Friday, June 29, 2012

Menial Tasks/Tactics

     I now employ a slew of tactics to ward off the depression, anger, boredom, frustration and other spiritual demons. The Big Book refers to them as RID (Restlessness, Irritability, Discontent), and they occur when we remove the substances. In fact, they tend to occur when we remove any kind of distraction whatsoever. And besides the spiritual or psychological work that all of us addicts and alcoholics must do, I usually have to engage in all sorts of menial tasks to try to get out of my head and raise my seratonin/dopamine levels. Ultimately, however, there no is activity that can fix us or free us. We must turn to something much Greater. 

     But they sure are useful.

     Exercise is one. And sure it's like a form of torture to get up and go for a run after years of remaining sedentary. Making it a routine is near impossible, but I can assure you that once you motivate to exercise enough times, it becomes less difficult, and eventually it's just like eating or sleeping... or something you just have to do in order to ward off the various forms of insanity.

    Menial tasks such as cleaning, organizing or gardening can also bring me back into the moment and clear my head. Pick up a broom and see what happens. If your mind is in any way as active and nutso as mine, it may help. The past is gone and the future doesn't exist yet, so why go there? Just to cause us more pain? To think that I might actually be pain-dependant, or something equally masochistic. How ridiculous.

     Finally, there is no such thing as missing out. I used to think that if I stayed at home and cleaned, then somehow I was missing out on life, on having fun, on some job, or maybe on becoming a star! Nope. There is no 'missing out'. Because even if I was living some fantasy dream, none of it would matter if I was constantly suffering. 

     Who cares what we have, what we're doing, or who we're with if we feel like complete and total shit? All that really matters is how we're feeling inside. If I am content and at peace, then it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. That's why some of my happiest times are when I'm scrubbing scum off of my kitchen floor or scooping up a pile of dog shit in my yard.

God, please show me healthier, more productive ways to distract myself when necessary...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Drugs For Drugs?

     Guess what the best, Harvard educated minds gave me to solve my problem with drugs? Drugs. Yes, I'm aware that such advice sounds like a ridiculous joke. And yes, the best and brightest of an entire medical community know little more than nothing about addiction and treating addiction. Doctors and psychiatrists think that addiction is purely a bio-chemical issue. They also think that addiction should be part of a dual-diagnosis (hoax), sitting beside some mental illness. The truth is they haven't the faintest clue how to treat your addiction, so they just treat you for mental illness (and usually fail at that as well, especially since much of it is induced by the substance use).

     Take some of the drugs I've been offered just for the drug-related portion of my problem: methadone, suboxone, ativan.

     Methadone and suboxone are opiates, like heroin or oxycontin. The argument is that at least you're not buying dope off the street and we can ween you off in a clinical setting. So the solution is to remain an absolute junkhead, but hey, at least it's prescribed... and after years of methadone 'maintenance', I can try to ween myself off it once the withdrawal effects have become so bad that I'd rather just kill myself or shoot dope again.

     I was given Ativan to calm down and sleep at night, and it took all of a week to become a full blown benzo addict. Benzodiazepines such as valium, ativan, xanax and klonopin are the modern equivalent of barbituates. They have replaced old-school barbiturate tranquilizers because they don't depress respiratory functioning. Why is this important? Because they pass these things out like Skittles. Everybody with anxiety has xanax in their pocketbook. But doctors assume that people with anxiety also drink alcohol, and if you were to drink on a barbiturate, it could just stop your breathing altogether, especially once you pass out.

     Now for the psychotropics. When I worked at an alternative recovery high school, many of the kids were on some combination of hardcore psychotropics. Seroquel was as common as cell phones. Very popular. But there are also mood-stabilzers like depakote, anti-pyschotics like zyprexa, and of course a slew of SSRIs and MAO-Inhibiters, commonly known as anti-depressants. These are powerful bio-chemical drugs that literally rewire your brain. The end result is that I become nothing short of a zombie - emotionally, psychologically, creatively etc. After years of use, you need to embark on a recovery program just from the physical and psychological effects of the drugs you took to help yourself. Plus there's a good chance you may have irreparable brain damage. And remember, these were the drugs that were supposed to help you with the other drug problem you had.

     Finally, many of the kids were on stimulants for ADD or ADHD, such as ritalin and adderall. Pumping kids or addicts (or anybody) with speed is one of the dumbest things a doctor or parent can do. You might as well just give them cocaine or crack. Long term, consistent use of these drugs, as well as seroquel and other anti-psychotics, can lead to permanent brain damage. Seroquel et al can cause Tardive Diskenisia, an irreversible neurological disorder that includes such permanent symptoms as tongue protrusion, grimacing, rapid eye blinking, lip smacking, rapid arm movement and other involuntary movements. Try going to a job interview and sticking out your tongue at the interviewer about a hundred times uncontrollably. Great solution.

      So that is what one of the best psychiatric medical teams in the country had to offer me. Or I could have just been treated for my alcoholism. Is it any wonder they don't prescribe a spiritual program of action that may work wonders but offers no financial incentive???

God, make me willing to take action to get better, and give me the power and the strength to act without more drugs...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Grand Canyon

     One of the things that tortured me about being sober was the enormous space between who I was and who I wanted to be. Being jammed helped me forget about what I could do with my life, but sober, it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of my abilities stared me in the face. Ruled by fear, I never pushed through my feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity to just do what I loved. I never really pursued my gifts... yet remained convinced that I was put on earth to write songs and stories, play music and act.

     The great canyon between who I was in reality and who I knew I could be felt too overwhelming. Crossing this great divide was too far a journey. I barely took a first step without going to pieces. And it was this very gap that killed me. It ripped me apart inside. It was this predicament that caused me endless agony. It fed and fueled my depression. It maintained my state of sober paralysis. And finally, it convinced me that the easier choice would be to just become a drug addict. Doing what I loved would require feeling uncomfortable at times, and being the loser that I was, that was completely unacceptable.

     Ironically, now that I'm sober and actively working on myself, things have changed. One thing is that I don't consider my art to be the most important thing in life anymore. First is my relationship with God. Then my family. And then my art - music, writing, acting. But without my spiritual health, nothing else is possible or sustainable. Once I start trying to make my own decisions, once I start trying to control my life, once I start acting on self-will, it all goes to shit. So if it is God's will that I play music or write or act, then so be it. Then I can do it and do it well. Then I can even succeed in it. But if it is not God's will, then I must do other things.

