Dr. Marc F Kern:
Frustrated and hopeless, I began a personal search to find alternative solutions for my problems with several substances. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and food, as well as my habit of procrastination. Although I knew I needed to do something about my addictions, I stayed away from traditional addiction treatment for several years because I was told that the 12-step way was the only way, a way that clearly wasn’t for me. I went to a private therapist, but he really didn’t understand the unique difficulties I was having due to my addictions. His business card said that he was a specialist in addictions but, in reality, he was a traditional therapist and had no special addiction expertise as adjunct to his work with me. He didn’t have any tools to help me with my pain, depression, anxiety and impulse control. His best advice came at the end of our relationship when he suggested I go back to school and transform my problem with addictions into a new direction.
I shifted my entire orientation to life. I went back to school with the goal of attaining a Master’s degree in Guidance and Career Counseling. In graduate school, I found all kinds of different theories and research on addiction treatments. I never came across anything in the literature about the 12-steps and never came across the notion that the traditional 12-step approach fits all. When I graduated, I decided to bring this knowledge to light to help people like myself, (perhaps like you or someone you care about).
My Own Path to Recovery
My personal battles with alcohol, drugs, and other excessive behaviors might be similar to yours or your loved ones. Although the Alcoholic Anonymous approach obviously has helped many people, it did not help me. I was turned off by AA’s central philosophy of personal powerlessness, the need for a belief in a higher power, and a requirement to attend meetings for the rest of my life.
In 1972, in my early twenties, I received my degree in architecture from Ohio State University. Within three years, because of my addictions, I undermined both my practice as an architect and my marriage. By the end of my marriage, my addiction was at its worst. I naively tried to stop “cold turkey,” and found myself having a grand mal seizure in front of sixty other architects. My parents were frantic about the turn my life was taking. My marriage was over, and I had moved back home with them.
I couldn’t relate to AA’s “Powerlessness” philosophy- At the time, I was referred to 12-step groups by well-intended professionals, but found no relief. I was very shy and ashamed of my problems. AA’s large meetings were very intimidating and made my humiliation worse. Meetings don’t work? The anonymity promised by AA is dependent on others.
The following are some reasons that the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program model may not work for you.
Must have mentor or ‘sponsor’
Involves a group approach
Meeting addiction occurs
Requires spiritual awakening
Requires belief in a ‘higher power’
Mandatory meeting attendance
Sobriety means total abstinence
95% relapse rate
I felt more alone than ever when I was in those groups. I didn’t identify with the other attendees, their stories or doctrine of powerlessness or their method of fixing my problem. I now have over 30 years of freedom from addiction. I have chosen the Harm Reduction approach to alcohol, whereby I have continued to reduce my consumption of alcohol over time. Today I average two glasses of wine a month. I’m comfortable with that amount and having the choice of drinking if I so choose. I am successful and respected in my career and I am re-married with two fantastic kids. I hope to bring this wisdom, life experiences and training to others who are now where I once was.
Credentials and Experience
In 1982, Dr. Marc Kern received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (PSY 8246) from the California School of Professional Psychology. In 1983 he founded Addiction Alternatives as a private practice in Los Angeles, California, to provide clients with non-12-step addiction treatment alternatives. At Alternatives, Dr. Marc Kern serves as the Director of Clinical Services.
Dr. Marc regularly speaks at national and international professional conferences, conventions and workshops.He is on the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the self-help program, Moderation Management. Previously, he was on the Board of Directors of SMART Recovery and a member of the original board of Rational Recovery.
As a guest addiction expert, Dr. Marc Kern has made over 100 media appearances, including syndicated and local radio and TV shows, including 20/20, ABC’spopular network newsmagazine show, and CNN’s renowned Larry King Live. He has also been featured in articles in dozens of daily newspapers and national magazines.
His practical self-help book “Take Control, Now!” is a do-it-yourself blueprint for managing unwanted habits. His work has been published in professional publications, including the prestigious International Journal of the Addictions.
BROOKE DEVAN GRADUATED IN 2014 WITH A BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA. SHE JOINED THE HABIT DOC TEAM IN JANUARY 2015 and serves as THE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE habit doc, DR. MARC KERN.
Hanna Villa-Reusenmann graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the California State University of Long Beach. She started working at Alternatives Behavioral Health in 2014 as an intern for the Brain Institute and became a neurofeedback technician soon after.
Currently, Hanna is the Senior EEG Technician and Coordinator of Neurocognitive Services at Alternatives, working with our clients to deliver high-quality neurofeedback training sessions and perform QEEG recordings. Hanna plans to pursue her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience in the next few years and is interested in studying the neural basis of decision-making and how pathologies that alter decision-making, like addiction, change the process.