Episode 35: Holly Whitaker – Hip Sobriety – Creating a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From

The Journey of Integral Recovery Podcast

Nov 03
Holly Whitaker - Hip Sobriety - Creating a Life you Don't Need to Escape From

Episode 35
Holly Whitaker
Hip Sobriety
Creating a Life you Don’t Need to Escape From


Is it normal?

Every time we log into our social media accounts, we see the smiling faces of our friends, families, and colleagues. We see people’s successes and celebrations. Maybe we even post a few of our own, carefully curating the picture we present to the world. We craft a picture of ourselves to tell the world we’re happy, successful, and living the life of our dreams. Sure, the world’s expectations of what we’re supposed to be are high. But we’re crushing it, right? Here’s a picture to prove it.

And we tell ourselves, in order to cope the unreasonable expectations of modern society and all the roles we’re supposed to play, it’s okay that we indulge in a few vices. After all, our friends tell us it’s normal. So does the media. Women* are bombarded with messages that happy women drink. So do “attractive” women, successful women, and creative women. In fact, the media tells us that not doing so is abnormal.

(*regardless of biological sex, psychological gender, sexual preference, or lack of any of the aforementioned. We’re all unique people who face unique societal and cultural challenges.)

Behind the scenes, the picture isn’t so glamorous. Despite the “social proof” that normalizes and condones our escapist indulgences, our inner lives are a wreck. Our chemical and behavioral addictions are making us miserable, and they’re taking a massive toll on our health, our happiness, our relationships, and our society. Alcoholism and addiction, especially among women, is growing at an alarming rate. So are eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and more.

Something’s got to give. We’re not supposed to live this way. This isn’t “normal”, and it’s definitely not “okay”.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go against the grain and choose a different path. And even once we’ve reached the decision to “live a life that others won’t so we can live a life that others can’t”, our communities, culture, and the medical establishment have limited options to help us. And for too many people, these options, based on a religious and masculine model that doesn’t address the different needs of different people, can do a great deal of harm and deepen the soul-shattering hopeless and isolation of those most in need of help.

Holly Whitaker, the founder of Hip Sobriety, took it upon herself to “project manage her own recovery”. She discovered how to address the needs that traditional recovery missed by using all four quadrants of the AQAL model and helping people to discover, nurture, and rebuild their often-wounded sense of self. Knowing how much it had helped her, and seeing how many other people desperately needed a solution that worked for them, she created Hip Sobriety School, a program of education and support to help others find their way to better life.

Through HipSobriety.com, the Home Podcast, and Hip Sobriety School, Holly has become a powerful and inspiring voice for recovery and life-affirming transformation, empowering a growing number of people not only to recover in the way that addresses their unique needs and societal challenges, but to discover the life of infinite possibility that sobriety offers.

About Holly Whitaker:

I'm Holly. Professionally, I am sobriety coach and teacher, writer, speaker, co-host/co-producer of the Home Podcast, Kundalini yoga and mediation instructor, and I run this thing called Hip Sobriety. My life's mission is to fix the mess that is addiction & addiction recovery. I am just one of many who believe that we must end the stigma, shame, criminalization and marginalization; promote alternative pathways to recovery; and work together across a diverse set of belief systems, modalities, and barriers in order to do so. I deeply believe that sobriety is an inspiring, empowering, and life affirming choice, and that we are living in such a time where more and more individuals will come to decide for it.

