27 Oct 2013

Scott Stevens: “Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety””

3 Comments Book Reviews

silver lining cover

Today I have the pleasure of introducing one book particularly close to my heart. We all know people suffering from Alcoholism and/ or dependency issues. I thought I had read and heard it all, but along comes Scott Stevens with his personal experience and sharp journalistic mind to add a valuable contribution to the discussion. Here is my review, an interview and an excerpt from the book.

 

“Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud : Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety” by Scott Stevens is a remarkable book about alcoholism that has busted a few myths for me, taught me a few truths and filled in other gaps in what I thought was comprehensive knowledge on the subject of addiction and alcoholism.

With journalistic precision and competence Stevens informs his readers in excellent fashion about the correlation between alcoholism and cortisol, a chemical in the body related to stress and stressors. Stevens also brings in psychological aspects and data, statistics and the impact of spirituality and communication on recovery.
I found Stevens’ approach refreshing because unlike other self-help books there is no agenda or one simplifying message about the subject. This is an informed and personalised account of facts that can clarify patterns, help understanding them and shed new light on the subject without trying to force them into a one-trick-pony of a book.
The book includes many great quotes on the matter and should be helpful for alcoholics and those around them just for the inspirational impact of those alone but I also personally related particularly well to the rational journalistic approach interspersed with the personal.
I commend Stevens for his honesty when it comes to his own private experiences and for his talent to chose wisely where to bring the personal into the book in the first place. Here is not a sinner asking for forgiveness, or someone revealing to shock or to accuse. The ‘sobriety’ of his account is most rewarding and probably helps to increase the impact of what is being shared.
I have already passed the book details on to my friends in recovery.

Interview with Scott Stevens:

(for an excerpt and another review scroll to bottom of this screen)

What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?

Thanks for the opportunity, Christoph.  I’ve always been a writer.  I had strong influences at an early age.  I was encouraged to read classics and work on composition.  I went into journalism.  That was a trip.  Working in TV, you learn to be precise but brief.  When I left TV for marketing, I continued as a writer.  That was where my passion was.  I continued my journalism as well, working in “emerging” platforms — not so emerging any longer.  A few years ago, when I left my executive career, I continued writing and consulting until my life took one big left turn.  I turned that into an opportunity to help others with my message, my research and my story about alcoholism and recovery.

Could you briefly describe what your reason to write Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud was and what message you are trying to bring across with this book?

I am alcoholic.  In recovery now, of course, but ran my life against the rocks pretty hard at two-liters-a-day-every-day.  As I began recovery I recognized that the people around me struggling were not the same as the experts writing the books about struggling.  The messages we got in recovery were coming from people who lived lives unchallenged by alcohol.

Is it intended as inspiration, self-help or factual information? 

ALL of the above.  Sort of.  I didn’t set out to write something inspirational, only something practical and useful in the same voice as those most familiar with the drama of the disease.  It is flattering that those same people tell me it IS inspirational.  The journalist in me wanted to write an air-tight, well-researched book.  But I lived it, too.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

My first book was What the Early Worm Gets.  I’d always been the early bird. Still am. But I found out what it was like to be on the other end of the food chain.  Flipping around the old adage ‘The early bird gets the worm’ is a feeling many people upended by alcohol find familiar.

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud is about relapse.  Sobriety was supposed to be the silver lining to the cloud of alcoholism.  When you relapse, you discover that silver lining has a cloud all its own.

How do you come up with your ideas about the structure?

I read a ton of research studies in the course of my reporting.  I know that is NOT how I want my work to read.  I want the facts, but it has to read page to page, not chart to chart.  It’s not a self-help manual for insomniacs… it’s a story for alcoholics and their families.

How do you decide which pieces to put in and which ones to let out?

I have a good editor I trust.  But before she sees it, I clobber my own writing with the red pen. And I mean red pen. I wrote both books in notepads. Two drafts each, long-hand. If you’re going to write long-hand, you cannot allow a whole lot of extraneous stuff.  Removing pieces of a story isn’t easy for fiction writers and it is just as wrenching for me writing non-fiction.  Given my topic, I cut out old-wives tales and myths about the disease.  There is a lot of junk science out there on addiction, so I jettison that stuff quickly.  People die from this:  There is no room for fairytale thinking.  Other pieces may be of value and from reliable sources, but stray too far off the message of the book, so they get set aside.  Some of those set asides from What the Early Worm Gets found a place in Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud.  Some research I did for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud will be more appropriate in my next book on the stigma of the disease.

How comfortable do you feel writing to inspire others?

When people comment on my books being inspiring, then I have accomplished a really humbling task I never really set out to tackle. 

I’m grateful to have had readers who trust me regarding a sensitive, excruciating subject.  As a journalist, I am comfortable with informing with facts.  In relaying my personal story within the framework of the facts, I simply wanted the reader to know that I HAVE been in the very spot, the very crossroads, in which they stand and have felt exactly the same. If they say it is “life changing” or even that it helped just a little, I am comfortable with that, too. It is very high praise.

