “Can I help you?” I said, “Yeah, can you turn where John’s moved to or relocated?” She said, “There’s been no one in the apartment for at least six months that I’ve been here.” She closes the door. She’s obviously a crazy woman and on the left-hand side and a guy comes to the door and I said, “Can you tell me where John’s relocated to?” He said, “That apartment’s been vacant for a year. You’ve got the wrong address.” I never found that guy, but the stuff he taught me was unbelievable.
What do you mean? You were going to see him and he didn’t live?
I don’t know. I went back to the meeting and I said, “Guys, remember this guy was I talking to, John, in the corner, near the coffee machine?” The chairman was there and he went, “There’s no John, Robb. We didn’t see anything.” I grabbed him because I thought he was making fun of me. I grabbed him by the scarf and rammed him against the wall. I said, “Don’t you ever disrespect me again.” A couple of friends pulled me off and they said, “What’s going on?” I said, “Who was the guy I was talking to over near the coffee machine?” This is what one of them said, “Robb, you were talking to yourself over near the coffee machine. There was nobody there called John.” That’s it, that’s the last I know of that conversation. I’ve never traced him since. Be as you see it but I know what I think I saw. I focused on some angel saving me and taking me through certain steps to make sure that I can carry this message and help other people and that’s what has happened to me. I reached millions of people with my show on the TV, on the radio and my books. It’s been a great journey.
You had a career prior to getting clean and sober and prior to working in the field of addiction recovery.
I was running a telecommunications company. We built the mass for all the Army and Navy first of all, but telecoms came in. We started building telephone mass for them. Then the drinking and drinking, I finally lost all that before I went to the streets. The career was there, but I lost everything. When I went on the streets, I didn’t have a penny to my name and nobody would speak to me. I had to beg on the streets. I remember and it keeps coming back into my mind. I stood outside a hamburger place and a married couple came out with two kids and I heard the man say to the woman, “I don’t think I can eat all this hamburger.” I followed them for about ten minutes until he finally threw half of it in the trashcan. I went in the trash and dug it out and wiped all the mess off it, and I ate that hamburger as I was starving.
Once you got clean and sober, how long did it take before you decided that you wanted to work in treatment?
Don’t forget all by then, I got my PhD in Psychology. My first job at Alesco was as a policeman. That’s what I did with my job. I did various things after that, but I think straight away. I went in and that was part of my deal to God was that I would aggressively work with other people, and that’s the only way I did. I set up the practice but I didn’t charge for anybody. I do it pro bono and I would work with people. Finally, it turned into a full-time job that turned into a crazy career over the years. I was straight into it. I was going around meetings at nighttime with my book, traveling as far as I can with my book and teaching people and showing people exactly what’s in the book because it’s nothing like you think it is.
Everyone thinks you can read it and that’s it. No. From page one, the stuff on that page, you don’t even know what it means. The word, earnestness, people see it and I mentioned seven times in the book, earnestness. I asked everybody I meet, “Do you know what the word means?” “Yeah.” “Do you know what the synonym of earnestness is?” “No.” It’s sober. The words are there for the reason. They’re not just thrown together. Every single word is vital and necessary to life. It’s been a great journey so far.
There are four levels of learning. You read it, listen to it, write it down, speak it back and level four is you teach it. When it comes to step twelve, carrying the message and sponsoring other guys, this is a lifelong journey. It’s like you want to get fit physically, you go to the gym, you work out. You don’t just go to the gym and workout, then once you’re in shape, you’re done working out forever. Being in recovery and being spiritually fit is ongoing. We have to constantly work on ourselves, confidently go to meetings, sponsor guys and carry the message. That’s the only way we’re going to continue and stay spiritually fit.
It’s like going to the gym. If you’re getting fit at the gym and you take three days off, it tells. It catches up. It’s a maintenance of a daily spiritual program for me. Maybe we could even talk about the hypothalamus reset every 24 hours. That gives me an idea that this has to be done every day and when I stopped doing it, there are relapse causes there. You’ve got to look at that. A lot of people I was asking, “When did you start to stop praying? When did you stop going to meetings?” Meetings will never keep me sober. Meetings will never get me well.
