Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tao Wisdom

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets about it.
That is why it lasts forever.
-Tao Te Ching, passage 2

     Acting without doing anything means that we act with nothing attached to it. We act and do what's right just for the sake of doing it. We don't have ambition or selfish intention. We don't try too hard or push and force. We just act without carrying all sorts of baggage. We act unemotionally and unconditionally. And we don't act if we are affected.

     Teaching without saying anything means that we teach by example. All of that stuff we believe in and desperately want to preach to everybody, we don't. Instead, we live it. And quietly.

     Letting things come and letting things go is the practice of non-resistance and non-attachment. We don't fight against whatever arises in our lives, and we don't hold on to whatever leaves us. And we do this because we don't need to control everything. We have faith that things are the way they are supposed to be. We let whatever happens, happen. We have faith.

     Having but not possessing means that we don't care about what we have. Sure we have things but it doesn't matter to us. We can take them or leave them because we are okay inside. We are at peace. Possessing the things we have occurs when we are clenched, afraid, empty, and without purpose. We need to possess because we feel powerless. Without real power, we look for false power. Possessing is a false sense of power. It isn't real.

     Acting without expecting is what altruism is. We do things such as helping others without expecting anything in return. We don't act in order to feel a certain way, in order to appease ourselves or to clear our conscience. We act for the sake of acting.

     Forgetting about our work means that we don't need, want or ask for a pat on the back afterwards. We don't need to be seen. We don't need recognition and praise for the things we do. We are perfectly willing to do our work quietly even if no one ever sees what we did. Needing an award for our work negates our work. Helping someone and then showing off afterwards erases the deed. Forgetting about our work ensures that its essence lasts forever because it hasn't been tainted by our selfishness. Showing off is like pouring a slow-burning acid over our work. Over time, the work disintegrates and then disappears altogether. Nobody cares what we do when we show off about it.

     Achieve this and we are well on our way to enlightenment. I've been sober and taking Steps for more than 7 years now and I'm still miles and miles and miles away from this...

God, teach me to let go, not to attach, resist or expect, to let what comes come and what goes go...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Recovering vs Recovered

     Not sure why, but folks in AA look at me like I'm evil when I say I'm a recovered alcoholic. This is especially fascinating considering the title page of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly states, The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have RECOVERED From Alcoholism (caps used for emphasis - yes, pun intended).

     If we are "recovering" or "in recovery", then we have achieved physical sobriety but continue to struggle. We are restless, irritable and discontent. We still want to drink. We fight to stay sober and get through each day. Terms like dry drunk and white knuckling it are reserved for those who are merely recovering.

     Why does this sound harsh and why make a fuss about the distinction?

     Because being in recovery is not the solution that AA prescribes. AA makes no mention that its program in intended to leave an individual suffering, craving, fighting and utterly miserable. And what sucks is that people commonly think that any alcoholic or addict who gets clean is always on the edge of relapse for the rest of their shitty, selfish lives.

     The truth is that AA is a rigorous program of action that brings a sober alcoholic or addict from "recovering" to "recovered". Recovered is what we can achieve once we become willing to go to any lengths to get better, once we fearlessly embark on the Twelve Step actions laid out in the AA text book (The Big Book). When we have this spiritual experience and a psychic change occurs, our once broken minds become fixed and we are sane again. We no longer suffer from any obsession to drink or use drugs. We are no longer out of control emotionally. We no longer whine and complain and suck others dry. We no longer fight and struggle through every second of the day. In fact, a natural urge to repel drugs and alcohol lives in us and becomes stronger and stronger with each spiritual action we take.

     When we become recovered, people no longer see us as alcoholics. While in recovery, we still act like children and remain enslaved by our self-centered frame of mind. Recovered, we act like adults who can tend to the needs of others.

     Drinking doesn't have to be a problem for alcoholics, nor drugs for addicts. Life, work, emotions and relationships don't have to be a problem. If they are for anyone out there, then there is something wrong or missing in your program. I'm not trying to be a dick, I'm just saying that it blows my mind that there are so many thousands of men and women in AA who are fighting desperately to stay sober, when AA is, in fact, The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism.

     The solution is sitting right there for any of us lazy knuckleheads to harness and run with. We just have to open the book and do the work.

God, please show me what Your will for me is, and please give me the power to carry it out...

Friday, July 27, 2012

God Brass

     If alcoholics and addicts have the capacity to be honest with themselves, they have the seed of God within. And because a seed that is nourished can grow forever, there is no limit to our spiritual growth. There is no limit to how much we can change and heal and thrive and give back. We must simply find the willingness to turn our inner seed into a fountain of strength.