     What I've learned is that it's basically okay to either use these gifts or not use them. As long as I'm at peace inside and as long as my conscience is clean, then it really doesn't matter what I'm doing. I'm happy as a clam doing menial labor so long as I am okay inside. But I'm also quite sure God doesn't want us to hoard our gifts. As long as we do the right thing, we should use them and share them with the world. But I've learned to let go of the result. Before, I needed to have a hit album, a #1 bestseller, and a movie deal in like two weeks or else I'd become infuriated and hopeless and quit. Now I can just play music or write or act for the sake of doing it. If something becomes of it... great. If nothing happens at all... great.

     All I care about now is making sure that I'm being useful to God and to others. All that matters now is that I'm being a good husband, son, brother and friend. All that matters is that I am doing what God wants me to do... and that pretty much means giving of myself.

God, teach me not to hoard my gifts, and to let go of the result...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Removing Substances

     Fallacy: Once I remove the alcohol, I'm no longer an alcoholic.

     When we remove the drugs and alcohol, what is left? Well, let me tell you what is left: A living, walking, breathing nightmare.  We alcoholics are worse when you take away our alcohol, not better. If you think we were selfish when drinking, just wait until we try white-knuckling it. Our self-absorption reaches new heights, sometimes becoming pathological. Our preoccupation with self reaches new heights. Our minds become saturated with nothing but our feelings, our thoughts, our discomforts, our frustrations, our boredom, our anger and our depression. Our attitudes deteriorate rapidly. Our capacity for intimacy and friendship deteriorate rapidly. Our willingness to serve others becomes non-existent. To even think about others becomes a form of torture. So I hope there is no one else in a sober and untreated addict's life because they're definitely not getting any attention. In fact, they're most likely getting less than nothing, i.e. an annoying, pissed off, useless jerk. Sure, we'll gladly listen to you blab on about your day when we're completely jammed. But if not, it's when are you gonna shut up so we can go use the way we want to?

     So what is the solution for this sort of hopeless predicament? Should we go to therapy, outpatient addiction treatment, inpatient treatment, psychiatric treatment? Should we switch jobs or towns or schools? Should we take our drug addicted teenagers out of school and send them to a recovery high school? Ummmm, let's see... NO! Unless you want to fail. Unless you want to relapse. Unless you want to talk about triggers and feelings and your family. Unless you want to be coddled and given opportunities that you don't need. Unless you want to continue the bullshit of not addressing your real problem, which is spiritual. Unless you want to forgo a real solution that produces real results. And trust me, you better be able to get better in a normal environment. No cushy program or recovery school or physical location will keep you sober.

     What is the solution for an alcoholic or drug addict? Personally, I took Steps to get better. A group of recovered addicts pulled the 12 Step instructions out of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They told me exactly what to do to get better. They told me what actions to take. So I took these actions and I recovered. I addressed the real problem with alcoholism and drug addiction, which is NOT alcohol and drugs. It is spiritual. If you can recover spiritually and replace your addiction with a greater purpose, then you should be alright. Otherwise, true alcoholics and drug addicts really don't stand a chance.

     By the way, taking Steps doesn't cost anything. Guess how much you (i.e. your parents who you you are stabbing in the heart) can blow on therapy and addiction programs???

God, please give me the willingness to do anything it takes to get better...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fear Inventory


(Also see Resentment, Resentment Inventory, Resentment Inventory Example and Sex Inventory.)

     Fear is selfish. It prevents me from being useful and from growing spiritually. I thought it was real and that feelings might actually kill me. But by avoiding things that scared me, the fear grew stronger. So to deflate it, I do the exact thing that frightens me. If I fear confrontation, I confront. If I fear public speaking, I speak publically. If I fear intimacy, I become intimate. To conquer it, do it. Doing it vaporizes the fear and gradually the action in question becomes easier. Someone told me once that I don’t have to let feelings stop me. Guess I managed to block that out for a while.

     Fear inventory. The instructions are: a) write down each fear I’ve ever had, b) write why I fear each one c) dig deeper to find why I really fear each one, and d) figure out why it’s selfish to have that fear. The task was to peel away and uncover what was really underneath my fears.
Here are some basic examples:

1st Column – Fear               
Spiders
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
They freak me out.                 
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?                            
They make me act like a wimp.          
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?                                          
I kill them so I don’t have to feel uncomfortable.                   

1st Column – Fear
Public speaking
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
It makes me self-conscious.
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?
I have to step outside my comfort zone.
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?
I refuse to speak publically even though it may help others.

1st Column – Fear
Becoming Dad
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
I’m prone to depression.
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?
I fear what others think of me.
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?
Time spent thinking about this is time I’m not spending helping and loving Dad.

God, show me how my fear is selfish, and teach me that fear is a self-created illusion...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Adopt A Belief?

     One thing I tried to do to get better was to simply adopt a belief. I believed in all sorts of things. On top of that, I was a walking self-help book. I studied the spiritual principles of love and kindness contained within Buddhism and Christianity. Meanwhile, I was a liar and a phony. I manipulated people and abused them. I stole people's time, energy, love and trust.

     Belief without action is useless. You could be a pedophile or a serial killer and believe in God. Just because I go to church and believe in Jesus or Buddha or Yahweh or Allah or whatever, that means I am a righteous person? So I can go hit the Sunday service and pray to Jesus but then come home and beat my wife, beat my kids, pound a 12-pack and watch the football game while everybody is bleeding in the background, and it's all good??? That's awesome. No need to worry then because even though I might be a total piece of shit, I'm automatically going to be saved and go to Heaven just because I Believe.

     Sure, many who believe in some righteous doctrine or code of moral principles are probably not serial killers or pedophiles or deadbeats sucking off the public trough. But the point is that a belief alone won't change me. For me to actually become that loving, principled person, I have to back up my belief system with action. I have to act right 24/7, and be sure to make it right when I act wrong. I have to gather all that is within me to act morally, ethically, honestly, patiently, compassionately, courageously, lovingly and fearlessly. 

     By the way, I continuously fail to live up to this, but I try. And I now know in my heart that action is WAY more important than some belief system.

     So unless I practice the principles I claim to believe in, I am nothing. I really shouldn't even be calling myself a Christian or a Buddhist or a Jew unless I live by the wisdom contained within each respective doctrine. I mean, would you rather have a friend who believes in what you do or a friend who is loving and loyal and listens to you, but he's an atheist? Yup, I think I'd rather hang out with someone who doesn't believe in jack shit but is kind, as opposed to the Jesus freak that goes home and flies into a rage. I guess a moral atheist is better than an asshole believer... but hey, what do I know?