How long did it take you to write?

How old am I?  It’s pretty much been in development that long.  The actual writing of Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud took 18 months.  Could have been faster using something other than old-fashioned pen and paper, but I don’t know if I’d have the same confidence in the finished product.

It might take me longer to write, especially compared to many, more prolific authors.  Part of it is the archaic pad-and-pen, but part of it is my background.  Reporting teaches brevity.  I write 60-second broadcast stories, or 300-word pieces for news sites.  Then putting a manuscript together, especially one with 70-plus citations, is like jumping from Tonka trucks to driving a semi.

How do you write? What is your writing environment like?

I’m always writing in my head.  And I usually have scrap paper or a journal handy and write down things to look up or thoughts I could develop.  When I am sitting down to write, I’ve done it on trains and other noisy places just as easily as if I were secluded in total silence.  I’ve come to appreciate that when you FEEL like writing, you do it that very moment before the moment escapes, no matter where you are, no matter what hour.  I’m still a morning person, so there is a lot of scribbling or keyboard clacking going on early in the day.  Sometimes well before the sun is up.

How many rewrites did it take you? 

Three before I handed it off to several fresh sets of eyes for review.  One of which is my seventh grade English teacher.  She’s a grammarist, but excuses my often conversational style when I fracture the rules.  She also reads it for flow, not just for Oxford commas or dangling modifiers.

Who are your favourite authors / influences?

Way too many to include.  My favorite mass-market authors include Jefferey Deaver.  I can’t read research reports all the time, and when I want a great, twisty rabbit trail to follow, Deaver is the guy.  Stephen King’s The Stand is one of many favorites.  American TV journalist Charles Kuralt wasn’t just an influence for my journalism career, his writing style balanced news with color and feeling.  That’s a special gift of his that influenced how I’ve approached both books.

Who are your favourite independent writers? 

I like your work, Christoph.  Simon Okill is a very talented paranormal author you featured in Sept.  I also like the work of William O’Brien, Dianne Harmon, Marsha Roberts,  Karen Prince,  Lucy Pireel.  Zushka Biros of the U.S. and Australian Kerry Connelly write great non-fiction in recovery themes. Many more. The list is long.  There is a lot of excellent writing in the indie space.

Thank you. What are your next projects? Another book? Workshops?

Speaking opportunities when they come up.  I’m very busy promoting Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud these days though.  The book on stigma is a work-in-progress.  I have two childrens’/young readers’ books I’ve written that I dream of publishing sooner rather than later, however I’m busy being a dad to my own young readers, too.

Where would we be likely to find out about the stigma project? 

My website. www.alcohologist.com

What song would you pick to go with your book?

Christoph, it is a whole soundtrack!  At times, it is Runnin’ With the Devil by Van Halen.  At times, it is Help by the Beatles.  At times, it’s the melancholy In My Room by The Beach Boys.  Everything I Do I Do It For You by Bryan Adams.  Sounds sort of like Metallica meets Adele, doesn’t it?

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it? Tell us about the artist.

My idea from the word go.  I had the first say, went with my first idea (but not my only one).  I ran it past many eyes and the cover stood out.  Typeface and layout aren’t my thing.  The designer made it work.  I had the right image to go with the title.

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?

The highs and lows are the same thing:  Doing it yourself.  I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know.  So I had to listen and learn.  But as frustrating as self-publishing can be, it is also that rewarding in the end.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I usually have two or three going on at the same time.  If I have a really heady psychology title I’m reading, I balance it out with a great piece of fiction.  I’ve just completed reading a horror short, Orchid, on Kindle by indie author, Shane O’Neill from Norway.  I’m halfway through the paperback of Babylon Confidential, an alcoholism memoir by Claudia Christian.  And I just downloaded indie author Diane Major’s I Am Nine.  I’m reading the paperback on Women for Sobriety with my eye on beginning a Men for Sobriety meeting locally.  There’s a stack of psychology/addiction/recovery books in my in-box, too.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

I have a very personal, sensitive topic that is wrapped in stigma and myths and opinions.  I challenge long-held myths and it will not please everyone.  For example, I recently did an ad campaign  in which I call the disease a disease. You’d think I knifed a puppy.  The idea that alcoholism is a moral failure rather than a medical and genetic condition is still deeply rooted, despite nearly 60 years passing since it was recognized as a disease.  Even some medical professionals still hold onto antiquated beliefs.  Several people lashed out over the ads on Facebook. It’s doubtful the ads convinced them to read the book, let alone let go of outdated stereotypes.  They were criticizing a word, not me, not the book.  Just like a romance writer won’t win over every romantic, an alcohol writer won’t connect with every alcoholic.  Alcohol misuse is the third-leading cause of death worldwide.  That’s developed countries like the U.K. and U.S. included.  The social problems are tremendous – to the tune of $223 billion a year in costs in the U.S. – and the public picks up the majority of the tab.  It’s the leading cause of emergency room visits.  Most important is the chaos it causes families.  There is room for another voice in the field of recovery books, especially a voice that’s actually experienced the dread and drama, regardless of the critique of my message.

