Coming Next Week: Reality Check in Kansas

John McManamy Health Guide
  • On Thursday next week, I head off to Manhattan Kansas, to give two talks to the DBSA Kansas State Conference. I haven’t spoken before a live audience in nearly two years, and I would be very happy to keep that streak going forever. Nevertheless, getting out in front of people serves a useful reality check.

    For instance, one day in the spring of 2007, at a DBSA group in Washington DC, someone happened to ask me this: "What do you do for your own recovery?"

    Why on earth do you want to know? I could only think. I'm the same as the rest of you. I was stumped. It made no sense to me that someone else would view me as some kind of poster boy for recovery. I blurted out something incoherent, and waited to be rescued by someone wanting to hear me expound on the fine points of brain science or what was the capital of Kazakhstan or something.

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    I pick up the account in the draft to a book I’m working on:

    I was still living in denial when I gave two presentations at a national DBSA conference that summer in Orlando. One of the organizers, without consulting me, had put on the program that I would be talking about recovery. Ha! No way I was going to lecture people in how to run their lives. Ruin their lives, perhaps - I was an expert at that. But run? You gotta be kidding.

    Recovery starts with knowledge, is how I began. Here's some cool stuff I learned, was the gist of what followed. The rest is up to you. Oh yeh, and I broke up one of the talks with a didgeridoo interlude. Didgeridoos are hollowed-out logs played by Australian aboriginals and made perfect sense to me.

    That's not the way you work yourself up from break-out speaker to keynoter, I learned. Or, for that matter, ever get invited back to speak again, not with two audiences primed to hear about recovery.

    Apparently, there was this thing called a recovery movement. Recovery is for YOU to figure out, I wanted to scream. It has nothing to do with me.

    But of course, my audiences were correct. They were there to get their lives back on track, not to listen to my cool stuff. So here I am, preparing for Kansas. Have I learned anything since then? It’s complicated.

    If I give my audience exactly what they want to hear, then I’m not doing my job. I feel the same way as an author and journalist. Part of my job is to irritate people, like dropping sand into an oyster. Hopefully, a pearl of wisdom will emerge, though I can’t guarantee it. What I do know is that I’m serving no useful purpose if, in pursuit of my own instant gratification, I give my audience nothing to think about.

    So, I like to think that I wasn’t wasting the time of those who came out in good faith to hear me two years ago, that somehow I set the scene for some Aha! moments further down the road.

    This time I will be warning my audience in Kansas to expect to be confused. But I am also looking forward to doing a better job of connecting the dots. What I tried to do two years ago was link new advances in brain science to basic recovery principles, but I was ahead of my time. No one wanted to hear about brain science back then.

  • But that has changed. Brain science books these days are literally flying off the shelves. Typically, in book shops, they are displayed next to the pop psych and self-help books. It’s as if people have finally figured out that recovery is a non-starter without some basic self-knowledge.

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    Open up the hood and look inside. Modern brain science is telling us a lot about why we are more vulnerable than others, why the world around us can appear threatening and hostile, why personal relations can be so difficult, and why life in general poses special challenges. Likewise, the brain science holds out hope. We may be vulnerable, but we’re not powerless.

    Our brains may influence our thoughts and behavior, but it also works the other way around. We can literally change our brains. We do it all the time. Knowing that, we don’t have to spend the rest of our lives as innocent bystanders.

    Hopefully, this time, I will do a better job getting this message across. Hopefully, this time, my audience will be ready for this message. Then again, my listeners may totally surprise me. That’s why I need to get out in front of people. I need my reality checks.




    Catch me in Kansas.


    On Saturday, April 24, I will be delivering the keynote to the Kansas DBSA state conference in Manhattan (Kansas, that is).

    The conference begins at 9 and goes to 4. In addition to my keynote, I will be doing another talk and will be part of a panel discussion.

    Venue: First Christian Church, Manhattan, Kansas.

    Admission is free. Complimentary lunch.

    It's going to be a great conference and I look forward to meeting a lot of you there.

    For more info, go to the DBSA Manhattan website


Published On: April 16, 2010