God, teach me the belief without action is totally, utterly useless...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Palpable Depression

     Sinking into a severe depression is absolutely brutal and absolutely terrifying. It is intense and it is crippling. The terror is thinking and believing that it may never end. You don't know how to get out of it and nothing you try works. You think that the rest of your life will be filled with the agony of depression, void of all joy and pleasure. You feel like a veil of darkness covers every inch of your life experience. I know what this feels like. I've felt it many times. And when the depression lifted, I felt like it was gone and would never come back. And then it came back. Many times. It was the single greatest scar on my life experience, far worse than my alcohol and drug addiction.

     Depression stings. It bites and stabs and burns. It rips you apart. It paralyzes you. It numbs you in every possible way. It somehow grabs hold of your mind and robs you of your will, let alone your mere ability to function. It convinces you that there is really no reason to live life this way. 

     For now, I won't get into some of my tougher views on depression. I know how brutal it is and how difficult it is to get rid of. So let's just focus on what can be done.

     Many people will go straight for the meds. I shunned them. Maybe because I'm a stubborn, obstinate bastard. But I think it may have been something deeper. Somewhere in my maimed soul, I knew that pills were not the way out. I knew that even if they worked on the symptoms, they wouldn't really cure what ails me. And I knew that when I stopped taking them, I'd be in the exact same predicament that I was to begin with: insane and untreated. So I personally wouldn't opt for the meds... unless maybe you're a schizophrenic psychopath.  

    Then there is the entire world of self-help, including books, natural medicine, diet, nature trips like Outward Bound and NOLS, and the list goes on... 

     Then there is the change of lifestyle method, which includes changing jobs, towns, states, friends, relationships, and on and on...

     All of the above failed me 100%. 

     Then there is action. Action is the only thing in this world that pulled me out of my depressions. It is also the only thing that subsequently evened me out and strengthened me enough that I have never slipped back into one. I know what everybody says... that all the things listed above are actions. Let me clarify. The kind of action I'm referring to is of a different nature. The focus is different. Depression shouldn't be avoided. We shouldn't try to cure it or rid ourselves from it. It IS us. Therefore, I need to walk right into it. I need to confront it. I also should show some compassion to it along the way. Why not sit down beside these horrible, painful, brutal feelings and befriend them? Why not embrace them as part of me? As the Native American proverb goes, What you resist will persist. If I try to fight the depression and make war with it, it will only get stronger and more palpable.

    Once I learn to befriend it, then I confront. Walk into the fear. All of those things that make you feel insecure and self-conscious: Do them! Over and over and over. Do the very things that your depression makes you want to avoid. And avoid the things that ease the depression. Sounds counter-intuive, right? Yeah, that's because it is. Depression wants us to cower and avoid everything. It wants us to isolate and go further inward, becoming more numb and dysfunctional. So do the exact opposite. 

    The more I face depression, the more I can do the things that I least want to do... and soon the very things that I fear the most begin to lose power. Eventually, the depression will lift, but more importantly, I now have the inner strength and the centeredness to prevent it from taking me over again. 

     And that is the difference between taking pills and taking action.

God, give me the power to walk through my feelings, and teach me that feelings don't have to stop me...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Resentment Inventory

     We write inventory to extract resentment, fear and sexual misconduct, which if left in the body will cause all sorts of damage, both spiritual and physical. Here we deal specifically with resentments, which block us from truly getting better, as they form a wall between us and God. But inventory is a miraculous tool and should be used by anyone seeking to grow and rid themselves of the various forms of spiritual poison.

     Before reading and using these instructions, please first read the post, Resentment.  

(See also Resentment Inventory Example afterwards for an example, as well as Fear Inventory, Sex InventoryMore InventoryHome Depot Inventory, Professor Masshole & Resenting Ourselves?.)

     So here are the instructions for writing resentment inventory:
     
     1) Write the name of the Person, Institution (place) or Principle (idea) that we resent. Just the name.
     
     2) Write the Specific Resentment we have towards that person, institution or principle. This could be what they did or said to us, what they did or said to someone else, or just some quality or trait that we resent.
     
     3) Write the parts of us that the resentment affects. Does it affect our  Pride (ego) or Ambition (desire), our Self-Esteem (self-worth), our Personal or Sexual Relationships, our Security (physical security/survival), or our Wallet/Pocketbook?
     
     4) Now the real work begins. In the fourth column of resentment inventory, we ask ourselves how we caused each specific resentment, because the truth is it had nothing to do with the other person, place or idea. This is where we discover our character defects, our maladjusted and unhealthy behavioral patterns that have caused us to become so spiritually ill, and caused others so much grief. This is the most important part of our inventory. If this 4th "column" isn't done, than no real work has been accomplished. Today, many modern AA and NA workbooks and sponsors leave this column out completely... and that, needless to say, could be deadly.
         
     So in the 4th column, we ask ourselves how we were being: Self-Seeking, Selfish, Dishonest, and Fearful. Below are some guiding questions, but we should try to discover the deepest, most accurate answer for each of the following categories.
          
          Self-Seeking (i.e. Seeking a Self): How did we want to look or be seen by others, or by ourselves? Were we trying to be seen as a tough guy, a hero, a stud? Did we want to look smart, cool, strong, normal, successful, rich? How do we want to be seen by others? Addicts are VERY self-seeking - that is, they seek a self. We seek a self because the way we want to be seen is NOT the way we actually are. So usually when we want to be seen as tough, the truth is that we are a coward.
          
          Selfish: What did we want? What were we trying to get? What were we trying to keep or protect? What were we unable to see about the other person, about ourselves, or about the situation? We have to really DIG for this one. It is essential to find our selfishness in the resentment.
          
          Dishonest: How were we being dishonest? Did we or do we do the very thing we resent? Were we lying to ourselves or others about something? Were we avoiding some truth about ourselves, the other person, or a situation? Were we not being honest about how we felt? A good example is when we act nice when the truth is someone upset us. But instead of standing up for ourselves, we instead chose to act nice to avoid confrontation. This will cause a resentment... but you can see that it was our fault because we weren't being honest about how we felt. Addicts tend to act dishonestly in many situations.
          
