William White
    William L. White is an Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems / Lighthouse Institute and past-chair of the board of Recovery Communities United. Bill has a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies and has worked full time in the addictions field since 1969 as a streetworker, counselor, clinical director, researcher and well-traveled trainer and consultant. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 articles, monographs, research reports and book chapters and 20 books. His book, Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, received the McGovern Family Foundation Award for the best book on addiction recovery.

    Speaking Truth in Silence – By William L White

      Addiction is often accompanied by mutations in character (e.g., lying, deceit, manipulation, aggression) that in turn spark breaches of trust within one’s family, personal, and professional relationships. It is thus not surprising that addiction constitutes one of the few health conditions in which reconstruction of character is posited as an essential dimension of the recovery process. Addiction-spawned changes within the brain contribute to these mutations via the prioritization of sustained drug use above all other human needs and values. Such aberrations also constitute defensive gambits to avoid drug-related consequences and the emotional toll of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and fear of insanity. Whatever their source, affected parents, siblings, children, intimate partners, extended family members, friends, employers, business associates, creditors, and professionals seeking to offer help all bear the brunt of the resulting breaches of trust. So for one on the brink of entrance into recovery, key questions become: “How can trust,… Continue reading


    High degrees of variability in the pathways and styles of addiction recovery obscure shared mechanisms of change across such healing processes. The alcohol and drug problems arena is filled with professional claims and counterclaims, excessive marketing hype, and riveting personal testimonies of how such problems can be best resolved. The central stakeholders in these debates commonly assert that their particular ideas and methods constitute THE TRUTH, and wrap these claims in the mantle of science or personal/clinical experience. The resulting noise can leave listeners understandably bewildered about the nature of such problems and their ultimate solution. People recover with and without the ever-expanding menu of professional treatment; with and without medication support; with and without involvement in the growing networks of religious, spiritual, and secular recovery mutual aid groups; and with and without involvement in new recovery support institutions (from recovery homes and collegiate recovery communities to recovery cafes and… Continue reading

    The Karma of Recovery – By William L. White

      The concept of karma holds that one’s fate in this life or future lives is not a random roll of the dice, but a direct product of one’s thoughts and actions. Rooted in many of the great religions and a central motif within Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, karma is mistakenly confused in popular culture with the idea of good or bad luck. In contrast, karma suggests the presence of a universal principle of justice–that the decisions one makes or the actions one takes or fails to take have inevitable consequences. This principle can be found in many popular aphorisms: You reap what you sow. Violence begets violence. They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. What goes around comes around.     Chickens come home to roost.  You get what you give.  Those who live by the sword die by the sword. The principle of karma poses an interesting dilemma for people… Continue reading


    Multiple factors can interact to increase vulnerability for the development of alcohol and other drug-related (AOD) problems in older adults. Those same factors can pose threats to older adults in long-term addiction recovery. In the former situation, older adults who did not experience such problems during their formative and maturing years develop AOD problems late in life. In the latter situation, individuals with years or decades of stable recovery experience a recurrence of such problems with potentially profound or fatal consequences. (The shame from losing long-held sobriety and elder status within a recovery community can be a significant obstacle to recovery re-stabilization.) We have observed four root causes of such vulnerabilities in both circumstances. Physiological factors: Changes in drug metabolism (e.g. decreased tissue tolerance, atypical drug actions and interactions), co-occurring medical/psychiatric conditions, and the use of multiple medications have the potential to amplify untoward effects of alcohol and other drug… Continue reading

    Denial of Recovery – By William L. White

      The social stigma attached to addiction and addiction recovery inflicts innumerable harms to individuals, families, organizations, and communities. Two people in recovery recently emailed me sharing quite different dilemmas—each flowing from stigma-induced caricatures of addiction and recovery. In the first instance, people had no difficulty believing the individual’s addiction story because of his numerous, and quite public, drug-related falls from grace. Yet these same people withheld belief in his recovery status years into his stable recovery. Rumors periodically spread that he was using again—rumors that seemed impossible for him to source or stop. Normal sicknesses triggered suspicions of drug use. Any time anything went temporarily missing at a family gathering or at his workplace, suspicion immediately turned to him. Job promotions were withheld on the grounds that he might not be able to handle the stress of added responsibilities. People, as if walking on eggshells, perceived him as fragile… Continue reading