     For willingness, we pray. Two of my favorites are 'God, make me a better man today' & 'God, bring the opportunity to help someone.' I have no idea if the first one ever comes true. But the second one always does. There are always people to help.
     
     I'd like to think that the seed of God is in all of us. Someone once likened this seed to a ball of brass. Perhaps it is dull, worn, small, and has lost its glow. Yet when we polish it and shed the layers of resentment, fear, selfishness and dishonesty, gradually it becomes brighter and brighter. It begins to glow once again. It begins to grow. Our conscience expands, and we become acutely aware of what is right and what is wrong. So my job is to make sure I continue to polish my God brass on a regular basis so that it never becomes dull or loses its shine. 

God, help me to grow spiritually, that my God brass may shine within...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sex Inventory

(Also see Resentment, Resentment Inventory, Resentment Inventory Example & Fear Inventory.)

Sex inventory...

The instructions are: a) write who I’ve hurt, b) write who ELSE I’ve hurt, c) write what happened, and d) write what I should have done instead.

Here’s an example:

1st Column - Who?
College girl   
2nd Column - Who else? 
Her husband 
3rd Column - What happened? 
Slept with her knowing she was married, and pretended I cared about her.  
4th Column - What should I have done instead?
Left her alone. At the very least I should have masturbated rather than destroy someone’s marriage.

As a conscienceless addict, I filled my emptiness by manipulating women and using them for sex. I used a foreign girl in college fully aware that she was married. I used my gifts to manipulate her, taking her into piano rooms on campus and playing Chopin while I stared into her eyes. From piano recitals to piano room seductions… this is what I became. I acted like I cared about women just to have sex with them, and then I got as far away as possible. I showed little or no remorse at all. And when I showed it, I never really felt it inside. Yes, I knew it was wrong, but satisfying lust was far more important. That’s the sort of behavior that must cease forever if I plan on staying sober.

God, please help my conscience to grow and grow, and give me the power and the willingness to never ignore it...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Projection

     When we engage in projection, we are in a state of delusion. Projection is when we transfer or "project" our own defects onto someone else. We accuse others of the very qualities, behaviors and attitudes that we own ourselves. So when I'm screaming at someone, or judging them, or calling them names, or ripping them apart from every angle, I should be screaming in a mirror because I'm really just talking about myself. I tend to think that when we lash out angrily at others, most of what we say is projection. Addicts, narcissists and crazy people who are incapable of assuming any responsibility for their words, thoughts and actions engage in pathological projection. I suppose it's a defense mechanism born of too much pride, shame, self-hatred and immaturity.
   
     We who project are like children who never grew up. We become ever more damaged and now live in a deluded world of our own, broken from reality and shattered to the core. I know a few crazies like this, and let me say that now I know how annoying and pathetic I once was. When my son was born, I became the object of someone's projection, and I thanked God that though I became an alcoholic, I didn't become damaged beyond repair. I never lost the capacity to be honest with myself, which, along with willingness, is the one requirement to getting better. But if I had become this damaged, my entire life would have become a joke. It would have become a waste of air, water and other precious natural resources. I would have gone through my entire life hurting others with no shame, no remorse, no accountability...

     So to my fellow addicts out there still abusing people at will, take the advice one of my guides so kindly imparted to me long ago:

     Grow up.

God, please remove my defects of character, and replace them with love...

Monday, July 23, 2012

God Proof

     In the 2nd Step, we are asked to believe in a power outside of ourselves, one that is capable of fixing us - GOD. Boy, what a loaded word that is. But God is just a three-letter word meant to convey an idea, like any other word. The problem is when we mention God, all sorts of man-made concepts and belief systems invade our consciousness, not to mention traumatic personal experiences with religious fundamentalism, or religiously justified domestic abuse, or even (gulp) ethnic cleansing. But codes, creeds, rituals, churches, pipe organs, Sunday school, and a big throne with a Caucasian, bearded man sitting there with his rod and staff are all just man-made social constructs.

     Who are we to know what God is and what he looks like? And why is God in a building on Sunday morning but not outside in the woods on Monday afternoon?

     And then there's atheism. Some of us think that if you can't see, hear or touch something, then it doesn't exist. Some think you cannot prove the existence of God. Well, first of all, let me say that I think the whole of science simply proves the existence of God because science just shows us how incredible and miraculous everything is.

