Life-Changing Affirmations By Tracey Jackson and Paul Williams

Tracey Jackson and Paul Williams take a serious yet lighthearted approach to adapting recovery principles for those who need help but are not traditional addicts. George Baier IV

When Tracey Jackson and Paul Williams first met in the 1980s, the last thing either of them thought was that they might join up to address addictive behavior in a self-help recovery book.

For one thing, the popular musician and composer was high, very, very high. “I was at a party in Robert Mitchum’s house doing lines with Mr. Mitchum in his bedroom.” Ms. Jackson came in and complimented Mr. Williams on a recent film. His impaired retort was such that he said, “She went into the bedroom a fan of Paul Williams and came out a fan of Neil Diamond.”

It was many years later, when Mr. Williams was already 11 years into recovery, that they became friends in 2001. It would be several more years before Ms. Jackson, a part-time Sag Harbor resident who is an author, filmmaker, and screenwriter, realized that she wanted to enlist his help in an effort to show people how the tools of addiction recovery could also change nonaddicts’ lives for the better.

Mr. Williams may be known more as president of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers or for songs he wrote such as “Evergreen” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” than his efforts in the recovery movement, but he is an active advocate for issues relevant to addiction.

“I’m not a drinker,” Ms. Jackson admitted, in a conference call with the two authors last Thursday. “And I never took drugs, although I was offered some amazing drugs over the years.” Yet, she was always envious of her friends in recovery. “I’d been to open A.A. meetings and I went to Al-Anon when I had boyfriends who were alcoholics. I was blown away by the honesty and camaraderie in those rooms. I thought if everyone had those principles in their lives, they would be more productive, less cranky, just better people.”

She carried those thoughts with her for some years, then inspiration struck when Mr. Williams uttered the words that started it all during a meal a few years ago. “My choo choo runs on the tracks of gratitude and trust,” he told her. “That’s a book!” she said. The resulting project became “Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life,” to show that “recovery is not just for addicts,” as she said at the time. Within a few weeks, they had a 127-page outline and a bidding war among a few publishers. Then, Oprah called.

The two recently traveled to Chicago to tape a show with her, which should air soon. On Saturday at 5 p.m., they will be at BookHampton to chat and sign theirbook, which is centered on six affirmations that Mr. Williams saw as pivotal to the recovery process.

The idea of the first affirmation should be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of how recovery programs work, which is admitting there is a problem, but it is presented in a way that is more approachable, a bit wise-cracking: “Something needs to change, and it’s probably me.”

The affirmations address spiritual and practical needs, Mr. Williams said. There is room for higher powers and various gods, but for those more humanistically inclined, an “inner ally” is just as potent. An affirmation that has had particular resonance for Mr. Williams is learning from his mistakes. The defense mechanism is a major detractor from growth and change, he said. “It was huge for me to begin to say, ‘This is my mistake.’ ”

According to Ms. Jackson, they share their own journeys truthfully. Throughout the book there are boxes where they comment on their own successes and failures. “I’ve read so many self-help books in my life, books where they say, ‘You have a problem, but I’m okay because I figured it out.’ We own our mistakes.”

One of her favorite affirmations is “I will right my wrongs. Most people stand in the land of right. Look, I’m an impatient control freak,” she said. “To say, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you’ and let compassion and discipline work hand in hand is really powerful.”

The book may come at a time when our increasingly obsessive and addictive culture revels in escapism in the form of video games, binge show watching, overeating, and the many varieties of diversion on the Internet.

“Things that are addictive are fun,” Ms. Jackson said. “Shopping, drinking, sex are all available as a 24/7 dopamine rush on the Internet. There’s no end to pleasure there, and that’s a huge problem.”

Mr. Williams sees the isolation the Internet offers as akin to one of the main elements of alcoholism. “You can go into your man cave for a decade there,” losing yourself in games, porn, or whatever else might keep you from interacting with other people and facing problems.

“When you go out, everyone at dinner is on their phones. Back at home, the entire family is watching something different on their own devices,” Ms. Jackson said. “We have a whole generation not learning anything about postponing pleasure.” And that’s the more acceptable behavior. Additionally, “every vice is available. It used to be that you had to go out of your way to do illicit behavior. Now your entire private life can be subterranean. There is more addiction now and different types.”

They hope to address this increasing disengagement through the book, making the often-foreign language of recovery tools more approachable and universal. “There is a simplistic elegance and truth in an affirmation,” that anyone can appreciate, Mr. Williams said.

“People love a list, something they can turn to day in and day out, put on the refrigerator, or put up all over the place,” Ms. Jackson said. Every day is a struggle. “We make mistakes, get angry, let our egos go places we don’t want to go. This wrangles you back to a place that’s right.”