Friday, October 14, 2016

The Power Of Talk

What I am writing here, is opinion. It’s the opinion of a professional counselor who has spent many, many hours working with addicts and their families, their friends, their employers, their attorneys and their probation officers.

Many hours talking. Thousands of hours, if I added them up.

We talk about life, problems, compulsions, successes and failures. We talk about pain and joy and sometimes we talk about the sheer horror that accompanies addiction. Sometimes the talk is loud and angry, sometimes it is interrupted by tears, sometimes by laughter. The talk can be pressured and anxious, it can be relaxed and spontaneous. Sometimes it can be whispered, haltingly. Sometimes it's a flood.

Out of all this talk, I’ve come to conclusions that I’d like to share.

First, talk is healthy. Addiction thrives on secrecy because addiction is always based in shame. As the addiction drives our actions we become ashamed,not only of what we’ve done, but of who we are. Of what we are. And as long as that shame is wrapped in secrecy, it becomes stronger until it is a wall that cuts us off from the rest of human companionship.

The first time that an addict says their name at a 12 Step meeting followed by the words “and I’m an addict” something powerful begins to happen. The wall begins to crack, and the warmth of the other members flows in. Shame encounters a setback. Good talk has begun to replace the cold emptiness.

The Secret is out.

Second, talking out problems helps us to better understand them and come up with ways of solving them. There’s an old saying, “if you spend too much time in your head, you’re living in a bad neighborhood.”

it’s true. Talking to yourself rarely makes a problem easier to solve or an obstacle smaller. It’s more likely that we just keep turning something over and over in our heads, somehow making it more difficult and complex at every turn.

Talking it out with someone who is a really good listener, like an experienced professional counselor, is a different story. As we talk about difficulties we conceptualize them, we receive feedback which allows us to gain a perspective on what's causing our problem. Whatever the issue is, we’re no longer alone with it.

I’m very fortunate that I’ve spent most of my life talking with people as they face problems and solve them. To accompany them on their journey as they go through dark times and emerge into the sunlight.

It’s a good life. Let’s get together and talk!

Ken Williams
484 431 2931

Monday, September 5, 2016

"Sometimes There Isn't A Next Time"

This moving letter from a grandmother, originally published in the Delaware County Daily Times, had such an impact that I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
If you have any concerns about your kids, please contact me at 484 431 2931, or email me at

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Comeback Kid


Yeah, it's been a while.

I haven't posted anything on my Recovery page for a long time. Honestly, for a while I didn't know if I would ever post anything here again. It's been a tough time. I considered myself retired, but not really, not deep down.

I wasn't retired. I was sick. And sad. It was a really tough time. A lot of you know the story, and I am very grateful for the ways in which you have stuck by me.

But there's a point in all of our lives when, even in the midst of suffering, circumstances force you to raise your head from your own grief and look around at what's going on.

For forty years I have been a drug counselor. I've worked with addicts and their families. I've worked inpatient, outpatient, halfway houses and Intensive Outpatient. I've been an interventionist, a group therapist, a family counselor and for a time, God help us all, an administrator. I've also been an advocate and a very vocal critic of the way people with substance use disorders and their families are treated in our society. I've also worked with defense attorneys as an evaluator and expert witness in custody and criminal cases involving drugs.

And, as many of you know, I am a recovering addict, and my own struggles with addiction, I believe, inform my work with others. I believe in recovery from addiction as a practical reality, not an abstraction.

Recovery is my passion.

So, my “retirement” is at an end. It felt awfully self-indulgent to be idle when kids are dropping dead in an opiate epidemic of insane proportions, while the pharmaceutical companies profit both from the drugs fueling
the addiction and the medications that treat it. I didn't get into this work to be on the sidelines.

I'm back. Call me at 484 431 2931. Email me at

I'll work with you.

Monday, May 25, 2015


I realize that on Memorial Day we are supposed to honor our war dead, march in parades and wave the flag. Politicians in particular like to do this,  but a lot of the rest of us are equally culpable. We have hot dogs, too, and watch the President lay wreaths on the "unknowns". I would imagine they are unknown because, as a nation, we are too goddamned cheap for DNA tests.
Let's take a moment, as we engage in our patriotic hoo-hah, to remember that conditions in most Veterans Hospitals are terrible, most Veterans benefits are all but decimated, mental health benefits for Veterans are either scarce to the point of non-existence or buried under so many layers of red tape that one has to wonder if it isn't intentional.
And we may also want to take a moment to consider that the reason for this national disgrace is the guy up there waving the flag the most vigorously.
It's easy to see who really supports the military,  it's the one whose voting record shows it. Don't bother looking  to see who waves the flag.
Look for the one to give a damn.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

I like to point out on this cloyingly sentimental day of days, that my mother despised Mothers Day. 
Hated it with a passion.
The cards, the cakes, the grave blankets all came in for a dose of scorn, but the worst derision was reserved for adult children.
"They drag these poor old souls out to the most crowded restaurants on the busiest day of the year to get cold food and lousy service, mostly because they feel guilty for treating them like crap the rest of the year."
You tell 'em, ma.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


This may surprise anyone  familiar with my socialist tendencies, but I like self-interest.
Enlightened self-interest, that is.
I wrote the other day that somewhere in the vicinity of 31 million Americans identify as being in recovery from addictions. If you look at the popular vote in the last presidential election, you'll see that the winning candidate received about 4 million more votes  than the loser. And as usual,  the total vote was  only a little more than a third of the total of eligible voters.
But that's beside the point, which is this.
There is an enormous amount of political power available right now, if recovering people are willing to grasp it.
Think of the possibilities. 
Every serious presidential candidate having to take a position on issues that involve recovering people.
Issues like availability of treatment, sentencing inequality, police brutality targeting addicts, discrimination and social prejudice. The list goes on and on.
In 2008 recovery meant rebuilding the country during a time of economic disaster.
In 2015, Recovery could be the banner under which recovering individuals join together in a spirit of enlightened self-interest.
It's time.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Addict To Addict Prejudices

I had a friend ran methadone clinics for years. She used to say that her clients were the "lepers of the Recovery Movement." At the time I thought she was being a little dramatic, but now, I'm not so sure.
Of all the things I write or speak about related to addiction and recovery, the use of medications as recovery aids is the most controversial. No contest.
Despite reams of research and thousands of case histories to the contrary, the responses I get to the most mild of posts about Suboxone or methadone or any of the other meds currently in use, are that these are clearly bad medicines.
They kill addicts, protract withdrawal,  cheat people of the opportunity for "real" recovery, and inevitably lead to relapse.
Ironically, most of these responders identify themselves as recovering addicts.
Yeah, that was a tough one to swallow.
Common sense would suggest that someone who had managed to put their addiction behind them would be the most open to the experiences of others.
Not so.
Users of Suboxone are welcome to attend 12 Step meetings, but not to share, lest someone get the "wrong" idea about recovery. Of course you can keep your mouth shut about your meds and engage in a "don't ask, don't tell" closeted recovery. As if addiction wasn't demeaning enough, it's pretty rough when the place that proselytizes "the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using" treats you like a 2nd class, well, addict.
An estimated 31 million Americans identify as being in recovery from addictions, and the means by which they have recovered are many and varied. We need a much broader definition of recovery that encompasses and respects all.
Enough of this silly and divisive nonsense about who is and who is not in recovery.