     But the best argument is found right in the Big Book, and in an old Dexter episode I was watching the other night. The argument is quite simple. The Big Book asks,

     "Who are we to say there is no God?"

     And Dexter counters to the assertion that we can't prove the existence of God by flipping the coin.

     "Maybe I can't prove there is a God but you can't prove there isn't."

God, help me to suspend my disbelief long enough for You to fill me up...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blind Faith

   
     Blind faith is the key to getting better.

     Alcoholics and addicts are stubborn, obstinate, and tend to worship their own minds/intellect. We think we can get ourselves better if and when we choose, which is a fallacy. And no matter how smart we think we are, our minds have instead become narrow, limited and ignorant. We demand to see results. We demand to know exactly what it is that will fix us. We want to see it to believe it... but that may be the one thing standing in the way of getting better.

     Until I read my inventory (5th Step) and recited the 7th Step prayer, I had no idea if any of it would actually work. At times, it was difficult to embark on this mountain of work without knowing the end result. There was no guarantee I would have some profound psychic change. There was no guarantee I would recover. This is exactly why us addicts need to take a leap of faith... to break a lifelong pattern of never trusting in the unknown. We always have to know. We cling to our own self-will and sense of control because we don't trust in letting go. We don't trust in God's will.

     So in the Steps we are asked to step into the darkness, unsure of where we will land. We are asked to just do the work on faith and see what happens. It's like a trust fall. You don't know that all of those people will catch you when you fall back. You have to trust that they will. Faith is trust. Trust that it will work. Trust that you will be okay. Trust in your recovery. Trust in the unknown. Trust in God. And hey, why not?

God, teach me to be still and know...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anger

     Anger is a lack of purpose...

     Some punk kid called me a prick the other day after wrecking one of our apartment doors, so I pretty much lost it. The best is that I didn't react at first, but upon further reflection, or rather lack thereof, I let him have it. I just couldn't let it go.

     Anger is a code word, like depression. Underneath depression is anger. Underneath anger is grief, and underneath grief is spiritual imbalance. Spiritual illness often results from a lack of purpose. If I'm on the wrong path, I am spiritually ill. If I'm on a path that doesn't serve anyone, I am spiritually ill. And if I have found the right path of service but stop serving for a while, I become spiritually ill.

     Conversely, when I am giving of myself, I don't get angry. When I am working with others, I don't get angry. When I am speaking, writing, meditating and praying, I don't get angry. When I am constantly taking actions that bring me closer to God, I don't get angry.

     We addicts should never retreat from life, from others, from reaching out. We should never isolate and become consumed by self. Service is by far the greatest gift we have been given.

God, help me to let go of my anger, fear, resentment and self-loathing...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recovery NOT A Function Of Time

     Bottom line: The better I want to get, the more action I will take. The better I want to feel, the more action I will take.

     Recovery, or rather, mental and spiritual health, is NOT a function of time... it is a function of what actions we take and at what frequency we take them (consistency). I've known many people only six months into sobriety yet involved in a rigorous program of action who are far more sane, healthy, coherent, useful and at peace than a slew of untreated types I have met in AA who are sober for ten, twenty, even thirty years yet are still filled to the brim with resentment, depression, chaos, and who struggle as if it is, and must be, a fight to stay sober from one day to the next.

     But those who have taken Steps the way they are laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are people I would trust with my life. They take honesty and right action more seriously than anything else. They value and put their relationship with GOD above all else. They are people who will do their absolute best to do the right thing, say the right thing, and think the right thing. They are willing to be honest and do anything it takes to get better. I can trust them completely, though I may hardly know them personally. But I know what they have done.

     Those who live in this solution are happy, strong, solid people. They are a joy to be in the company of. I do not hear self-pity and sob stories from them. I do not feel emotionally drained and sucked dry of all my energy when I spend time with them. I do not need an aspirin after just five-minutes of a one-sided conversation. Instead, they are comforting. We laugh and we join together to help others.

God, please give me the power and the strength to take spiritual action...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Psychotherapy

     Not to bash psychotherapy, but it's pretty useless for a drug addict.

     Most addicts, being pathological liars and manipulators, will simply get the therapist to tell them what they want to hear. Hearing that we had a rough childhood, that we were abused, that we have anger, depression and sadness is like music to our ears. All of that victim bullshit just allows us to justify our drinking and using. Then we can go home and scream at everyone that,

     No wonder we're on drugs you assholes! It's not our fault, it's our crazy families, or our abusive dads, or our alcoholic genes, or some disorder, or some life event!

