I created the Passages method of ending addiction for Pax. During his ten-year addiction to cocaine, alcohol, and finally, to heroin, I saw him in a continual state of despair and hopelessness. I took him to internists, medical doctors, doctors who said they were addiction specialists and others who just billed themselves as addiction experts and many different kinds of therapists They all told us that same sad story we heard for nearly ten years: “Alcoholism and addiction are diseases. Get your son a sponsor, get him into a 12-step program, and go to 12-step meetings for the rest of his life; that’s his only hope.” They told us the best Pax could do would be to learn “how to manage his disease.” Every time I heard that I could feel myself get angry. I didn’t believe it. The thought of Pax being an addict and an alcoholic for life devastated me. It was bone-crushing hopelessness. I wasn’t up for that. Pax wanted to quit his addiction; he was desperate to stop after nearly losing his life three times, but he just couldn’t do it. Despair hung heavy in our house. He talked to me about how harmful the programs were and how his fellow program members were relapsing. There was no one-to-one treatment, only group meetings. The same thing day-after-day. Each time Pax would relapse I would ask him why he was keeping on using and drinking. He always said the same thing. “It’s the high. Heroin and cocaine together are like looking into the face of God. I go back for the experience of getting high.” Each time I told him that it wasn’t the high, it was something else.
After nine and half years and his fortieth or fiftieth relapse, I said, “Pax, we’ve tried everything there is to try. Unless we create something new, something completely different, you are going to die.” I was desperate to save Pax’s life. You probably know that feeling of trying everything and attempting to quit over and over. It seemed as if the 12-step belief that addiction to drugs and alcohol is a disease must be true, but I couldn’t give in to that “broken forever” belief that deprives one of hope. There was something missing. There had to be. It went against everything I believed to be true about the Universe in which I lived. I thought to myself, “There must be something that causes addiction and keeps it alive in everyone.” What else could it be that makes it nearly impossible to quit? There are millions of people who can’t stop.” Then a thought came to me. “It must be something common to everyone!” What could that be? The answer came in an instant: Past traumatic events that are in the lives of everyone, current conditions that are in their lives that they can’t deal with and things they believe that aren’t true. I assembled a team of therapists: psychologists, marriage and family therapists, hypnotherapists, physical trainers, a medical doctor, and a drug and alcohol counselor. I told them what to look for and how to look for it. It had to be somewhere in Pax’s past and not his recent history, as he had been using and drinking for just under ten years.
The therapists I chose were experts in their field, but they had never looked for those specific causes that could create and maintain addiction, especially in the earlier lives of their patients. I worked with them every day that they worked with Pax. Within three months, Pax had his answer as to what had caused and was keeping his addiction alive. The realization came at three in the morning in the bathtub of a sober living home after his last heroin/cocaine run. He finally asked himself the million-dollar question: “What am I doing when I’m high, that I’m not doing when I’m sober?” And he realized the answer. He leaped out of the tub and ran to the wall telephone and called me. “Dad! Dad!” he cried into the phone. I said, “You’ve found it!” “Yes, I’ve found it!” We met the next morning for breakfast. In the bathtub the night before, he had asked himself that 64-million-dollar question: “What am I doing when I’m high that I’m not doing sober?” And he realized the answer: In his heroin/cocaine trips, he was seeing himself as the hero of every dream ? And I was there ? watching. He had finally found out what it was that kept his addiction alive. He wanted me to see him as he saw me: He had me on a pedestal. I’m an author, a businessman, a lecturer, a workshop leader, and a father who never gave up on him. He saw himself as an addict and alcoholic that had been drilled into him by the twelve-steppers. The next morning, we met and talked it through ? and it was over; the ten years of torture were finally over. Two weeks later, he said, “Look, dad. We know how to do this, let’s do it!” Here we are, twenty years later, still doing it. Pax is CEO of Passages and is running it brilliantly.
Together, we took a significant step, a revolutionary step, in a different direction from everything that was out there. We knew what didn’t work: The disease concept where, in step one, you admit you are powerless over drugs and alcohol when actually, your best hope is to take control of your life.
