Q&A: Meet Andrew Pierce, whose journey from skeptic to advocate is chronicled in new book

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
4 min readJan 10, 2022

This was originally published for Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.

For Andrew G. Pierce, MCAP, the addiction journey took him from owning a multimillion-dollar consulting company and playing music on the side to camping without power in an abandoned house. The recovery journey, by contrast, took him to the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies and then to writing a book about resolving spiritual skepticism, starting a therapy practice with Counseling of Southwest Florida, and advocating for others.

Q: What’s recovery look like for you, and what has it empowered in your life?

For me, recovery has become both a personal journey and a profession. As an addiction therapist, my daily interactions with patients help me as much as they (presumably) help those with whom I work. I remember the tenuous two years between my sobriety date and the date I began studying at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I considered myself to be self-sufficient at the time. What that really meant was that I had a lot of stigma about my addiction and how the consequences played out. I was afraid to be honest about who I was and wasn’t. In retrospect, I can see how loneliness and boredom are two of the top relapse “triggers” in recovery. Now, it is my deep relationships with others that, having gained the courage to assert my authenticity in recovery, have enabled me to experience love — filling that empty space I had tried for decades to fill with addictive behaviors.

Q: What’s the role of spirituality in your recovery and what inspired you to invest the time and energy in writing your book, Resolving Spiritual Skepticism in Recovery?

Throughout my first 13-year-long stint in recovery, and five years into my current seven-year-plus recovery, I was absolutely unable to derive the benefits of possessing a spiritual aspect in my worldview. I intuitively knew that those with some devoutness in a higher power had an easier time of recovery than those who do not, but a number of factors including intellectual skepticism, ego, shame, and past disappointments with organized religion stymied any ability to adopt a spiritual perspective.

As a clinician, I realized the therapeutic benefits of faith in a higher power include: peace of mind, peace of heart, confidence, a solid resource to combat loneliness, decreased anxiety from worrying about outcomes and timing, increased self-efficacy (belief in my ability to fundamentally change), relief in the knowledge that I don’t have to do everything myself, connection to an unlimited source of love, and a sense of acceptance by the universe of my true self (which contrasts with how the higher power of my childhood might have accepted me).

The barometer by which I now measure the benefits of having adopted a spiritual perspective is the degree to which I am now able to relate to the 12 Promises of AA.

My book presents the means by which those who are skeptical of a higher power for any number of valid reasons may experience the full benefits and depth of recovery afforded by adoption of a spiritual perspective.

Q: What should we do as a society to help more people establish and sustain recovery?

Stigma needs to be overcome on a societal level. Both a conservative fiscal and progressive social argument can be made for treating people who have substance use disorders as patients vs. people lacking moral fiber — Treatment vs. Punishment.

For example, about 80% of those incarcerated are in jail or prison for substance-related reasons. That’s a lot of people. And it costs seven to 12 times as much to incarcerate someone with addiction (punishment) than it does to treat them.

Treating sick people as patients rather than criminals or outcasts decreases stigma and encourages people to seek help and pursue recovery sooner, with less shame and fear of stigmatization by family and society. And those who recover — such as myself — then become a net benefit to society as we get jobs, pay taxes, and perhaps most importantly, stand up and speak out to help stop the generational scourge that addictive family dysfunction perpetuates in the absence of treatment and recovery.



Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

As a force of healing & hope for those affected by addiction, we feature insights and views from leading voices on prevention, treatment & recovery.