Showing posts from January, 2016

Watered Down AA

From The Privileged Addict, pp. 51-55 (Copyright, 2012):

     "The first order of business up North was to turn my previous exposure to Alcoholics Anonymous upside down and then knock it flat on its face. But in yet another failed effort would soon emerge great hope. For me, AA had been nothing but a meeting room where I sit in a chair, listen to sob stories, drink lukewarm instant coffee, depend on others to keep me sober, and maybe run up at the end to get a sobriety chip while people clap. Perhaps I even raise my hand and tell a story of my own. But stories, sobriety chips, and Maxwell House didn’t get me better. I didn’t need a social club. I have plenty of friends and let me tell you, they can’t keep me sober. I also didn’t need to reward myself with a thirty-day sobriety chip just because I stopped hurting people. What I needed was to change, and that doesn’t always involve feeling good or patting myself on the back. Before going on, let me just say that I mea…

Maximum Usefulness

"Why do we take Steps? Sure we embark on this journey to 'grow along spiritual lines' and find some peace, but the larger purpose behind all previous 11 Steps is to equip us properly to go help others. We have dug deep and peeled back the layers of emotional pain and psychic damage. We have cleaned up our past, gained confidence and stand firm as we can now look the world in the eye. We have humbled ourselves and let go of our need to force our will on everything and everyone. Instead, we have learned to pray, meditate, get quiet and listen to the will of God. We are now in the position to be of maximum usefulness to others who suffer as we did. Service is the silver bullet of getting better. When in doubt, go help others. There are times when we suffer no matter how hard we try to change the inner landscape, when the feelings get heavy and become suffocating, when the thoughts and worries come fast and hard. Sometimes our daily repertoire of tools, while useful in keepin…

Don't Make War with Yourself

"To note, sure we all want to feel better and it’s fine to use meditation to do so, but its real purpose is to allow whatever arises to come into your mind or consciousness and move through you. In other words, when we stop and breathe, the stuff that comes up is part of us and therefore has a right to come up. It needs to come up. Though we may at first find it very uncomfortable or painful, if we continue to let our thoughts and feelings exist without fighting them and judging ourselves so much, we eventually come to accept it all, light or dark. As well, the painful stuff loses its power and moves through us without getting stuck. Some of it may stop coming altogether. What you resist will persist, so do yourself a favor and allow what’s inside of you to not only exist, but to move freely. Befriend what you own, for even the dark and painful stuff deserves respect. It deserves to be heard, accepted and loved. Making war with any part of our selves just makes things worse."…

Do What You Fear

"Contrary to popular belief, the best way to conquer our fears is not to avoid them, but instead recognize that they exist within us, that they are part of us, and then walk right into them and through them. In other words, DO what you fear and what you fear will gradually lose its power. Some people fear public speaking to the point of panic. Our heart rate goes up, it palpitates, we can’t breathe… but here’s the thing: Often these symptoms only precede the actual event. Most of our symptoms are caused by anticipatory fear - fear we create ourselves by thinking and worrying about the event. Once we open our mouths and begin talking, in many cases the fear goes away and we think to ourselves, 'What was I so afraid of? That wasn’t so bad.'" - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 10

Distant Concept or Actual Experience?

"God can either be a distant concept or an actual experience, and it is through right action that we make that shift and close the gap. Many teens and adults alike have a problem with God because it has been reduced to a social construct - a detached belief system or simple academic concept. God has become intellectual. We are taught about the divine via sermon or in class on a chalkboard, but there is no real experience on the inside. So the idea behind enlarging our spiritual lives through action is to show people ways in which they can actually feel the power of God and expand His presence within. If spiritual power is harnessed through meditation, prayer, public speaking or service and we feel that glow of warmth inside, we will know how worth it this path really is, but if there is no detectable payoff from this journey, who is going to be interested?" - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 9

Alcoholics Should Never Apologize

"So when we go to make the amends, there are a few general rules to remember. #1: DON’T APOLOGIZE. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Nonetheless, we don’t say sorry to those we have harmed because it no longer carries any weight, at least for addicts and alcoholics. We’ve said sorry so many times only to repeat the same destructive behaviors, and that is no sorry at all. We never want to play with our loved ones and pull them in both directions, which is quite frankly more harmful than consistently being a jerk. Why? Because it is manipulative. If we are always a jerk, at least the person knows what to expect and can easily choose to leave. But the alcoholic or addict is a true Jekyll and Hyde, as the Big Book notes, and charms people they have hurt back into their lives, only to be hurt once again. Manipulating our loved ones emotionally is one of the worst kinds of abuse, so nobody wants to hear that we’re sorry, especially those closest to us." - Anybody Can Take Steps, C…

Is There a Moral Dilemma to Certain Amends?