          Fear: What did or do we fear? What were we afraid of? Were we afraid of what the other person thought of us? Are we afraid of other people's opinions of us? Are we afraid of rejection, failure, weakness, insecurity, cowardice? Are we afraid to be seen as weak, abnormal, mentally ill, insane, or a loser? So we ask ourselves what did we fear in the situation or prior to, that caused the resentment.

     It is so important to dig in with this process and find these answers, as it brings us clarity and understanding to the flawed ways we think and therefore act. Sure it may be that first answer that pops into your head, but it also may be something deeper or more subtle. We want the best answer, the most honest answer for each category.

     For example, when my wife is suffering and I'm trying to enjoy the football game or some other nonsense, I resent her (I know, pathetic). But part of why I resent her is my own self-seeking. I want to be seen as a perfect husband, so why on earth would she be suffering? And selfishly, I resent her because her suffering takes me out of my comfort zone and therefore I can't enjoy the football game. 

    Or in some other circumstance, I want to look like a loving husband by doing something nice, but because she is suffering, she doesn't notice, and therefore I resent her. 

     Many resentments are born from expectation, which fall under the dishonest category. Often the truth is that we expect someone to respond a certain way and when they don't, we cop a resentment. Very selfish. In the instance of my wife, I expected her to praise me for all I've done and when not only she doesn't, but she simultaneously has a problem with me about some other thing, I resent her. The resentment is actually my fault because I was expecting a different response from her. 

     Remember, when we don't get what we want from others, we resent. And to avoid seeing the truth of our expectation and to avoid taking responsibility, we retaliate like children. That is just one of many character flaws to be identified... and eventually exorcised from our being through Steps 5, 6 and 7.

     Also to note, sometimes we exhibit our selfishness or dishonesty well after the event, like if someone abuses us but we lash out at others down the road who had nothing to do with the abuse. 

     It's this type of searching that we must engage in to find our deepest truth. It's this type of painstaking focus that we find purity in our work, and thus the greatest rewards - the rewards of change. So don't be afraid, pray if you are stuck, and always remember that in every resentment, we were somehow selfish, self-seeking, dishonest or afraid, whether before, during, or after.

      Good luck... and check out the link below. 

12 & 12 - Step Four - Insight

God, help me to see those things that block me from You and Others...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Untreated Alcoholism

     The problem with only achieving physical sobriety is that we may never get any better.

     Why?

     Because sobriety doesn't cure insanity, nor does it reduce selfishness. Sobriety doesn't stop us from constantly whining and complaining, from thinking about ourselves 24/7. How ridiculous it is to get sober but remain mentally and spiritually warped beyond comprehension. In fact, if you're gonna kick it and not really change, you might as well just keep drinking. At least you'd be making a small economic contribution.

     Most addicts are actually more annoying when they're sober yet untreated, if you can fathom that. We remain needy and obsessed with how we feel all of the time.

     Oh no, what am I doing in life?! What am I gonna do today? What am I gonna do tomorrow?! Nobody knows what it's like to be me. Me! Why do I feel this way? Poor me. Nobody has it this tough! The world owes me! I need a cigarette, I need this, I need that, I need to go to a meeting! I want cookies, I want ice cream, I want... wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh! 

     Yup. If all we do is remove the drugs and alcohol, we still act like drug addicts and alcoholics. But, hey, at least we're sober! What a joke. Addicts and alcoholics can do as much, if not more damage to others by achieving physical sobriety but failing to actually get better.

     Once sober, I literally have a volcano of work to do on myself. I must begin to extract the cauldron of poisons that have turned me into a pathologically selfish drug addict. I must extract the poisons of selfishness, self-seeking, dishonesty, fear, and countless others if I am to truly recover. I must take it upon myself to fundamentally change the person I was. I must change the way I act, react and respond. I must change the way I view suffering. I must change the way I approach others. I must change my attitude towards life, work, relationships and family. For sure, I must change from deep within.

     Through right action, I begin to enlarge my spiritual life. I begin to accept that I shouldn't be taking credit for every good thing that happens to me... and I shouldn't be blaming something else for every bad thing. I begin to realize that the bad stuff is my own fault. It happens when I try to do things my way, when I exert my own selfish will. But the good stuff happens when I let go, when I step back a little and let something guide me that is much greater and more powerful.

     Even if you're an addict and you don't believe that God is present in your life, maybe you should change your mind because it's much better to have a humble attitude as opposed to attributing your recovery and success to you and you only.

     Why?

     Because it's arrogant not to. Are we really that powerful? Are we really all-knowing? Do we really have it all figured out? Please. Look how small and insignificant we are compared to the entire Universe.

God, give me the courage, power and willingness to walk through discomfort, just like everybody else...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Service = Silver Bullet

     Service is the best medicine...

     I remember plummeting off the cozy pink cloud I was perched upon after reading inventory and making some amends. I felt euphoric and invincible... and then all of my spiritual tools began wearing off. Eventually, there was no buzz anymore. Time to learn how to live life without always feeling good. Time to learn how to work on myself for the sole purpose of staying sane. So that's what I did. I wasn't going to become a coward again. I wasn't going to be ruled by fear. But despite the fact that I feel mundane and human, there is one thing that still works every time: 

     Helping others.

     Every time I speak publicly at a meeting, school, sober house or hospital, I am filled again with a spiritual charge. It flows through me for several hours and I am reminded of this Power that exists beyond the scope of Self. Every time I sit down and take a sponsee through the Big Book, I am also filled with Spirit. The change is noticeable. You can see it in my face, in my red cheeks, in my eyes, in my posture. You can even hear it in my voice. When we go to speak or help someone, we tap into spiritual power... into GOD.

     Why is that? 

     I suppose it's because when we give, it gets us out of our heads and our normally selfish frame of mind. Acting selflessly prevents us from being selfish. You can't constantly think about yourself when you are helping someone else. It's somewhat of a miracle actually. Many times I have entered a room with horrible cold. Then I open my mouth. What happens? For that hour or so that I'm speaking and giving, my cold disappears. It leaves the room while I try to be of service to others. Then it returns as soon as I leave. What is that, short of a miracle? Ask your doctor to explain that within the parameters of medical science. How is it that my symptoms disappear entirely, only to reappear once I get back into my car... into my head? 

     Ignore something and it'll go away. Ignore yourself and perhaps your self will go away.

