Thursday, December 27, 2012

Recovery = Balance

     After 8+ recovered years, I've changed my tune a bit. I used to think that non-stop recovery was essential to lifelong health. Don't get me wrong, in early sobriety, we have to work our asses off if we are to fully recover. Without question, we must go to any lengths to get better. That means that we never procrastinate, never ignore our conscience, and actively seek out opportunities to give back. That means that we take rigorous action. We write inventory, we read it, we pray, we meditate, we give service, we give to our families and we make our amends - all without hesitation. We put our spiritual growth above all else and we don't stop until we are sane once again. And yes, we will always continue doing the work.

     But one thing I have learned is that there is a time for everything. Sometimes I focus more on my recovery, sometimes more on my family, sometimes more on my career. I've also learned that we can't give every second of the day and every cell in our body to working with other addicts. Why? 1) because we'll burn out due to self neglect and 2) because if that is our only source of fuel, then what happens when we stop? We won't know how to be okay without helping people 24/7. What happens when we go off into the world to pursue the rest of our lives? What happens is that we suffer. We must learn to be okay whether we're helping people or not.

The answer: Balance.

     When I look back over my path, I realize that the reason I am still strong, happy and successful is because I didn't go off the deep end in any direction. After a few gung ho years, I pulled back a bit to focus on my family and my business. I also pulled back to take better care of myself. After working non-stop with knucklehead teenagers at the (total waste of taxpayer money) recovery school, I sensed myself burning out a bit. So when I left, I exercised more, I played tennis and golf, I went to the beach, and I nourished my creativity. I also got back to praying and meditating. Other times I gave more to my friends and family. And yet other times I stretched myself with work and starting a business.

     I now realize that it isn't too healthy to go overboard with any of these things. We can and will burn out. And then what good are we to ourselves, to others, to recovery, and to God? That's right, we are no good at all. The point of recovery is to always be okay, so that we can stay recovered throughout life and always be in the position to give back if need be. There is no point in burning out. All of the people you help rushing around will wonder if they were following the right guy when he goes nuts again, relapses and destroys everything he worked so hard to put back together.

     Don't burn out. Listen to your gut. Give yourself what you need, when you need it. It's okay to be selfish sometimes if we are doing so to stay fit for others and for God.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spiritual Realm

     Is there a spiritual realm?

     Yes. There is without a doubt much more happening than we can see, hear, or touch.

     As I knelt down to pray one night up North, I was touched by something beyond comprehension. The scope of Its power is something I can't even fathom. It cannot be described or measured. It is beyond man-made definitions, boundaries and conceptions. It is beautiful, mystical, and unexplainable. And in a single moment, it freed me from the lifelong chains of fear, anger, sadness, depression and emptiness.

     So why spoil something that we fragile, flawed, and fleeting humans can barely handle? We have to box everything, define everything, describe everything, own everything, and assert doctrines, codes and creeds as if they are absolute and come from this Power. Who are we to define and possess God? Who are we to fight over God?

     Forgive me, but it feels like some of our man-made conceptions of God seem rather silly, if not altogether ridiculous. Trying to 'create' God, if you will, with our limited brains and faculties appears to me to be a fruitless endeavor. How can we define something that we cannot truly understand or comprehend?

     Unfortunately, God is such a loaded word, which is why I had to look beyond words and symbols, buildings and rituals, traditions and doctrines. I had to look beyond human capacity. Not to exude jade towards organized, mass worship, but when you have a mind-bending spiritual experience, man-made anything goes out the window.

     So what is this great Power that people try endlessly to define? The truth is that I have absolutely no idea. Question: Would there be so much petty religious violence if we all admitted that we have no clue? Isn't it more a show of humility to say 'yes' to getting underneath something but 'no' to defining and possessing It? Are we really so very special?

     The truth: I don't know what God is. I don't know His depths or limits, other than to assume that He is limitless and well beyond the boundaries of space and time. Therefore, why should I have the arrogance to think that I understand God? I don't have a clue, and I'm pretty sure nobody else does either. Perhaps some of us have meditated long enough to have a slightly deeper glimpse into the spirit world, but those are men and women who have done more work on themselves than 99% of us could even conceive of.

    One thing I do believe now is that God can do anything God wants, whenever it wants to. My advice is to get on the right side of that trade, if you will.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Face Of Therapy

     Sorry, but most psychotherapists aren't going to tell addicts to just enlarge their spiritual life, take some right action, and then send them on their way. And, uh, have you ever met an active alcoholic or a drug addict? It sounds like this: blah blah blah blah-blah blah blah blah-blah-blah...

     Probably the very last thing an addict needs is to be talking incessantly about their addiction and depression, whether sober and miserable or active and manic. By digging into our past and finding even more problems, more reasons and more stuff to blame, it distracts us and ultimately delays our recovery. We don't become empowered by blaming our problems on some trauma in our lives, thereby recusing ourselves of ownership and responsibility. We become empowered by moving on from the past, blaming nothing and no one, and getting our asses off the therapy couch and taking action - rigorous action.

     Therapists (especially psychiatrists) have little understanding about the nature of the illness of addiction, and thus have no ability or tools to help us, but at the same time think we need therapy. We can liken their industry to corporate advertising or marketing, where we're told that we need some product to be okay and live a good life. They have us believe that there is some profound, deep-seated, complicated and devious reason for all of our problems.

     Why go there?

     Putting a spotlight on ourselves and our feelings and delicately placing our lives up on a pedestal is the last thing we need to get better. On the contrary, we need to STOP talking so much and get over ourselves. We need to get outside of ourselves. In fact, the solution is the opposite of self-focus, which defines psychotherapy. So much inward focus is selfish, and selfishness is our #1 problem. Selfishness is the one and only thing preventing us from getting better. And there is without a doubt way too much me, me, me involved in therapy.

     I'm curious, where are they getting their information, from the textbooks (i.e. status quo, secular propaganda) of prestigious colleges and universities? I learned more from a couple of junkies and the Big Book than I did in 10 years of psychotherapy, blabbing on and on about a bunch of nonsense. Just like the actions we take, the thoughts and feelings we have are 100% caused by us and therefore 100% our fault. We give birth to them and we own them. We choose how we respond to life events, even when someone else has wronged us.

     Growing up isn't about looking backwards. It's about shutting up, taking action, and looking forwards. Therapists should do one thing and one thing only: Tell us to stop coming. In the time it takes for an addict or alcoholic to figure out his entire psychological condition, he may very well overdose and die. Talking every week for an hour (sorry, I mean 55 minutes) isn't going to do much good if you wind up dead on the floor. Needless to say, it's our prerogative if we want to pay somebody to be our friend and listen to us. We all need to be heard. But hey, why not save the money and go get a couple of good friends?  

God, teach me that it's not all about me. Teach me that action, not talking, is the solution...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Addiction 101

     "There is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn't done so yet." -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.31

     Translation: Physically, we are screwed. Oh, and science still hasn't done so... but even if it did someday, I would refuse such a procedure with a resolve as strong as gold. I think I'll take the incredible and mystical life that I have now as opposed to muddling through as a mundane zombie, locked inside my small, narrow, 3-dimensional world.