     Bullshit. It's like,

     Hey, sorry I totalled the car Dad, but it wasn't me, it was the bipolar I have! OR Sorry I just called you a crazy bitch, Mom, but I can't help it because I have depression! OR Sorry I verbally abused you just to get out of the door to go buy more heroin from Pablo, sweetheart, but I just can't help it because I'm an addict...  and oh yeah, I have a crazy family so it's not my fault and there's nothing I can do about it!

     Therapists give us excuses. The more screwed up we are, the better.

     Talking is not a solution for addicts. We are the biggest bullshit artists in the world. All we do is talk. We talk about this, we talk about that, we talk our way into and out of anything. And even if we are honest in therapy, it's still useless. Sure talking may educate us about ourselves a bit, but then we leave our 55-minute sessions totally unequipped. What happens for the 6 days and 23 hours left in the week? What tools have we been given for after we leave the office? An insane, hopeless addict is going to need more than a once-a-week bullshit session.

     We need a slew of tools that we can use in our daily lives. We need to learn how to live, work, relate, give back. We need to learn how to meditate, pray, write inventory and help others.

     Finally, unless a therapist has felt and used the way we did, he or she is once again, useless. We have no interest in listening to you if you aren't an addict who has found a solution that really works. We will only listen to you if you are a junkbox but somehow you are standing before us calm, centered, strong, content and without any air about you. We will only listen to you if you have something that we want.

     Therapists don't have anything I want. I don't need something out of an academic textbook. I need nothing short of a spiritual experience. Can my 55-minute sessions produce a profound spiritual experience? Never happened to me, but definitely let me know if did to you.

     P.S. Writing a thorough 4th Step inventory is like the equivalent of 20 odd years of psychotherapy... but it's free and it doesn't take 20 years.

God, teach me to embrace action, work, service and looking forward as opposed to talking, excuses, reasons and looking backwards...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unfamiliar Territory

     Why do addicts sabotage everything... over and over and over?

     Because being happy is such unfamiliar territory. They've gotten used to misery and drama and negativity. They've gotten used to destroying everything. They've become pain-dependent. Being happy and successful and fulfilled and at peace is far too strange a feeling for addicts. So when things start going our way, it's much easier to just tear the whole thing down.

     Sabotaging all the good things in our life is also a defense mechanism, oddly enough. If we're always screwed up and making a mess of things, no one will expect that much from us. It takes the pressure and the focus off. More importantly, it allows us to use the way we want to. It allows us enough moral relativity to just do whatever we want to. We can justify doing the stupidest shit in the world because we're 'just screwed up that way'. Great excuse, huh? So sabotage is a defense mechanism because it allows us to keep the standard lower. When we relapse and destroy everything, nobody is surprised.

     By the way, that is the most ridiculous reason not to get better. We should get better because we have lived a life of cowardice. We should get better because we have put ourselves in front of all others. We should get better because we have ripped our loved ones' hearts out. We should get better because we have destroyed friendships, burned bridges, and become a waste of the world's natural resources. We should get better because it is the right thing to do.

     Why not drop the preoccupation with self-comfort and challenge myself not to be a complete loser? Why not grow up and walk through some pain and discomfort like the rest of the people on the planet? Who are we addicts to remain in our comfort zones if doing so comes at the expense of hurting others?

God, help me to trust in my recovery, that I may embrace strength and success...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Families & Codependency

     Families don't need to suffer...

     Families and spouses can become spiritually ill and go somewhat insane themselves, just as the addict. Let's face it, if you live with a crazy person, chances are you will go sort of crazy yourself. An addict’s negative energy permeates all who surround him. If and when the addict gets better, spouses and family members are suddenly slammed with the pile of crap inside of them that had built up and was perhaps ignored by necessity. They begin to suffer greatly and wonder why.

     Why do I feel more awful now that he or she has gotten well? I should feel better now... but I feel worse!

     Our addiction is their bridge to insanity. The addiction of another can become a necessary preoccupation from their own worsening mental sickness, anxiety or depression. In a strange, almost pain-dependent way, families remain in a comfort zone of their own by trying to control, fix, manipulate, instigate, antagonize… all things a healthy person would recoil from. But for codependents, addiction provides them with a strange relief by enabling them to constantly deflect their own pain, self-responsibility, character flaws, or dependency issues. This is why most couples break up after the addict gets better. If one person gets better and the other does not, there isn't much of a happy future ahead. Also, the sober addict is often nothing like the way he or she used to be. His or her spouse might wake up and realize,

     Wait a minute, I'm not sure I even like this person! Sure they were an asshole when actively drinking, but it was that old personality I fell in love with, not this new one.  