Of all the studying I’ve done around in my time, must have been over many years of college, universities and schools, I’ve studied Carl Jung, addiction. I studied neuroplasticity on the brain regarding addiction. The best piece of literature I’ve ever read is the full 164 pages of the book that we’re talking about pertaining to the alcoholic and the recovery of the said person. Once I started reading it out, I started getting into it even more. The book says that we have a daily reprieve.
When you look at the word reprieve from the Oxford English, it’s a state of execution. I have a daily state of execution. If I did yesterday what I did now and now what I did tomorrow, I’m going to stay sober. This is not one day at a time. It doesn’t mean not drinking. It means how much can I pack in that day, in that stream of life? How many people can I help? How can I be of service to other people? When I say thank you to somebody, dopamine is released into my brain. I don’t know about you, but I like some dopamine, not high every day.
I don’t have bad days, Tim. I do have better days than others, but usually I’m at a 9 out of 10 on a happiness scale because I spent many years crying inside and outside the rooms, on the streets, with my family, in treatment centers, nothing worked for me. I’m the only person or alcoholics who will recover. I’m the only people that get two lives in one lifetime, don’t miss the second one up because of the dreams you have at nighttime of doing this and doing that becoming successful and the daydreams you have, that’s God’s telling you your future. What happens is you surround yourself with people who hate you or don’t like you or want to put you down and they drain you of God’s vision for you. In the end, you settle for that job working at a supermarket or sweeping the floor. What I’ve got for you is you had a multimillion-dollar business to run where you can help millions of alcoholics, but you’re hanging around these people. You’ve got to hang around the people who are going to lift you up and never put you down. God gave you a million-dollar mind. Stop hanging around with ten-cent minds.
As they say, willpower doesn’t work. Ben Hardy wrote a book called Willpower Doesn’t Work. It speaks to the environment and the people that you surround yourself with. What do they say? You’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. You’ve got to spend time with people that have what you want.Earnestness is a synonym for sobriety. Click To Tweet
An old man once told me outside my school when I was waiting for the bus. He was a wise old man and he said, “Say you’d get a job for $5,000, but you want $10,000, how would you do it?” I went, “I don’t know, work harder.” He said, “Hell, no. You hang around the people that earn $10,000.” This blew my mind. All my life I’ve been hanging around people that I look up to. People that help more people, earn more money, drive bigger cars, love people better and service every single day and you become that person. If you think about it, have you ever hung around a friend who has a special saying like, “Get out of here?” After a few weeks or a month, you will say that saying because you will become that person because we mirror each other. If you’re hanging around guys that don’t have any ambition, you keep drinking and keep relapsing, then that is going to be you. It’s a human science. You can’t change it on your own. There has to be repetition and strength in, and it can affirm around the actions that create your future. One of my favorite sayings is, “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.”
I have a friend named Joe Polish. He’s the Founder of Genius Network and also the Founder of Genius Recovery. He always talks about creating value. He wrote a book called Life Gives To The Giver and it’s all about creating value. How much value can I create? We all want fulfillment and pre-sobriety, “I lie, cheat and steal to take what I want.” Being in the rooms of AA, being in the Twelve-Step rooms and surrounding myself with people, not even all of them are in recovery, but I spend most of my time with people that believe in value creation and I’m going to achieve fulfillment when I give. I’m going to give, be a kind person, an honest person and keep my side of the street clean. That’s how I achieve fulfillment.
It tells us time and time again that we have to act as the good Samaritan every day, not just 4 or 7 days a week because what we have to remember is all the stuff we’ve been through. It’s like a semester at Harvard. These are teachings for your future. Learn by what you’ve been put through because God only puts you through that because he knows you can handle it. You come out on the other side and you are armed with the facts about everything. You might be the only person, that somebody who’s going to die of alcoholism and cease. What are you going to do? Are you going to piss and moan or are you going to excite him by your eyes, your actions and your voice? Excited about life. After all these years, you bet I am. I once heard in the rooms, “Be careful, Robb. After three months of sobriety, you’re on a pink cloud, you might come off it.” I’ve been on a pink cloud for a lot longer than that and I am not coming off it.
