Today we welcome Jerry Dorsman.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Jerry Dorsman: At this stage of my life, one of my main concerns is staying healthy. So I make sure to fit exercise into each day. I also work on maintaining a healthy diet. To this I add a couple of other methods for reducing stress, namely yoga and meditation.
But I enjoy more leisure time now. So I also get together with friends a couple of times each week over breakfast or lunch. And I spend more time having fun with the family, which often means running around with grandchildren and sometimes babysitting them.
In addition, I have been working a lot more on promoting my books through social media and other outlets. This includes writing blog posts which reference one or more of my books.
But having this much spare time is new to me.
For the past 28 years, I worked as a mental health and addictions counselor for a large mental health clinic in Maryland. I also served as their public relations coordinator and wrote most of their publicity. I retired from that organization in March of this year (2017). Prior to working there, I held various positions in marketing, primarily conducting marketing research studies and also writing advertising copy.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Jerry Dorsman: All of my books are nonfiction and all have a message. Since they’re all self-help books, the message in each is how to make a specific set of improvements in your life. I have two mainstream books both published by Penguin Random House. They are:
- How to Quit Drinking Without AA (First Ed – New Dawn Publishing: 1991; Second Ed: 1997)
- How to Quit Drugs for Good (1998)
I also have two coauthored books with two different publishers:
- How to Achieve Peace of Mind (First Ed – Prima Publishing: 1994; Revised Ed – Sunbury Press: 2015)
- Live Longer while Feeling Younger (Robert Reed Publishers: 2014)
I chose to write these books to help others. Yet I also have an intimate connection with each.
I had my own serious problems with alcohol and drugs, and had to find a way to quit. When I discovered that the 12-Step program didn’t work for me, I started studying everything available about other methods that could help. I learned a lot. From that research, I developed a program that worked for me, a program that was so straightforward I knew it could work for others too. This program includes dozens of evidence-based methods that have been shown to help with breaking addictions. Using a series of worksheets and checklists provided in the books, readers choose the recovery methods that will work best for them.
I started my intensive research on addictions and addiction recovery in 1980 and it helped me to break the last of my addictions in 1986. That’s when I gathered all my notes and started writing my first book. From the very start, this book had the working title of How to Quit Drinking Without AA.
In the mid-90s, my publisher at the time asked me to do another recovery book to help people specifically with drug problems. I agreed and got started right away. For that book, I included much of the same information as in my book on quitting drinking. The new book was then based on the same recovery methods but written directly for those who have a problem with one or more of the many addictive drugs.
The peace-of-mind book also evolved from issues that I was working on at the time. This included trying to find ways to manage stress and feel calmer. Actually, while I’ve experienced plenty of improvement in this area, I continue to work on these issues to this day.
Finally, as I entered my sixties, longevity became more of a focus for me. So it was natural to combine ideas with an octogenarian who invited me to work with him on a book that revealed ways to live longer. I helped him find a publisher who would bring this book to market. I also wrote a couple of chapters and provided an editorial makeover of the entire work, which gave me credit as a coauthor.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Jerry Dorsman: My present work in progress is an autobiography. My purpose here is to document details of my life for the family. It will almost surely be just for posterity and not viable commercially.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Jerry Dorsman: That was the “Drugs of Abuse” section in my quitting drugs book. This was the chapter in which I described the various psychoactive substances that have the potential for abuse. It was difficult for two reasons. First, I had to determine which drugs to include. Second, I was referencing more than a dozen different source materials and there was a wide variation in descriptions not only in the effects of each drug but in the recommendations for treating its expected withdrawal symptoms and developing the best recovery strategies.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Jerry Dorsman: All of my work is research intensive. I see my task as digesting the scientific studies and making them user friendly. As all of my books are self-help books, I need to describe the methods, techniques, and programs correctly and then guide people in the best way to use them.