     Regardless of what happens, once an addict achieves health and sanity, many family members and loved ones cannot help but realize how much pain they are in. Therefore, parents and spouses usually need the same thing addicts do - for the hole inside them to be filled. It does not seem fair, and the truth is, it’s not. But it’s reality. Codependents have always had us addicts to distract them and to blame. If we suddenly get better, there is no more distraction and nothing more to blame. Everything inside that the codependent has neatly tucked away now stares them right in the face. Time to take some action.

     I strongly suggest that any spouses, parents, close relatives or friends who are suffering, even long after the addict has recovered, go out and embark on a rigorous Twelve Step process. It may save them as well. To note, they can follow the exact same Big Book Twelve Step directions that we do. All they need is to find a recovered sponsor or an al-anon sponsor who has taken these Steps and recovered.

    Ultimately, the only thing you can really do to change anything is to let go of the addict and go heal yourself.

God, please give our families and spouses the willingness and power to heal and grow...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parents & Spouses Take Steps

     Seven years ago, I got to escape to my cozy little treatment center to rest and recover, to nourish myself and feel better. I got to eat well, heal myself and focus on my spirit. I got to run away from the world all over again while my wife was left to deal with the bills, rent, insane phone calls from drug dealers... and a mountain of heartache. As my insanity washed away, her's sunk in. While she was preoccupied with my lunacy, a well of pain and resentment had built up inside her. She knew she had to do something, so she became willing, and then took Steps, just as I.

     What my wife did took untold courage. She could have said,

     "To hell with this, why do I have to get better? You’re the selfish piece of shit drug addict, and now I’m the one who has to change?! How fair is that? Screw it, I’m out of here!"

     But my wife knew she was hurting. And yes it’s my fault, but people in the addict’s life choose to respond in different ways. Someone else's addiction can become an excuse to avoid one’s own unresolved pain or anger, a way to remain in the comfort zone of victimization, a way to set the standard lower for themselves. One way or the other, families do not have to go on suffering. There is a solution for them too. Spouses and families can also take Steps. Anyone can. 

     Sure the Twelve Steps were designed for the alcoholic and drug addict. The bottom line, however, is they are simple tools of action that enable any person to heal, grow and change. The absence of Self, in my opinion, is to the benefit of anyone, addict or non-addict.

     This process pushed both me and my wife to do some growing up, to become honest, and to get outside of ourselves a little bit in an effort to serve others. We are far, far from perfect but now have the tools to cultivate a more selfless attitude, which, if used, can open us to deeper love, tolerance, patience, and most importantly, some humility. The returns are well worth it. Most of all, we have some peace of mind. We see good things happen to those we love and to ourselves.

     Cause and effect: Positive actions, positive results. Negative actions, negative results. Universal.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Self Will vs God's Will

     When I get out of my own way, what fills the space is God's will...   
   
     The only time something becomes impossible is when I become hell bent on getting it. I used to agonize over getting things. I had to have this, become that, change into this, look like that. The more I pushed, the farther away it all went. Trying to grasp too hard, I couldn't seem to actually get anything.

     I pushed and pushed to become a musician, and the more I pushed, the farther away the record deal got. I pushed and pushed to become an actor, and the more I pushed, the farther away the lead role got. I pushed and pushed to become a writer, and the more I pushed, the more the rejection letters came pouring in. I pushed and pushed to make money, and the more I pushed, the less money I made. I pushed and pushed to become enlightened, and the more I pushed, the more angry, frustrated and depressed I became.

     But when I finally let go of needing to achieve, I found peace. When I stop trying to force my will, everything began to materialize. When I let go of my selfish desires, dreams and hopes, they began to hit me in the face when I wasn't looking. When I simply let go and focused on doing the right thing in this moment, everything fell into place. When I put all of my ambitions aside and just focused on growing spiritually, I became free.

     Sure I have to work, pay the bills, and put some effort into my art, business and spiritual growth... but when I let go of the outcome, that's when I feel truly calm. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever doesn't happen, doesn't. Whatever comes, comes and whatever goes, goes. Letting go is the best thing I have learned because I don't care about the outcome anymore.

     Expectation is a form of torture. But forgetting about all the worldly shit I thought I had to achieve and instead accepting God's will, I am free. And by God's will, I don't mean anything in particular. All that means is letting go of my insane need to push and drive and speed and force my way here and there, conquering this or that.