     So even though I have landed back on planet earth and seven years have gone by since I was zapped by the power of God in the mountains of New Hampshire one night, serving others works every time. If I ever really start to lose it and need something to feel better, helping other alcoholics and drug addicts is the key. Helping anybody is the key. Giving is the silver bullet to feeling better.

God, teach me to be of greater service to others and to You...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

AA Slogans

     I hate to say it, but most AA slogans are pretty much nonsense. Imagine an AA bumper sticker that directly contradicts the fundamental principle of AA. I'm not sure you want to advertise advice that might kill the people you want to reign in, especially when you're attaching AA's namesake to a bunch of utter bullshit. Now, I'll admit there are one or two diamonds in the rough, so I promise to give them their due another time. But for now, let's just take it from the top:

"Just Don't Drink" & "Put The Plug In The Jug"
   
     These two slogans contradict the fundamental principle of the very 1st Step of AA - that we are powerless of alcohol. Having no power over alcohol means that alcoholics have LOST the ability to 'just not drink'. We have lost the power to choose whether we drink or not. It is an obsession, an insanity that we cannot fight alone. Sure this might work if you're not really an alcoholic, but for any certified alcoholic or drug addict, there is no 'putting the plug in the jug'. If it were that simple, we'd all be fine!

"Sit Down, Shut Up & Wait For The Miracle To Happen"
   
     Ah, okay. This is advice I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. According to modern day AA, we should just come in, sit down, shut up and wait... and eventually a miracle will occur as we're staring off into space drinking lukewarm coffee. First of all, if you have recently achieved sobriety, then you are freaking out inside. We can't 'sit down'. We're going nuts. Our heads are about to blow up. We need to DO something, and soon.

     Second, shutting up is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Those of us who are new to sobriety and to AA are the ones who need to open our mouths and ask, "How the hell do I get better??? I'm going crazy here and I'm not gonna make it unless someone offers me a solution that actually works!"

     And finally, 'waiting for a miracle' might actually kill you. First of all, I can't wait very long, folks, because I'm gonna go get jammed if I don't start feeling better soon. Thirdly, miracles don't zap us in the brain while we're sitting on our asses doing absolutely nothing. We  create the miracles with the help of God by getting up and taking action - in the case of alcoholics or addicts, this action would involve taking Steps.

"Easy Does It" & "Just Keep Comin'"
   
     These may be the two most dangerous slogans from the new age of watered down AA. Alcoholics and drug addicts need to do the opposite of 'taking it easy' (unless you take it to mean not trying to overachieve in the beginning). We must engage in rigorous action if we are going to beat an opponent as lethal and relentless as addiction.

     'Just keep comin' refers to 'just keep going to meetings'. If that worked, I would have recovered ten years ago. So I feel the need to repeat here that newly sober alcoholics and drug addicts are completely insane and will not make it for very long just dragging themselves to meetings everyday. For me, meetings made no internal difference whatsoever, as I still felt untreated and depressed. I knew I was going to keep drinking and using.

     If alcoholics and addicts have any chance of staying sober, they need to immediately replace their addiction with a powerful solution, a solution capable of restoring them to sanity, and certainly a solution more powerful than an AA bumper sticker slogan or a string of local meetings. I feel like hitting myself in the head when I hear these guys get up and say, "Just Keep Comin'!" That's advice of someone who's either not an alcoholic, or someone who thinks AA is group therapy and snack time, and the solution is to white-knuckle it until you somehow magically get better.

     Don't mean to be too harsh. I enjoy meetings, shit coffee, and someone pretending to know how to bake, too... sometimes. But this is my experience as a chronic alcoholic and drug addict. Addiction carries with it a grave spiritual imbalance that can only be addressed by fairly drastic measures.

God, show me that getting better entails more than reciting a few bumper stickers...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Comfort Addicts

     Suffering after getting sober is good. In fact, it's a necessary test...

     Addicts and alcoholics (same thing) are addicted to comfort. Finding and maintaining comfort is a compulsion and a preoccupation. The problem many addicts face is that once we get sober, we still need to feel good ALL OF THE TIME. So we start using the tools we have acquired (tools meant solely to keep us sane) to get a little buzz, albeit spiritual. Sure, getting a lift from meditating or writing inventory or speaking at a meeting is far better than jamming a needle into our vein, but it shouldn't be entirely ignored.

     If we do this spiritual work only to feel better, what happens when it doesn't work anymore? What happens when it no longer gives us that charge and merely keeps us from going insane again? What happens is that we start looking for more ways to feel good. We gradually become more selfish and more preoccupied with our comfort again. Sooner or later our minds begin to deteriorate. We get sicker. Then we relapse... and destroy everything all over again.

     After I took the first 6 Steps and finished reading the 7th Step prayer, I had a profound spiritual experience. As I returned home from treatment, I had several more mind-blowing experiences while making amends, working with others, and meditating. Then I returned to planet Earth and became human again. Normal, mundane life set back in and I came flying off the pink cloud I was perched upon. I felt bored, anxious, conflicted, even quite angry and depressed at times. I knew that the great test of anyone truly committed to growing spiritually is to walk through all of these painful feelings and continue to do the right thing.

     I had to suffer to see if I was truly committed to getting better. Because getting better is not just going to rehab, reading some inventory, getting a little pink cloud buzz and then off we go. The novelty of being sober wears off hard and fast. Living along spiritual lines means: Are we going to keep doing the work in 5 years, 10 years, 25? Are we going to continue praying and meditating, writing inventory and helping others, especially when we feel like shit and don't want to anything?

     Newsflash: Life isn't about me feeling good 24/7... although I used to be pretty sure it was. I finally had to ask myself why I got better. Did I get better in order to grow up and be a normal, responsible adult? Did I get better to live a healthy, fulfilling, and relatively happy life? Or did I get better only to find ways to continue feeling good all of the time? If that's the case, then you should just keep drinking and getting jammed out of your fucking mind, because you'll still be virtually useless to anybody in your still selfish life.

     So getting better involved me understanding that life was about feeling both good and bad, about success and failure, joy and pain, love and heartache, gain and loss, light and dark. I had to accept that the sole purpose of my life was not about perpetually feeling comfortable. It was about experiencing both the ups and downs and walking through all of it with courage and grace.

God, help me to put my spiritual health above all else, regardless of how I feel...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Accosting Religiosity

     I used to accost Jesus freaks who hung out in the subway stations wearing wooden planks and passed out end-of-the-world pamphlets. I yearned for them to suffer the shame of hearing what I thought was the truth. I couldn't wait to show them how brainwashed and stupid they were, how IQ tests don't measure low enough to cover these neolithics. How do you like that? Sounds pretty harsh, doesn't it?

