‘Mortal Adhesions’: La Jolla surgeon explores peace, faith and happiness in new book

La Jolla oral surgeon John Sottosanti is the author of "Mortal Adhesions."
(Provided by John Sottosanti)

At one point when Dr. John Sottosanti was in his 40s, he seemed to have it all: a solid career, a supportive family, a social circle of friends and peers, and a house in La Jolla Shores so close to the ocean he could hear the crashing of the waves.

But what he didn’t have was happiness.

“I thought I was in control of my own life [because] I had achieved the American dream,” Sottosanti, an oral surgeon, told the La Jolla Light. But a “series of unfortunate events” caused him to suffer sustained anxiety.

That got him thinking about happiness, and more importantly, how it can be reached and maintained long-term.

In his recently published book, “Mortal Adhesions: A Surgeon Battles the Seven Deadly Sins to Find Faith, Happiness and Inner Peace,” Sottosanti looks into his personal path to happiness and the role of faith.

“In my life, things were going great and then all these things started happening and I had ... anxiety, frustration and despair,” he said. “I’m not sure what caused it, but I looked up in the sky and said, ‘God, if you are up there, all I want is inner peace.’”

From there, he embarked on a 20-year journey to find peace. Among his many steps, Sottosanti walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain and France.

“I wasn’t religious at that point, but things happened that made me want to do the Camino,” he said. “I had a friend that was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and he needed something to do [when he finished treatment]. Then I got inspired by the history of the Camino when I learned there was a special town in which a little-known saint lived” that he wanted to see.

When he arrived, Sottosanti prayed for a grandchild. “When praying in the tomb, I experienced a spiritual vision of seven blazing crosses,” he said. “The book details how I first reacted with disbelief, trying to scientifically explain the blazing crosses. I believed they were being projected through an opening in the wall behind me. I turned, and the wall was solid. I then knew I would soon be a grandfather.”

A month later, one of his daughters-in-law got pregnant and later welcomed a child.

“That experience changed my life,” Sottosanti said. “Before that, I was totally into myself and my achievements, the money I could make, the trips I could take. Finally surrendering to God made my inner core so much greater than it was.”

Though Sottosanti has a particular faith in which he finds peace, he said the same principles can apply to any religious path.

The book also explores what are known as the four levels of happiness.

The first level, Sottosanti said, centers on instant gratification and the brief but intense happiness it brings.

The second level is sustained satisfaction in achieving something one has worked toward, such as getting a job, obtaining a degree or winning a sports competition.

The third level is the “compassionate and support level,” he said, which comes from helping others.

The fourth level is looking for “beauty and justice while being at peace with ourselves and others,” he said.

“I would like to see readers understand the four levels of happiness and ask themselves what level they are at, what could take you to the next level and reach any type of spirituality,” Sottosanti said.

Embracing the third level of happiness, proceeds from Sottosanti’s book will be donated to charity.

Learn more or buy the book at ◆