The Mindful Addict: Tom Catton’s Spiritual Road to Long-Term Drug Recovery

The Partnership is excited to introduce our new blogger, Tom Catton. Tom has been in long-term recovery since October 20, 1971 is the author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit, which highlights Tom’s relationship with meditation in combating his addictions. Tom is on the advisory board at the Buddhist Recovery Network and is trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

The following excerpt from my book “The Mindful Addict” gives a hint of the adventures that occurred during forty years of placing recovery above all else and learning to follow my heart through the practice of meditation each morning. If “The Mindful Addict” were summed up in a few words, I would say it is a miraculous adventure story about what can occur when meditation is coupled with service to others.

I used alcohol and drugs from 1959 until October 20,1971. I always say that I’m a blessed addict because I did all my using in the 60’s.

Growing up in Southern California and traveling to Hawaii as a teenager in 1962 to further my surfing endeavors seemed like that natural movement of the times. I lived the lifestyle that invited the use of drugs and alcohol. We were summoned by Tim Leary to turn on, tune in and drop out.

I went from drinking alcohol to sniffing glue, experimenting with LSD and other mind expanding drugs. Soon I was using needles to inject any substance for a quicker response. If a drug could be dissolved in a spoon, I used it.  

I went to my first 12- Step recovery programs meeting on the North Shore of Oahu in 1968.   I proceeded to bounce in and out of recovery for three years until I was sick of being “sick and tired.” The gift of recovery often waits for this opportune time to enter our lives when we see our own best thinking brought us to a veritable skid row in our mind, body and soul.

Excerpt from The Mindful Addict:
3:45 a.m., February 10, 1968, Kaneohe, Hawaii. A tall, thin woman looking much older than her fifty-two years sits up in bed meditating. A cup of coffee rests on her nightstand, and a cigarette glows in the dark. She listens, in silence, to the small voice within, her shadow standing guard as she sits in the stillness, becoming one with the calm. Flobird meditates for several hours every morning, a habit she picked up in 1960 while getting into recovery in twelve-step programs.

She lives each day by the spiritual guidance she receives during meditation and diligently records the messages in her journal. Writing becomes automatic, a prayer in ink, and the spirit guiding her pen to identify her next assignment. At times her dialogue with God is intense, and at times she questions the assignment; but, she always steps into the unknown and does exactly as spirit guides her.

On this particular early morning, Flobird’s meditation leads her to the North Shore of Oahu, about 40 miles from Kaneohe. She hops into “Redbird,” her Fiat, and drives to the Sunset Beach area, just as she has been directed in meditation. Here, she finds a four-bedroom, completely furnished; wood-framed home nestled under the trees right on the oceanfront. Guided by an inner direction, she reaches above the doorjamb, locates the key, unlocks the door, and enters. Coincidentally, I lived next door to this house.

During the winter months, the waves on the North Shore are huge. This is the only time they break with gigantic force and must be at least twenty feet high before they are considered surfable by the locals. The energy from just one such a large wave, as it comes crashing down, is breathtaking, and the salt spray can be seen in the air for miles.

At night, the roaring waves sound like thunder, or an enormous gong echoing across the oceans from some unknown temple. Often they become so enormous they wash over the highway. Sometimes these monster waves can even level houses in their wake.
The North Shore community is relatively small, and everyone knows one another. Back in the 1960s, Haleiwa, the main village, had only two grocery stores and a bank. Today, it is a bustling town sought out by tourists from all over the world to watch or surf the killer waves.

This time and place was magical for those of us fortunate enough to live there. The community was dominated by surfers from around the world who competed in riding the giant waves at the world’s most famous surf spots dotting this five-mile stretch of coastline. There were also many so-called hippies searching for enlightenment through the use of drugs, including LSD and hashish, which were believed to lead to spiritual illumination. Some of these drug-using hippies were in both categories: they surfed, took a lot of drugs, but were ultimately looking for something greater. That was me.

In the early morning hours of this day, I was startled awake by the sound of a car on our street. With a new clarity entirely unfamiliar to me in the breaking dawn, I gazed out the window and saw a tiny red Fiat pull up to the vacant house next door. I watched curiously as a strange woman got out and walked calmly up to the house as if she indisputably belonged, as if placed there by mystical entitlement. I had no idea that this event would change my life forever.

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    smvoigt

    December 12, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    I have been wondering what to get my daughter for christmas…she has been struggling a lot lately, looking for something but not knowing quite what, and becoming disillusioned with AA….this sounds like something she might enjoy! Thank you for sharing your experiences tom!

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    Loving Mom

    November 27, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    I am looking for help and solitude to get through each day so my son can live a healthy life and welcome his family back into it.

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