At what point did you realize that the way you were going to achieve fulfillment was by giving?
There are a couple of people around me that I surrounded myself with. He wasn’t talking monetary but you said, “You’ll never go broke by giving away.” He meant it spiritually, on kindness and everything. That’s what I do now. We were in a position, me and my wife, where we run a very successful million-dollar company and we give a lot of money away, but we don’t just give it to any old person. We give it to people in recovery who have children, especially a single parent. We’ll help anybody out when they call us and as long as we know them. We don’t give to strangers unfortunately. If we know that you’re doing the right thing and you’re helping, it’s all about giving my time, my money, my thoughts and my experience back to the next person.
I run a book study every Saturday morning. I’m a very busy guy, but all bets are off on Saturday morning. My wife does not book anything. That’s my time giving back. I do an hour of book study and it’s beautiful. Everyone in there is amazed and learning real good stuff. That’s what it’s about for me. I put that first before my working life because that’s what’s getting me through and that’s what inspires other people because that’s my job now. I’m always going to be in the trenches. The other stuff you see me do, the TV, the books, it pays the mortgage and keeps my wife happy. My job is in the trenches working with them. The only paycheck I get off them is watching them recover and get the job, the life, the wife, the car back and have an amazing life. That’s me paid in for.
Is your wife in recovery?
No, she isn’t. She had a brother that took his own life because he was an alcoholic. There’s a relation there that she knows. She was a director at a university when I met her, but she’s adapted to this. It’s funny because when I first met her, she didn’t like her job too much so she wanted to change it or something. One day I came home and says, “We’re that successful right now at work that you can go in and give your notice in tomorrow.” She did. She was the happiest person in the world for about three days, and then she says, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s driving me crazy.” She came and worked for us and then she became the Director of Operations. She does all the wages and everything.
How long have you been married?
Six years on February the 14th, 2021.
How did you end up in the United States?
I came over here for two weeks, a church in Plano near Dallas, Texas got in touch with me and said, “We want you to come over with. We heard a lot about you and we want you to spend two weeks with a youth ministry. We have big crack cocaine in the real posh areas of Plano,” which is one of the wealthiest cities in America at one time. I booked everything, and I went over and I come over here. The minute I landed at DFW Airport outside Dallas, I knew I would never go back home. I didn’t, and that was several years ago.
Are you living in Texas now?
I live in San Antonio, Texas. I lived in Dallas for several years, but we came in about several years ago to San Antonio because it’s near her family. We found the house of our dreams. We’re going to be here until God decides he got some more work up there for me.
I love San Antonio. Let’s talk about neuroplasticity and its role in changing neural pathways.
Neuroplasticity is the tracking of the neural pathways in the head, part of it. What happens is when we’re born alcoholic, not drug addicts. I’ve got to stress that drugs and alcohol are two different entities at all. Alcohol reacts differently on the brain than any drug does. We’re born this way. The minute we take alcohol, all bets are off. Whatever it is, alcoholism is always trauma. Let me define trauma for you because many people are like, “Not in my life.” There are two types of trauma. For the alcoholic brain, the addicted brain, “Get down off that chair, you stupid idiot. How many times have I told you you’re not clever enough to go to college?” That’s child abuse. Anything less than nurturing is child abuse. That’s where the abuse comes from.Show me your friends and I'll show you your future. Click To Tweet
Our neural pathways, which is our thinking process, always leads to self-sabotage. That’s why we can get a week a month or even a year sometimes of building up that bright future for me and my family and all of a sudden, I go on a spree and drag everything down. I get back in with my wife and the kids are okay, and the job’s there again. I do exactly the same thing because the neural pathways in my head are self-sabotage in your pathways. They’re always going to self-sabotage. That goes back to the hypothalamus I was talking about before. Part of the job of the hypothalamus is a fight or flight part of the brain. It secretes into the brain, “What’s going on? Fight off? Should I run? Should I stay?” All the major quick decisions we have to make and survival instincts.
