Friday, February 19, 2010

Today's News - Tiger Woods (Really about Addiction and Recovery)

Addiction is UGLY and Vicious and is a very nasty disease in what ever form it takes.  Ultimately addiction will take everything an addict has away.  Dignity, pride, family, self-respect, career, money are likely to be lost along the way, and finally addiction takes our lives.  I've watched hundred of men and women try to recover from addictions to get their families back.  I myself have tried to recover because I don't want to lose my family.  In nearly every single case, the real progress did not materialize until the addict - me in my own case - surrenders the family, the spouse, the marriage and along with it the career and the bank account.  Once we realize that addiction has us in a death grip, and that family or no family, job or no job, our only hope is sobriety, then (and very often only then) we can really begin recovery.

Being an addict doesn't remove one from being responsible for their actions.  Tiger Woods was right to apologize without excuse for the double life he had been leading, if for no other reason that it is only by acknowledging that our problems originate with ourselves and are self-inflicted that addicts can begin to recover.  The fact that the media and the salivating public, not to mention scorned wives and sponsors, will accept no waffling is actually secondary to the addict's recovery. 

In my experience, when an addict faces such a situation where a humble and heartfelt apology is the only option it is difficult even for the addict to figure out how honest, genuine, humble and heartfelt the apology really is.  Untangling the desire we have to really change, and our true contrition for the damage we have caused from our need to regain our standing and restore our pride is near impossible.  Those experience in recovery will say "look for the changes."  These are changes that are difficult to discern through the lens of the media, unless of course Woods get's caught by the tabloids behaving badly.

The one observation on the press conference that I will make is that Woods hasn't decided to rush back into golf.  This may possibly be a decision that shows Woods is taking his own recovery seriously enough to acknowledge that being back in front of the public and back on tour is likely to end in disaster.  It has happened magnificently to other golfers with alcoholism, most notably John Daly.  Plenty of other celebrities and media personalities have suffered from repeated relapses and public downward spirals as they have resumed their careers.  So often you see the celebs doing the "30 day spin dry" and going back on tour, or back to the movie set.  The collapses are predictable to those of use who are fortunate enough to struggle through our sobriety without the pressure of multimillion dollar contracts, a small industry of support entourage depending on us, and the spotlight of the media and the paparazzi.

If I was able to be a friend to Tiger Woods, or if I saw him at a meeting I'd share with them the experience that I share with any other addict or alcoholic.  "Getting my wife and family back won't keep me sober, but if I'm not sober I'll never get them back and I'll be useless to them and everyone else.  Having my career back didn't keep me sober, and without sobriety I couldn't keep my career.  When  just staying sober became the best that I could hope for, I surrendered and fully conceded to myself that I was powerless over my addiction and everything else."  As a recovering addict all I get is today, and the chance to stay sober for the next 24 hours.  Anything beyond that is something to be grateful for. 

So I don't know the motivation for Woods making what appears to be the smart decision and staying away from golf indefinitely.  It could have been his sponsors and the PGA looking out for Tiger's best interest (and their long term investment) but I think that is unlikely.  It may have been a calculated move to try to restore his image.  I hope however, that the decision was largely Tiger Woods listening to the addicts who have gotten some time in recovery telling him to slow down. 

Recovery must come First.  Golf may or may not ever be part of Tiger Woods life.  From what I've seen in 12 step meetings Sex addiction is real and is probably at least as challenging as any substance based addiction to recover from.   One thing I've heard from sex addict is that the first 'drink' can happen without even a second thought.  Because the addiction revolves around lust and fantasy, there is no need to log on, or go to a dealer to get loaded.  I've heard stories of relapses that start with a look at a stoplight, or a commercial during the evening news.  Going back into the environment where he practiced his addiction might be something that Tiger Woods chooses to not ever do.  All addicts talk about being out of town, having success and extra cash, and staying in motel rooms as situations they often find prone to relapse and full of 'triggers.'

What ever the case, I wish Tiger Woods the best as he starts out on the road to recovery.


  1. Most thoughtful commentary I've heard on Tiger. Thanks, Paul.

  2. Addiction to drugs, alcohol really ruined the life of people, even I have seen many people died around me because of their excessive consumption of alcohol. Addiction is not good for health or family. I heard about tiger woods news and I think billions of people shocked. It's normal and it can happen to anyone. Recovery is necessary for a good life. Your post is really good.