     You can turn a non-addict into an addict, but there is no turning an addict back into a non-addict. We have an 'allergy' to drugs and alcohol that we will die with. It doesn't matter if we are sober for half a century. Give us a drink and we will react physically as does any chronic alcoholic. It won't be long until we are falling down drunk 24/7 and back in detox. This is what both addicts and families MUST understand. Our bodies NEVER recover. We will never drink normally once we break our bodies. And there is nothing on this earth that can change us back into a normal drinker. Nothing. No person, no pill, no book, not even a profound spiritual experience. Bottom line: We will die with the body of an addict.

     What we can do away with is the insanity that makes us drink despite knowing that we respond abnormally. We can recover from the mental obsession - thoughts to drink or use that do not respond to ration or reason. Knowing that we are abnormal and yet continuing to drink is surely a form of insanity. We somehow think that it won't be the same this time around. We have a very special form of lunacy where we somehow forget who we are and how we react once the thought to drink saturates our minds. Our entire history of chaos and disaster just disappears from our consciousness. And even if our history is not lost on us, it certainly doesn't have much weight when compared to our new idea to start drinking again, because this time we can control it! Like when I told myself that I didn't really have a problem with OxyContin because I bought a few 80s and cut them up into little pieces for each day of the week to be controlled and moderate... um, until three o'clock in the morning when I had plucked them all from their hiding spaces, crushed 'em up and inhaled them like a pig.

     So an active addict is broken both physically and mentally. He will NEVER recover physically and thus can never drink or use again. If he does, he will have an allergic reaction and will break out into more and more. His only choice is lifelong abstinence. However, if we have an entire psychic change, then we will never have to worry about drinking or using ever again because any thought to do so will have ZERO power over us. We will always be free from drugs and alcohol so long as we maintain our spiritual health through right action. Small price to pay, if you ask me.

     To note, that doesn't mean we need to beat ourselves up 24/7. On the contrary, we need to rid ourselves of guilt and self-pity, as that is selfish and prevents us from being useful to others. Achieving recovery and health is about balance - sometimes we help ourselves, sometimes we help others, sometimes we focus on our families, sometimes we focus on our jobs, and sometimes we just relax and go have some fun.

God, teach me what I can do and what I can't do...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Take the Garbage Out

     I don't know who coined the phrase, Take The Garbage Out, but this is exactly what we need to do when it comes to our minds and all of our petty, worldly problems. The late Suzuki Roshi said that if we practice zazen everyday, problems will cease to exist. It'd be nice if psychotherapists told us to just go meditate and save us the 20 years and the $200,000, but I suppose 8 years of student loans wouldn't exactly be worthwhile if they didn't keep us eating out of their hands.

     If I hadn't meditated everyday after I got home from treatment, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have altered my bio-chemistry back to normal. I wouldn't have conquered my fear or the mind-blowing depression. I wouldn't have freed myself from the prison of psychological diagnoses such as major depression and bipolar disorder. I wouldn't have freed myself from the brainwashing I got from doctors who told me that I would forever need to be medicated. 8 years of prayer, meditation, inventory and service and I am as free and successful as anybody I know... and 100% unmedicated.

     So do we addicts need to be medicated or do we simply need to meditate?

     One of the meditations I learned while up North, I still do today. Our friend called it Progressive Tensioning & Relaxation and Controlled Breathing.

Sit Comfortably.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Gradually tense every muscle in your body from your toes to your head.
Gradually relax every muscle, again working from your toes to your head.
Take a few more deep breaths.
Breathe in through the nose to the count of 4.
Hold for the count of 4.
Breathe out through the mouth to the count of 4.
Hold for the count of 4.
Do this until you have forgotten that you are meditating, or at least until you have stopped thinking so much and calmed down a bit.

     Or you can just sit or stand, close your eyes, and follow your breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try not to move to scratch an itch or something. The itch will eventually go away if you have the discipline to ignore it. It's just energy moving through your body - a good sign. And if you find it difficult to stop thinking, say 'in, out, in, out...' (in your mind, not out loud) as you breathe in and out.

God, teach me how to meditate...

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why Alcoholics Hurt People


     Sadly, people who find this blog often type in the search phrase, 'why do alcoholics hurt us?', which results in an older post I wrote about why drinking is selfish. I renamed that post, Selfish No Matter What, and hopefully this one will come up instead.

     First, let me tell you that it's not because of you. You are not the reason. There is no person, place or thing to blame. We have only ourselves to blame for our selfish actions.

     Alcoholics and addicts hurt others because their addiction comes first before everything. And if our addiction is our very top priority, then we will do anything it takes to use the way we want, even if that means lying to you, stealing from you, manipulating you, deceiving you, abusing you, hurting you and breaking your heart.

     Many of us probably don't want to hurt you at all, but if we are addicts, our addiction comes first, and that means nothing and nobody will get in the way of us drinking and using to our little hearts' content.

     The truth is that you will never come first, because even if we recover, we will have to put our spiritual health above all else. But don't worry, because if an addict actually puts spiritual growth above all else, then our relationships and every other facet of our lives will end up in the best possible condition. For us, if our relationship with God becomes second to anything, we will lose everything anyway... and then nobody will get what they want. It's all or none for us. We can't worship anything worldly or we will become sick and eventually relapse.

     We hurt others because we are perhaps the most selfish and immature people in the world. We hurt others because we are infantile narcissists who feel as though nobody suffers quite the way we do and therefore we have the right to do whatever it takes to remain in our comfort zones. We hurt others because we are pathetic, whiny children who have no clue that life is not about us feeling good all of the time. We hurt others because our minds have become twisted and warped from drinking and using so much that we cannot even see we are hurting you. We have become deranged and delusional, only believing what we need to tell ourselves to keep our habit going uninterrupted. We hurt you because we have begun lying to ourselves, and when we lie to ourselves, we don't know if what we're doing is up or down, left or right, right or wrong, real or unreal. We have broken our minds and therefore we are insane. Insane people don't know what they're doing. They only do what they think they need to do to maintain the phony existence they are living.

     There is no excuse for addicts and alcoholics to hurt anyone, and without a doubt, we hurt people just by picking up a drink or drug, let alone the various forms of abuse we inflict. If we have lost control of our drinking or our using, every time we drink or use, we hurt others. There is no getting around that. There is no such thing as using or drinking in a vacuum.

     So my advice to fellow addicts is to realize that you are fake, and then grow up and go get better. We get better because we have given up the right to drink and use drugs. We get better because we no longer deserve to focus on making ourselves feel comfortable 24/7. We get better because it is the right thing to do. We get better because we owe it to everybody in our lives... and we owe it to the entire world. Contrary to what we might believe, the world owes us nothing, so get better because the only other option is to die a miserable death, and spiritually speaking, you don't want to do that and wind up in some awful place, or wind up coming back to learn the same lessons you were too much of a coward to learn this time around.

God, please show me how much I have hurt others... 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Self Will For God's Will

   
     "Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve Thee - Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is proper use of the will." -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.85

     Translation: I can use my self will until I'm blue in the face... to do God's will.

     Why is it so difficult to understand the difference between self will and God's will? Every time people discuss some horrible tragedy, someone always asks, "Golly gee, why did God let this horrible tragedy happen!?" Acts of horror have nothing to do with God's will. Acts of abuse and violence are purely an act of Self will. God's will involves listening deeply and following our conscience. Most of us should have one, less the sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists. It's the visceral feeling we experience when we see, hear, or do something wrong, harmful or destructive. Where does it come from? Are we taught it? If so, then why does it occur on a cellular level?