It tells the normal person to drink water and eat food to survive, that’s why we don’t need to teach your baby how to eat. It already knows, hung down its mouth means it’s hungry. That’s normal. To the alcoholic, it tells us to drink. Now, that’s new science we’ve got into. What does that mean for the alcoholic? The brain’s telling us to drink. How do we change that? We have to change the neural pathways into self-care, into positive, into feeling better, getting more out of life. What happens is the main neural pathways in my head were going down the main freeway. I have to start taking the side roads to my destination, and sooner or later, the side roads become the main neural pathway thought process in my head and the old self-sabotage fizzles out and finally goes away.
Before the neural pathways are changed, our reaction, our urge and desire are to drink. Is that the solution?
It is the solution, but it’s not the disease. “This is getting too much. It’s sunny outside. It’s raining outside. I’m going to drink because I’m self-centered, selfish and I can’t handle life.” My brain is telling me that I’m never good enough, “You are never getting down off that chair, you stupid idiot.” I won’t speak to my worst enemy the way I speak to myself, not in a million years. If I drop a pen on the floor, I’m not an idiot. I just dropped a pen on the floor. The internal dialogue will either save your life or kill you as an alcoholic.
What are the steps to change your neural pathways?
You have to have help from somebody like me who specializes in changing neural pathways, and the neural pathway is a new thought pattern. Have you ever noticed when you first started driving a car, no matter what size the car is, it feels like a tank? When you’re passing cars, you’re scared in case you hit them, yet you’re 10 yards away from the car. That’s just the way it is. The more we do that, repetition strengthens and confirms your pathways. All of a sudden, now we can back down the driveway while speaking to mom on the phone, listening to music and waving to the next-door neighbor without the thought of driving. Those solid neural pathways have been built and ingrained into the brain, how to drive. Now, spend a year not driving, and the car turns into a tank again.
We need to do this on a daily basis to keep the neural pathways solid and become a thought pattern without thinking about it. We call it the knee-jerk reaction, and it is the same with alcoholism. You need self-care so you need to do good things and good thought patterns. We use brainspotting, NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and SE, which is Somatic Experience, to change the way we think, act and behave. It’s repetition over a 90-day period because that’s how long it takes for the brain to reset chemically, and we’re on a good start to a great life.
Once the new neural pathways have been developed, how does the person keep the new neural pathways intact?
Repetition, every time. The thing we talked about is the daily maintenance, not just spiritually, but everything of a set routine to keep us busy, always giving back, available and positive whenever you can. I talked to everybody. I went to the bakery a couple of months ago. I was getting a cake for someone’s birthday out there at the Twelve-Step meeting. There was an old lady behind the counter and I always have a ball with people, I always laugh and joke. She’s like, “If I was 50 years younger, we’d be dating.” I was like, “If you were 50 years younger, I’d let you date me.” I’m going back and forth. She’s laughing and I’m laughing, the usual that I do. We’re back tomorrow because she wanted to write her name on it.
We went back the next day, and a manager was serving me and all of a sudden, this old lady came from the back of the store and she said, “Can I speak to you?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I want to thank you.” I’m like, “For what? What did I do?” She said, “Yesterday was my first day back since my husband died six months ago, and I was dreading coming into work and I was scared. I was nervous and all that stuff but laughing and joking with you in the first hour I was there made my day.” I didn’t know that. I had no idea. She told me, but that’s the stuff we need to do is to make other people’s day and it’ll come back to you tenfold.
Being optimistic, being positive and laughter. Laughter is some of the best medicine.