To do this, I study everything I can about each self-help practice that I write about. Also I usually try the different practices myself so I have first-hand knowledge of how they work. Of course, in my books, I include all practices for which there’s strong, supporting evidence that they work for a significant percentage of people.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Jerry Dorsman: I read mainly non-fiction books. I particularly favor books on science and religion. Indeed, during the past 35 years, I’ve taken a deep dive into books on spirituality and spiritual practices. I especially enjoy learning about different meditation techniques.
But I do choose a fiction book now and then that I’ll read for pleasure. In this case, I usually find myself selecting humorous fiction by authors such as Tom Robbins, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. I guess I’m serious so much of the time that I need an occasional break. So I go with something that makes me laugh.
I can truly say there’s no single, specific author that inspires me. Actually there are many. I’m inspired by good writing, period.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Jerry Dorsman: A long-time friend and fiction author Floyd Kemske read an early draft of the first chapter of my first book. While offering editorial advice, he also had encouraging words to say about the style and the need for a book like that. But it took being in a settled relationship to get some serious writing work done. It was after I married in 1986 that I was able to concentrate on the work of writing and become truly productive. My wife, Kathy, was patient with me when I needed extra time for writing. She was also the first reader (and editor) of all my penultimate drafts.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Jerry Dorsman: One of my strengths has to be my desire to do exhaustive research. Another personal strength is my ability to describe how to do something in a clear, step-by-step fashion. Also, with my background in advertising copy writing, I learned to write short, understandable sentences.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Jerry Dorsman: I don’t write as often anymore. Nor do I have a strict routine. But, now that you ask, I feel that I ought to begin writing more and making it a routine again. It has been only recently that my writing work has slowed down.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Jerry Dorsman: I’d like to see my autobiography completed and available in hard copies for the family. I also want to continue publishing articles and additional posts to my blog. On my wish list too would be to have my editor at Penguin Random House ask me to do revised editions of my two books on addiction recovery. At this point, I think revised editions are overdue.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Jerry Dorsman: To the novice, I recommend studying writing technique. Your writing can improve with study and practice. Here are a few books that I recommend: The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch, Getting the Words Right by Theodore Cheney, Line by Line by Claire Cook, and Writing Tools by Roy Clark.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Jerry Dorsman: Here are the kinds of comments I like to hear:
“Your book helped me. Thanks so much.” “I found your book well researched and easy to read.” Or: “With your book, I was able to make a positive change in my life.” More specifically: “It helped me quit drinking.” Or “It helped me quit drugs.” Or “It helped me find inner peace.”
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Jerry Dorsman: Excerpt from How to Quit Drugs for Good
Chapter 7 – Healing through Diet
“Without a doubt, diet is the single most important component of good health. It’s miraculous how much healing takes place when you change from a poor diet to a healthy one. Think about it. Whatever you eat and drink becomes an intimate part of you. You swallow your food and immediately your body begins to assimilate it. Through digestion, you become one with what you eat and drink. Through digestion your body gains important nutrients.
“The nutrients in food form the building blocks of life itself. You gain strength from food. The strength of every cell in your body depends on the quality of the food you eat. How can you enjoy high-quality health? Eat high-quality foods.
“Another benefit: Your mental and emotional health will improve. Through good nutrition, you can dramatically strengthen your brain’s biochemical functioning. A balanced diet will make you feel balanced and energized. Such a diet enables you to think clearly, act calmly, and deal effectively with stress.
“When you quit drugs, you can do yourself a big favor by changing your diet. With a good diet, you can improve your emotional outlook and heal most of the physical damage caused by moderate to excessive drug-use.
“The process is gradual but amazing. As you get healthier, you begin to feel younger. You have more zest. You even begin to look younger. This goes on for many years after you quit the drugs. It’s as if you add lost years back onto your life.
“What’s more, the better your diet, the more effective the healing you’ll experience. It may take you a while to learn how to follow a healthy diet, but the effort is definitely worth it.”
My website: http://www.self-renewal.com/
Photo: See attached.