Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson collaborate on new book that uses the principles of the recovery movement to help just about anybody
Longtime friends—the pair first met in Robert Mitchum‘s bedroom in 1982—Paul Williams (yes, that Paul Williams, the Oscar-, Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning Hall of Fame songwriter) and Tracey Jackson (who write the films Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Guru, among others) had talked about doing a project together for years before inspiration finally struck.
“I always had a fascination with the recovery movement. I always felt that it was a great foundation for all people and that all people should probably be required to go through it just on general principal,” says Jackson, who grew up in Santa Barbara. “I had kind of always been envious of … Paul and various other friends in my life who had been in recovery and I had seen the difference it made in their lives.”
Meanwhile, Williams starred in the 2012 documentary Paul Williams, Still Alive, and during a Q & A after a screening of the film, “he mentioned his choo choo ran on the twin rails of gratitude and trust.” Jackson says, “the light bulb went off in my head and afterwards I said you know, that’s it. That’s a book, gratitude and trust.”
With a basic underlying theme of “recovery is not just for addicts,” the pair set out to make the project a reality, quickly developing a book proposal that sparked a bidding war and ultimately publishing under Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group. They also launched a website, gratitudeandtrust.com, and immediately began connecting with readers.
Williams, who will celebrate 25 years of sobriety on March 15, says, “For 24 years people had been saying to me, ‘I wish we had something like you have to turn our lives around and to clean up our lives, I wish we had some process like you have in recovery. ‘ And I never really knew how to share that until …Tracey became a catalyst to finding a way to do it.”
He continues, “It’s been an amazing journey to write this book.”
Gratitude & Trust offers “Six Affirmations of Personal Freedom,” along with anecdotes and advice from both authors individually, as well as their collective voices. The six affirmations are:
-Something needs to change, and it's probably me.
-I don't know how to do this but something inside me does.
-I will learn from my mistakes and defend them.
-I will make right the wrongs I've done wherever possible.
-I will continue to examine my behavior on a daily basis.
-I will live my life in love and service, gratitude and trust.
The beauty of these ideas is that they can work for a variety of problems.
“Everyone starts life in a different place, everyone has different levels of dysfunction, everyone has different levels of needs. … I think that people will take what they need in the order and the intensity of which they need it, so that’s not up to us,” says Jackson. “Neither Paul nor I are obviously going to be able to clone ourselves and sit in thousands of living rooms and say okay, do the first step. But I’m such a bossy person I probably would love to do that! …I could just Skype into people’s houses. Would you please go and apologize to your mom,” she laughs.
Because the pair have been blogging from the beginning, they have lots of reader contact. “Food addiction is the biggest thing that comes up after people who are getting sober, are sober or are staying sober. … Some things require more spirituality, some things require more discipline, some requires they walk hand in hand. … It’s sort of a buffet,” says Jackson.
Adds Williams, “The thing that I think that the six affirmations have in common with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is essentially it’s a toolbox … a good carpenter has a Phillips screwdriver, he’s got a hammer, he’s got a box of tools that are appropriate to the needs.”
“I don’t think you really are as aware that you need it, … but the truth is until you really try it, you don’t realize how valuable it is,” says Jackson.
“There a couple chapters dealing with people who are kind of broken in your life. One is called Navigating the Nasties, which is about dealing with people that you’re not going to change but you’re going to be stuck with them, whether it’s a bad boss or a member of your family that is almost impossible to deal with,” says Williams. “The other one is there’s a chapter called The Ones We Love, about dealing with someone who is an alcoholic… It’s just a reminder that even though somebody may not feel they need the book, they don’t have anything broken to fix, I bet you they know somebody that does.”
While the advice in the book is helpful, the tone is still humorous.
“Tracy has an edge to her,” laughs Williams. “She can be wonderfully quick and quick witted and defend herself, take care of herself, but I have seen a spiritual growth I think for both of us, and I have seen it in Tracey”
“But I like when I go back to being funny and edgy. I do I like that,” says Jackson.
“Buy the book,” she says, with a laugh.
You can do just that on Thursday, September 25, when the authors will be signing books—and surely laughing along the way—from 5-7 p.m. at Tecolote Book Store, 1470 E. Valley Rd., Montecito.
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 24, 2014.