     God's will, in the simplest terms, is just NOT my own. I simply do what's right in front of me and the next thing will happen on its own. And when I do actively pursue something, it's because I have become still and quiet, and my gut tells me that I need to go do this thing. When I wake up and know what I need to do, that is God's will. When a friend, relative or sponsee calls for help, that is God's will. When I feel compelled to create something, fix something, get rid of something or attend to something, that is God's will. When I get out of my own way, what fills the space is God's will.

Also see: Self Will for God's Will

God, help me to let go and align with Your will for me...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2nd Step

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

     If I can take a 1st Step, then I can take a 2nd Step. Without knowing it, by taking a 1st Step, we've already taken a 2nd Step.

     I remember sitting in treatment and a fellow knucklehead was trying to convince me that I had no power. I went on one of my embarrassing rants, asserting that I had power... just let it get a little out of hand. That's when another guy stared me down and told me if I was still thinking that way, I just wasted my first three days.

     And then the 1st Step hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that for all the things I could do, the one thing I couldn't was to control my addiction. Drugs and alcohol had me by the balls. That's probably why I was sitting in rehab wearing four flannel shirts in the middle of summer after stumbling into detox looking like a corpse.

     So I've just admitted that drugs and alcohol are more powerful than me. If I can believe that, why can't I believe that there is something else more powerful that can fix me? Suddenly I realized that I didn't have to freak out about believing in a Greater Power. There are an endless slew of things more powerful than us humans. We are at the mercy of so many forces, both worldly and other-worldly.

     But to keep it simple, if I've just admitted, felt, and understood that drugs and alcohol have power over me, it was simple logic to accept the possibility of something else more powerful that could effect positive change. And it wasn't long before my blind faith proved true. There was indeed something much, much more powerful than myself, and it shook me to the core one night up North. For a brief time, I felt a force far greater than drugs and alcohol take over my body and mind. In an instant, it removed any and all urge to drink or use drugs. It emptied my mind and filled my heart. I'm sure you can guess what it was. And as it began to seep through my veins, I began to feel a sense of purpose. Instead of a compulsion to drink or use drugs, I felt a compulsion to help others.

     Seven years later, I still feel that compulsion. Living proof that the 12 Steps effect miracles and life long recovery (if taken directly from the Big Book and if taken thoroughly and fearlessly. 99% = 0%.)

God, teach us to be still and know...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nothing & Nobody

     When I came home from treatment, a friend of mine looked at me and said something like, "Man, I'm so proud of you! No wonder you got better... look at everything you have! You got sober for your wife and your family and all the stuff you have. Good job!"

     I thought to myself, Oh my God, this guy has no idea how sick I really am.

     He didn't understand that nothing we have can get us sober or keep us sober. Likewise, nothing anybody says to us can keep us from drinking or using. No relationship, job, or possession means shit to us when it comes to our addiction. Trust me, I didn't get sober because I was hurting my wife and mom. Sure, that would be a damn good reason. But the truth is that there is nothing on this earth that could actually get me to stop.

      When I did finally manage to stop after 15 years of chronic drug addiction, it was only because I was broke, couldn't get more money, could barely stand up, felt like I was dying, and to avoid feeling like I was dying, I dragged myself into an emergency room so some detox program would medicate me. That's all. Yes, it's sick. Yes, it's selfish. And yes, it's somewhat sociopathic.

     But everyone should be clear: Nothing and nobody can make or give addicts enough reasons to stop. They will only stop once they're broke, in jail, or their hearts stop. Non-addicts can't fully understand the inability of an addict to stay sober. They think it's entirely a matter of control and willpower. Well, what if your will is broken? What if you can no longer respond rationally or reasonably to thoughts of using? What if you are insane?

     Bottom line: Addicts have a chip missing. Nothing can get us to stop unless we somehow manage to get ourselves clean and then wind up with a recovered sponsor or wind up at a treatment center/sober house where we take Steps, find God, and grow a new mind.

     But if you're an addict out there, maybe don't tell your wife about that right when you get home. It might be nice for her to think you got sober because of her... and perhaps for her.

"Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices."Dr. William D. Silkworth

God, teach us that no person, place or thing can fix us or keep us sober...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sartre

     Jean Paul Sartre: "Existence precedes essence".

     Whether we end up a hero or a drug addict, Sartre contends that we make ourselves into who or what we are. If we become a drug addicts, we have turned ourselves into drug addicts. There is no blaming our genes, or our parents, or our feelings, or our psychic pain from a past life. Likewise, if we become heroes, it is because we have turned ourselves into heroes.