     If we are relatively normal anatomically and cognitively, we should have been born with an innate sense of justice, although some may certainly have been born evil. The problem is our individual actions, choices and exposure to cultural decay after birth. The French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, stated perfectly that our "existence precedes our essence" - we make ourselves who we are. Once we act wrong over and over again, once we get used to lying, stealing, manipulating and hurting self and others, our conscience takes a beating. To add insult to injury, we live in one very sick culture and de facto banana republic riddled with corruption, but I won't get into that right now or I'm sure to offend someone.

     Self will is any word, thought or action that is negative and causes harm or damage to self or others. God's will is any word, thought or action that is positive and brings about love, wellness, growth or productivity to self or others. So it's not that we can't ever use our self will... it just depends how we use it. We can use our self will all we freaking want to in order to do God's will.

Also see: Self Will vs God's Will

God, help me use my will to do Your will...

Jean Paul Sartre
Banana Republic

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Care What You Believe

     I don't care what you believe. It really doesn't matter... compared to what you do. We can believe in the most noble, lofty principles in the world and still be useless sacks. We can believe in every good thing known to man and not evolve spiritually in the slightest. We can have our doctrines of choice memorized front to back and never change at all. We can be religious show-offs who can throw passages around like no other and still be deranged monsters. What matters is what we do, not what we believe.

     I also don't care how you feel. I don't care if you're sad, angry, depressed, anxious, or feel like a victim. It doesn't matter because your feelings have nothing to do with getting better. Discussing your feelings or digging into them with a friend, social worker or psychotherapist is a waste of time. Instead, we addicts and alcoholics need to get over ourselves, do some work, and start changing. We need to stop thinking and just do the right thing. 

     It is action, not feelings or beliefs, that will give us freedom.

See Also: Don't Care How You Feel 

God, please give me the willingness and the power to grow along spiritual lines...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There Is No Worse Than

     Once we cross over that line, we are all the same...

     A speaker that I once looked up to stunned me one night at a meeting. He was handing out a 1-year sobriety chip and essentially glorifying how 'bad' of an addict this girl was. The money quote was, "She wasn't just some suburban dope sniffer..." As if it's harder to get better because of what we use, or the way we use, or what town we come from, or our ethnicity, wealth, status or privilege.

     The very second we cross over that line and become addicts, we are all equally screwed and the mountain we have to climb to recover is the same exact height. Just ask two vastly different recovered people how easy it was to actually go through a rigorous, thorough and honest 12 Step process. It's not easy at all, no matter who you are. To go from being insane to sane is a miraculous feat, and one that requires spiritual help. And the internal effort it takes to access this spiritual Power is pretty much the same for all of us.

     Bottom line: Neither wealth nor poverty will prevent you from becoming a full blown addict. And neither wealth nor poverty will fix you once you get there. No matter who we are, where we come from, or what we use, we are all equally screwed once we acquire this allergy to drugs and alcohol. The only difference amongst addicts and alcoholics is that some of us are 'recovered' and have been joined by taking Steps and others are simply 'recovering' or 'in recovery', meaning that they are still insane and subject to relapse at any point in time.

God, help me remember that I am one drink away from detox...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Don't Forget To Have Fun

     Between a barrage of frantic questions that I desperately needed answered, my sponsor calmly smiled and said to me, "Hey, don't forget to have fun. We need to have fun, too." That was 8 years ago and I still often forget.

     But he made a good point. After all, we are addicts and we will grab onto anything and everything that makes us feel good. We can become consumed by recovery, which is not a bad thing, but we must remember not to take life so seriously all of the time... or ourselves for that matter.

     Go hang out with an old friend and engage in some uncontrolled self-deprecation. Go to the mall and make fun of the mall walkers. Go out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory and try to get through one of their monstrosities... or not. Go to the batting cages with a friend and smash the hell out of a few balls. Go to the movies with your wife or girlfriend. Go to the beach, lie down on the sand and fall asleep. Drive to Vermont and take the Winooski approach up Camel's Hump mountain. Eat chocolate. Make cookies and eat the raw batter... or not. Drive into Boston and go to improv comedy in the North End after pasta and gelato. Go to the apple orchard with your family, drink some cider, and try to wait 5-mintues before inhaling the cider donuts. Do some yard work... or not. Meet up with some friends in recovery and don't talk about recovery. Watch all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in a week. Go play golf or tennis. If you don't know how to, go learn. Or if you don't have golf clubs, then don't worry about it. 

     Maybe just sit down and relax. 

     Remember that you're alive and you made it and you have everything that you need. Feel good knowing that you have conquered your demons and have changed yourself profoundly, which is rare. Or if you haven't changed at all, then go do some work on yourself and don't make excuses... and then feel the peace and calmness that comes along with having some purpose and some meaning in your life. You are free. Anything is possible.

God, help me to trust in my recovery so that I can let go and have some fun...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Learning To Pray

     I remember kneeling down in the chapel up North to take a 3rd Step and hoping that I'd be able to connect deeply with the prayer. Don't get me wrong, the prayers in the Big Book are beautifully written, but they aren't written by me. I realized that if prayer was going to work on a daily basis, if it was going to access this Power that existed, then it would have to be much more personal. Prayers that were written 2000 years ago are lovely, but they're not exactly our 'language', so to speak. So I started praying in my own language, in my own voice, using my own words. And I don't attach all sorts of rules to my prayer. I don't need to be clean before praying, or only pray on a special mat, or only pray in church, or make sure to pray before a certain meal, on a certain day, in a certain way. If you want to pray in the shower, on the toilet, or in front of a urinal, go for it. And make it your own.

    God, please keep me out of my fucking head today. God, please give me the power to walk through this exhaustion and get my ass to work. God, please help me not freak out on this Masshole driver. God, please give me the patience to talk to this annoying person. God, teach me how to meditate. God, help me to think one thought at a time. God, help me to be more honest. God, help me walk through this fear and make this amends. God, be with me as I go to work with this sponsee. God, teach me to better love and forgive myself so that I may better love and forgive others and do Your work well. God, help me to let go of my fear, anger and resentment... and instead live by Your principles of honesty, love, compassion, tolerance, courage and strength. 

And for others:

    God, please give this sponsee the power and willingness to take Steps thoroughly so he may find You. God, please embrace this relative and teach them to love and respect themselves. God, I pray for this annoying person I resent to have everything I want for myself - happiness, love, joy, abundance, health and inner peace. God, help me to be willing to go to any lengths to grow spiritually so that I may better serve You. God, please help me to think about others more often. God, please teach me how to better serve others. God, please bring the opportunity to help someone...

     Watch out for that last one. I guarantee you that praying for the opportunity to help someone will work every time. It's an unselfish prayer, and these are by far the most powerful. My sponsor once said that God isn't Santa Claus. I wish we could embrace that truth on a macro-religious level.

God, teach me how to pray...

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Employer

     "When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life." -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.63

     Admittedly, it is very difficult to understand something that we haven't gone through ourselves. Someone who has never felt the paralyzing effects of severe clinical depression will never truly understand it. They might think, Oh they're just choosing not to get out of bed because they're f'ing lazy. At the same time, someone with major depression is not doomed, nor do they require medication to lift their depression and function properly once again.