Learn More about Holly Whitaker, Hip Sobriety, and the HOME podcast:
Hip Sobriety
Hip Sobriety School
HOME Podcast

Episode Resources:

By Jonah Berger Contagious
Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction (SUNY series in Integral Theory)
The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions-More Inclusive, More Comprehensive, More Complete
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, Second Edition
Profound Meditation Program
Profound Releasing
Stealing Flow: Complete Brainwave Suite for Flow State Mastery (iAwake Technologies and Doug Prater)
Deep Recovery – a guided meditation from iAwake Technologies

In this episode:

[1:20] An introduction to Holly Whitaker, who among many other things, is the founder of Hip Sobriety, a blog and teaching program conveying a unique and powerful approach to recovery.
[3:31] Holly’s story: How did she get to where she is in the world of recovery? What’s the story of Hip sobriety?
[4:06] Addiction comes in many forms, from alcoholism, to nicotine addiction, to eating disorders, and the medical establishment isn’t doing enough to help. Most doctors aren’t trained in addiction, giving addicts limited options for treatment.
[5:00] Alan Carr and the “Easy Way” method of working with our subconscious beliefs to elicit behavior change without the struggle. A powerful way to change our perspectives, which is incredibly helpful because we often, in our addiction, are unable to correctly identify the roots of the problem. Many disorders are misdiagnosed and appear to present as something else, and getting to the underlying causes isn’t always an easy task.
[7:45] When an opening occurs, things begin to shift in your life. When this happened to Holly, she took it seriously, and pursued “A Course in Miracles”, Alan Carr, Eckhart Tolle, and more, to see where it led.
[8:45] One by one, Holly cut through the layers of her addiction, and as she did so, she recognized the inability of the medical establishment to provide the help she needed. Working in the healthcare system, the path before her, or at least the goal and the next steps, began to emerge.
[9:45] When Holly found John Dupuy’s book, Integral Recovery, she found a thorough explanation of why the path to sobriety she had discovered worked for her. By working on her internal world, her relationships, and her environment, she was able to make massive changes in her life and make them stick. In other words, she knew “what” worked, and Integral Recovery clarified “why”.
[11:15] There’s no reason to wait until a rock bottom of binging and purging and drinking to help people make the changes. The more people we can prevent from ever doing that kind of lasting damage, the better.
[12:30] We all use, or engage with our other addictions for different reasons. In Holly’s case, it was the only way she could turn off her desire to “go, go, go” all the time.
[13:00] Women face a different set of judgement than do men, and they’re often valued by society in a different way. As such, women face very different pressures, and they’re often disconnected from the nurturing they need. The result of this can be an inability to adequately self-nurture, which leads to constant dissatisfaction with one’s self, one’s worth, and one’s body (which are all intimately intertwined).
[14:41] An important key to recovery, for women in contemporary society, is the need to learn how to self-nurture and repair one’s self-worth in a warm, supportive, and understanding way that allows room for grace and humanity.
[15:40] The challenging ideas of masculinity faced by men, and this, too, can lead to disorders of insecurity and low self-worth which often leads to dependence on substance use.
[16:15] Men and women are conditioned into their roles and gender stereotypes, and the societal pressure leads to subconscious accepting of that conditioning, which can be feel devasting when we don’t measure up to those standards whether they match our unique Integral typologies or not.
[17:00] Holly’s techniques to make self-nurturing “job number one” by taking care of yourself in small, important ways, like wearing your favorite bedclothes, or indulging in a favorite tv show. Using essential oils, eating whole foods, setting and maintaining personal boundaries, and more, can all help contribute to establishing a firm foundation for ongoing sobriety. Especially in the beginning, sobriety is our full-time job that must be attended to over all other things. Holly espouses a philosophy of “treating yourself by treating yourself”.
[17:32] Our society has an ongoing stigmatization of alcoholism and addiction, and addicts have a corresponding shame, that insists that addicts are selfish. But for many, including Holly, part of the problem was actually “not being selfish enough”. Allowing ourselves to take care of ourselves is a critical part of rebuilding a healthy sense of self.
