The Brainwashed and the Liar: Constance Scharff, Richard Taite and the Never- Ending Addiction

Addiction has always been a terribly difficult condition to treat. Even if you can get an addict to recognize they have a problem, and even if you can get them into treatment, and even if they stick with it — they are still very likely to relapse several times. Especially the young ones. Sometimes nothing seems to help, and the pain and desperation of the addict and their loved ones only increases. Finally, Taite and Scharff outline a lifetime treatment for this terrible affliction in their new book, Ending Addiction for Good: The Groundbreaking, Holistic, Evidence-Based Way to Transform Your Life. Addiction is now easily fixable, like having a broken arm. “There’s no reason to be addicted any more.” (Taite)  They are so sure of their solution, in fact, that treatment is guaranteed.

Sharff and Taite were both abused as children. Connie suffered 3 years of rape and torture by her father, and Richard suffered physical abuse and neglect by his father. They both started their drug and alcohol use early on. In college, Connie attended several 12 Step meetings, but found that this only made her problem worse. First of all, she had to admit that her drinking was a disease to which she was powerless, and secondly she had to admit to moral failings when actually it was her father who was responsible for her suffering. This brainwashing only made things worse, and so we will refer to her as the Brainwashed. She went on to earn her PhD in Transformative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. During this time she discovered the value of alternative treatments: “I started to receive acupuncture and found it to be the missing link in my recovery.” (p. 22) “The acupuncturist’s work is based on the idea that body, mind, and spirit are connected in ways that are often beyond our understanding.” (p. 136) Now she doesn’t consider alcoholism to be a disease, and her patients are not required to confess their sins as would be typical in 12 Step based programs.

Richard’s experience was somewhat different:

He was introduced to illegal drugs as a 12-year old boy when ‘time with Dad’ meant smoking pot and being beaten with a cane. ( I had been getting high daily since I first started smoking pot with my best friend at age twelve. (p. 3) I spent 20 years as a full blown drug addict. Getting high was my sole purpose in life and was the most fun I ever had. But for the second ten years of my addiction, I was trying and failing to get sober. I knew that I had to stop getting high if I ever wanted to have a normal life. But I couldn’t stop. I had tried 12 Step programs, and even though I got a lot out of them, I needed more.

Most people who report an inability to stop drug use despite their greatest effort are either admitted liars or have a demonstrated history of lying (the “Craving Liar”). Richard does not reveal such a history in the book, although he admits to check kiting to keep his business afloat (though in his defense he didn’t know this was a crime). Eventually he found a therapist to help him through his childhood trauma, which cured his addiction. For this reason, Richard believes that addiction is based in childhood trauma, and is a disorder and not a disease. He now brings his experience to bear on his treatment program: “Our focus is on using proven best practices to help addicts recover.” (p. 35)

The Evidence Base

Every aspect of their program is Evidence Based, meaning that it comes from the Evidence Database maintained by Conny, who is considered by Richard to be the foremost expert on long-term sobriety in the world. “A clear evidence base exists, indicating exactly which types of addiction recovery tools are the most effective. (p. 10) I know these methods work because without them, I was unable to stop smoking crack no matter how hard I tried.” (p. 3)  Hyperbaric treatment is an example of the process of developing the Evidence Base: Richard was very skeptical at first. However, he tried it, and after 40 sessions in the pressurized, high oxygen chamber, he was absolutely amazed at how magnificent he felt, and his improved cognition. He told Connie about his experience, and she found evidence that this treatment was used for Traumatic Brain Injury. This meant that it was repairing some of the cellular damage done by drugs. They added it to the Evidence Base and it is now available as part of the program (an extra charge may apply). When looking for a treatment program for your loved one, you should always inquire if the program is Evidence Based. You should know that Cliffside Malibu is the only treatment center with a full time researcher in charge of its Evidence Base.

Of course, while the client learns to abstain from drugs and alcohol while at Cliffside, they must be prepared to resist the temptation of relapse after leaving. To ensure long term success, Cliffside Malibu has a 5:1 staff/patient ratio.  Even though it might look like the staff is just standing around and chatting most of the time, in fact they are constantly discussing and planning which treatments to provide to ensure their clients’ continued recovery. The point of all the therapies is so that addicts are not ‘white knuckling’ it when they leave. The treatment ensures that staying sober is as natural as breathing. “If he is provided with the right set of tools to ensure his lasting recovery, the addict will be equipped to meet even life’s most difficult challenges.” (p. 40)

Spreading the Good News

Cliffside Malibu is a small facility and so it must carefully select its patients, which is done according to the principle of “loving the addict into treatment”. Interventions based on threats or coercion are not recommended: the addict who knows she’s loved is more highly motivated to turn her life around.  TV shows popularize the misconception that interventions must be confrontational.  This is usually indicative of deep-seated resentment towards the addict, or fear of seeing them succeed.