     It's the same with addiction. People who are non-addicts cannot truly understand what it's like to experience having ZERO power over drugs and alcohol. At the same time, they may not know what it's like to have undergone a profound and fundamental change. It is a common perception that sober addicts will forever be teetering on the edge of relapse, forever fending off an undying desire to drink and use drugs. I've even been told by some guy at an AA meeting that if I could take a magic pill and be able to drink recreationally like a normal person, then I most certainly would. That was a guy who hasn't had a spiritual experience.

     The above quote summarizes exactly what happened to me. Once I dropped this lifelong belief that it was only me out there and that I was the only power that could fix me, everything changed. Once we drop our arrogance, our pride and our ego, we become open. Thoroughly and fearlessly taking Steps removed the poison that kept me locked in the darkness, and once it was removed, there was room to let something else come in and fill the empty space.

     I get that it is hard to intellectualize this notion of letting go of my self will to instead be 'directed' by God's will. But it is real and it is possible. Once I gave my whole self to this process, I finally understood what it meant. If we get out of our own way, something much greater and wiser and more powerful than us becomes our 'driver', so to speak. When we stop trying to direct and control our own lives, the result is nothing short of a miracle.

     And remarkable things indeed follow.

     Though I left treatment after having a white-light experience, I came home to a war zone of broken relationships, tens of thousands in debt, no job, and a still emaciated and broken body. But I continued the Step process and fought hard to build a new foundation based on spiritual principles. And I was provided with what I needed. And it's true that we can become less and less interested in ourselves and our selfish needs, wants and desires. In fact, my favorite thing to do still 8 years later is to help others.

     Sure I am still the most selfish idiot that I know, but the point of this ridiculous post is that this DOES work. We can recover, grow new minds, heal our spirits, and never suffer from the thought or desire to drink or use drugs ever again.

God, keep me close to You today...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Non-Spiritual Basis?

     "Whether a person can quit upon a non-spiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not." -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.34

     Translation: If you are too far gone, chances are that you cannot recover without the help of God.

      The Big Book also says, "Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time." -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.32

     Translation: Before you mutated yourself into a chronic, hopeless drunk, you may have been able to quit without spiritual help. You may have been able to still recover on your own power and self-will... but maybe not, hahaha.

     The Big Book spends the first 43 pages just trying to drill a 1st Step into our heads. There is no moving forward until we know with every cell in our body that we are powerless over drugs and alcohol. We must know that despite all of our brains and talents and skills and other faculties, we cannot fix ourselves. We are not capable of recovering on our own because we have lost the power to do so. We are not capable of recovering without spiritual help. In order for the true alcoholic or drug addict to get better, he must smash the notion that he can get himself better.

     Once we let go and realize that alone we are not powerful enough, then real growth and recovery is possible. Then we can get underneath something and accept that we may need a much greater power to fix us. We have tried for years on our own and we have failed miserably. Only a miracle will fundamentally rewire our brains and restore our hearts and spirits. Isn't it time to let go of our arrogance? Isn't time to stop holding onto our pride and ego?

     And even if you could recover on your own, isn't it better to think this way? Isn't it better to live with some humility? Giving ourselves too much credit for getting better will lead the addict right back to his warped thinking. He will think,

     Gee, look at me. I'm the man! I got myself all better. Hmmm, maybe I can control my addiction this time since I'm so talented and amazing and powerful...

God, teach me that alone I am useless...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"The Spiritual Life Is Not A Theory"

     "The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it." - Alcoholics Anonymous, p.83

     So often we hear wisdom, knowledge and inspiration. We hear it in meetings, churches, lectures, hospitals and treatment houses. We read it in books and even see it sometimes in film and television. There is only one problem with wisdom. It is utterly useless if all I do is hear it, read it or see it. I could have the entire Big Book memorized. Useless. Do I really want to follow the guy who talks up a storm at the meeting but doesn't live by these principles once he walks out the door? Do I want to go to three meetings a day, chain smoke butts, slurp coffee and stuff my face with cookies during break or do I want to actually get better, do some work on myself, remove character defects and grow spiritually so I can be useful to my family, help others, serve God and make a difference?

     Living it means so many things. It means that I DO what I've learned. It means that I don't just study the 12 Steps and understand them intellectually. In fact, that can lead us back into the trap of superiority, which comes about when we know everything but do nothing. True knowledge and wisdom is acquired through action.

     Living it means that I get up off my lazy, selfish ass and perform the Steps that were laid out for us in the Big Book. Living it means that I write my 4th Step inventory thoroughly, make ALL of my amends, and then help others at every opportunity. Living it means that I don't shy away from speaking at meetings or groups. Living it means that I continue to pray and meditate, even when I don't want to. Living it means that I continue to write 10th Step inventory 5, 10, 20 years from now. Living it means that I reach out to others when I don't feel like it. Living it means that I never ignore my heart and my gut. I never intentionally do the wrong thing and I never ignore doing the right thing. Living it means action. Love to God, self and others means action. Anything less makes me a phony. Anything less means that I am not committed to changing. Anything less means that I am not committed to my spiritual growth, which means selfishness, which means failure and ultimately relapse.

     We are not perfect and we will make countless mistakes. I'll be the first to admit it. What matters is that our intentions are pure. What matters is what's inside us. We have to ask ourselves, do we really want to change? Do we really want to live it? Or do we just want to talk about it?

     God, give me the power and the willingness to live by your principles... 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Relapse Is Unthinkable

   "Once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules." -Alcoholics Anonymous, xxix

     "'Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.'" - Alcoholics Anonymous, p.27

     I've been trying to pound the pavement lately and get my book onto the bookshelves. Sure this is an act of self-will, yet my gut is telling me to go and do it.

     Why did I write the book? Initially, I wanted people to know that you don't have to get sober and fight through each day. I wanted people to have the spiritual experience I had, to feel that relief and freedom. I also selfishly wanted to initiate a writing career. After being railroaded out of the taxpayer-funded recovery school (i.e. another public trough leech) by a power-hungry director with NPD, I was determined to work for myself. I wanted to be a writer and ideally to help others in the act. Finally, I want the book to sell. For profit? Not necessarily, as I was well aware of how impoverishing a writing career can be. The margins are horrible and I've only lost money to this point. But if the book caught fire and did make money, my vision was to start a treatment center roughly modeled after the 12 Step retreat up North that fixed me.

     That has yet to happen, but I have learned something over the last 8 years. Having worked as a chef, counselor, educator, actor, writer, landlord, trader and investor, one thing remains true: Working with others and speaking to others fills me up spiritually like nothing else. And this is why relapse is unthinkable. Because, above all else, my #1 priority in life is my relationship with God, my spiritual health, and the health and recovery of others. So long as that is the case, relapse is unthinkable.

     Since the night I read inventory up North back in 2005, my mind has remained fundamentally changed. From that moment on, not a single thought/desire to drink or use has penetrated my better half. Not only have substances lost all of the power they once had over me, but I naturally repel them. And my old life and my old way of thinking seems more like a past life, or even someone else's life, rather than my own. Relapse is unthinkable because I can't even remember what it's like to think the way I used to.