If you walk into a room and there are ten people in the room with a frown on your face, most people are going to frown back. If you walk in the same room with the same people with a smile on your face, most people are going to smile back, and that’s what we need to do. Don’t wait for other people to make the change. Be that guy that does that change. Be that guy that walks in the room with a smile on his face. Be that guy to say the first word in an elevator when everyone’s looking the opposite way and nobody speaks. Be that first guy to make somebody’s day. That’s what it’s all about. Don’t sit and wait for somebody else to do it. Get up and do it yourself. Be a leader. Alcoholics who’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body are leaders. This isn’t an affliction. It’s a superpower. Start using the power that God’s given you. The Twelve Steps book says we are empowered. I can tell from experience that empowered people empower people, and that’s what it’s about. I spent too many times at the back of the line, too many times crying, hoping and wishing. This is it. This is the chance to reclaim your life. We get two lives in one lifetime. I say I’ll call it for you.
You can feel the energy in a room. When you walk into a room and it’s dreary and it’s depressing, to your point, be the person that brings positive energy. If you’re the person that brings the positive energy, that brings the smile that says, “Hello,” that brings the laughter. That changes the whole environment and that changes the energy in the room.
The positive energy that you talk about, Tim, is very contagious. It’s like when somebody starts laughing, other people start laughing with you. You don’t know what the other joke is because you’re laughing. It’s going back to the mirror effect in the brain. Be that change. What’s the worst that can happen because that’s how you are. Even if they don’t feel better, you will, every single time.
Abe Lincoln said, “You’re as happy as you make your mind up to be.”
The truest statement I’ve ever had. It’s unbelievable, it’s true. If I’m happy now and then tomorrow, if I’m miserable, what’s changed? I still live in the same house, got the same wife, dogs, cars and business. “I’ve changed,” that’s the neural pathways from the self-sabotaging coming back again. Stop your day and start your day over anytime you want. You get up in the morning, you stub your toe, you cut yourself shaving. Whatever it is, stop, breathe and say, “I’m going to start my day now.” I’m telling you now, readers, if you don’t get better after what I said, call me. I will give you $10,000 because it’s impossible to do because what we say to ourselves, we react on.Selfishness is what kills us, not alcohol. Click To Tweet
That internal dialogue will rule your brain. Fight back against that depression. I don’t want to get into all that, but just that little depression that alcohol is getting to, fight against it. Change your day. Start your day, breathe, call somebody up. Be of service. Anything you need to do to get you out of yourself because selfishness is what kills us, not alcohol. Alcohol is the end result. The selfishness of oneself will kill you. Once that starts to happen, it’s like a corroding thread. It’s going to rip through your mind and your body. Before you know it, you’re dead from your drinking. Let me tell you this, when you’re drinking, you’re no good to anybody. Forget yourself. There are 10 to 20 people out there that day that are drunk who should have heard something about what good you had to say, but because you were selfish and drank, they didn’t hear it. They’re probably dead now. Think about that.
The selfishness and self-centeredness, going back to the drinking and the drugs are selfish. It’s self-centered. It means that I’m not helping somebody else because if I am helping somebody else, then I’m not thinking about myself. I remember I was about 4 or 5 years sober. I remember I’m going through these things in my life and I’m calling my sponsor and he’s working with newcomers and he’s not calling me back. I’m like, “What about me?” I realized I needed to get another sponsee. I need to work with another person. The reason I work with another person is to get outside of myself. Tim needs somebody besides Tim, and then I get to a place where I’m grateful. I’m full of gratitude and I realized my problem aren’t that big of a deal.
That’s one of the secrets in life. If you could get that down to a tee, the pursuit of happiness, you’ve arrived. You keep doing that on a daily basis and being that guy.
Trauma and addiction, returning to the scene of the crime.
