‘Royhab’ Not Rehab—How Roy Nelson Will Take You Deep
Need help? Call our 24/7 helpline. 855-933-3480

‘Royhab’ Not Rehab—How Roy Nelson Will Take You Deep


nelsonI’m wary of healers. It seems like anyone with charisma and an ability to express empathy could call themselves a healer or guru or mentor. Offer the spiritually vulnerable something that sounds like freedom, and maybe a bracelet of sorts, and the next thing they know, their bank account is as empty as their eyes and their guru is driving a new Mercedes.

When I first heard of Roy Nelson, the creator of the Nelson Method alternative rehab program, I was skeptical. As someone who has found relief from addiction through the 12 steps, I have come to rely on the group aspects of recovery, and the idea of a single individual purporting to help addicts heal set off alarm bells for me. Is this guy claiming that a cure for addiction can be yours in just three easy installments of $599.99?

A healthy dose of skepticism never hurt anyone, but my recovery also tells me that an open mind is what saved me. So I did my due diligence—and gave Nelson a call.

In his book Love Notes From Hell: Stories of Hopeless Addiction, Obsession and Freedom, Nelson tells a heartbreaking story that will be familiar to 12-steppers. He was born into poverty in a rural Bible Belt town in Texas and grew up with an alcoholic father. His first comforts were fantasy and food until he began smoking cigarettes at 12. He left home at the age of 14 and started drinking. At 15, he had sex with a woman in her mid-30s and, at 17, he joined the military. He married when he was 20 and by 22 he had a stepdaughter and three kids, including twin boys, with his wife. All through this time, he continued to abuse alcohol, food and sex. Then, when he was 28 and a morbidly obese 275 pounds, he had a “profound spiritual experience” that led him down the path to recovery.

“It’s a good thing I had big shoulders in those days,” Roy tells me over the phone, laughing at his past burdens the way only someone with decades of recovery can.

Nelson has surrounded himself with an efficient team that includes his wife Tricia—a former client and his number one success story—as well as publicists and a brand manager. In a soft, comforting Southern drawl, he answers my questions with an eagerness to share his experience and method of helping the addicted. He is also very careful to communicate that he values every step of his recovery, including his bottom. He doesn’t discredit any form of help he has sought (therapy, medication, 12 step), seeing them all as integral stops along his journey to freedom. But none of them alone could fix him, and he’s convinced that they each, alone, cannot fix any other addict.

When I ask him to describe his typical client, he more or less describes himself before his own spiritual awakening. “They can’t get what they need from other means, ” he explains. “Everything else has failed—religion, therapy, rehab, 12 steps.” Addiction is their medicine, and what he offers is a “better form of medicine.”

I wonder if he is active in the 12-step community.

“I have attended 12-step programs extensively,” he replies, “but…people just don’t go deep enough to get free. Certainly, the 12-step programs are great for some people, they’re able to get what they need. But the vast majority continue a life of quiet desperation unfortunately, and many of them of course die because they give up.”

“Many people who come to me have been to 12-step programs, and some of them are [still]in 12-step programs, but they’re not getting what they need,” Nelson continues. “They’re not happy with their situation, not happy about the recovery, not happy about what they’re getting. They’re suffering from other addictions.”

He goes on to explain that every addiction has three components: “One, it’s a painkiller. Two, it’s a form of escape and, three, it’s a form of punishment. Unless I deal with the pain, the fear, the shame, the guilt and the remorse, then I will always have to have an addiction. That’s why people die from this illness because they don’t get the deep recovery that they need to be free of the pain, guilt, fear, shame and remorse.”

So if he’s not a therapist, a sponsor or a preacher, what is he? His healing process, the Roy Nelson Method, is a 28-day program during which clients work one-on-one with him “going deep” to heal past wounds.

The Roy Nelson Method uses “Five Pillars of Transformation” to treat clients. The first pillar is “Awakening to the True Problem,” which involves uncovering the mystery of the “soul sickness.” During this stage, clients shift from thinking about diets, exercise and abstinence as means to control the addictive mentality. The client works with Roy to determine the reason for their disconnect from the soul or spirit, focusing on the goal of reconnecting with themselves spiritually.

Pillar two is “Personal Exploration and Discovery.” Clients review their personal history to determine how they may be inadvertently self-sabotaging their recovery. New habits and an action plan are created to help move forward with a new way of thinking and behaving.

Pillar three, “Claiming Transformation,” is considered the pivotal point in recovery. Clients focus their energy on their new journey, unfettered by their past.

Pillar four, “Excavation of the Soul Sickness,” involves digging deeper into any obstacles that are inhibiting the client’s feelings of self-worth and ability to heal.

The last pillar, “Walking the Path of Expansive Living,” establishes a day-to-day action plan that incorporates all the recovery tools learned earlier in the program. The client is now released from the burden of their past pains, habits, actions and belief systems.

As someone who has benefited from working the 12 steps myself, it’s hard not to see similarities between the Roy Nelson method and the “fearless moral inventory” of step four, and step five’s turning over of our past wrongs to another person. His method appears to be a condensed and accelerated version of the steps, taking his clients quickly through the process of shedding the past to maximize the benefits of an unburdened future. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 12 steps work. But they don’t work for everyone, and the reasons for this are as diverse as the individual experiences themselves. If someone truly wants to recover from addiction and every other method they’ve tried has failed them, perhaps Nelson’s personalized, one-on-one treatment is the answer. Addiction is a spiritual sickness requiring a spiritual transformation. Does it matter how we get there?

My biggest concern is that whole Higher Power thing. What about people who make Nelson their Higher Power? Doesn’t that make him a guru?

“If a person lets me into their heart, they will start to experience [what I call]God,” he says. “They won’t have to believe anything. They’ll start to experience the peace that comes from being free.”

He draws from his own experience of being reluctant to believe in a Higher Power. “The thing is we want people to get to the place where they have dependence upon the spirit within. Initially, if the person is willing to connect with me, ultimately they will transfer that to the spirit within. And I will continue to mentor them if they have the attitude that they want to keep going. I’m just a conduit for the Sweet Spirit. It works through me. And I’m helping them connect with the spirit within themselves that will heal them.”

From what I can tell, if Roy is selling anything, it’s comfort, a hand to hold while your wounds from the past heal. He helps individuals who, like him, have sought every other type of help for their addictions and can’t seem to recover. We all know those fellows who seem to fall through the cracks between the steps. We love them, we offer what we have, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. This is where Nelson and his method come in. He calls himself a mentor, but he’s actually kind of a one-man, outpatient rehab (Royhab?).

In parting, I ask Nelson if there’s any one message he believes sums up what the Roy Nelson Method has to offer. “There’s nothing on earth that feels better than feeling good about yourself,” he says without hesitation. “And this is what I’m about. Helping people feel better and better and better about themselves.”

Photo courtesy of RoyNelsonHealing

Any Questions? Call Now To Speak to a Rehab Specialist
(855) 933-3480

About Author

Halina Newberry Grant has written for Cosmo, The Next Family, The Hairpin and The Huffington Post, among others. She lives in Culver City, CA with her husband, daughters and dog, Mr. Manfred.