"Amends to banks or stores that we stole from can be especially confusing for parents or spouses. Let’s say an addict robbed a bank and got away with it. Making the amends might land him in jail, thereby robbing him from his family and his duties to them. How would that be unselfish when our families need us now more than ever? Wouldn’t that cause more harm than good? But what if we have to make the amends to achieve sanity? What if we will drink or use drugs again if we don’t go through with it? We may have to make the amends to fully recover and remove our obsession. In this case, we must ask ourselves how important our sobriety and our spiritual growth is. Are we going to put our recovery and God before EVERYTHING else, even our families? If so, we have to go make it, regardless of the selfish consequences that may ensue. Perhaps we can use this formula to decipher other moral dilemmas we face throughout life. Try putting your spiritual growth and God before all else and then…

No Amends Is Too Small

      "Some of us will think we do not owe any amends, that we were not addicts or alcoholics and have never harmed anyone or committed a wrong, and while I suppose that could be true, I seriously doubt it. Others may think, ‘Well yeah, I stole a few apples one day from the store, but that’s really not so bad’. Sure it may not start World War III, but it is still wrong. Someone worked to grow those apples and someone else paid for them so they could be offered to you. You therefore owe the storeowner and the farmer who grew them an amends. No, you don’t need to go hunt down the farmer, but you do need to walk into that store and be accountable for stealing, and then offer to pay the storeowner back for his or her losses." - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 8

All Spiritual Experiences are Unique

"I debated whether or not to share my own 7th Step experience because I didn't want to set anybody up with expectations. The truth is that we all have a unique, personal experience taking Steps, so try to simply go through this process without thinking about it too much or expecting any particular thing to happen. Some of us will experience the wash of a great calm. Some of us will feel as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. Others will just continue this process and slowly change over time. A gradual change may even make us stronger in the long run, so try not to worry about it or judge it too much. We just have to keep moving forward and getting stronger, knowing that with each right action we draw closer to God. I share my personal experience here to simply provide hope, that it might inspire just one more soul to embark on this spiritual path and become equipped and willing to go help others." - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 7

Meditation Is Absolutely Crucial

      "Sitting quietly without distraction and breathing is an incredibly powerful tool, one that few may realize the true benefits of. Meditating brings us back into the present moment and elevates awareness, leading to greater clarity and acceptance. Even if our minds wander off into the future or the past, we can simply let the thoughts come and let the thoughts go. There is no need to hold on anymore. Thoughts and feelings don’t have to stop us dead in our tracks. They do not have to control our lives. As we move forward, consistent meditation will gradually re-align us, harmonizing the mind and body by allowing us to accept our existence and what is happening around us. The simple practice of breathing quietly and remaining still can literally alter your brain chemistry, balancing levels of crucial neurotransmitters that make us feel calm, grounded, balanced and whole. There is now a plethora of scientific evidence that reveals such positive changes to our brain due to medit…

With Inventory, 99% = Zero

"When we are ready, we quietly go to read. Whether it is our sponsor, pastor or trusted friend, the important thing is to read to a person whom we trust and who is honest, someone who understands this “life-and-death errand” we are on, as the Big Book succinctly describes. Some of us may not have a large enough chunk of time to finish our entire inventory. Let’s face it, we have jobs, families, relationships and a myriad of other duties. In that case, we can simply read a portion of our inventory and then schedule another time to finish. This may be your greatest chance to induce a spiritual experience and free yourself from the chains that bind you, so please, read it all. Everything. Leave no dark secret or rock unturned, as the fate of your very soul may be at stake. Even if it is excruciating, embarrassing or perhaps even criminal, confess it all or else… All that has been buried must see the light of day." -Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 5

Self-Seeking in Our Resentment

"Self-seeking is, of course, seeking a self, so in trying to discover our self-seeking, we can ask ourselves: How were we trying to look or be seen by others and/or by ourselves? The caveat is that generally the way we want to be seen is NOT the way we truly are. So if I want to be seen as a tough guy, the truth is that I’m probably a coward. Critics of this process assert that we are engaging in self-deprecation and blame, but that is not true. It is human nature to be self-seeking, to care about how we look and how we are seen by others. Discovering and admitting this aspect of past events is simply an exercise in honesty, and the clarity we achieve helps vanquish resentment. It’s not necessarily wrong or evil to be self-seeking, but left unchecked, it will contort the way we see things, and when it gets out of control, we become lost in image and self-absorption. Believing that others see us, for example, as beautiful or brilliant or tough or invincible convinces us that we ar…

Resent Your Spouse? Write Inventory!