     The moment that helping others no longer fills me up, I am done. The moment I stop putting my spiritual health and my relationship with God above everything, I am done. Relapse is unthinkable until the moment I stop caring.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Addiction & Advertising

     The sad truth is that conventional treatment programs and philosophies have sprung out of marketing and advertising (and government intervention, of course). The last thing they want you to hear is that all you need to get better is another alcoholic and a Big Book. Their message is, "YOU WON'T EVER TRULY BE OKAY." All you can hope for is to keep your symptoms at bay. And they pump the same negative, false message with every illness, disease and mental disorder. Hmm, golly gee, I wonder why? Maybe it's because if people became recovered for life by taking the (free) Steps with another alcoholic, there is no demand for prescription drug cocktails and overpriced, 55-minute therapy sessions.

     The last thing most treatment centers, methadone clinics, doctors, therapists and pharmaceutical companies want you to do is to fully recover. That would put them out of business. If we believe that we will always be sick, struggling and "in recovery", then we will need a lifetime of detox stays, treatment stays, therapy visits, pills and other clinical interventions. That's how these scumbags stay in business. You can't turn on the television without seeing some shameless actor peddling a dangerous new drug or the snake oil salesman on CNN (Controlled News Network) peddling his alcoholism and addiction cure book, along with the $67,000 charge to jump in a hot tub with a bunch of entitled children from Hollywood. If people are sick, there is always a profit to be made. But if people get better, the cash stops flowing. 

     Today, this notion has infected even well-intentioned treatment specialists and programs. The mainstream belief that addicts and alcoholics will never fully recover originated in the sinful dens of marketers and advertisers. All we can do is keep our symptoms at bay, right? All we can do is write down our triggers and forever avoid people, places and things that make us want to use, right? And then when we relapse, we can come running back into the loving arms of detox, pills, methadone (pure evil), therapy, and cushy treatment programs with a day spa for all of the needy, whiny babies coming through the doors. 

     By the way, this is just what addicts and alcoholics want to hear... that they can't really get better. Great, we now have a lifelong excuse to drink and use drugs.

     Well, gee, since I can't ever truly recover, I might as well relapse. I mean... life is pretty tough for me right now!

     Question: Why are we giving the most manipulative, selfish, dishonest group of people an excuse? Why are we giving the easy-street drug addict an easy time? Drug addicts should be roasted and humbled beyond belief, and then built back together one spiritual brick at a time. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Self-Knowledge

     "But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge." - Alcoholics Anonymous, p.39

     That is why psychotherapy is pretty much useless for an alcoholic or an addict. Knowledge doesn't get addicts better, nor can it keep us sober. Power does.

     Think of it as a missing chip. When we become addicts, we lose the power to choose not to drink or use drugs. No amount of self-knowledge will replace this chip. In fact, we ourselves can't even replace it. Power, once lost, must come from a power source, and since we are no longer that source, it must come from outside of ourselves. That source is God. To note, another fallacy perpetuated by conventional treatment programs is that we get ourselves better. Not true. God does.

     Alcoholics without power are subject to go insane at any moment, at which point all ration and reason disappear. When this occurs, any self-knowledge or information we may have accrued is completely useless. Nothing short of a miracle can fight off the obsession to drink once it hits us. If we think we can get better or stay sober just because we learned something about ourselves, think again.

     So when we are without the power of choice, it needs to be re-inserted back into our brains and our beings. Knowledge is great, but alone it is useless. Knowledge with Power will change lives.

God, knowing that I must take rigorous spiritual action, please restore me to sanity and give me power back...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is The Coffee Pot Your Higher Power?

     "We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we recovered is the main purpose of this book." -From Alcoholics Anonymous, xiii, Forward to the First Edition.

     Interesting that the preamble in many AA meetings today comes from page 25 or page 58 of the Big Book, as if the program starts there. Maybe that's why so few recover from modern-day AA groups and quasi-12 Step treatment programs.

     The one and only time I introduced myself as a "recovered" alcoholic at a local meeting, about 40 or 50 heads whipped around and stared me down angrily. You're not supposed to use the word "recovered" in AA now, even though the first line of AA's Big Book (1939) couldn't be more clear: "Alcoholics Anonymous - The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism."

     If I never opened up the book written by AA's co-founders, I would have (sadly) forever caste myself as being 'recovering' or 'in recovery'. I would have always been recovering and never recovered. Sure, I was 'in recovery' as I left detox and embarked on the Steps. But as I began to take action and grow spiritually, my mind was made sane again and I no longer suffered from the insanity of alcoholism. I no longer had to worry about picking up a drink or any other temptation. From that moment on, I have been recovered.

     Sure if I were to stop growing and begin hurting others, I could then re-enter non-recovered territory. And yes, I know that I am always one drink away from detox, and that I will forever have ZERO power of alcohol. But I also know this: If I need to drive around all day going from meeting to meeting after 20 years of sobriety, there is definitely something wrong with my program. AA was intended to free the alcoholic or drug addict from their insanity. AA is a spiritual program of action that lifts the mental obsession and puts us into contact with God.

     Today, sponsors in watered-down, spiritually sick AA groups will tell newcomers to just make their Higher Power the group of people in the meeting. 'G.O.D.' refers to Group Of Drunks, as if a group of drunks can keep a chronic, hopeless alcoholic sober. One time I listened to a speaker tell the group that she just makes her Higher Power the coffee pot. Some sound advice: Don't make your Higher Power the coffee pot at your home group. And you also might run into some trouble making your Higher Power the rims on your car, the knocker on your door, your new iphone, or the 52-inch TV in your living room (a popular one).

     Bottom line: Chronic, hopeless alcoholics and addicts can and do recover and live a lifetime of freedom, peace and happiness. The difference is that those who are free have taken Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book, the original AA textbook. The Big Book, contrary to what we might hear before the raffle at our local AA meeting, is not just a collection of stories. It describes the specific 12 Step process in detail. It lays out clear-cut directions on how to take these Steps and recover from "a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body." (Ibid.)

God, I am still and I know...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Alcoholic = Addict

     I was just barely getting through a local meeting one night when I heard roughly this from the speaker:

     "By the way, if you're a pothead hippie or some shit, then go to another meeting for like potheads anonymous. This is alcoholics anonymous. AA is for alcoholics, not drug addicts. If you smoke pot, you don't even need to come here 'cause you're still sober."

     The guy was excruciating but I ended up laughing, as this sort of attitude is so common in my region. Clearly the speaker wasn't an alcoholic. In fact, thousands of AA members around here aren't even in the vicinity of alcoholism. What we've got is a slew of heavy drinkers who procured a few DUIs and were court-ordered to attend AA. Having no prior social skills and therefore no social life, they grab onto it like the bottle, come religiously, and saunter around the halls like Holier Than Thou 'old timers'.

     Yes I know that is a generalization but you can trust me when I say I've been to just about every meeting on the north shore and there is virtually NO distinction. AA meetings around here are a shining example of untreated alcoholism.
   
     So regarding the difference between addicts and alcoholics, let's just say that the notion itself is an oxymoron. There is no difference. The body of an addict is no physiologically different than the body of an alcoholic. Plus, if any of our so-called old timers picked up the Big Book, they could learn about how our allergic reaction to alcohol crosses all lines. If we experience the phenomenon of craving when we take a drink, then we will experience the phenomenon of craving when we take any mood-altering substance.

     Try it, if you want.

