Showing posts from August, 2012

God Isn't Santa Claus

What is prayer? And why doesn't selfish prayer work? I was taught that prayer is supposed to be an unselfish action of humility that grants us access to God, to something greater. It can open up a telephone line between me and Power. When I'm engaged in selfish thought, word or action, I am shut off from any connection to God. That is why selfish prayer doesn't work. We cannot reach or connect to God when engaged in selfishness.

     Early in recovery, sure I prayed for myself. But it wasn't for cars, money, or a promotion. It was for the willingness to walk through a fear I was having, or the patience to make an amends to someone difficult, or the power to walk through my exhaustion and get myself to work. I had to pray for these things to 1) get better, and 2) to become more useful to God and to others.

     But as we continue to grow up and get better, we learn to pray unselfishly. Generally, unselfish prayer isn't directed toward self anymore. We start pra…

Why Many Don't Respond To AA

Many alcoholics don't respond to AA for the same reason we don't respond to therapy. The guy talking to us doesn't really know what he's talking about and has no solution to offer. Sure, the speakers in AA may have a slight affinity to us in that they drank alcohol. But sadly, it often ends there.

     In order for me to listen to you, you have to have felt and used the way I did. And yes, this is sometimes true in AA. But you also must be in the sort of condition I want to be in if I'm going to get sober and take your advice. I don't want to be a sober mess, running from meeting to meeting, shaking, chain smoking, chugging coffee, restless, irritable, anxious, depressed, empty, lonely, miserable, selfish, and with no purpose whatsoever other than desperately trying to not drink.
     In fact, that was never the solution that AA offered us long ago. Alcoholics Anonymous says that we can recover by taking steps and then live in freedom and peace. But that&#…

Moral Compass

The problem with alcoholics and addicts isn't alcohol and drugs. Our problem is that we are void of spiritual principles. We have no moral compass. So getting better has little to do with just getting sober. To get better we must replace the poisons of fear, dishonesty, pride, resentment, self-pity, self-seeking and narcissism with honesty, courage, tolerance, patience, humility and other-centeredness.

    When we become a cauldron of moral and spiritual decay, we begin to have a problem with everything and everyone, even though our circumstances are nobody's fault but our own.

     Without spiritual guidance, we are lost. We think it is normal and okay to judge, criticize, gossip, be petty and emotional. We become emotionally immature and eventually somewhat retarded. We slowly lose ourselves and eventually we lose our souls altogether. We take everything for granted as we become lost in self-absorption. Soon we are no longer capable of swallowing our pride at all. We ca…

Cause & Effect

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction... - Isaac Newton

    Addicts and alcoholics must be careful about the universal laws of cause & effect, for these laws are also alive and well in the mental, emotional and spiritual realms. There is an effect to everything we do, whether physical or mental.

     If we think angry thoughts, chances are we will attract angry people to us who come and piss us off even more. If we embrace and indulge our resentment towards others, chances are we will reap ongoing negativity and outside judgement. If we choose to lash out verbally, there is no doubt someone will return the favor. If we distract ourselves constantly and fill our minds with say, the garbage on E! Television, we will probably suffer from boredom, frustration, apathy, and indifference. Even if we neglect ourselves spiritually or emotionally by slacking off on certain right actions that we have committed to take consistently, rest assured we will suffer in a multitud…

Never Too Early

Watch out for mainstream AA. The first time I was "12 Stepped" by someone at a local meeting was eye opening. I had just done my 5th, 6th and 7th Steps, and returned home from treatment. My sponsor told me to immediately start making amends or else... Or else what? Or else I would soon return to insanity and relapse.

     But the AA guy gave me a mouthful. He told me that it was "way too early" to be making amends to anyone. He said I had no idea what I was doing and that I "wouldn't be ready to make amends for like a year" or more. He also told me I probably went through the Steps "way too quickly", and that I "need a sponsor". The last thing he said was that all I should be doing right now is to "just keep going to meetings".

     If you're an alcoholic or an addict new to recovery and someone accosts you at a meeting and says that, here is some sound advice: RUN the other way. If I had listened to this guy, my…

Living Meditation

Beating myself up for not adhering to a strict zen meditation routine is a daily occurrence. But I realized something after deleting Facebook the other day. First of all, the effect of simply removing cable television service and social media like Facebook is nothing to scoff at. Despite having been my lazy self when it comes to meditation and Step work, the last three days I have basked in the present moment. I have been living one moment at a time, one thought at a time, one action at a time. I have been moving slower, eating slower, and reacting less. Best of all, my incessant stimulus headaches are gone.

