Anyone who has lived with an addiction or has had a close-up experience with someone struggling to overcome addictive behaviors knows that all of the theories and research are of little consequence. The real-world, nitty-gritty fight to reclaim one’s life is beyond the lab, the classroom, or the latest article in a science digest. It matters not if the addictive behavior involves drugs, food, sex, gambling, or any other behavior that can hijack the brain and cause dysfunction and debilitation. What is most important in a time of dire need is a clear solution. A simple solution, one easily understood by any person, is likely best. This article is intended to offer a recovery path for all people, applicable to every type of addictive behavior. This method, the “Slugger’s Path,” is based on the direct observation of thousands in the recovery process and what they did to recover their lives. You will find no fancy notions, no sophisticated research, and no academic posturing in this article; you will only find one addiction treatment professional’s biases based on close encounters over a 30-year career.

The “Slugger’s Path” is designed for the average person. It is a knowledge base and an action plan modeled on a baseball metaphor. Keeping it simple, an addict needs to know five things about addiction, and he needs to do five things to attain recovery; helpers, friends, and family should know these things, too.

Five Things the Addict Needs to Know

First, addiction is about being sick—it is neither a moral issue nor a criminal matter. Addictive illness has identifiable symptoms, a marked progression, and is fatal. Good medical research shows that addiction is a brain-based disease that no one chooses and has much to do with heredity and trauma. Anyone watching can easily see the overall and ongoing physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual deterioration in the active addict. It is devastating to individual addicts, those close to them, and to society as a whole. A person can be very sick, as in late-stage alcoholism, requiring hospitalization, or a little sick, as in feeling depressed after that second piece of chocolate cake.

Second, the addict is quite lonely. Lying about one’s behavior is a symptom of addiction. Secrets, isolation, and a sense of separation and rejection are increasingly prevalent as the disease progresses. This is a painful place. Attempts at connection fail again and again. Addicts feel forsaken and forgotten. Relief is temporary with further acting out the addictive behavior.

Third, the addict is unable to resolve his situation, in spite of much effort and individual application of willpower. Many attempts are made to improve the addict’s situation, but these always ultimately fail because an addict cannot cure his addiction on his own. This often is referred to as being powerless. The inherent result is great frustration—the disease has the power.

Fourth, the addict feels much guilt as he increasingly fails at performing responsibly in life due to the mental, emotional, and physical effects of his illness. Guilt comes from believing that he is doing wrong or that he is not up to doing things “correctly” or well.

Fifth, the addict feels shame as he is continuously judged and as he judges himself harshly in a destructive and pervasive manner. Ultimately, hopelessness sets in, and thoughts of self-destruction result. Shame is believing that he is a bad person and wholly undeserving.

In summary, an addict is sick, lonely, unable, guilt-ridden, and shame-filled. These characteristics can be remembered with the acronym s.l.u.g.s. This is clearly a lower state of consciousness and a definite downward spiral in life. In order to overcome this debilitating condition, recover the self, and move to a higher state of consciousness and overall health, the addict simply needs to follow the path provided below. This path is as clearly laid out as the base path, the five fingers on your hand, a five-pointed star, five steps up, or any other visual cue you choose to use.

Five Things the Addict Needs to Do

Going with the baseball metaphor, picture yourself up to bat in the biggest game of your life. You look down and see the letter “S” on home plate, representing both your starting point and your goal. That “S” stands for Sobriety, the beginning of the recovery process and your first commitment. The hallmark of this level of recovery is achieving a period of abstinence that is long enough to allow the entire process to start working. This is individualized in nature due to the degree and severity of individual addictions. The person may need intense medical supervision, medications, and a controlled environment in order to succeed in this phase. Once the person is detoxed safely and has some level of stability, he is ready for level two: Love.

Love is a very important part of the recovery process. The very best treatment centers have workers who can express caring and positive regard consistently. It is sometimes hard to love an addict, but no less crucial if you want to contribute to the person’s recovery. So, in level two of the process the addict commits to accepting help from qualified helpers, commits to working at self-love and self-care, and begins making an effort to support others in need.

The third value/commitment in recovery is Unity. This is the “joining-up” phase, when the addict embraces Alcoholics Anonymous or another support group. This, again, is a crucial part of the whole recovery process. Studies have shown that group involvement over time is a big factor in positive outcomes.

The fourth of the five values of recovery is Growth. This, too, is an essential element for full recovery. Growth comes from being sober, loved and loving, and united. It is also nurtured and enhanced through activities and commitments around working the 12 Steps, getting psychotherapy, exercise programs, and many other self-improvement practices.

Back to home, the place of peace, Spirituality is the final commitment. Spirituality involves acceptance of a Higher Power, living in the now, prayer and meditation, and an attitude of gratitude.

So, be a Slugger, not a drugger. Win at life. Keep your whole focus on SLUGS, not drugs, and you will experience, in time, full recovery from any addiction and great peace of mind . That is the goal we all share, after all. And it really is the best high.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

John Baldasare holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, both from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He has worked as a therapist, educator, and director in addiction treatment programs continuously since 1973 and was the Executive Director of the renowned Sierra Tucson in Arizona in the early 1990s as well as the Director and CEO at facilities in Ohio and Virginia. John has spoken at national forums and continues to maintain the Web site, responding to e-mails and inquiries. John has three grown children and an almost-teenage granddaughter.