     Well, that's because it is... and this is who I used to be, which is amusing considering I am a Christian. But this is how pathetic and arrogant I was. I used to unleash rage against religious fundamentalists. I couldn't fathom the assertion that someone else could "save" them, positive that only we can save ourselves. I couldn't fathom their denial of certain anthropological facts and blind belief in things that may never have occurred. I couldn't fathom their certainty in thinking they knew the truth about God and how everybody else was wrong and going to some Hell (including peace-loving, Buddhist monks). Do none of them consider that the concepts of Heaven and Hell could refer to our current life experience?

     The truth is that most people in the world are religious in some way and believe in a greater power. What, so everybody is a fucking moron and I know the real truth? Haha, who's the arrogant one now? Another truth is that most religious people don't need to ingest at least two OC 80s just to get to work in the morning. They don't need to get plastered to have a five-minute conversation. They don't need to sniff a bag of dope, take a few bong hits and light up a cigarette just to listen to their wife tell them about her day. Nope. But I still thought I had it all figured out.

     The sheer comedy of all this is actually watching a guy like me judging all of these people who are getting up, going to work, taking care of their families, being honest, doing service and trying to live by spiritual principles without being an absolute junkbox. These are people who can have a bad day and simply walk through it without running to the liquor store. These are people who can suffer a little without broadcasting it on the nightly news or whining about it to everyone they know. These are people who at least believe in SOMETHING. I shouldn't have been so quick to judge, considering how much I now rely on GOD.

     Bottom line: Who are we addicts and alcoholics to judge anyone? I mean look at us for God's sake! (pun intended)

God, help me to remember that the only person I have the right to judge is myself...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rushing Out

     Addicts shouldn't be waking up and rushing out of the door first thing in the morning. If I don't wake up and take some time to pray, breathe, be still, read some passage... the rest of my day is a total, utter disaster. The days I rush out are the days that drivers cut me off sending me into a rage, the days creditors call and accuse me of being a deadbeat, the days that I cut myself and have to turn around and drive home to bandage myself up, leaving me late and stressed out to some appointment. Those are the days that I cop resentments about everything because everything pisses me off, the days my mind starts racing again and I feel myself going nuts, the days that remind me how NOT better I really am.

     On the other hand, when I remember to wake up and stop first before speeding out of the door, the day is entirely different. It's almost like magic. I just have to remember to get grounded and connected before subjecting myself to the endless noise of the world. Trust me, addicts need peace and quiet as much as anybody. I don't care if you live in the city or in the middle of nowhere, alcoholics and drug addicts usually have a much lower tolerance for too much WORLD, if you will. We need to buckle up and tune in before we go out for the day.

     But why? Why is it that when I forget to pray in the morning does the rest of my day blow up right before my eyes? Conversely, how is it that I can better handle life and the stresses that smack me in the face when I stop and pray first? Well, I guess because prayer works if I'm not praying selfishly. But there's more to it. Stopping and praying helps me to let go. It literally changes the chemistry in my brain so that I'm not solely relying on my will and my screwed up head to guide me through the day. It allows God's will to take my hand, which helps me to instinctually know what to do next and how to do it. I realize that sounds pretty fluffy but, like anything, it's hard to understand if you haven't experienced it.

     For sure, there are two ways to get through life. One is the addict's way and it is filled with struggle, chaos and failure. We are always butting heads with something, attracting conflict and running into bad luck. Nothing really works out living life this way. And sure by exerting my will and trying to run and control my life, I may achieve great success. But am I really successful? Am I really succeeding if I am void of one, fundamental thing - peace? So it's either the addict's way (the way of the Self) or it's God's way (or whatever you want to call it. Doesn't matter.) One way is frantic. The other is much more sane and mellow.

God, help me remember to stop, be still, and listen to You before rushing out in the morning...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Treatment

     I had another topic for tonight but felt as though I should follow up on how to help the alcoholic or addict in your life.

     So if for some reason you have been able to get through the delusional head of an alcoholic or drug addict and they finally come crawling for help, then first things first.

     Get them to detox.

     Nobody can even begin to heal, grow and change without a clear head. Many hospitals have detox programs that can be accessed through their Emergency Rooms. Walk in and tell the intake nurse that you're an addict and need help. It's as simple as that. If the addict tests for cocaine only, the hospital may reject him or her based on the fact that there is no immediate danger from cocaine withdrawal. In that case, I hate to say it, but go get them drunk and then walk back in. This way they'll test positively for alcohol. Alcohol and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, etc.) are the only two classes of drugs that can be lethal to withdrawal from. This is why they won't turn you away if you test positively for alcohol.

     It's very important for parents or spouses to understand that detox is NOT treatment. Don't let the addict or alcoholic fool you, as they will often have a change of heart once they get the drugs out of their system and start to feel better. Suddenly, they want to leave the hospital as they declare that all is well in their world. They convincingly assert how they have never been better and have a new lease on life. They will tell you how motivated they are to stay sober and make positive changes.

     Trust me, it's all bullshit.

     If they think detox is all they need, you might as well watch them walk out of the hospital door and follow them to the bar or the dealer's apartment... because that's where they'll end up sooner or later.

     After detox, it gets a little tricky. Why? Because I'm not aware of too many treatment centers that take addicts and alcoholics through a rigorous Twelve Step program, that is to say a place that takes the Twelve Step program of spiritual action directly out of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The instructions are in there, but have to be interpreted by someone who has taken Steps personally. Doctors, therapists, social workers and pills of any kind are pretty much useless. Aside from such rare programs, the other option is for the addict to be put in touch with a recovered alcoholic or addict who can take them through the Step process individually.

     A warning. There are a slew of treatment methods out there, including individual and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, role play, triggers (which don't exist) and relapse prevention, pills such as anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, methadone or suboxone. I have tried just about every conventional method that exists in the world today and FAILED every time. The only thing that worked for me was to thoroughly and fearlessly take STEPS right out of the Big Book - the AA text book, if you will.

     Originally, AA had nothing to do with meetings. It was simply a program of rigorous action capable of expelling the various poisons within in order to achieve sanity and establish a relationship with God. Today, this process will get watered down at every opportunity. People are always looking for easier, softer ways. If you can find any that honestly work, let me know...