As for reviews, I appreciate honest reviews.  Criticism for the sake of throwing rocks, well, I have to just roll with it because I put myself out there for good or bad.  Coming from a TV background, you get a pretty thick skin.

Links:

My site: http://www.alcohologist.com

My blog: http://alcoholauthor.blogspot.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/everysilverlininghasacloud

Twitter: @AlcoholAuthor

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/scottjstevens/alcohol-and-health/

 

Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6966491.Scott_Stevens

Goodreads Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17194419-every-silver-lining-has-a-cloud

Amazon Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Every-Silver-Lining-Has-Cloud/dp/1479759481/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378859120&sr=1-1&keywords=alcoholism

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Every-Silver-Lining-Cloud-ebook/dp/B00BIDD1ZO/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1370176442&sr=1-2&keywords=alcoholism

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Every-Silver-Lining-Cloud-ebook/dp/B00BIDD1ZO/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1370176320&sr=1-2&keywords=alcoholism

Apple iTunes Bookstore:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/every-silver-lining-has-cloud/id593836361?mt=11

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/every-silver-lining-has-a-cloud-scott-stevens/1114016523?ean=9781479759491

Books a Million:  http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Every-Silver-Lining-Has-Cloud/Scott-Stevens/9781479759484?id=5779579350647

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Every-Silver-Lining-Has-Cloud-Scott-Stevens/9781479759484?a_aid=Alcohologist&selectCurrency=USD

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/every-silver-lining-has-a-cloud

Xlibris Bookstore:  http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0124614049/Every-Silver-Lining-Has-a-Cloud.aspx

Excerpt: 

“Alcoholics have a tendency to cling to their denial of their losses, not denial of their problem. By lingering in the stage, it only makes the cortisol worse. Even though the reason we linger in denial is simply that we don’t want to feel worse, we’re actually feeling worse because of the cortisol. To move away from more of continued Symptoms, the denial evolves into anger. Ashley Davis Prend identifies it as going from “Not me” to “Why me?” and it takes a long time.

 

“On average it takes one to three years to work through the disorganization and anger stage. That’s because you need to process the grief repeatedly so it can sink in, settling on deeper levels of consciousness over time.”

 

Simply put, you’re not going to be pissed off one time for one day, but you’re entitled to it and it is a healthy part of what comes naturally during mourning and recovery. Different anniversaries rekindle the anger. Social losses and financial ones have long tails and breed anger over and over. Impatience sparks the anger, too, because all of us Alcoholics have a little control freak in us.

 

Unfortunately, some of us never get past the anger because that’s where we lapse. We drink at the anger. Or if we don’t drink, we become what’s known as a dry drunk, a bitter and angry person who doesn’t and won’t drink. The dry drunk won’t find recovery, but will maintain sobriety because they cling to the anger. They become dry drunks because of a false sense of power anger provides. It does beat being sad. Sad feels so broken, anger feels powerful, but sadness is the next stage. Rather than moving forward, the dry drunk chooses the power of anger rather than feeling like the ornament at the bottom of the Christmas storage box. They’re usually more of a pain in the ass than they were when they were drinking.”

from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pg. 79

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONUS FOR CREDIT FANS: REVIEW OF SCOTT’S FIRST BOOK

Have you ever wondered what you would like to do with a person who drinks and drives? Different people will give some very different answers to that question, but what would be the most (cost- and help-) effective way? In “What the Early Worm Gets” Scott Stevens writes about his personal experience with one judicial and correctional system in place in the US today that deals with those offenders. Unfaltering standing up for his mistakes and honest to the bone about his life as an alcoholic he writes as an intellectual, not as an angry victim – although as the reader I often got angry at the way an ill person is misdiagnosed, mistreated, angry at the waste of tax resources and the short sightedness of some of the existing programmes.
Stevens points out many lesser known facts and statistical data about alcoholism, clears up some common misconceptions and misleading terminology and gives constructive ideas for changes and amendments to current policies. Fully knowing his science Stevens presents his material with the skill of a sharply minded professional journalist. By bringing his own life and his dramatic experiences into the writing with understandable emotion but also objectivity and honest assessment of his path I find it difficult to imagine that someone could not agree with his findings and conclusions.
This is a well written, informative and perspective changing essay that should be made compulsory reading to those in charge of alcoholics and alcohol abusers everywhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

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written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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3 Responses to “Scott Stevens: “Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety”””

  1. Lucy Pireel says:

    Great interview and review Christoph! It is good to see that this book gets the exposure it deserves.

  2. P.C. Zick says:

    Excellent review and interview. Scott, you’re very brave and talented. Thanks for bringing him to the rest of us.

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