     We are not born alcoholics or drug addicts. We turn ourselves into them. Sure, there is now scientific evidence of an alcoholic allele, responsible for a predisposition to substance dependency. But we never become useless, selfish alcoholics unless we actually start drinking over and over and over and over. The booze doesn't crawl its way up our bodies and pour itself down our throats. Neither do we become addicts because of our sadness, or our family tree, or the stress of our lives. We do it to ourselves and therefore we are solely responsible for turning ourselves into addicts. We are solely responsible for breaking our minds and our bodies. We cannot blame anything or anyone for becoming alcoholic cowards.

     I often get the chance to remind myself of Sartre's wisdom every time I beat myself up for not achieving something, for not having something, for not being completely f'ing enlightened. I get to remind myself that nothing external is to blame for what I am or for where I am in life. And sure, though my specific genetic structure and certain predispositions may coincide with who I am now, the cementing of my behaviors, my abilities, and my personality is my doing and my doing alone.

     So the next time I sulk and cry into my pity pot, Sartre will kindly remind me that I am what I do, that I am making myself into who and what I am everyday... and therefore I can at any time simply get off my ass and change. And because Sartre was kind enough not to hoard his gifts, he reminds us all that our "existence precedes our essence".

God, help me to always remember that I make myself who I am through my own words, thoughts and actions...

Sartre, Kierkegaard & Existentialism

Friday, July 6, 2012

Once An Addict...

     There is no such thing as making an addict into a non-addict, or making a non-recreational user into a recreational user again. There are programs out there that claim to do just that, but trust me, if you're a real addict, then your body is completely broken and you are physically screwed for the rest of your life. We will most certainly die some day with the body of an addict.

     At a meeting I used to run, guys would say to me that if doctors had some surgery or magic pill that would suddenly make me normal and able to use moderately again, I would take it. One guy yelled at me and called me a liar when I said I wouldn't even think of swallowing this magic pill. Why? Because what I have now, what I have been given as a result of my addiction, I wouldn't give up for anything. I would much rather be an addict with the spiritual life I have now than some joe zombie who, yes, may be able to drink socially with friends on the weekend, but is void of this new dimension that has cracked open in my head and my consciousness.

     My shrunken, narrow world has expanded. Anything is possible now. I can breathe and pray and suddenly my brain changes and I feel calm and at peace again. Just like that. I walk down the street sometimes and suddenly feel lifted up for no apparent reason. I can sit down at home for hours on end with no phone, music, tv, or any other distraction and feel completely content. What is that? What is that, short of a miracle, short of some new connection or access I have to GOD.

    I'd never have the inner life I have now had I not wallowed in the dirty depths of alcoholism, opiate addiction, and severe depression. So I don't have the slightest regret of becoming an addict. We addicts shouldn't be bummed out when we give up the right to do certain things, for it is a blessing. Having given up certain things, the door is now open for something else to come in... something much better, something beautiful. Because we were hopeless drug addicts, we can replace our addiction with something very powerful. Take a wild guess what that is...

God, thank you for saving my life and showering me with blessings...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Suspending Disbelief

     Someone came to me recently about a problem they had with the spiritual element of the AA program. I say spiritual and not religious, as religious implies adherence to a specific doctrine or creed filled with codes and rituals. AA does not wish to force feed anybody religious doctrine. It does however question whether a chronic and hopeless alcoholic can quit upon a non-spiritual basis. If that be the case, we must then be at least willing to accept that there is something Greater than us that can solve our problem. We must turn to God.
     
     But if we are athiest or are particularly stubborn or proud, we may have to temporarily suspend our disbelief in order to open that door. So we simply take all of our beliefs and attitudes and carefully move them aside. While they are temporarily suspended, we embark on the Twelve Steps and see what happens. Chances are that if we are thorough and fearless with our Step work, something happens to us along the way and we suddenly find it easy to accept spiritual concepts and the existence of God, of spiritual Power.
     
     Whether we call it God or Higher Power or Buddha or Tao or Yahweh makes little difference. All that we addicts need in order to recover is a simple willingess to accept the presence of God or God-Power. Right then and there can we begin to rely on this great and limitless power to guide us through our once chaotic lives. We can stop and pray and listen. We can use this power to help us do things that we previously could not do on our own. 
     