"Next to Mom and/or Dad, spouses usually come next on our list, and why not? Intimate relationships can be a hot, sticky mess, especially down the road when we have children and are left with little or no time at all to nourish ourselves or pursue our hobbies and passions. As we temporarily lose ourselves, our most challenging parts begin to surface and when the going gets rough, we are faced with the question of whether we truly accept these parts in each other and if we truly love the person we are with.Matters of the heart are complicated and confusing, and the dynamics are easily misunderstood. We often resent our spouses because 1) we know them so well, as they do us, and 2) we have expectations of them. When we cannot reconcile their respective flaws or quirks with what we want from them, we cop resentments at will. I used to resent my wife simply for suffering. How ridiculous and deranged is that? Very much indeed, but I came to see that my experience wasn’t so novel, that…

Why so Stubborn about a 2nd Step?

"The fact is there are many things far greater and more powerful than we humans. Exhibit A = Mother Nature. No one can deny we stand at the mercy of the forces of nature. Our very existence lies in the delicate balance of our solar system and atmospheric conditions. We think and believe we are safe because we have always been, but nobody really knows what might happen. Are not our very lives at the mercy of nature and her powerful storms, tornados, tsunamis, wildfires or sudden lightening strikes? Or how about the simple yet inescapable cycles of nature, such as night and day, life and death, or the fluctuating output of the sun’s energy? The point is that it is really not so hard to admit a host of forces and phenomena that are more powerful than we are, so why is God so difficult? One reason is because science has been able to explain the workings or dynamics of many such physical forces, but not so much with God. But are there not several tangible things that we cannot fully ex…

Obey Your Conscience

"By diligently obeying our conscience, we nourish it like a tree. Soon it becomes rooted and grows taller. The roots spread, its foundation becomes more secure and the wind cannot blow it over. Our tree grows fuller and more beautiful as the light inside of us shines brighter. Following our conscience is the way to recovery, as it heals the soul of a person. With each right action, we draw closer to God." - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 3

Why Force Your Will?

"Turning our will over to God also means that we don’t rush around forcing our will, trying to control everything and everyone. Sure we continue to get up, go to work and do what we can, but we let go of the outcome and how that will look. As human beings, we often feel as though we must manipulate the world around us. If something veers even slightly off course to the way we envisioned it, we hurl ourselves in, aggressively trying to steer the ship in the direction we see fit. In trying to force certain outcomes, we amass countless expectations, expectations that are never quite met to our standards, thus ensuring we suffer constant disappointment. Turning our will over to God means that we stop trying to dictate what is happening, both inside and out. If things happen the way we want, great, but if they don’t, also great. We accept the outcome. We stay in the moment and leave the rest to God." - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 3

The Deliberate vs Random Obsession

"Dr. William D. Silkworth, once the leading physician treating alcohol addiction at the old Charles B. Towns hospital in Manhattan, wrote to Alcoholics Anonymous that the alcoholic suffers from an “allergy” to alcohol. That is, we acquire an allergy by drinking too much and crossing over some threshold. But we are not talking about your typical allergy. Instead of breaking out into hives or going into anaphylactic shock, instead of some physical repulsion or rejection of the toxic substance, we break out into ease and comfort. We break out into more. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this abnormal physical response to drugs and alcohol, once acquired, is permanent. While that may sound hopeless, it is not, because all any addict or alcoholic needs to do is to restore willpower, supplemented by a life of spiritual growth, and he or she can then choose never to drink or use again. Thus, the real defeat is what happens to addicts mentally. When the thought to drink or us…

Follow Up to Hari - Moral Aspect & Stigma Bullshit

The Moral Aspect

     The problem with making assumptions or drawing conclusions by simply observing something is that you have still have no actual experience of what you're observing, so here is the truth instead. And the truth is important when we talk about addiction, given how lethal it is for us and how gut-wrenching it is for those who love us. 

