A fresh approach to the challenge of addiction


Jan DeGrass / Arts and Entertainment Writer
May 22, 2014 11:39 AM

Performer and writer Valerie Mason-John has co-authored a new book on overcoming addiction.

Performer and writer Valerie Mason-John of Gibsons is the co-author of a powerful new book about overcoming addiction.

Eight Step Recovery uses the teachings of Buddha, specifically mindfulness-based methods that give an alternative approach to addiction recovery.

Mason-John has invited two others from the community, poet Martha Royea and author Micheal D. Mann, to join her for a book launch, poetry performance and discussion on the topic on June 1 at 2 p.m. at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery.

All three have felt the impact of addiction on their lives and all three are poets who express themselves eloquently.

“Addiction doesn’t belong to one place or culture,” said Mason-John, also known as Vimalasara. “Addiction affects us all — everyone knows someone.”

She tells her story truthfully in the book. After a childhood spent in orphanages and foster homes, Mason-John was an anorectic bulimic, a binging, purging 28-year-old — until she discovered meditation. This led her to the teachings of Buddha, and she tackled the underlying problems that gave rise to her addiction, thus forging a new relationship with food.

The eight-step program is an alternative approach to the conventional programs that ask for abstinence. Mason-John notes that it falls more on the side of harm reduction because lapses don’t take away from the path.

“Most importantly, it’s designed to help others,” she said. “It’s kind. As we help others, we help ourselves. What I have to offer is my recovery.”

Mann will speak about the impact of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) on his life and will read some poems, some from his book, I Am a Man Who Cries, and some new.

“What I like about Eight Step Recovery,” Mann told Coast Reporter, “is that it’s clear as to how the steps can be approached … and it’s from a non-religious standpoint.”

Though the practice of mindfulness comes out of Buddhist teachings, there is no big push within the book toward religion. It’s also important that this approach takes away the shame and the blame.

“I don’t blame my mom,” Mann said. “It wasn’t her intent for me to be born this way.”

Nonetheless, her addiction during pregnancy has changed his life.

Royea will speak about the impact of alcohol addiction on her family and read her poems on the subject.

“This approach [in Eight Step Recov­ery] is entirely welcome,” she said.
At the book launch Mason-John will present a performance piece, The Perfect Road, which connects sexual abuse with eating disorders.
The book was co-authored with Dr. Paramabandhu Groves, a British psychiatrist and Buddhist. The two voices, Mason-John and her co-author, form an interesting juxtaposition. Each comes from a different place, and each finds a personal way, using teachings, to a solution. The book contains a foreword by Gabor Mate, a noted medical doctor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a definitive book about addiction. The authors also make available for free 21 meditations to be found by emailing: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com.

Eight Step Recovery was published by Windhorse Publications in the U.K. and is now available in North America and on the Coast through Talewind Books.

Everyone is welcome to attend the event to hear the presentation and to participate in a facilitated question and answer session, if they wish.   

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