Going back to that stuff that you don’t want to talk about. The Twelve-Step book talks about grosser handicaps. There are only seven of them that I’ve ever found. Go back and clearing that stuff up because many people, when they did step 4 and 5 go, “I’ve dealt with that rape and molestation.” Have you or do you just want to come to that humbling experience with a guy who’s your sponsor? You don’t know. You’ve got to ask yourself that question. We go back to the scene of the crime and we clear that stuff up. We look at it for what it is, the effects it has had on you and how we’re going to get out of that because that stuff sits in the subconscious brain and it will affect the rest of your life if you leave it lingering. What happens with this stuff back at the scene of the crime is it gets built up and other stuff is added to it. It’s like a zip file on your computer screen, sooner or later, you’re going to click on it and all that crap that you’ve stored up will come out all at once. That’s the biggest cause of a breakdown because the brain can’t handle it. It switches off. The central nervous system closes down, then we’re in big trouble.
We’ve got to clear away the wreckage of the past.
All of it, every single bit of it that we can and live that great life. I have nothing in the past that’s lingering that will come up. Forget about anybody else that will come up and destroy you. The amends I make to people is not for them, it’s for me. The stuff that I do, it’s not for them. It’s for me. This is the stuff I need to do and people forget about that. If I’m walking down the road and there’s no one around. You throw the trash into the can, it misses, it hits the floor, “Do I pick it up or do I leave it there because there’s nobody watching me?” That defines the kind of person you are. If you pick up, you live in the right. If you leave it there, it’s all show. My mom used to tell me, “When you meet somebody, look at the shoes. If it’s shiny at the front but the back of the heel is dull, they are all for show. If they shine the back of the shoes where the heel is, they are the deal. They’re thoughtful, they’re impeccable with their word.” I’ve always done that now.
I’ve never heard that before.
It’s true. Just look at the guy’s shoes, especially not so much now when shoes have changed, but back when you used to have to use polish on your black shoes, you always look at the back. If it’s still scuffed and messed up, then they’re just doing it for a show. They’re not doing it because they’re thorough and they live a good life.
I’ll have to start paying attention to that. Although being in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not like I’m out seeing a lot of people as it is. A grateful and recovered alcoholic from being hopeless to hopeful, talk to me about that.
The transition for the Twelve-Step program will take you to a place you’ve never been before. Here’s the deal that nobody knows. This is self-based evidence from our program that we use here is when you have the psychic change and the spiritual awakening, your DNA changes. You’re not the same person as you were when you walked into the rooms, so start reading the book. What does that mean? The book is quite specific when it says, “The same man will drink again,” so our DNA has to change. Once that happens, we’re on the right road. We’re a different person. The pursuit of happiness again is there for you and we can chase it and we can live the dream we want to live.
We don’t get stuck in the past. We don’t want to forget the past because it’s got us to where we are now but I don’t live in my past. I remember things, I talk about it now and again, but I don’t live there. I live in now. I’m lucky and blessed because I have people around me to do all the stuff that I can’t get involved with the booking, the talking, the appointments, the payment, and that’s all taken off me. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I just know that my wife will give me now. She’ll say, “Here are your appointments for tomorrow.” That’s it. I get to live one day at a time and I get to live in the moment, which is awesome.
Do you ever feel not supported by your wife in your recovery path or your recovery journey?
No. She is an absolutely amazing woman. She sticks by me all the way. I’ll be honest, Tim, if it wasn’t for her, I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. Everybody needs the person that they can rely on, who lifts you up, reminds you who you are, for support and the person on that day when you’re not having a great day, but pushes you forward to do what you’re doing. She is 100% behind me. She’s my best friend. She’s my wife. She’s a phenomenal business partner. She’s got everything.
I guess where I’m going with this is because she’s not in recovery, what I experience a lot of times is that people that are not in recovery don’t speak the language, and sometimes they don’t totally get it.
The best thing she did was to read the Big Book. She got knowledgeable about it. She knows what’s going on. That’s the good news. The bad news is when your wife reads Big Book and you’re doing anything wrong, she’ll let you know straight away. There are good and bad signs. Don’t forget we are surrounded by patients, sponsors and stuff like that. At the house, we often have what we call Sober Sunday. We have a big call entertaining house. We got pools and spas in the back and a full kitchen. We’ll open the house up to everyone at the meetings, and we’ll come around and she talks to people. She’s in the crowd herself even though she’s not an alcoholic or addict.The difference between alcoholics and heavy drinkers is not in how much they drink, but in how it affects their brains. Click To Tweet
Has she ever worked at a Twelve-Step program or anything like that?