[18:25] Part of the problem with traditional recovery groups in the twelve-step tradition is that their language was and is geared towards privileged white males, and thus it had a heavy focus on diminishing one’s sense of self. But for many, this is exactly the opposite of what’s needed. Many women (and many men, too) need to focus on establishing a healthy sense of self in order to recover and achieve lasting sobriety.
[19:30] You can’t vanquish the self if you don’t have one. Thus, we must first become a self before we can fine tune it.
[20:10] AA is a masculine approach which assumes that addicts have an overdeveloped ego. There’s a sense that women in recovery need to humble themselves.
[21:04] There’s a critical distinction between biological sex and feminine/masculine identity, which gets further confused by the cultural baggage, expectations, and misconceptions about what those terms actually mean. It’s become increasingly clear that recovery isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition, and when we pay more attention to helping unique individuals, the better our success rates.
[21:30] When people with underdeveloped egos and poor sense of self enter recovery to hear that “they’re not good enough and they don’t belong”, and all the other negative things they’ve been telling themselves for years, they fall even deeper into the trap of self-rejection.
[23:24] Gender is what you feel like, and it’s distinct from biological sex and sexual preference. Understanding these typologies can help us develop better individualized treatment plans.
[25:02] While it’s possible to stumble on a path to recovery that addresses all four quadrants and the needs of the individual, not everyone will make it that far. That’s why we do recovery work: The more we can do to transform and evolve the conversation around addiction and treatment, the more people we’ll be able to help discover the life they were meant to live.
[25:52] Overcoming the cultural bias that judges women’s worth by their beauty, and how we can teach young people to live differently and value more important qualities, so that their sense of self-worth is built on a different and more important foundation.
[26:50] Is the twelve step paradigm pre-psychological? Is it pre-medical? Looking at the upper left hand and upper right hand quadrants, we see that AA didn’t have the advantage of drawing on all the psychological, scientific, and social knowledge we’ve gained over the course of the last century’s knowledge and information explosion. By redesigning the model of recovery, we’re not negating the insights of AA’s founders, but adding to them.
[28:45] For many in recovery, the twelve step programs work incredibly well because they provide a solid structure to follow, and because of the strength and fellowship of the community. These two factors, structure and community, are critical parts of recovery, especially in the beginning when people are deep in the depths of suffering and despair.
[29:20] It’s important to be able to discuss any approach to recovery, or any system in society or life, critically. Only through the freedom to speak critically can we continue to course correct and improve our models and systems.
[30:45] In our evolution of recovery, AA isn’t thrown out. It’s simply augmented and expanded to include what we have learned to make the program more inclusive and more effective. Integral Recovery is a complement, not an alternative.
[31:55] We have to be able to trust that humans can challenge and expand their beliefs in a safe way. The twelve-step model isn’t an adequate container for everyone, so some people will leave a meeting, deciding AA isn’t for them, and then shortly return to substance use. We need a bigger container, and unapologetic voices to support and expand it.
[33:00] Challenging the need for anonymity to move alcoholism and addiction out of the shadows, and why this movement is necessary to expand the availability of recovery to everyone who needs it.
[33:45] Our society pulls us off-center, and more and more people are developing behavioral addictions to cope. Everyone’s addicted to something, so the destigmatization of addiction and recovery is critical to stemming the tide of a growing problem.
[34:50] There was a time when the anonymity component of recovery was essential, but as we continue to open up and share more about our lives, that stigma is diminishing. As more and more people “come out of the addiction closet”, we strengthen the social proof that it’s okay to be who we are. Seeing other people doing something helps us to feel safe and more likely to emulate the behavior. And as we move addiction and recovery out of the shadows, we begin to see the “real people” in our own lives who have struggled with addiction. This gives us role models and people to emulate.
[38:18] More and more, young people are able to accept the differences in one another without judgment, and the shift came about because, in the beginning, some people were willing to be brave and allow the world to see who they were.
[38:46] Though we’re still at the beginning of removing the shame and social stigma from addiction, it’s beginning to change. And due to the technological and cultural shifts of our time, the movement has the potential to spread far more quickly than it could have in the past.
