Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wait, You Don't Like Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pray For Those We Resent

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

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

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

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

From Alcoholics Anonymous, p.552:

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Resenting Ourselves?

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

     Can I resent myself? 

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Couples Therapy

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Triggers Don't Exist

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

     Why?

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

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

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

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

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

     That is complete and total bullshit.

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

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

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

     We can become RECOVERED.

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

     Triggers don't exist.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Excuses of an Addict

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

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

     Right.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Medication vs Meditation

     Just like untreated alcoholics get touchy about the fact that they are white knuckling it and pointlessly going to meetings, so do depressive types get touchy about where their depression came from. When I say that depression is our own fault, I'm not saying it to hurt our already sensitive feelings. I say it purely as a matter of fact.

     Nobody gives us depression or makes us depressed. Fact. You don't catch depression in the air. Fact. We are solely responsible for our depression. Fact. Why is it so offensive to simply understand ourselves and what it is that makes us suffer? Everything we feel and everything we become is the result of our own choices, actions, reactions and responses. Nothing else is to blame for the mental disorders we end up with, just like nothing and no one is to blame for us becoming alcoholics or drug addicts.

     People also get touchy about going to the doctor for meds. I realize that if something is difficult to conquer on your own, or with the help of something Greater, it is natural to want to give up and turn to drugs for an easier, softer way. I don't judge or criticize anybody who wants to take medication for depression.

     I've suffered from major depression. I know how it feels, as I was brutalized by it for years. Depression crippled me and at times paralyzed me. But it can be endured without drugs. I understand how it seems impossible to function and do anything. But it is not impossible. It only feels that way. We may even believe this is the only reality. But it is not. It is not impossible to walk through our feelings. Our feelings do not have the power to stop us. We are not screwed forever without meds.

     When I suffered from depression, I knew deep in my heart that medication was not a solution. Sure I knew that it might work like a charm. But I also knew that when I stopped taking it, I was right back to where I started - insane and untreated. I was still the same, fundamentally damaged person inside. I hadn't fixed any of the things that made me depressed. I hadn't worked on myself a single bit. That I couldn't live with. I couldn't take meds knowing that I'd remain completely fucked in the head, heart, mind and spirit. I wanted to change. I wanted to resolve my pain, expel my demons, and live free.

    True freedom means we forgo the psychotropics. I wanted to change my bio-chemistry without one of corporate America's science projects. And yes, it can be done. Yes, we can change and conquer our depression. Yes, we can even alter our bio-chemistry through action alone. Try meditation.

     The point is, sure these powerful, mood-altering, brain-damaging drugs might work, but we can also accomplish the same thing in a real and true way. We can learn how to pray and meditate. We can exorcise our demons by finding our fault in our resentments and fears. We can take inventory on a daily basis. We can be of service and give to others.

     Remember that depression is a purely selfish state of being, so getting outside of ourselves is the single best thing for us. And if these things don't work right away, it's because they're not meant to. It's not supposed to be easy. It takes courage and guts. God doesn't help those who don't do some hard work first. Try some work and keep up with it, and see what happens. Eventually, the depression will dissipate as you empower yourself and become stronger through right action. Eventually, you will even out and be able to control your emotions.

     The point of life isn't to be in a constant state of rapture anyway. The best thing for us is not to get too low or too high. Why don't doctors promote the medicine of reality? I know, I know... because it doesn't pay. Plus, it's also fun for them to use us like guinea pigs. Pretty soon they'll have the entire country on medication. That should be interesting.

     I know people will get mad at me and say that I could be telling someone not to take meds who then might go commit suicide. Well, first of all, I'm not telling anybody to do anything. I'm telling you what I did and what I know for myself. Secondly, sure someone might commit suicide without meds, but they also might take a bunch of meds, then stop taking them, then have a psychotic break, and then walk into the office with a loaded assault rifle.

     Do we really want to be re-wiring our brains without any idea of the possible consequences? If you're an adult, then fine, do what you want. But let's leave the kids out of it. What do you say? Don't tell me a 3 year-old has bipolar and ADHD, and should be medicated to the point of catatonia.

God, help me get better through Your power alone...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Victim Mentality


     Victim is a state of mind...

     Victims believe that their feelings and their circumstances are all caused by something outside of themselves. They are ignorant to the fact that they are 100% responsible for how they feel. It should come as no surprise that victims have no interest in your life. They will blab on for hours about what so and so did to them without ever thinking that it might be appropriate to shut up and ask you about your own life, feelings, or struggles. When good things happen to you, it's like a dagger in the victim's heart. Success for you means jealousy and resentment for the victim, as they quickly dump their woes on you to divert attention away from your blessings. If you do not agree that they are victims, they will turn on you viciously. They will only reach out to you with charm or kindness when they want something from you. And you better give it to them to avoid incurring their wrath. They have no shame. They are desperate.

     Victims believe that all negative feelings or events that happen to them are somebody else's fault. They see their circumstances purely as a result of events acting upon them as opposed to causing the events themselves... unless it's something good, of course. It is always what someone said or did. It may even be the whole world's fault, as each and every one of us somehow owes the victim something. Whatever the cause, it is anything but themselves. Guess what? Victims are narcissists. The victim frame of mind and worldview is a narcissistic one.

