Michael DeLeon


Abstinence is Not as Good as it Gets. There’s more to Recovery than staying clean and avoiding mind or mood-altering drugs.

Tony Robbins talks about changing the STATE of our life by looking at and changing the BLUEPRINT of our life. He says, “Whenever you are happy with something in your life, it is because right now, the conditions of your life match your ‘blueprint’, or your belief about how life should be in that particular area. If life is not where you want it to be, it’s because the ‘blueprint’ needs to be changed.” In my opinion, addiction has a blueprint. So, does recovery from addiction. Whether that “Blueprint” for our recovery is working obviously depends on the perception we have toward the life we are living.

Today, in the U.S., we are dealing with the worst public social addiction crisis this country has ever seen, and there are many opinions about what the blueprint for recovery should be. There is a huge movement to use medication assisted treatment (MAT) as a cure, even  making it the standard of care. There are also blueprints for abstinence-based recovery. There are even blueprints where people celebrate their recovery through their faith alone.

People state that there are many different paths to recovery. There are those who believe that recovery is itself the very path of managing addiction, rather than a destination free of all mind and mood-altering drugs. Who’s right? Is anyone wrong? Addiction has never been this bad in America and many believe it will get drastically worse. So, where do we go from here?

Farrah Gray says, “We don’t get in life what we want – we get what we are.” I say the same holds true for recovery. We get what we are, but I believe what we “ARE” is what we “Believe” we are, and that’s determined by the identity that we form for ourselves. The path we take to recovery is the path we “believe” is going to take us there. We program ourselves and we identify ourselves and our success with that path.

If we believe a fellowship and a program where we self-identify ourselves with a life-long term of “addict” or “alcoholic”, then we identify ourselves with that path. If we believe that a daily regimen of medication is the method to get us there, and we identify ourselves with the need for that medication, then that’s the path we will take. If we believe in our Faith so much that we rely on God to deliver us from the chains of addiction, then we program ourselves to that path. We literally program ourselves, and our identity is formed into that path.

My question is, does that identity last forever? Is it the same identity for everyone on that path? Is one better than the other as is championed on social media and in recovery blogs strewn all over the internet? Do some people push paths as the answer for them, yet do even more damage to others by judging and stigmatizing people who choose those paths? Do we hinder and limit people by convincing them they can’t be completely free from the bondage of chemicals by mocking abstinence? People program themselves based on information, and that information often comes with agendas. People absolutely need all the information to make informed decisions.

In 2002, Pastor Rick Warren wrote and published a book called, The Purpose Driven Life. It offered readers a 40-day personal, spiritual, journey and presented what Warren said were God’s 5 purposes for human life on Earth. He described it as a “Blueprint” for Christian living in the 21st Century. The book sold 30 million copies in just 5 years and remained on the New York Time’s Bestseller List for over 90 weeks. It received criticism as all “Blueprints” often do, but obviously had incredible impact in many people’s lives.

I reflect on this book often and on the many books of Tony Robbins that have impacted my life. There are also numerous other people and periodical sources where I find guidance, advice, strategies and ideas. Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, Eric Thomas, Jack Canfield, Jim Rohn and many others have helped me form my personal blueprint for life in recovery. I don’t propose that my blueprint is best for everyone and I don’t propose it for anyone else. But if I can emulate and model myself after some great minds of people who have lived great lives, then I can serve as an example to people who are caught in an addiction that once strangled me.

I re-programmed myself. I changed my perception about the state of my life, and I took massive action to make change happen. I didn’t rely on other people to do it for me. I didn’t rely on an addictive medication or requirements that I adhere to a regimen that limited my daily activities. I decided what kind of life it was that I wanted, I found people who were living that kind of life, that kind of recovery, and I programmed myself to do the things I needed to do to live that way.

There’s a way beyond what we’re programmed for, and that’s to program ourselves. Often, we’re told in addiction that we’re not capable of designing that program ourselves, given the state we find ourselves in after years of addiction. Maybe that’s true, but if early recovery begins within the program guidelines of other people’s paths, is there a time we take ownership and responsibility for our own lives and the recovery from our current state? I believe there is.

When that time is, is obviously determined based on the kind of life we want and the kind of future we wish to create. It’s determined by modeling ourselves after someone or some path that is working for the people we wish to emulate who are living the kind of lives we wish to live. It’s determined by changing the state of mind that we live in. It’s accomplished by looking at our own perceptions of our own path, determining whether it’s taking us to where we want to be, and making conscious efforts to alter the path.

The STATE of addiction is dire. It’s not getting better, it’s only getting worse. But when we find ourselves in that STATE, I believe we need to understand that there was a BLUEPRINT that got us there, and there’s a BLUEPRINT that keeps us there. Why is it that so many people have dreams, yet so few people are living them? Why is it that so many people in addiction WANT a life in recovery yet so many people fall short of having it long-term? We’ve developed things in our lives that aren’t working. We need to change our patterns.

I was told that I was a broken person that needed to be fixed. I was told I had a disease without a cure. I was told that I was going to be an addict for the rest of my life, that once an addict – always an addict. I was told my brain had been altered and that I was going to be affected forever. I formulated my identity around these concepts and built a “State”  within which I lived and patterns were designed to live recovery a certain way. I stayed clean and sober, but had never really moved beyond that state. I began to really look at and analyze successful people, and I looked at the blueprints for their lives. Relating their success in life to building a life in recovery showed me that I could change my patterns and perceptions, and that’s what I did. Often blueprints for homes or buildings are similar. Often blueprints for roads or bridges are similar. More often than not though, there are variations and differences – even slight ones. Many people are running around saying there are different paths to recovery, yet slam other people’s paths because it’s not theirs. Many people also use erroneous data and claimed facts how their path works best and slam 80 year old methods as outdated even though millions of people succeed through them. Many people are profit-minded and hinder the lives of others when they put their own agenda ahead of the health and wellness of others. Still others mock and ridicule faith-based paths because they refuse to open their mind to miracles.

This movement is trying to define and re-define “Recovery” as if it’s the same for everyone, or that it’s a destination we can all agree on. It’s a personal thing and a personal path and can only be measured by growth. Every day, in life, and in recovery, we should be growing. My blueprint for recovery is mine, and it’s measured constantly by my own growth. As long as I’m growing, as long as I’m serving others, as long as I’m motivating others and helping people as I grow in myself, I feel good about my “State” of life. I’ve developed new patterns to live by and my blueprint for life, for recovery is under constant design changes. It’s part of my growth, and although it’s my blueprint, I think it can work for many people.

Michael DeLeon is the Director and Producer of the films” Kids Are
Dying”, “An American Epidemic”, “MarijuanaX”, and “Road to Recovery”.
His fifth documentary will be released in January, 2018 called, “Higher
Power”. His memoir, “Chasing Detours will be released in January,
2018. Michael is the founder of Steered Straight Inc. a nationally recognized
educational program and a national advocacy organization
called, “Recovery Army”. He is the National Recovery Advocate for
Transformations Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Florida.