     If you're a north shore drunk, go dump a pile of cocaine in front of you and call me at 6am when you're practically seizing out but need another bag. Or why don't you throw down a couple OC 40s every day for a week and then talk to me about how you need to get your hands on the OC 80s instead. Or perhaps you should start taking your wife's anxiety medication and try not to rack up another DUI after passing out behind the wheel. But sure, of course you're not also a drug addict... just an alcoholic, right?

     It doesn't matter what your poison is. It doesn't even matter if you hate coke or weed or benzos or dope. If you have the allergy, you are 100% screwed and therefore any substance will deliver you straight back to detox. But until then, have fun at the semi-annual sober dances.

God, teach us that the allergy crosses all lines and therefore we are not safe from any mood-altering substance...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pure Love

     Unconditional love is spiritual in nature, not sexual, physical, or even emotional. Pure love of this sort often eludes us.

     Relationships are, of course, not uncomplicated. They are sticky, chaotic and confusing. They mix us up and pull us in just about every direction. They test us and push us and teach us invaluable life lessons. They will bring us to our limits and force us to either evolve, or just run the other way. And while it is our responsibility to put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to each other, our greater responsibility is to be aware of the other person's spiritual well being. If we can clearly see or just feel inside that they are suffering with us, then real love is letting them go. In my belief, true selflessness means doing whatever necessary to ensure the greatest spiritual health of others.

     That being said, many of us may be good for each other. And we should know that relationships are hard work... especially for the addict or alcoholic. It's easier for us to just break up, even after we get sober. But the harder way is to come home from treatment and give everything we have within us to better love our spouses every day, which means quietly enduring and lovingly accepting their pain, sadness, heartache, anger and resentment that has built up, bubbled over, or perhaps exploded on us after we've cleaned up. This is why they say that the living amends are the hardest ones. We shouldn't run away from our spouses just because it would be easier to go off and be some lone spiritual warrior. Real strength means staying, facing it, facing our past, and working hard to make it better each and every day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pain Dependent?

     Are we pain dependent? Yes, we are! Why in hell would someone be pain dependent? Well, it's because happiness, joy, calm, peace, stability and success are just way too foreign to us. Chaos, misery, pain, sadness, suffering, depression, anger, angst and failure are much more familiar territory.

     That sounds demented and insane, doesn't it? Yeah, that's because the mind of an alcoholic/addict is demented and insane, which is precisely why achieving physical sobriety alone won't solve anything. Our problem is much larger than alcohol and drugs.

     After years of masochistic behavior, the totality of self-abuse engrains a certain frame of reference. Everything in life becomes a struggle. Everything is a disappointment. Everything is hard. Nothing works out. Nobody understands us. Nobody is on our side. Everybody is out to get us. The world is totally messed up. Nobody feels the way we do. Nobody cares. Failure is inevitable. Success and contentment are unreachable. There is a permanent abyss between who we are and who we wish we could be.

     If that is our mind set, our chaotic and troubled way of life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It becomes natural to fail, butt heads, and screw up. It becomes natural to have drama, controversy, and confrontation. Bad luck is a daily routine.

     When this is our reality, chaos, confusion, deception and misery become our preferred way of life, simply because they are so familiar. Conversely, success, love and joy are like foreign enemies, more of a threat than a comfort. Instead of bringing us peace, they make us more uncomfortable and insecure.

     As alcoholics and addicts, we much prefer to set the bar as low as possible. That way nobody is surprised when we screw up, and any success whatsoever gets us a pat on the back. How messed up is that? Yeah, I know, but that is who we are. Believe it or not, we are actually pain-dependent.

God, free me from self-will today...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nature Knows Best

     "Nature knows best
       because it doesn't expect
       anything to come
       except what comes next."
      - C. Peabody, line from poem Nature Knows Best, 1997

     Truly does the wisdom of nature contain within it the secret to life. Observe nature and you will see pure and absolute freedom. Observe nature and you will see problem-free life. And if we can somehow live by the rules of nature, that is the closest we might come to infinite peace, freedom and contentment. What is the secret?

     Self-help gurus call it non-resistance. Nature is perfectly happy to let whatever comes come, and to let whatever goes go. It does not stand up stubbornly and fight against the forces acting against it. If the wind blows against the trees, they do not refuse to budge, but rather move in the direction the wind blows them. Even if the wind comes strong and breaks a branch, the tree doesn't run after the lost branch nor does it cry or whine or retaliate in anger.

     When the waves break upon the rocks along the shore, they do not turn around and run the other way. The water simply moves around the rocks, flowing in any direction it can. Some flows right, some flows left, but it's no big deal. The water doesn't complain about the rocks being in its path. Neither does the rock complain about getting all wet. They accept each other. They accept the forces acting upon them. They accept whatever happens, whether good or bad, warm or cold, wet or dry.

     And this is the secret. Sure we all have problems. And no, we are not doormats. If we're being oppressed, we stand up and fight. But most of our problems are the kind we make up in our heads. Sure there are certain real problems such as food, clothing, shelter and money. But what about all the rest? 

     Couldn't we eliminate a mountain of pain from our lives simply by changing our perception, or changing our response to, say, a non-response? Next time something outside of our control happens, why suffer more than we have to? Why not just accept it? If we gain, we gain. If we lose, we lose. But either way, we're okay with the outcome because we accept everything and expect nothing. We don't fight against what is, what was, or what may be. We don't budge. We don't resist. We rise to the nobility, the grace, the beauty and the wisdom of nature.

God, help me see that everything is a miracle... 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Addicts Are Cowards

     The way to grow is to do the very thing we are scared to do.

     Why is it that alcoholics and drug addicts can't ever seem to kick the habit for good? Why do they stay sick for so long? Sure it's because they are stubborn, obstinate, self-absorbed children. But it can be summed up in one word: fear. We are cowards, and therefore we are scared shitless to recover, as that would actually require some (gulp) work.

     Addicts refuse at all costs to step out of their comfort zones. Anything difficult or uncomfortable they avoid like the plague. The truth is that we refuse to become adults. We cannot accept that life might not be solely about us feeling good all of the time. We cannot deal with the fact that life might be tough sometimes, that we might have bad days, feel sad or self-conscious or depressed. We simply cannot fathom the idea of living life on life's terms. If life does not suit us, we drink or use. We do whatever we have to do to maintain our comfort... like a child who wants a candy bar even if mommy can't afford it. We will whine and shout and even begin to hurt ourselves until we get it.

     Getting better is really quite simple. It is just doing that which we fear. We do all of those things that addicts hate doing - admitting when we are wrong, being accountable and responsible for ourselves and our addiction, thinking about others once in a while, taking care of our families, and going to work even when we are tired and don't want to, just like every other human being. Guess what? Other people actually get up and go to work even when they're having bad days. They don't need to get jammed out of their skull just to get in the shower in the morning or get plastered as soon as they punch out.

     We get better by walking through our fears. We face the embarrassing character defects that we have amassed. We admit them and discover the healthier way. We become accountable for our harmful behavior towards others. We come to understand that we are not the most amazing things in the world, that we alone cannot fix ourselves. We consider humility, and get underneath something for the first time ever. We accept help from others... and most importantly, from God.

     Growing simply requires we do that which all other humans have to do, and we don't complain about it. By acting like adults, we will magically find that we don't need to shoot heroin, sniff a pile of coke, smoke meth, or drink like a pig just to get in or out of bed. By walking through fear we melt away cowardice... and we become free men and women.