     Sure, there are real victims out there, but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about being a victim in your head. An actual victim is someone who is, say, randomly abducted, tortured and then killed. A fake victim is someone who thinks they are a victim because someone humbled them, or because of choices they themselves made. They somehow don't believe that the consequences of their own actions are their fault. Yes, they actually think this way. A fake victim thinks they are a victim when they abuse someone and that person retaliates. A fake victim thinks they are victimized when friends and family give them some tough love by setting boundaries around their negativity and mental illness. They actually wonder why other people don't want to be around them. They actually wonder why other people are freaked out by them.

      I engaged in this sort of nonsense for years. Alcoholics and addicts can easily fall prey to such a childish and ignorant victim mentality. If an alcoholic or an addict thinks they are sober but still believes they are a victim, they are no better at all. Think Plato's Allegory of the Cave. To recover, we must step out of the darkness and understand that we are not victims. Nothing outside of us makes us feel the way we do. Who we are, what we feel, what we do, and what happens to us are purely our own responsibility. My advice: Don't be a victim. It's unattractive.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

God, teach me that I'm not a victim...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Monsters

    When I was actively drinking and using, breaking up with women was a total disaster. Regardless of the circumstances, I was hell bent on getting the last word in - abusive word, that is. It was necessary to rip these poor girls apart in order to repair the sideswipe to my pride, ego and self-esteem as I heard the words, "I can't be with you anymore."

     EXCUSE ME?! How could anyone break up with ME?! She must be a delusional, stupid, worthless, piece of shit whore! 

     The feeling of rejection was just way too much for me to comprehend. Being a selfish addict (aka pathetic child), discomfort was to be avoided at all costs, even if that meant ripping my unfortunate girlfriends to shreds. You name it, I said it.

     Now that I have a wife of 9 years and a newborn son, I have to watch it with my mouth. We addicts are generally pretty skilled at the art of verbal abuse. Same with many of the personality disorders we might find in the DSM-IV. Especially NPD and BPD. Trust me, I have been most fortunate to have x-girlfirends, an x-boss, and a few relatives and in-laws with these personalities.

     They are great teachers, let me tell you. They are also great actors, portraying one side to the general public but turning into monsters with those who challenge them or stand up to their abuse. They can act normal, sincere, charming, even helpful and kind. Yet disappoint them or refuse to give them everything they demand and you will soon be demonized beyond belief. They will cut you down, make up lies, and scandalize you. They will paint you as a sick, twisted loser while painting themselves as a wonderful, shining angel, or hero, or victim (ugh, heros and victims). They can actually be quite productive, because they are not active addicts nor are they clinically depressed. No, what they are is completely nuts. They are sociopaths.

    I once feared becoming this way, as I fell into the trap of cruelty as a defense mechanism. As addicts, we must defend and protect our habits no matter what the cost. We must hurt, lie and abuse to get and keep what we want. We become so warped that we lose all sight of what we are doing. At some point, we get to the edge of darkness. We flirt with hurting others and not even caring. We flirt with sociopathology.

     And this is why I am so serious about addicts not just getting sober. We are damaged and therefore we must change profoundly. We must rid ourselves of these behavioral traits that one sees in narcissists, borderlines, and sociopaths. If you are an addict out there, ask yourself, do you want the shame, the burden, the curse and the caste of being almost human? Do you want to be a body without a soul? Do you want to be a monster? Because turning into such a thing is a lot worse than being an addict. At least addicts can get better. Most sociopaths and psychopaths cannot.

God, teach me to forgive and accept myself that I may forgive and accept others...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Touched By God

      In an instant, I was changed forever. As I finished reading twelve hours of inventory, I got down on my knees and recited a prayer from the Big Book. The moment I finished, I laughed and cried simultaneously. In that instant, something from outside of my body hit me like a lightening bolt.

     It was mind-numbing in its power. It was unfathomable and indescribable and totally unreachable. It was limitless and unprecedented and capable of anything. In every sense, it was beyond the scope of human understanding and conception. It was pure freedom and pure emptiness and pure love. It flowed through me for a brief time. My mind was suddenly reset and there were no thoughts. All of my fear vanished, and I knew that I was okay and that anything was possible.

     It was then I realized that there exists a power so beyond our realm of comprehension that it's pointless to even discuss. I realized that GOD must be this mind-blowing power that is so boundless and so beautiful. One brief zap and my entire being was instantly and profoundly changed forever.

     From that moment on, nothing has been unbearable. From that moment on, I've naturally repelled all people, places and things that are destructive. From that moment on, I have lived without fear and jealousy. How is that possible? How could I have felt such a mind-bending power touch me, flow through me, and leave me forever changed? Can that be explained via scientific theory? Nope.

     I now know that God-power does exist and that It is well beyond the scope of the human mind. For all of our man-made religions, rituals, codes and creeds, we can't even get close to it. The capacity of God-power is even beyond description. And the fullness of God will never be clear in our conscious. The only thing we can do is to take actions that may bring us closer to Him. And perhaps a miracle will occur and It will touch us. I sure didn't deserve for It to touch me but it did. And so I pass this experience onto other alcoholics, addicts, or anyone else who suffers. There is a real solution. There is a way out, but it lies in the spiritual realm. Are you ready for that?

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