     What I have discovered is 'living mediation'. Our lives can be a constant meditation. All we have to do is slow down and just do what's in front of us, mindfully and deliberately. We don't necessarily have to carve out time to pack in a good half-hour meditation session. Meditation can be a 24/7 thing, if we can discipline ourselves to live moment to mome…

Building God vs God Building

Not that it really matters, but the truth is that I feel the presence of God less in a building and more when I'm looking at the ocean, or walking in the woods, or watching a sunset. I feel It when I'm playing music or writing. And I especially feel It when I'm helping another addict or speaking to a room full of addicts. I feel It when I'm praying or meditating. I feel It when I'm taking action.

     But we don't need to worry too much about the whole God thing. AA wants us to build our own conception of God, regardless of how simple it may be, although... if your sponsor tells you to use the coffee pot for a Higher Power, you might have some problems.

     The point is to get underneath. The point is realizing that we are not the most powerful force in our lives. The point is understanding that there is something far greater than us, something limitless in its power and capable of anything. If we are chained by addiction, it is important to stop believin…

One of Seven Billion

Guess what? I am just one of seven billion people who all feel the same things and go through the same things. My human experience in no more novel than anybody else's.

     My pain is no more excruciating. My depression is no more brutal. My addiction and alcoholism is no tougher. My anxiety, insecurity and self-consciousness are no more agonizing. My life problems are no harder. My relationships, jobs, finances are no more complicated. My thoughts, emotions and feelings are no more unique. My challenges, both internal and external, are no more difficult.

     My life takes place in the same human body and the same human mind as everybody else's. There's nothing special about me. How do we addicts become so narcissistic as to assume we are somehow different from everybody else?

     Trust me, we're not. We just think we are. We think nobody in the world really knows what it's like to be us, to feel the way we do, to think the way we do, to suffer the way we d…

This State Doesn't Work Either

I used to think that all I had to do to snap out of my depression was just to get out of my freakin' house! I have to get out of town, man, and move across the country, yo. Breathe the fresh mountain air! Oops, no wait, now I have to drive back home to breathe the cool ocean air! Nope, wait a sec, that's not working either. Okay, I think I should change schools or jobs or relationships. Yup! Nope. Hmmm, nothing works. What the hell, man?

     Gee, maybe because changing our external reality does absolutely nothing to change the way we feel inside, nor will it cure what ails us. One of the only good slogans I heard in AA is how when you try to escape your problems by driving from state to state, each welcome sign that you pass should say,

     "Welcome! This State Doesn't Work Either."

     Our problems will follow us wherever we go. Our fears, our depression, our anxiety, our alcoholism and our addiction will tow right behind us. To get rid of our demons, we…

"Is Addiction God's Will?"

Looking at some blog statistics, I noticed a Google search for, "Is it God's will I become an addict?" This is something that should addressed, as my gut and my mind immediately answer a resounding "NO!" 

     But is there more to it?

     Ironically, the worse I became, the closer I came to getting better. It's as if God was laughing every time I bought a bag of heroin, knowing that with each bag, I would get back to Him sooner than later.

     So even though using drugs is an act of self-will, what about my larger blueprint?

     If I had never wallowed in the dirty depths of alcoholism and opiate addiction, I'd never have the connection to God that I have now. I'd never have the spiritual tools that I have. I wouldn't have this new fullness of experience, nor would I have been witness to so many miracles. I'm also quite certain I wouldn't have the miriad of blessings that have showered my life.

     If we are becoming addicts or …

Buzz Kill

Once we get involved in the Steps, we are forever changed. Even if we relapse, our buzz is never the same. Taking steps is the number one buzz killer if you ever relapse after embarking on the Steps earnestly. At that point, we are screwed. We can't get high anymore but we also aren't better. We end up suffering tremendously, like an idiot stuck in purgatory.

     So we have two choices...

     Keep drinking or using even though it's no fun anymore, and hopefully we will finally die. Or two, start all over with the Step process, but the second time it's much harder and we don't have the euphoria we felt when we entered this mystical realm for the first time. The second time requires that we do the Steps while perhaps suffering all the way through them. Of course, this is all the better for anyone who relapses, because doing this work while suffering makes our foundation stronger and thicker.

     To note, this wasn't the case with me. God touches us is dif…

Half Measures

Half measures availed us nothing...

     The Big Book says that if we have decided we want peace and freedom then we must be "willing to go to any lengths" to get it.

     It also says, "We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not." - Alcoholics Anonymous, p.58

     Why do half measures yield zero results? Because our solution must be more powerful than our addiction, which has grown very powerful over the years. If we have been a one-man wrecking ball for years and years, then group therapy, some role play, and a few anti-depressants aren't gonna cut it. Also, God knows that we have been half-assing life yet fully expecting top notch results. Why would we get off so easily for a lifetime of recovery? Isn't it better for addicts to do some hard work on themselves for a payoff that we really don't deserve to begin with?

     We must be willing to go to any lengths because this requires us to fully commit to spiritual growth. If we ar…

Easier, Softer Ways...