     There are many false assumptions about the moral aspect of addiction, and in fact, if you wanna bitch about stigmatizing things, then stop stigmatizing morality as well. The blind, kumbaya-humming crowd believe addiction is not a moral failure because addicts cannot control their drinking and using. First of all, how do you think they lost control to begin with? To go from a normal sober person to an addict with no control, I'm pretty sure you gotta use a few times first.

     When I first smoked weed or first ate an OxyContin or first cut up a line of heroin and sniffed it up, I KNEW IT WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO. Everybod…

The "Experts" Have It Backwards

Year ago, I had a sponsee who I used to rip into with great consistency, as someone lovingly did for me years before that. Yes, lovingly. He and many other guys I used to rip apart knew that I loved them, that they could trust me, and that I wasn't delivering judgment as we think of it - in some asshole tone of voice and/or while choking them in a headlock. They respected me because they finally met someone who could see through the miles of bullshit (which could have been any recovered addict), and who was willing to be honest with them about it.

     Anyway, I remember saying something like, "Hey dude, listen, sorry if that sounds harsh and..." when he quickly interrupted me saying, "No, no, I love it. It's good for me. It's just what I need. Keep it comin'." I kid you not. And he meant it. He loved being judged, but (and here's the caveat) by a recovered addict he trusted and liked as opposed to a parent or spouse or som…

More Disease Model Delusions

We have now gone so far with the progressive disease model that we are now attempting to justify just giving junkies opiates, that opiates are not what they want but what they truly NEED. Right, just placate and give them whatever the they want, which effectively enslaves them, especially as we begin to socially and scientifically reinforce this insane idea that remaining chained to drugs is perfectly natural.

     Unfortunately, the physiology of addiction doesn't account for, well, everything else. While this will continue to be a bummer for those looking for an easy way out, it will come as great news to the pharmaceutical model - i.e. massive profits.  
      According to Wikipedia, the disease model of addiction "describes an addiction as a disease with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental sources of origin." Lol, um, behavioral? Did I miss something? So wait, genes and environment come before, say, loving to drink and use and then continui…

This Makes No Sense

Let me explain why I continuously try to dismantle the therapeutic model when it comes to treating drug addicts and alcoholics. When I worked for a publicly funded recovery school (i.e. theft), the directive was to empower the addicts by submitting success reports concocted out of thin air. In other words, the model was to validate each and every feeling, thought and action - redefine relapsing as not relapsing, excuse terrible school work, take them on vacations and essentially hand out free diplomas. As you can imagine, that's not really my thing. If anyone should have to work for something and learn the value of personal responsibility and right action, it is most certainly the entitled, drug using, cognitively undeveloped, teenage ingrate.

Every kid gets a trophy? No. No, no, no, no... no.
     On the other hand, I tried to stress the idea that addiction has much to do with current construction of self (including attitude and frame of mind), and I tried to e…

Endless Needs

I've often compared addicts to children and now that I have children of my own, the analogy has become all the more colorful (won't say "nuanced" as it annoys the shit out of me) and appropriate. If you are a parent, then you will know exactly what I'm talking about... specifically the torture of, say, trying to go out with a 1-year old and a volatile 3.5 year old (at the same time).
     The torture begins at the mere mention that we have to go out to run errands, especially since toddler was only on his 2nd hour of Paw Patrol re-runs. "Awwww, Nooooo!!!! I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't...!!!!" "Come on, honey, you gotta get your clothes on... please stop running away... please stop kicking me incessantly... please stop punching me in the f'ing face..." - fresh diaper, baby clothes, socks, baby shoes, shirt, pants, socks, shoes, coats, hats, mittens, diaper bag freshly packed with extra diapers, wipes, cloths, snacks…

Johann Hari's TED Talk

*Also see "Is Addiction a Social Disease?" about J. Hari's article and social diseases in America today.The post contains a previous post which addresses the false notion that addicts are just disconnected.

Since there are many things we could discuss from Johann Hari's TED Talk, I'm going to hold off on the whole 'post-surgery/Vietnam soldiers returning home' thing right now except to say that, contrary to his assertion, anyone can become an addict, regardless of circumstances. Even those who simply develop a physical dependency for some reason must still experience withdrawal, and this alone can drive continued use, despite returning home to a supportive environment.

     Many, however, can stop (post-surgery, for example) because they have maintained sufficient willpower to stop. Those who do not stop have lost sufficient willpower, and as well, many who do not stop or easily give away their power like using more than not using. That is what distingui…