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Showing posts from 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 …

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…

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 na…

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…

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 yea…

Why Alcoholics Hurt People

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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 hea…

Self Will For God's Will

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"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 s…

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. 

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 mu…

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 Ca…

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. 

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 unders…

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 po…

"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…

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 ini…

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 wi…

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 …

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…

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…

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 alcoh…

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 unreachab…

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.
     …

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... l…

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…

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 w…

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 so…

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 chang…

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 mak…

Excuses of an Addict

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"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 o…