God, help those who still suffer find their way to the Steps and to You...

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Not to Help Addicts


     Tell an addict what he wants to hear and you might as well sign his death warrant. In other words, the people who told me what I wanted to hear helped me the least. Conversely, the people who told me what I didn't want to hear helped me the most. If you care about someone and want them to get better, do not let them steal from you anymore, whether it's your time, energy, love, home or money. The trick is to treat them for what they are. Treat them like an alcoholic, a drug addict, a criminal, a child, or a selfish jerk who causes you nothing but pain. Addicts, of course, cannot be stopped. But spouses, families and friends can help their cause by putting their feet down as much as possible. You may not agree, but at least it gives you a hand to play.

     Do not shower addicts with love, affection, money, or any other "helpful" thing. Only by removing privileges will you have a chance to stop us. You must remove everything you possibly can, even your presence. Addicts will ride the train as long as they can. The only thing that might get them to stop, take a look at themselves, and perhaps even get some help is by taking things away from them. Take away all avenues to comfort. Take away all forms of monetary assistance. Call the cops on them if they are taking your jewelry to pawn for crack or heroin or pills or booze or weed (yup, weed too.) Take away their home and their food. Kick them out of your house and tell them you don't want to see them until they are ready to get better.

     Addicts need to be humbled.

     It's tough, especially for parents, to act counter-instinctually, but the sad truth is that by giving addicts love and support, you are killing them. Because, remember, all they want to do is use. All they want is to continue using the way they want and they will trick you to get what they want. They will act like your loving son or daughter and have dinner with you if it means you might throw them a 20. They will go hang out with you while you shop or even rake your lawn if it means you might throw them a 20 for some lie they have peddled... like they just need it to go buy groceries or rent Disney's Bambi for a night in. Don't fall for it. Addicts are actors and frauds and phonies. Comfort is all we care about in this world. Nothing else.

     So unfortunately, the people who love us the most usually help us the least. If you're a parent or a spouse or a sibling or a friend, fight your instincts to enable us with everything you have and try to treat the addict in your life as you would treat some dirty addict on the street who you've never met.

God, please give strength to those who love us, and give them the power to treat us for what we are...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Resentment


     "Anger and resentment are like acid to a seeing eye. They burn and blind the eye so that it cannot see clearly anymore. As long as they inhabit the body, forgiveness is impossible. But when I become accountable for everything in my life, all of it magically crumbles and suddenly I can forgive anyone. I just don’t care anymore because there is nothing left to blame. Above all, I can forgive myself. That is a miracle." - The Privileged Addict, p.165
   
     Why do I write inventory? 

     To extract resentment from my body.

     What is resentment?

     It's a form of emotional poison caused by an inability to perceive things clearly. Resentment is not caused by anything external. It is not caused anybody else, contrary to popular belief. It is caused by me and me alone. Sure, some person may have wronged me terribly. But the birth of the resentment and it's growing presence within is caused by my reaction to that event. I caused it, own it, and therefore nobody and nothing can extract it but me. This is why addicts and alcoholics are so blessed with God-given tools such as inventory.

(Note: Also see Resentment Inventory, Resentment Inventory Example, Fear Inventory, Sex InventoryMore InventoryHome Depot InventoryProfessor Masshole & Resenting Ourselves?)

     Sometimes it is difficult to see my responsibility in causing a resentment. But as sure as the sun, it is there, covered by layer upon layer of self-deception, denial, and just plain ignorance. Because I am defensive, proud, ashamed, scared and dishonest, I must do some work and some hair-pulling to figure out my part in causing the resentment.

     So why bother with all that? Why should I spend my precious time extracting resentment from my being?

    Well, first of all, it's my responsibility. Second, resentments left unchecked can destroy an alcoholic or drug addict sooner than the drug itself. More importantly, they will destroy an addict who has already gotten sober. They will rob him or her of a fulfilling life with fulfilling relationships. They will keep his mind warped, twisted and deranged. They will keep him spiritually ill. They will keep a wall up between him and getting better, between him and God. Ultimately, as with any other poison, they may end him altogether.

     In order to get better, I had to stop choosing to see events as acting upon me as opposed to attracting the events to myself. Why? Because by committing the former, I begin reacting to events that I falsely believe something else is responsible for. My feelings become dependent on the world around me, dependent on the words, actions, and moods of those around me. Letting go of my dependence on the external world = internal freedom.

     Truth be told, it really doesn't matter who we are, addict or not. Resentment left to brood will crush anybody. Extracting resentments and the mechanisms by which they are born is necessary to achieve peace. I suppose this is just what it means to grow up.

God, please give me the courage, willingness and clarity to extract resentment and anger from within...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mental Obsession

     Mental Obsession: Recurring thoughts or ideas that do not respond to ration or reason.

     Besides the physical allergy and the underlying spiritual illness, the other component of addiction is the presence of a mental obsession - a very unique form of insanity, and one that can manifest quite randomly and for no apparent reason. It is also otherwise non-existent except when it rears its demonic head.

     According to the Big Book, the mental obsession can manifest itself in two ways: randomly or deliberately. When we deliberately succumb to the obsession to drink or get high, we are justifying it. We suddenly believe that we have the right to get plastered because nobody feels the way we do, because our job is stressful or our boss is an asshole, because we feel anxiety or because our best friend backstabbed us, because we lost a parent prematurely or because the town we live in sucks. Whatever the case, we are convinced that we have the right to stick a needle in our arm because our lives are so much tougher than everybody else's. We believe this even if we have a long history of using abnormally, and worse yet, even if it comes at the expense of hurting others.

     When the mental obsession hits us randomly, that is the very crux of our problem. Spontaneously going insane for no reason at all is why addicts and alcoholics cannot stay sober. This is also why you meet so many addicts and alcoholics who say they are "recovering" as opposed to "recovered." Trust me, there is most certainly a difference. To be recovering implies that we are still struggling and are therefore subject to relapse. To be recovered implies that we no longer suffer from the mental obsession, and therefore we are sane again, and therefore we are not subject to relapse. If an addict is sane, he or she is not "in recovery." Hell, we could go work in a bar or a meth lab, because alcohol and meth have no power over us. There are no triggers for a recovered person. They are free. Yes, it is possible to be free and to go anywhere in the world safely.