No, nothing at all. She’s been on a few times as I have to get to see the other person’s point of view. I’ve been to CA. I’ve been to all the Twelve-Step groups to get a piece of it and see what they’re up against. She doesn’t work anything. She has her spiritual journey and she has a spiritual guru that she works with. She’s not a Twelve-Step person.
Does she drink?
She’ll do once in six months, once every twelve months. I’m very big on surrounding myself when I go out with people who drink because for many years, I couldn’t do that. Now, I can still get 1 or 2 friends, “Are you okay if we drink?” I’m like, “Yeah. Why are you asking me for?” “I’m just making sure, it must be difficult for you.” If this was difficult for me, I’d be drinking. The compulsion had to be taken away. I have a new life now. Alcohol is not my problem. Thinking is my problem. It’s not the drinking problem, it’s the thinking problem. That’s what it’s all about. Alcohol’s the symptom. It’s like when I get chickenpox on, he says, “Robb, you’ve got chickenpox.” “How did you know?” “I can see all the spots on your body.” That’s the symptom of chickenpox. I have a viral infection that as an adult can kill me. It’s the same with alcoholism. You see the bottle with the whiskey in it or wherever it may be. You don’t see the disease that centers in my brain that has an effect on my body.
Being a person in long-term recovery, I’ve dated girls that are in recovery and girls that are not in recovery or women that are in recovery and are not. To your point, anybody I date, I date. Anybody I surround myself with needs to be supportive of my recovery journey, but I’m never tempted to drink. It’s a symptom. We can live our lives and I don’t need to control people. Other people can do whatever it is that they want to do.
If we can’t go into a place where beers are served, alcohols are served, a mix with people, you’re not in the right place. You’ll probably relapse. We need to be on the fit spiritual ground. We can go anywhere we wanted. I often got used to like German wine, and that’s what my wife drinks every now and then. I often take the glass and smell it because I know a good wine from a bad wine. It has no effect on me. Why would it have an effect? It’s the symptom. If you’ve got a great person around, who supports you for who you are and support your journey, that’s what we need because we can’t do this on our own.
There was an experiment done a few years ago with ten mice in ten cages. Each cage has a feed of water and cocaine. Every single one of them chose the cocaine. Every single time, they went back to the cocaine. What they did then is they collected all of the mice to come in one cage, and 9 out of 10 of the mice went to the water. Together, we can do it, singly we can’t. There’s a big lesson to be learned then, hence the fellowship. The fellowship will not get you well, the fellowship will not keep you well, no human power can relieve my alcoholism, but God could and would. The fellowship is very important for lifting each other up, hearing other stories, compliment other people and being grateful for people around you.
The opposite of human connection is addiction and alcoholism. We need each other. We need a fellowship. We need to be around other people and surrounding ourselves around people that want the same things that we want, surrounding myself around people that have what I want. That’s how I’m going to get what I want.
A lot of people think it’s all monetary and it’s not. You can hang around and be a great guy without even earning a lot of money but you can succeed. Quantum physics tells us that I can be on the same basketball court for instance at 25 places at the same time. I could be 25 different places on the same basketball court. Ask yourself where you want to be. “I will be one over near the balls. When I got it, I bang it in the net and I’d be the hero,” so would I. The question is, “How do we get there?” “Here we go, we walk over and we take that position.” That’s all it is. If you can visualize it, you can hold it in your hand, but you need people around you to keep that dream there. Never share your dreams with people who never share their dreams.
Do you think people can achieve long-term recovery without the twelve-step program?
