Saturday, December 30, 2017

A HAPPY, SAFE, GRATEFUL, AND SANE NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL

At this moment (9:00pm) 36 years ago, I was on my first night in rehab in the midst of one hellacious blizzard, sitting through my first mandatory AA meeting. I had already decided that a horrible mistake had been made and that as soon as I felt better, I was going to get on a plane, leave Minneapolis, and fly back to Maine. As it happened, it took me a month to feel better, and during that time I went through basic training on How To Be A Human. Between my friends and a whole bunch of strangers in NA, my HP, a couple of sponsors, and thousands upon thousands of meetings, I'm pleased to say, I'm still on the ride and the only mistake made December 30th, 1981 was made by me.

The NA groups (and quite a few AAs) will be putting on our annual New Year's Eve bash in the Bass Room (not bathroom) in Franklin Memorial Hospital, West Farmington, Maine beginning 6:00 pm tomorrow night. Pot luck, great munchies, games, music, and a whole bunch of men, women, and kids celebrating another day clean. We'd be glad to see you, but if you can't make it, have a safe, grateful, and happy new year.

The picture is of the former St. Mary's Rehab, now Fairview Rehab. The flower pot in the middle of the stairs was added many years after I went there. When I stood on that sidewalk in the snow and wind thirty-six years ago, the cab driver rolled down his window, and asked me, "Think it'll do you any good?"

"These people have an impossible task," I answered, "trying to convince me that there is a good reason for being in this world alive and sober at the same time."

Mission Accomplished. What was the reason? How'd they do it? Read the damned book! (That's Saint Mary Blue)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

LONELY AND ALONE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

It has been said that the ultimate reasons for using drugs are the same ultimate reasons for getting clean through Narcotics Anonymous. The shallow reasons for using drugs everyone knows: To lessen pain, to shut down the think machine, to fit it with the other druggies, to be rebellious. The ultimate reasons for using drugs are to achieve happiness, fulfillment, and a meaningful life.

Eventually, as using addicts learn, drugs let the user down in both these areas, the shallow and the ultimate. The high gets low, the think machine climbs into a pit of depression and can think of nothing else, and eventually no one can stand being around the user, and finally one finds out that instead of being a rebel, the user has become a member of one of the oldest and most restrictive and oppressive establishments on earth.

In a good recovery program, such as any of the Twelve Step variety, such as NA or AA, the newcomer learns how to stop using, then learns how become a human being. Pain is lessened and often removed altogether. The user learns how to choose thoughts and attitudes, confront and overcome obstacles and challenges, and every meeting comes with a set of new and old friends.

Happiness comes from being happy. Being happy comes from no longer horriblizing one's life. Learning how to do that is why recovering addicts go to meetings, listen at meetings, get sponsors, use the sponsors they get, read the program literature, and work the Twelve Steps of Recovery. Fulfillment and a meaningful life are the results of the work the recovering addict does through the program.

Finding yourself alone and isolated as the holidays approach? An addict inside his or
"Isolation" by Aidansane
her own head in isolation is behind enemy lines. If you are in recovery and alone and isolated, that is a choice. There are friends in the program you can call, meet, have coffee, go shopping, or go to a movie together. Most important is sharing how you feel, getting it out in the open, doubling the good feelings and cutting the bad ones in half. Misery is optional.

This applies to the using addicts, as well. If you are in the shit up to your eyeballs, don't know which way to turn, the pain, rage, and depression have chased everyone out of your life, find a Twelve Step meeting of NA or AA. Links for the world directories are in the "To Learn More" section  at the top right-hand side of the page.

Happiness is a choice. My warmest wishes to each of you for happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

THE BAH, HUMBUGS!

"'Tis the season to be jolly . . ." is all the recovering addict in seasonal misery mode needs to hear to amp up the gloom and renew gathering new resentments and add a coat or two of new polish on old resentments.

Many persons, not just addicts, have a hard time during holidays. Many suffered abuse during childhood, and when those "perfect" little family dramas come up on TV or in the movie theaters it is enough to cause those who grew up in really sick homes to chew pig iron and spit out bullets. The sarcasm and biting comments abound.

