Stepping Out From the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding and Healing From Addictions

11 June 2015

Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions
by Allan Kehler
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-12-6

Unhealthy addictions are prevalent in contemporary society, and if you visit any bookstore, you’ll note that books about addictions also fill the shelves. When one who’s experienced the wrath of addiction puts pen to paper, it tends to add weight to the words. Allan Kehler is a Saskatchewan author, addictions counsellor, educator, and presenter, and he’s also struggled with both addictions and mental illness. His book Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions, is an easy-to-read guide for those struggling with addictions, and for those who love and support them.

Kehler names some of the reasons why one might become addicted to a substance or behavior (like compulsive gambling or over-eating). These include a lack of love and nurturing within the home environment, mental illness, peer pressure, or some specific trauma which resulted in suppressed emotions. “The person takes comfort knowing that something exists that will bring them out of their painful reality.” As use escalates, however, a habit that was once a “want” evolves into a “need.”

The author also addresses “the face of addiction.” Society may stereotype addicts, as the author confesses he once did. His preconceived notion of an addict-“an older man dressed in torn and dirty clothes … wild and tangled hair … fingers wrapped tightly around a bottle, or a needle protruding from his arm”-made it hard to identify himself as an addict. That notion, he explains, is no longer valid: addiction does not heed age or social status.

Kehler backs his text up with statistics. He writes that a U of A psychiatrist and addictions expert discovered “that while seven out of 10 [addicts] continue to be employed, less than 10 percent are actually identified as having addictions.”

He also talks about responsibility, and says that while “the disease of addiction isn’t a choice … the behavior is.” “It is the addict who initially chose to pick up the bottle the pill, the joint, the cards, the food, etc.” The compulsion to continue the destructive behaviour is so strong, he explains, that when one is told to stop “this can sound like being told to stop breathing.” That’s powerful stuff, and it really puts into perspective the vice-grip hold addictions can have on an individual. Kehler asserts that talking and letting people in are key to recovery.

In Stepping Out from the Shadows I learned that “Addicts tend to avoid mirrors like the plague because they don’t want to see what they’ve become,” and that addictions may pause emotional growth, so if young people begin drinking heavily at age 15, their emotional age may remain at that age, “even if they stop drinking at 30.” What a frightening thought!

This book is well-written, organized, and researched. It offers strong hope for addicts and their loved ones, and the fact that the author has battled and beat his own demons should be highly inspiring to those who feel they will never be happy, healthy and whole again.


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