I’ve seen it done. This is hard because there’s a great distinction between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker. I know people have drank more than me, drank longer than me, were in blackouts more than me, but it’s not how often we drink or how much we take. It’s the effect that chemical has on my brain. That’s the difference. You’ve got to ask yourself of people who do it on their own, “Were they real alcoholic or just heavy drinkers?” Heavy drinkers can stop drinking, given a sufficient reason. The doctor goes, “You live as blah, blah, blah. If you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to die.” They can stop in moderation. They’re not alcoholic.
When I take the first drink, can I stop? No, I was in a hospital bed once again. The doctor lent over me and he looked right in my face and he said, “Look, Robb, if you ever drink alcohol again, you will not even make it in the ambulance to the hospital. Am I making myself clear?” While he’s telling me this deadly message, I’m looking over his shoulder at the clock on the wall, thinking the liquor store closes in two hours’ time, “If I can get out of it in the next 30 minutes, I can get to the liquor store on time.” That’s how crazy thinking is.
What is it that you want people to take away from this conversation that we had?
There are a couple of things. Whatever you desire, whatever you want, you can get it. If you’re doing the right thing, following a great program, and doing all the things it tells me, don’t let anybody tell you, “You can’t recover on this and have an amazing life. It’s not true.” Stop hanging around with people that bring you down, that are jealous of you and want what you’ve got. You’ve got to realize that you are worthy. Remember, we’re never going to be blonde enough, tall enough, thin enough or rich enough. Take that on board and live life to the max. Every single day, live life to the max because God forbid, if you ever die tomorrow, what would you regret not having done now? Keep that in your mind and make sure you do it.
How can people reach You? Find out more about you? Find out more about the services that you have?
Dr. Robb Kelly on any Google search or any of the platforms, just search my name. You’ll see it. RobbKelly.com is the website. I often do this on only great shows and not crappy shows. I’m going to give you my personal cell phone number should you need it, (214) 600-0210. That isn’t for business. That is if you’re struggling and you need a fifteen-minute pep-talk. I’m not going to cost you anything. Call me and we’ll chat. I will change your life in fifteen minutes with the talk I will give you. I guarantee it.
Also, it’s worth mentioning on Amazon only. The last thing my daughter said to me years ago was, “Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking,” and that’s the name of the book on Amazon. The only reason why we do it is we don’t take a dime from it. Not all the profits, all the proceeds, everything that goes into that buying of that book for $10 goes back in the community. We gave a bunch of money away. It must be $100,000 the year before or maybe $200,000 back into the community, back helping people. Go and buy it. It’s a great read. Let me know what you think about it.
Dr. Robb Kelly, I appreciate you. It was good getting to know you and getting to know more about you. Thanks, everybody. I hope you all have an amazing rest of your day. Thanks again, Dr. Robb.
It’s great to see you.
- Dr. Robb Kelly
- Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking
- Willpower Doesn’t Work
- Genius Network
- Genius Recovery
- Life Gives To The Giver
- Twelve Steps
- Big Book
About Dr. Robb Kelly
Robb Kelly, Ph.D. is a renowned addiction consultant who believes in treating the problem of addiction, not the symptoms. He has worked for many years helping addicts and alcoholics to recover their lives from the disease of addiction. Based on his own experiences working with addicts and alcoholics over the last 20 years, a Ph.D. in Psychology from Oxford University and as a recovered alcoholic himself – he is a triple threat against the disease of addiction. Dr. Kelly was the CEO of a thriving telecommunications company when the walls came crashing down on him due to alcoholism. He ended up homeless and broken on the streets of Manchester, England until he found the courage to save himself.
He has lectured on the subject of addiction at many high-profile universities, national conferences, public schools, churches, business organizations and hospitals, and is recognized as a leading authority on addiction recovery methods that are changing lives all around the world. Dr. Kelly is currently the CEO of the Robb Kelly Recovery Group, an addiction recovery coaching company he created based on extensive research and behaviour studies that he conducted over the last 20 years.
Dr. Kelly’s methods may seem unconventional leading some people to refer to him as “The Gordon Ramsay of the Addiction World” because of his direct, no-nonsense, and candid approach to treating addiction. Dr. Kelly works to “make the road of recovery less of a mystery tour.”