God, please rid me of the poison of cowardice...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wait, You Don't Like Me?

     I don't get it... I got sober and did all this work on myself and completely changed... I literally performed a miracle act, and now my wife doesn't even like me!

     This is one of the many false assumptions we addicts fall prey to, as do our spouses. We think that once we get sober and repair ourselves, we will finally have the relationship we always dreamed of. To add insult to injury, our spouses get all excited while we're away at treatment, fantasizing about our new life together. And then what happens? We come home and it hits us both like a ton of bricks. That old person, as demented and sick as he or she was, is usually the person our spouses met and fell in love with, not the person who has come home from treatment.

     Suddenly they realize, Wait a minute, I'm not sure I even like you anymore. And yikes, I've suddenly lost some of my desire for you. Shit, maybe I don't really love you, this new person you are.

     Why does this happen? Most likely because when the alcoholic or addict recovers, he acts and behaves like a completely different person. His behavior changes. His thoughts and actions change. Even his speech changes.

     Needless to say, this isn't always the case. Many of us met our spouses long before we mutated into useless drug addicts. Others were already gone. But either way, hope isn't altogether lost. Both the addict and his or her spouse can decide to continue changing individually and therefore grow together.

     When I came home from treatment, my wife was absolutely miserable. Not only had she been preoccupied with my insanity and the mess I made, but to top it off, it was ME who got to go away to my cushy, cozy spiritual retreat. I come home glowing with my newfound peace of mind and she has a volcano of involuntarily repressed grief, despair, heartache and stress beginning to erupt inside her. She knew we wouldn't make it unless she changed too. So she took Steps as well, embarking on a rigorous program of action. She's not an addict and yet she decided to go through the same process I did. Our spouses can and probably should take Steps as well.

     But what are they powerless over if they're not addicted to drugs or alcohol? For one, they are powerless over our addiction and over the ability to fix us. They may also be powerless over their own feelings - their depression, their anger, their grief. We can become powerless over many things.

     Back to the point. Often times a sober person just isn't the same person as the addicted one. Sure we owe it to our spouses to do everything we can to make it work. But if she just doesn't like you anymore, there isn't much you can do. To note, it is usually the dry drunks who become unbearable. If we actually do some work on ourselves and change in the real way, there is almost always a chance to heal our relationships as well as retain all of the good stuff about our former personalities. So definitely keep your sense of humor. No one likes a hyper-serious, hyper-sensitive, boring as hell sober person.

     One way or the other, good relationships require work, sacrifice and trade-offs. Don't expect to just float around and keep the flames going.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pray For Those We Resent

     What happens if we write inventory but a resentment continues to haunt us?

     Pray for that person. I suggested this to someone who my wife and I were trying to help and her response was, "I'm not praying for that bitch! I pray that she rots in fucking hell!"

     She relapsed about two weeks later, becoming delusional once again.

     If you can't pray for someone whom you resent, then you probably aren't cut out for the Steps. If we don't have the guts or the courage or the willingness to grow spiritually, than relapse is inevitable. Swallowing our pride and ego and anger is a sign of maturity, but a refusal to mature and evolve will surely lead to failure. We will relapse, cause more pain to others, and eventually leave behind an unresolved life after a premature death.

From Alcoholics Anonymous, p.552:

     "If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don't really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love."

     When we pray for others in this way, we harness the power and willingness necessary to diffuse our anger and judgement. Trust me, letting go is pure and total freedom.

God, please give me the courage and willingness to pray for those I resent...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Resenting Ourselves?

     Just saw a google search on the stats page that read, how do you inventory self-resentment? I've also been asked this question by sponsees who are writing their 4th Step inventory.

     Can I resent myself? 

     No. We do not write inventory about resentments we may have towards ourselves. We do not resent ourselves because it is selfish. It is a form of self-pity. Engaging in self-deprecation and regret is an act of selfishness. We must forgive ourselves so we can move on and serve others. And it is the same with every other Step.

     Ultimately, we are not taking Steps for ourselves. We are taking Steps to recover so that we can become useful to others and to God. The goal is to finally grow up, get outside of ourselves, and give back. The goal is to be able and willing to help others.

     Take the 9th Step amends for example. We don't make these amends to clear our conscience. We make them for the object of our amends, the person we hurt. We make them to give them some solace. We make them to give back. We make them because it is our responsibility and because it is the right thing to do. If, as a byproduct of doing this work, we find peace, strength, happiness or joy, than great. But that isn't our priority. Our priority in taking Steps is to repair the damage we have done, to set things right, and to fix ourselves so that we may live a life of meaning and service. We take Steps to become fit to serve God by helping others.

     Believe me, I often make this mistake myself. Often I will use these tools for selfish purposes. I will do this work to clear out my head, clear my conscience, or to just plain feel better. That is not wrong, but it is not the primary purpose of the Steps. Sure this process also exists to give us our life back and pursue our dreams. But I must remember the reason I had to do this in the first place. It is because I lost control, hurt others, and now owe a debt to God. First we must remove our selfishness and give back. Then we can go and do our thing and have a great life.

God, help me to let go of self-pity and regret so I may better serve You and others...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Couples Therapy

     We can't change the inner reality by changing the outer reality...

     Why didn't couples therapy save our relationship? For the very same reason that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn't save the addict. It's backwards. We're talking about two damaged people with their own individual issues trying to focus on fixing the specifics of their marriage. Huh? How can a marriage of two screwed up people be fixed by focusing on the marriage? What saved our torn marriage wasn't couples therapy. What saved our marriage was the fact that both of us worked on ourselves separately, and as a byproduct of individual change, our relationship healed. If we don't fix ourselves, everything else will eventually fail.
   
     This is true in all other facets of life. We can't try to fix some problem in our lives without changing ourselves. We will fail every time. Why? Because our outer lives are merely a reflection of our inner lives. When we realize this and begin to change from within, that is when our lives get better. When we stop focusing on trying to control and fix everything around us, then we have the energy to deal with the real problem: us. It is nothing but the work we do on our minds, our bodies, our spirits, our psyches and our emotional balance that changes our relationships and our professional lives, etc. Better lives come as a byproduct of changing ourselves, not the other way around.

     Regarding couples, obviously there are often specific issues to work on in a relationship or marriage. But if we fix ourselves, then we have the willingness to address these issues without becoming defensive, proud, indignant, obstinate, angry, hurt, resentful, or fearful of loss, rejection, abandonment, etc. It is hard to put good ideas into action and practice them on a daily basis when we are suffering and ridden with negative behavioral patterns.  

God, help me see that inner work = outer results...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Triggers Don't Exist

     Why does the mainstream treatment community tell us that relapse is part of recovery when it has nothing to do with recovery? Newsflash: It's not okay to relapse. Doctors, therapists, social workers, and so-called addiction specialists blindly recite the false text book mantra that "relapse is part of recovery."

     Why?

     Because they simply don't know anything else. The sad truth is that millions of professionals out there don't actually know what addiction is (spiritual ailment) or how to treat it. Why is it okay to relapse when relapsing means another long and destructive cycle of lies, theft, sadness, pain, heartache and damage to countless others?