Fortunately, Joy and Happiness at Cliffside (JHC) is not limited to the lucky few. Its incredible success is now available to everyone through this book which explains a New Treatment that addresses mind, body and spirit (the Holistic Trinity), and is realized through the Twelve Disciplines: individual psychotherapy, psychiatry, personal training, life coaching, nutrition (gourmet food), massage, acupuncture, orthomolecular therapy, equine therapy, hyperbaric treatment, yoga, and twelve step programs.

While spreading his message of love, Taite gets crucified by the old-school AA types: You can’t cure addiction! You can’t guarantee sobriety! To this Taite responds that first of all the addict must abstain from all potentially addictive substances for the rest of their lives or they are at risk of relapse; and the guarantee is not a money-back refund but simply an offer for an additional 30 days of treatment if you relapse within a year of starting the program, and you completed the full 120 day program as prescribed, and you followed all discharge plans including biweekly AA attendance.

Not your father’s AA

Cliffside Malibu treatment is not based on the Twelve Steps. According to Conny: “12 step programs are wonderful, even though success rates are low.”  However she notes:

Millions of people over the last seventy-plus years have found that twelve step programs greatly assist them in their spiritual growth. These results are part of the evidence-base. Those who dedicate themselves to participating in twelve-step work find that they are able to maintain their sobriety for years, if not permanently. It would be negligent for any evidence-based treatment facility not to offer twelve step programming to its clients. (p. 54)  We introduce all addicts to the concept of the twelve-steps and encourage everyone to attend at least one twelve-step meeting just to see what it is all about. Twelve-step programs have helped millions of people become sober and maintain their sobriety over the past seventy-plus years. (p. 141) Accessing this network of addicts in recovery can help an addict if he finds himself having difficulty at any time of the day or night and in almost any place in the world. (p. 142) We consider twelve-step work an adjunct to our treatment program, a supplement that encourages and supports sobriety, particularly once the addict returns home. (p. 142)

Some might argue that the Twelve Steps have never been proven effective. But Connie explains that such proof is impossible: “A randomized clinical trial cannot determine why some addicts respond very well to twelve-step programs and others are entirely unable to maintain sobriety in such a setting.” (p. 64)

Regardless, each addict must choose some kind of long-term activity after leaving treatment to maintain the desire for sobriety:

Addiction recovery requires a complete change of lifestyle.  In treatment it is easy to remain sober. After treatment, we help the addict arrange his days so that sober living is the norm. (p. 96)  Some will find great solace in religion and replace substances with church attendance. Life becomes beautiful. Relapse seems unfathomable. (p. 97)  The addict will learn to find the energy, time, and dedication to execute his recovery plan on a daily basis. Again we cannot stress enough that successful maintenance literally means a brand new, healthy lifestyle for the addict.  The addict discovers that he no longer wants to return to his old lifestyle. (p. 74)  He focuses on the future, imagines his new self, and dreams about his healthy life. (p. 94) He can share and cultivate the best parts of himself and create a life he never before thought possible. (p. 95)  He may build relationships with sobriety buddies, others who are also recreating their lives around recovery. (p. 100)

Twelve Step attendance is by no means required: “If the client completely rejects the notion of twelve-step programs, our therapists don’t use those tools no matter what their area of expertise may be.” (p. 127)  In fact, Cliffside Malibu has a number of employees who are not members of AA.

Regardless, an addict must find something to keep himself occupied, because “his addiction is just a few bad choices away.” (p. 104)  Why?  “The addict’s mind is different from the non-addicts mind.  He believes that pain will destroy him.” (p. 49)  But as long as the client follows the center’s recommendations, “A new, good life beyond the addict’s wildest imagining is no longer an aspiration, but a reality.” (p. 149)

Success Story: Lindsay Lohan
July 31, 2013

The therapy sessions were recommended by Richard Taite, founder and chief executive officer of Cliffside Malibu, the facility where Lohan completed her court-ordered rehabilitation program.  “Our entire clinical team is in unanimous agreement that if these sessions are not required by the court and attendance verified once a month to ensure accountability, it is a set up for almost certain failure,” Taite wrote in a letter to the judge. “We couldn’t be happier with the progress Ms. Lohan has made in building a solid foundation from which to continue the excellent work she has begun here at Cliffside Malibu,” Taite added in the letter.

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4 thoughts on “The Brainwashed and the Liar: Constance Scharff, Richard Taite and the Never- Ending Addiction”

  1. Richard Taite is a professional con man. He’d hit the pipe or love a bong hit right now. Good con Richard !

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