     So the random obsession occurs, yup, you got it, randomly. We are going along, it's a perfectly beautiful day, there is nothing wrong, feelin' fine, perhaps we're even happy (imagine that). Then.... suddenly the thought pops into our heads that it would be a great day to crush up an OxyContin and sniff it in the bathroom. I mean why not? What's wrong with that? These random thoughts can occur weeks, months, or even years after achieving physical sobriety. And when they do, a switch goes off. From that point on, there is no way we will NOT use. A decision has been made. Once the thought enters our head, we obsess about it and continue to obsess until we finally drink or use. And there is no getting rid of the thought. This is the insanity of it.

     The insanity is also characterized by another strange occurrence. When these random thoughts hit us, we seem to suddenly forget everything we know about our history with addiction - the fact that we cannot use normally, all the people we will hurt or lose, all the trouble we will get into, and so on. All of it just disappears. Irrational thoughts suddenly seem rational. Even though we've been a chronic drug addict for 15 years, arrested, committed, totalled cars, burned bridges, lost money, respect, friends and family... it suddenly seems normal and of little concern to go get high. We suddenly believe we can handle it this time. Hunh?

     So yes, the addict is nuts.

God, please remove my obsession to drink alcohol and use drugs...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Drug Induced Mania

     I remember going to some dinner thing at my in-laws years ago. My poor wife just wanted me to act like a normal, sweet guy so her family wasn't absolutely terrified. That didn't happen.

     First, the one thing I never could help doing was to get jammed out of my freaking mind before any sort of social event. Then I dress up as if I was actually successful - some mix of a Wall Street hot shot / glamour model / Harvard intellecutal. Upon entering, all of the self-indulgent stories and jokes I rehearsed come barreling out of my mouth. I'm sure everybody is looking at me with awe and envy. Um, yeah they were looking, but only in disgust. The only person in the room who is actually comfortable is me. Everybody else is annoyed beyond belief and suffering my presence.

     Quick little reminder to any addicts out there who happen to be in one of your manic, show-off phases: Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares what you're doing. Nobody cares about your intellect, your achievements, your body or your wit. Heads only turn to see the freak show who is clearly high on crack or heroin or booze, and is acting like a complete asshole.

     So what's the problem with sauntering into rooms like I own the world? What's the problem with The Charlie Show? What's the big deal with being loud, obnoxious, cocky, and manic? Doesn't everybody love me and my demented sense of humor? Doesn't everybody think I'm The Man? Um, yeah sure they do - in my MIND.

     What I am really is an embarrassment. I am a phony. The gap between who I'm pretending to be and who I actually am is practically endless. Addicts love to exaggerate everything. They turn everything, good or bad, from a molehill into a mountain. If I made $1,000 on some deal, it turns into $10,000. If I made $35,000 last year, let's just call it $100,000. If my GPA in school was a 3.2, why don't we turn that into a 3.95 with honors? But if I failed today at work, it's because of some prick client and obviously had nothing to do with me. Addicts are frauds.

     This is narcissism. Every addict suffers from it. We have no clue how deeply we may be affecting others. We forget that other people also have feelings, thoughts, worries, sadness, successes and accomplishments. But that doesn't matter to narcissists. Nope. The only thing that matters in this world is ME. Don't you know that? A good wake up call for me was when I realized that not everybody is wondering about me every second of their lives. In fact, most people aren't wondering about me at all, let alone preoccupied with me, as every narcissist assumes and perhaps even wishes.

     Getting better was feeling the shame of who I was. But only for a little while, because eventually I had to learn how to accept and love myself again - in a healthy way. We addicts are not doormats. We must stand up and protect ourselves. But it sure is useful (and humbling) never to forget the absolute shitheads that we once were.

     Now I get it. Now I see how unattractive it is. Now I can strive to get out of myself day after day, which can be an entire Life Purpose in and of itself. Now I can spend some time thinking about others, and perhaps even lend a hand. The best thing an addict can do is to spend some time not thinking about themselves. Go ahead, Charlie, think about someone else for a change.

God, teach me to be more other-centered...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'Living' Amends

     I was taught to distinguish between a 'contractual' amends and a 'living' amends. Contractual amends are the easy ones. You confront, admit your wrong, ask what you can do to make it right, and then wipe your hands and check it off your 8th Step amends list. Confronting one of your old bosses is easy. Walking into a department store you stole from is easy. Being accountable to an old friend or colleague is easy. Why? Because you get to walk away afterwards, cross it off, and probably never see these people again. Or if you do see them, the slate is clear. But not so with our families. The slate is NEVER clear.

     A living amends goes on until the day that I die. Those closest to me have no interest in hearing a quick "sorry" and then off I go. First of all, we don't say "sorry" when we make amends. Our spouses and relatives have heard "sorry" more than they can stand, only to see us repeat the same destructive and heartbreaking behaviors, words and actions again and again and again. So no, "sorry" isn't gonna cut it.

     But neither will a one-time amends. The people who have stuck with us through our addiction probably don't have much interest in hearing some rehearsed soliloquy. Our parents, spouses, siblings and close friends have had their hearts ripped open, their trust spat on, their patience, time, energy and love stolen. They are exhausted. These folks don't need to hear some self-serving monologue, where the addict or alcoholic gets to clear their conscience and then off they go to enjoy their new found inner peace. Nope. The people closest to us want us to change into a different person each and every day. They want us to act right and give back every single day. They want us to be the son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister that they should have had. They want us to be a better person. They want us to just quietly do the right thing and not talk about it.

     A friend up North told a story one time, where she called her parents after she had been sober for a year. She called out of excitement for her accomplishment, fully expecting them to shower her with congratulations. "Mom, dad... I've been sober for a whole year! I got my 1-year sobriety chip at the AA meeting today!" Her parents said nothing. "So?" they finally replied. "So what? How about you stay sober for the rest of your life without announcing it?" Exactly. What great and wise parents. How about we stay sober without expecting a trophy or a pat on the back for it? How about we skip the pride just because we stopped hurting people? So when I make a 'living' amends to my family or my wife, I don't say much. Instead, I take action. I simply BE the husband, son, and brother they have always deserved but didn't get for 28 years.

     Amends to our families are the hardest ones. Why? Because they are never done. Plus, we're talking about people with their own flaws, people who know how to push our buttons, people who may never do any work on themselves, people who may be pretty f'ing annoying. But these amends are by far the most important ones. We're lucky to still have these people in our lives. God knows we certainly don't deserve them. So don't forget them. Ever.

God, please give me the willingness, love and tolerance to always honor my living amends...