"Bah! Humbug!" as Ebenezer Scrooge used to say. Every thing from decorations to wrapping paper and ribbons seems to underscore the loneliness and pain of holidays as well as mock all the imperfections of one's own existence. Sooner or later, for recovering addicts, a feeling emerges that is the next to final step before slipping back into the nightmare. It is a sneaky little thought that, in whatever words are used, comes down to: "Why stay clean? What's the point?" The choices then are very few, as real as a wildfire, and twice as deadly.

~~~ A Christmas Eve Tale ~~~

Once upon a time, in a land quite close actually, there was an addict new in recovery who was feeling bad about the holidays and actually broke down and called his sponsor about it. His sponsor told him the Story of the two Santas. "There is the bad Santa who dumps the kale juice and tofu on the floor, takes a leak on the Christmas tree, and leaves horribly wrapped presents beneath the tree for everyone that no one wants, and without return slips. He turns the heat up, leaves the lights on, then Bad Santa gets back in his moldy black sleigh, whips the dragons pulling his sleigh, and curses them onto the next home.

"Then there is the good Santa who eats the cookies, drinks the milk left for him, and leaves a thank you note for the refreshments. He then places the beautifully wrapped presents for which everyone is grateful beneath the tree, sprinkles a bit of magic dust on the tree bringing peace and joy to everyone in the family. He then zips up onto the roof, climbs into his red and gold sled with the gleaming silver runners, calls to his reindeer, and they draw on the magic sleigh pulling it up into the night sky to go onto the next home."

"Gee, Sponsor," said the addict new in recovery. "Do you know which Santa will come to my house?"

"The Santa you feed, Pidge. Who will come to your house is the Santa you feed."

It matters not what your religion is, nor even if you have a religion. Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, etc., etc., this is a season in which the world gives itself permission to be jolly, to be generous and kind to our fellow humans, and wish peace and good will to all. It is all up to you and your attitude. Which Santa will you feed?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WHO DID IT?

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."  ---Theodore Roosevelt

A fellow at the meeting said his sponsor told him to stick on his bathroom mirror, in big black letters, the following statement: "You Are Looking At The Problem!"

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." (Often attributed to Mark Twain) 

There is something the disease of addiction believes, and it has thousands of years and billions of examples for evidence to back up its belief. My disease believes if I get miserable enough, I will go back to using drugs. There is another way to put that: If I can make myself miserable enough, I will go back and use drugs.

Find yourself taking offense at every little thing? The weather isn't perfect? Find a new scratch on your car? Some motorist turned around in your driveway? There's a grease spot on your pants you can't remove? The wrong person (in your view) is dating your sister, daughter, or mother? The wrong person (in your view) is president, prime minister, or dictator? Or the wrong person is criticizing the president, prime minister, or dictator? Rent, taxes, prices too high? Wages and allowances too low? Meetings seem to be a waste of time?

Most normal persons, when they get a flat tire, either change the tire or phone a garage or the auto club. A recovering addict who is letting addiction choose the kind of day he or she will have looks upon a flat tire as just one more confirmation that life sucks and staying abstinent from mood altering chemicals is a complete and utter waste of time, happiness, and life.

Life is the purpose of life. Just as addiction wants to keep on using, life wants to keep on living. As it says in NA literature, the ends of untreated addiction are always the same: "jails, institutions, and death." To live, to serve life, runs counter to addiction. To serve my recovery and my life, I need to avoid feeding my own misery---what a friend of mine in the program called horriblizing her life. 

Today I am going to learn how to start my day over, with me, my life, and my desire for recovery doing the thinking rather than my disease.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

THE MEETING TODAY

This morning I learned to make new friends because, if I stay clean and am very lucky, everybody I know now will die before I do.

By handing this same suggestion out, I learned I really need to call my sponsor more often, and share my feelings concerning the things pushing me down.

That constant anger, worry, and resentment is the dragon's way of getting you miserable enough to pick up.

An oldie but goodie: Resentment is like picking up a hammer, smacking yourself in the head with it, and saying "Take that!" to the object of your resentment who will not be affected by your action one little bit.

That forgiveness is not forgetting; it is simply releasing one's hold on the other guy's throat.

Also, forgiveness isn't letting someone else off the hook; it's climbing off the hook yourself.

A new tool for the toolbox: To get rid of a persistent resentment, every time the thought comes to mind, say out loud to your brain, "If you have nothing new to say on this subject, I don't want to hear it." And every time the thought pops up, say it again. Eventually it will go away. 

There was much more, but why am I telling you? You're going to meetings regularly, aren't you?
     Aren't you?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

INDEPENDENCE DAY

     "If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight."
                                           ---William James
    
     What is the point? Getting clean, staying in recovery, what is the point? What were the original reasons?
     To stop getting arrested?
     To stay out of jail?
     To get children or a spouse back?
     To stop feeling sick, afraid, and desperate all of the time?
     Freedom?    
     To end being a slave to a disease?
     To become sane?
     To become a human being?

     Whatever our original reasons, the Twelve Steps worked with a sponsor begins the task of reprogramming to become a free human being once again. With a little time clean, though, the disease of addiction plays a game on us called "selective memory" in which nothing but "good times" can be recalled.
     And, you're feeling good, maybe earning money and paying bills. Perhaps the family returns or a new love relationship comes into your life, and addiction seems more like a bad dream than a chronic disease that has no cure. Perhaps you think, "Well, I've got control of this thing, now."
     If you attend meetings regularly, you know what happens next. It usually shows first as not going to meetings, no longer working with a sponsor, not staying in touch with other recovering addicts, trying to maintain spirituality on last month's prayers.
     See, the disease of addiction, I call "the dragon," never dies, never quits, and always grows stronger. If I let it, the dragon will gladly do my thinking for me.
     I don't really need meetings. I can do this on my own. I don't have the time to spend writing and working Steps. It really wasn't all that bad . . . That is what dragon smoke sounds like. It smells like jails, institutions, and death.
     On July 4th, most Americans will be celebrating Independence Day. Many by setting off fireworks and discovering why lots of folks have the nickname, "Lefty." Many will take time off, go to the beach, visit and spend time with loved ones, and a very large number will "celebrate" by using alcohol and other drugs.
     For those who are not addicts, perhaps it will be a celebration. For addicts and those in recovery planning a one-time "slip" just to celebrate Independence, understand that independence is the one thing that will not result from picking up and using drugs. Instead, one might celebrate Dragonfest: the return to slavery.
     Be careful out there this Independence Day; You risk losing a lot more than just your fingers.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE LIST MAKER

New in recovery, feeling better, lot of catching up to do, summer is here, and between all of the chores, renewed interest in family, children, and hobbies, playtime, looking for work or getting better at work, graduations, college classes,  baby showers, replacing that old wreck of a car, getting little Debbie a new computer, fixing that leak, sharpening those lawnmower blades, and looking for an environmentally safe insecticide, who has time to go to meetings?

     Recovery takes time, no doubt about it. It doesn't take anywhere near as much time and effort that using takes, but it does take time. Meetings take time. Talking with a sponsor takes time. Working the Twelve Steps of Recovery takes time. Helping other addicts in recovery takes time.
     "I mean, look at this list of things I need to do!" explained a newcomer to her sponsor.
     "Put 'Recovery,' and all of the things recovery requires at the top of your list, her sponsor advised, "otherwise, the bony dude in the hoody is your list maker."