"We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not." - Alcoholics Anonymous, p.58

     Easier, softer ways are abundant these days, especially now that AA has split into two different programs, the softer one being that of unrecovered speakers telling war stories and sob stories while everyone else munches on cookies and sucks down coffee after running up to get awarded with sobriety chips to celebrate 30 days or 90 days or a whole year of sobriety (even though recovery isn't a function of time spent sober, plus nobody should be rewarded just because they stopped hurting people).

     The original or real AA had nothing to do with meetings and Oreos, but was a rigorous program of spiritual action meant to open us up to God so His power might free us from our mental obsession to drink and use drugs, as well as give us the power to live and do that which we could not do for ourselves. AA was nothing more than the Twelve Steps, once upon a time. And meet…

Alcoholism & Sociopathology

Just like narcissists and borderlines, alcoholics & addicts step very close to sociopathic territory. The difference is that narcissists and borderline types are generally untreatable, whereas alcoholics and addicts get close to the edge but retain the capacity for honesty and therefore the capacity to heal. But it can get scary for while, as we exhibit horrifying traits and behaviors, to which we show no remorse.

     In active addiction, we could not care less about our friends, families and spouses. In fact, we don't give a shit about anybody. We have no idea what we are saying and what we are doing to others. We are cruel, manipulative and verbally abusive, yet are shocked at any such allegations. We can easily hurt others and walk away without so much as a thought. We refuse at all costs to take any responsibility for our behavior, always asserting how right we are about everything. We believe we are fair and just, even kind and patient. We wonder why others don'…

Them, Not Us

Someone once asked me about one of her amends. I told her she needed to make it. She said,

    "But this f'ing bitch was way more of an f'ing bitch than I was."

      First of all, wanh, wanh, wanh... do you want a pity-pot to cry in? I didn't say that, although it would have been a good idea. I told her to first pray for this person until she no longer cares about what she did. She said,

     "I will never pray for her other than to pray she rots in hell."

     Oh, okay. So then why the hell are you asking me for advice when you aren't really serious about getting better? Why bother doing any amends at all if you're going to leave out the ones where someone else wronged you too? I told her that she is not willing to go to any lengths to get better and that ultimately she will relapse. And she did. Two weeks later.

     99.9% = 0%.

     If we plan on recovering from alcoholism and addiction, we must give 100% and we must never leave anything …

Second to None

The answer to why people fail in recovery is a simple one. If we fail, it is because we have failed to put our spiritual growth above all else. If we fail, taking Steps has fallen by the wayside. If we fail, our relationship to God has become secondary.

     Besides physical sobriety, the one requirement to maintain our sanity, and therefore our recovery, is to put this work above all else. We must put the Steps and we must put God first before anything and anybody.

     Sorry, but that's the way it goes.

     Sure, you don't have to run home and tell your wife that she's now second to God and will be forever. Although it is important for our spouses and families to understand this. The logic is simple. If we don't put our spiritual health first, then we won't ever be okay. We will become sick again, only to relapse and destroy everything. If we don't get better and stay better, we lose everything anyway. But if we maintain our sanity, our spiritual health…

Selfishness Kills

Selfishness will kill us even in sobriety.

     So will untreated alcoholism, though I suppose there isn't much of a difference.
     My father, whom I loved dearly, was a perfect example. His untreated alcoholism took his life, as his spiritual malady became so great that it manifested itself organically in his brain. He was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and over the course of 10-15 years, his brain gradually degenerated and decayed until he died. Sorry, but you don't get dementia in your 40s. He was a severely depressed, withdrawn, and untreated alcoholic.
     Translation: He was gravely ill spiritually.
     If we don't ever get better from our alcoholic mind and our alcoholic spirit, despite being sober, we will probably die anyway. And chances are that we have already died spiritually, long before our physical death.
     It is therefore more dangerous to get sober and try to live life with a cauldron of demons inside. In fact, you'll probably do more …

Don't Care How You Feel

Charlie, we really don't care how you feel. Getting better has nothing to do with feelings. It's all action...

This is by far the most helpful thing anybody has ever said to me. Most of the time, when I start working with an addict, they go on endless rants about how they feel - Yeah but this, yeah but that... It's always that somehow their addiction makes sense because of how they feel. And the best is that I don't understand. I don't understand that they feel so screwed over by someone, so unheard, so misunderstood, so alone, so weak, so useless, so disable, so depressed, so not living up to their potential, so blah, blah, blah. Um, yeah, I get it. I whined too about how nobody understands. I justified using drugs like a pig because of the way I felt.

     "Well, you would be drinking and sniffing heroin too if you knew what I was going through!"

     This is why therapy is such a joke. Addicts who I sponsor say, "Yeah the Steps are great b…