Bronze colored tree image on Coppertree Couseling website

For my professional background, enjoy this 5-minute clip.

Some people are blessed with a deep intuition that allows them to flow forward on their life journey comfortably and gently with very few bumps in the road. But many others have found that pain is what it takes for them to finally pay attention. I appear to have been a member of this latter group.

The signals of pain often begin as subtle signs of discomfort. While these initial signs can be used to alter our life course for the better, they often go unnoticed. This discomfort begins to build in intensity until we eventually notice pay attention and then choose to do something about it. This idea is reflected in the adage, “Rarely does anyone change anything about themselves until the pain of what they are experiencing in any given moment is greater than their brain’s apparent, natural resistance to change.”

In 1999, I was fifteen years into my own recovery from substance addiction. I had been employed as a teacher and counselor in the field of addiction for well over a decade and I was actively teaching techniques on how people could increase their levels of awareness so as to prevent relapse.

Despite my knowledge about the subject of relapse, I hit a huge bump in the road myself. Something from my past triggered an emotional stress-response. Despite the discomfort I was feeling as a result, I kept my pain to myself and ignored the signs. This continued for approximately six weeks while I studiously ignored the symptoms being presented to me.

The Explosion that Changed my Life … Literally

While working in and around a burn pile on my property in Oregon, and unbeknownst to the situation, I found myself in a gasoline vapor-lock which then exploded with me inside of it. Within seconds, flames had leapt 40 feet in the air. Had I not been walking out of the burn pile at the time of the explosion, the likelihood is that I would not be here writing this commentary. Fortunately, I was thrown out of the area, and as I landed on the grass, I could see and feel the skin on my face, head and hands melting off my body like water.

In those first moments, there was no pain. In fact, I had no idea what had even happened. I was stunned, and was experiencing considerable heat. I had a hallucination of being approached by a vintage steam engine locomotive and I was unable to move out of its way while pinned to its tracks. On the front of this engine, where the bell or its number might have been, was a sign with the big letters “PAIN” etched upon it. I reacted in terror because I knew that as soon as this train struck me, I would experience horrendous pain. It was in this exact moment of reaction, when a voice inside my head said, “I am Spirit, and I am experiencing the burning and the pain. But, this is not me.” Something within me acknowledged and accepted that as being so. I cannot say that I joyously exclaimed, “Come on, Train” but as a result of the acceptance, I did relax into the experience. Then, the train hit and a pain of huge intensity burst upon me.

I was very fortunate in that help arrived almost immediately from a neighbor, who held me until the fire department arrived with medical attention. This immediate care included much narcotic medication, an ambulance ride to a nearby open field, and then a helicopter ride to the Oregon State Burn Unit where I remained for close to a month.

I was treated for 3rd degree burns that covered 15% of my body. The initial concerns were not the burns themselves, as they were deemed non life-threatening. Instead, it doctors were worried about the potential overwhelming shock to my system from the explosion. The burn surgeon later suggested that the relaxation I experienced as a result of my train hallucination probably saved my life.

My New Lease on Life

The explosion, and all of the events before and after, including the hospitalization and the rehab that followed, changed the way I approach the nature of relapse and its ultimate prevention. What I learned ultimately is this: At its core, relapse prevention is all about developing consciousness.

While I was recovering, I was introduced to a number of present-day healers and spiritual thinkers. The accompanying realizations I came to gave me a compassionate understanding of the discomfort and pain my clients experience. These writers also provided further awareness that pain and discomfort are simply initial pieces of information which indicate that there is something going on requiring immediate attention.

This lesson also showed me how the mind can be in an unconscious state and still appear to be functioning in a so-called “normal” manner. Most importantly, it taught me that pain isn’t always necessary to make changes in our lives. In fact, we can increase our own levels of awareness to such a degree that any signs of discomfort can become subtle indicators that a shift is required…now!

It is through this combination of experience, wisdom, and heart-felt understanding that my five-step paradigm for relapse prevention came into its initial state of being. I enjoy teaching my clients how to minimize their stress levels in any given moment through the power of awareness, acceptance, and action. And, I am passionate about providing them new tools that will help keep their life moving in the direction toward their goals.

As the 12-step program initially presented by Alcoholics Anonymous provides one of the simplest and most effective vehicles for human change to ever come down the pike, this more recent 5-step program has been created to jump-start the forward-moving progress whenever any individual should happen to get stuck. I invite you to learn more about this 5-Step Process here.