[40:00] In spite of some people knowing others who are addicts, the removal of stigma can still be difficult when people separate their friends, families, and loved ones from “those people – the serious addicts”. We’re all the same; we’re all one voice and one human family. There is no distance and no difference between us. Every addict, regardless of their circumstances, faces a shared set of challenges. It’s not easy to overcome the tendency to “other (used here as a verb)” people and lump them together, yet it’s a challenge worth confronting and working to change.
[42:03] In psychology, language around various pathologies takes the form of “he has had _________”, not “he is ____________”. And yet, with addiction, we still refer to people as “being addicts” and not “having addiction”. The twelve step groups contribute to this when we introduce ourselves as addicts.
[43:34] Developmentalist Robert Keegan tells us that “the subject of one level becomes the object of the subject of the next.” This means that, deep in active addiction, we “are” addicts, as the addict is the controlling self. In recovery, though, the dynamic changes: we no longer “are” the addict self.
[44:35] Even once we’ve moved beyond it, it’s important to acknowledge and accept the part of ourselves and our history that we’ve transcended, and this is the essence of shadow work.
[46:00] The stigma around addiction persists in our society largely because most people still view using drugs as a choice. The more we come to understand the biological, genetic, and psychological underpinnings of this disease, and spread the word about these facts, the sooner we’ll able to change the conversation and help more people recover.
[47:30] The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the science of addiction, which is already moving things in the right direction.
[48:24] Even the idea of “choice” isn’t as clear cut as it seems when we look at the messaging and culture we’re all exposed to, and the impact it has on our behavior. The addiction rate of women to alcohol has more than doubled in the last ten years, which undoubtedly ties into the expectations placed on women and the messages they receive from advertising, media, and social groups (social proof of expected behavioral norms). The billion dollar marketing machine is selling us the idea that women drink, and it’s hard to escape the message that it’s normal behavior, and if you don’t participate, there’s something wrong with you.
[50:00] Make no mistake, alcohol is a potent drug. The message that women’s empowerment comes from the consumption of it is dangerously wrong, and our families, friends, societies, and selves are paying the price.
[52:22] With all the pressure on women to do everything and be everything in today’s society, there’s definitely a need for release, and women are told that drinking is the answer. So then, sitting at home drinking a bottle by one’s self, we wonder if it’s normal…and look to social media and peer groups which tell us “yes, perfectly normal.” No wonder we have a problem with alcoholism and addiction.
[52:50] The practices of Intergal Recovery are the bridge between addicts and people who don’t suffer from addiction. Addicts were the squeaky wheels who got the attention through their dire need of this program, but the practices benefit everyone. And when others see the transformation, not back to baseline, but to evolution into one’s best self, we can be a positive force for moving the world in a better direction.
[54:40] How much pain can you tolerate before you have to change? Addiction is so painful that it forces a change, but most of the world lives with this minor, dull, ache in the background. Addiction is the catalyst and the invitation to wake up to our hero’s journey.
[56:15] Hip Sobriety began as a blog to address the growing numbers of people who have realized “maybe something is wrong with the way I’m living”, but who don’t feel they fit in a traditional twelve step group (for any number of reasons).
[57:15] Through Hip Sobriety, Holly and her ever-growing community dive deep into the idea that maybe numbing out and self-medicating with substances and behaviors isn’t the best way to live; that’s it’s, in fact, not normal. The community fully believes in empowering its members by encouraging them to “project manage their own recovery” and take their life back into their own hands.”
[58:00] Holly’s course, Hip Sobriety School, gives people the tools to design and stick with their own recovery practices.
[59:05] The Integral Map is used by Hip Sobriety, in a simple and easily digestible way that empowers participants by boiling “what should I do” down its essence through its practices, and teaching why those practices matter.
[1:01:16] Hip Sobriety is about freedom – it’s a way to create a life you don’t need to escape from.

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11/03/2017, 62:37, 43.0 mb (Audio)

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