     I was in shock and awe at all the things that I could suddenly and quite easily achieve once I let go of my arrogance (arrogance regarding admitting defeat) and self-will, once I got underneath something and began to give credit where credit was due. Once I realized that the power of God was solely responsible for fixing me and was solely responsible for my ability to do right and achieve success, I was well on my way. All good things that have come to me are from God and are God. And all the power I now have to achieve something or to be a good person is given from God and is God. 

     And by the way, I'm still an obstinate bastard with a shitload of character defects... so nobody will ever convince me otherwise.

     God, help me to expel the poison within so that I may be filled up with Your power...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Willing To Be Wrong

     Probably the most important thing we can do to get better is to become willing to be wrong. This was a central theme up North. The Big Book astutely notes that we addicts are obstinate types. We like to argue with you even when we know we are wrong. You say up, I say down. You say left, I say right. You say hi, I say fuck you. We just like to argue. Besides being ridiculous, this sort of attitude can become very dangerous for an alcoholic or an addict who is trying to get better.

     Recovering, healing and growing is all about being wrong. In order to move forward, we peel away a slew of beliefs, notions and attitudes that we were wrong about. With addiction, we come to understand that we were wrong about having power over drugs and alcohol. We were wrong about being able to manage and control our lives during active addiction. We were wrong about being able to get better on our own. We were wrong about not needing spiritual help. We were wrong about all those people we resented. We were wrong about other people's intentions and opinions of us. We were wrong about entire groups of people, about certain institutions and certain principles. Bottom line: Thinking that we are right about everything is by far the largest obstacle to getting better.

     Other obstacles include stubbornness, such as our inability to let go of the preconceived ideas or prejudices we have. We think that if something isn't there for us to see and touch, then it doesn't exist. We aren't willing to just step into the darkness on faith alone that we will be alright. But blind faith is exactly what the doctor ordered. I never would have recovered if I hadn't taken a leap of faith. We don't get the results until we take the leap first. Take the leap, do the work, let go and have faith in something other than our egotistical selves, and then God will restore us to sanity. Let go of our worldly agenda and instead put our spiritual growth first, ahead of everything... and then everything else will fall into place. If all I do is to simply do the right thing, I will somehow be provided with what I need. And that is nothing short of a miracle.

     If we are to truly get better, we must be willing to be wrong. We must put our spiritual health before all else - before our jobs, plans, dreams, even our families and spouses. The #1 priority for any addict who plans on living a good life is his or her relationship with God.

God, teach me to be willing to be wrong... 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Giving Up Rights

     Once I lose control of something, I give up the right to continue doing it. I give up that right simply because I've lost control. There are consequences to losing control. I hurt myself and more importantly, I hurt others. Beyond that, I become useless to the world. I fail to contribute to my fullest capacity. I become irresponsible as a human being. Losing control means that the world has lost a productive soul.

     The second I can no longer control my drinking, I no longer have the right to drink. The second I can no longer control my drug use, I no longer have the right to use drugs.

     And it's the same with every other destructive behavior, action, thought, word, or state of mind.

     If I lose control of my anger, I no longer have the right to get angry (not be angry, get angry). If I lose control over my depression, I no longer have the right to get depressed (and if it happens, then it is my sole duty not to STAY depressed, but rather pull myself out). If I lose control of my anxiety, I no longer have the right to be anxious. If I lose control of my selfishness, I no longer have the right to be selfish. If I lose control of my narcissism, I no longer have the right to be narcissistic. If I lose control of my self-seeking, I no longer have the right to be self-seeking. If I lose control of my integrity, I no longer have the right to be dishonest. If I lose control of my fear, I no longer have the right to live in fear. If I lose control of my mental illness, I no longer have the right to remain mentally ill. If I lose control of my financial responsibility, I no longer have the right to be financially irresponsible. If I lose control of my laziness, I no longer have the right to be lazy. If I lose control of my physical health, I no longer have the right to be physically unhealthy.

     Apply this to anything... especially if you're an addict. There are no excuses for losing control. It's nobody's fault but our own.

     Anyone who has the capacity to be honest with themselves can yield (granted it's a process) to any of these negative behaviors. So there is no excuse to stop doing any of the above things unless we do not have the capacity to be honest. And yes, there are people out there who simply can't be honest. I know a few myself, and let me tell you, as sad as it is, they are pretty much hopeless. They will continue to hurt others and hurt themselves without having any clue that they're doing so. Watch out for these types. We're not doormats. We must set strong boundaries, especially when we're in recovery.

     So other than all that, there isn't much to worry about... haha.

God, please heal and grow my conscience, that I may better know right from wrong...