A little story to lighten this up a bit. When Pax and I were creating the program and looking for a house to begin it, I was told of an influential lawyer in Santa Monica who helped people open treatment centers. They said I should beware that he was a “dyed-in-the-wool 12-stepper”. I called him and told him we were thinking of opening a treatment center in Malibu. He replied, a little belligerently, “I suppose it will be a 12-step center.” I said I was having a bit of difficulty with step one, being powerless over drugs and alcohol. He shouted at me,” That’s it! I’m outta here!” I said, “Wait! Wait! What’s the matter?” He said in a loud commanding voice, “I woke up in the hospital three years ago. I had been in a coma for two days from drinking and I knew I had no power over alcohol. I joined a 12-step group, got myself a sponsor and I call my sponsor every day and I go to three meetings a week. What do you think of that!? I said, “It sounds as if your power kicked in.” He slammed the phone down. How could he miss it? He took control of his life. That’s not powerless. Every person in AA who is successful has demonstrated he or she has the power to quit. It’s a struggle because what’s driving their addiction is still in them. It’s what AA calls, “White knuckling it.” It’s like squeezing your hand so tightly, and the knuckles turn white.
Pax and I, based on his healing, imagined a holistic program based on healing what we believed causes and keeps addiction alive. I instinctively knew that all people who couldn’t quit had something that was keeping their addiction alive, and whatever it was had to be discovered and healed. Without getting rid of that block, the chances of quitting were almost zero. We knew what didn’t work, so we left that out completely. Our new program was based primarily on one-to-one therapy with gifted therapists that I trained to look for the fundamental causes that created and were kept alive and active the addictions of our soon-to-be clients, not patients. The program Pax and I designed had one specific purpose: to heal the underlying conditions, the causes, that we believed had created and had kept Pax’s need for drugs and alcohol alive. That program worked. Within a few months, Pax’s therapists helped Pax discover the primary condition that had not only caused but was keeping his addiction alive; Pax was free of addiction for the first time in ten years. A few weeks later, Pax said, “Look dad, we know how to do this. Let’s do it.”
I had 136,000 dollars, a free and bright home in Venice, California, and a cabin in Big Sur on the coast. I borrowed $100,000 from a long-time woman friend I had helped out in business, and $640,000 from another woman I had helped out in business, putting up both my properties as security. If it didn’t work, we’d be homeless. I paid 15% interest and a small percentage of profits from income. We called our treatment center, “Passages,” because our program offered safe passage from a world of addiction to a world of sobriety. We opened Passages to a flurry of opposition from the 12-Step community that has never died down. However, when people discovered that our new model worked, they came. Today, nearly every major treatment program proudly proclaims, “We treat the underlying causes.” And, “We treat mind, body, and spirit.” All from Passages. Do they do what we do? Only a small part of it.
Now, you can experience the same program that saved Pax’s life and the lives of thousands of others. We didn’t prove our method worked; the braves souls who trusted us and came to our program showed it. Now it’s your turn.
When you come Passages, we will hand tailor a program just for you. It will be focused on discovering and healing the underlying conditions that caused and is keeping your addiction alive. No two programs are alike at Passages because no two people are alike. We have special treatment team meetings each week where all of your therapists meet to share what they have learned about you so they can redesign your program for the coming week. That way, your program progresses as you progress. Your program will always be fresh, engaging, useful, and will keep you fully engaged.
Many things set Passages apart from other treatment centers. Still, the most crucial aspect is the amount of one-on-one treatment that we provide, and of course, our philosophy of healing the underlying conditions that have caused and are responsible for keeping your addiction alive. Depending on the program you choose, you will receive sixty to eighty hours of one-to-one therapy sessions a month. Only at Passages can you receive that much individualized treatment. And it’s not just the amount of treatment you will receive, but the quality of that treatment. Our therapists not only know what to look for, they are heart-and-soul dedicated knowing that your life is at stake. There’s no need for you to be concerned that you don’t know what created and is maintaining your addiction; hardly anyone does. That’s what we do. We are the Sherlock Holmes of discovery!