     Treatment 'experts' say that triggers exist for addicts and alcoholics, and as such, treatment revolves around avoiding people or places or things that trigger us. Ah, you gotta be kidding me. First of all, triggers don't exist. Flimsy excuses. Being alive is our only trigger. Nothing makes us want to use. We want to use ALL THE TIME.

     Secondly, what sort of solution is that for a drug addict? So my solution involves desperately trying not to bump into this person, or walk by that place, or keep all drugs and alcohol out of my sight? If that is my only hope then I should just lock myself up and throw away the key, because I am doomed.

     This sort of information is actually dangerous. To tell an addict that it is their triggers that make them use is to basically eliminate any personal and moral responsibility they might assume, which might then trigger them to go get better (pun intended). Furthermore, to teach an addict that it is someone or something outside of themselves that makes them go drink or pick up is unbelievably irresponsible and stems from pure ignorance. WE are the only reason. We drink because we like drinking and because we are selfish beyond belief. Nothing makes us want to drink. Our only trigger is breathing.

     If I buy this notion and take this advice about triggers, then I basically have prevented myself from recovering. The world will forever be a dangerous place for an addict. I will be walking around subject to relapse at any point in time. I am cursed to struggle and fight through each day to stay sober. I will forever crave drugs and alcohol and fend off urges day and night. Mainstream treatment tells us that there is really no hope, that the addict or alcoholic never really gets better, and thus we never can truly recover.

     That is complete and total bullshit.

     We can recover fully and forever. We can live utterly free from any urges or desires to drink or use. We can become free and happy men and women. And this freedom means we can walk by any store, down any block, or sit there and stare at a medicine cabinet full of juicy meds. This means we can hang out with anybody, regardless of how fucked up they still are. This means we can have wine in the house for guests. This means we can even buy our friend a bag of dope just to get his ass to detox or treatment.

     But Charlie, how can you say such things?!?!

     Because we can deliver ourselves from our insanity. Or rather, God can deliver us. We can grow new minds and remain permanently free from the mental obsession to drink or use drugs. We can travel, work, and enjoy life without having to drag ourselves to five meetings a day until the day that we die. We don't have to merely live "in recovery".

     We can become RECOVERED.

     Personally, I took Steps to recover. I am now a free man. And the same can be true for any drug addict or alcoholic out there. Don't let anyone tell you different. Don't feed yourself a bunch of excuses. Don't let yourself off the hook. And always remember:

     Triggers don't exist.

God, help me to remember that nothing outside of myself is responsible for my drinking or drug use...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Excuses of an Addict

    
     "Sorry I relapsed, guys, but it was the liquor store's fault. If the liquor store wasn't on my block, I never would've relapsed."
     "Sorry I relapsed, Mom, but it's because I walked by my friend's house and his door triggered me. My social worker said that his door was one of my triggers, so I can blame my relapse on his door."
     "Sorry I relapsed, Dad, but I walked down a certain street somewhere and that was one of my triggers. It was the street's fault. So I guess it was the city engineer's fault."
     "Sorry I relapsed, everybody, but the world is really chaotic now politically, economically and environmentally, and that triggers me. If everyone would just cool out, I could stay sober. It's all y'all's fault."
     "Sorry I drink wine every night like a selfish pig but it's my right because nobody knows what I go through and nobody knows how I feel. I'm the only one in the world who suffers, and if you were me, you'd drink too. I'm a victim."
     "Sorry I used OxyContin like a freak show until I got addicted and destroyed everything, but it's definitely not my fault. If those stupid companies didn't put that stuff out there and those stupid doctors didn't prescribe that shit, I'd never have a problem. The fact that it exists means it's not my fault."
     "Sorry I relapsed on meth, bro, but you wore a pink shirt today and it really freaked me out. Pink shirts are totally a trigger for me, yo."
     "Sorry I have to shoot dope before anything, but since nobody suffers from depression the way I do, I have the right to make myself more comfortable at all costs, even if it comes at the expense of others."
     "Sorry I destroyed the apartment looking for specs of cocaine, but my roommates totally suck and always piss me off, so I have to. If I had new roommates, I wouldn't bend over like a slave to sniff coke all day."
     "Sorry I stole your jewelry Mom and Dad, but it really wasn't my fault. If you guys understood what it's like to be me, I never would've become an addict and had to steal your shit."
     "Sorry I just blew all of our savings on heroin, baby, but it's not my fault, it's my addiction's fault, and my addiction isn't my fault, it's my Dad's fault because he gave me his genes."
     "Sorry I just drank and used like a pig all semester, Mom and Dad, but it's not my fault, it's the school. I don't connect with anyone here. You shouldn't have wasted your money on this stupid place."
     "Sorry I have to lie to you every time I go out, honey, but if you didn't pry and nag so much then I wouldn't have to."
     "Sorry I get drunk every time we go to your family's house for dinner, but anybody would drink before going to your family's place because they're so freaking dull and uninteresting."
     "Sorry I got hammered right before my job presentation, but I have alcoholism and that's one of the symptoms."
     "Sorry I totalled the car, Dad, and then called Mom a controlling, crazy bitch for no reason, but it was my depression's fault, not my fault. Plus, my therapist said that I have a few other disorders and that they might actually be your fault, not mine. Cool?"
     "Sorry I am chronically late for work, boss, but I have bipolar and ADD and some other disorder, so it's not my fault. Also, no one here understands how tough my life is, so that's another reason why I'm late."
     "Sorry I don't get out of bed these days, but it's not my fault, it's the Depression Not Otherwise Specified disorder thing that I just happened to catch in the air. Or no, wait... actually, I'm depressed because it's my dumbass family's fault. Yeah, that's it! It's their fault, those assholes!"
     "Sorry I relapsed guys, but nothing works. The Steps failed me bro. I def need to go back on methadone yo. Can I get a ride to the clinic? Oh really, no? Can you just be a little late for work and let your kid wait at his school for a bit? Also, that lid I stole from the mall was messed up anyway, so F that place. That owner's a POS for stocking that shit. I ain't never goin' back to make amends... yo."
     "If everyone around me wasn't so annoying, I'd be able to, like, grow more spiritually, but as it is, I just can't do this work under these conditions."
     "If I lived in a different town, I'd be okay, but you really can't expect me to be okay where I am, dude."
     "If people would just do as I say, I could maybe get off the Suboxone and the Seroquel, finish the Steps and recover for good, but because they won't, it's def not my fault that I keep relapsing. Also, have you ever tried bath salts?"
     "If my boss wasn't such a dick, I could keep working and pay off my debts and also maybe pay you guys back, but there's no way I can work like this, so all of that 'amends to my creditors' bullshit is just gonna have to wait."
      "There's just no way I can make amends to that guy because what he did to me was way worse, so if I relapse because I failed to make all of my amends, it's totes not my fault, it's that guy's fault."
     "Hey guys, listen, the doctors and everyone else now say that addiction is not my fault. It's 100% a blameless disease that I was born with, so nothing that I do - including lying, stealing, abusing, assaulting, manipulating, deceiving, using, trampling over, taking advantage of, seeking comfort at all costs, being a loud, obnoxious, belligerent, pathologically self-absorbed ingrate jerk, and of course drinking like a fish and using like a pig - is my fault. It's just a symptom of my disease, yo."

     So what you're saying is that NOTHING is your fault, right?

     Right.

God, please rid me of my bullshit excuses and my fake, phony self...