Saturday, March 26, 2016


"[Insert name of HP] help me focus on the present moment and fill my mind with the task at hand."

Friday, January 22, 2016


I sit in a meeting listening to a newcomer tell his or her story, and more often than not, I am secretly cheering for that person to listen, to grab onto the lifelines, take the suggestions, get a temporary sponsor, and make it to that next meeting. Often they do. When that is the last I see or hear of them, though, I worry.
I know worry is a message to my Higher Power telling him that I'll take care of it myself, and it usually takes me awhile to let go. If you have the disease of addiction, I want you to get clean and live that life of joy and freedom. Those who have this problem, I hope, want the same for me. It's that "one addict helping another" part of the program that has saved so many lives.
Those are meetings, however. I never thought I'd get the same feeling from viewing the statistics for this blog. Just numbers, right?
Here is the current breakdown of this blog's top page views:
United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
For several months page views from Lebanon came in second and I wondered about those readers, about their stories, about the program in Lebanon. Few ever write to tell me, so I wonder. For three weeks page views from Russia came in number one, beating page views from all other countries including the U.S. For the past two weeks nothing from Russia and nothing from Lebanon.
People move, people go back out again, people reach out to different forms of help and entertainment, and as a sponsor of mine once said, "There is no rule that says anyone has to check in with you before making a change in his or her life."
Which is very true. Still I wonder. I hate reading the opening chapter to a really interesting story then losing the book.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


A friend of mine showed me this. It is titled "Memories of Alcohol."

"I drank for happiness and became unhappy. I drank for joy and became miserable. I drank for sociability and became argumentative. I drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. I drank for friendship and made enemies. I drank for strength and felt weak. I drank for relaxation and got the shakes. I drank for courage and became afraid. I drank for confidence and became doubtful. I drank to make conversation easier and slurred my speech. I drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell."    —Anonymous

There are a good many program sayings, writings such as that above, that strike so true to an addict, that thing we call "identification" happens. What is identification? It's that feeling that comes up from your gut and meets that realization in your brain that says, "Oh, yeah. Me too."

 A shorter version of the above goes like this: "Alcohol gave me wings, then it took away the sky."

 So what does this have to do with drug addiction? From my book, Saint Mary Blue:

There was the lecture last evening after that inedible dinner. Jacob hadn't been paying very close attention.  He had been sitting on the new fish row, the back.  Something the lecturer had said stuck.
"The most prominent symptom is that it's the disease that tells you that you haven't got it."
Someone from the front.  "You mean alcoholism?"
"What about drug addiction?"
"Are you one of those curious persons who believes that ethanol isn't a drug?"
"I know it's a drug, but aren't the diseases different?  Isn't alcoholism different than drug addiction?"
"The difference between drugs and alcohol: it's like changing seats on the Titanic."
Jacob had laughed.  It was a good line.

 Alcohol is a drug, and an alcoholic is a drug addict addicted to the drug ethanol. Deluding yourself that doing without alcohol and continuing to use other drugs is all you need to do to be "sober" is the kind of snobbery that can kill you. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Just out of rehab, at my first meeting in my hometown, I sat there in silence. To look at me from the outside, one would think that the lights are on but no one is home. Inside, however, there was a very unhappy and panic ridden circus performing:
        Part of me was terrified that the program wouldn't work for me; That I would go back, use, die a horrible death, and take my loved ones with me.
        Part of me was terrified that that the program would work and I would never use again; What would I do then?
         I was terribly nervous because I didn't know who I was supposed to become to hide the real me from these people.
        I was puzzled, too, because of all the laughter and happy faces.
        I was also reluctant because there was a very strong presence in my mind that kept telling me that I might not be an addict. In fact, I probably wasn't an addict.
        Then I was frightened because the part of me that knew I was an addict seemed a much smaller voice.
        I was saved by two of the persons at that meeting. They were both addicts, they had both picked up and used again, and after months in one case and years in the other, they had made it back into the halls. They both said the same thing: "Well, I stopped going to meetings."
        I heard the same thing several more times at different meetings when someone would return from a nip, slip, or a dip. "Well, I stopped going to meetings."
        Not wanting to travel such a well-beaten path, I made a promise to myself: If I found a better way than going to meeting to stay clean (and I was looking), I vowed that I would go to my next scheduled meeting and let the other addicts in on my great find. I mean, why keep it to myself?
        Since that day more than three decades ago, I have found lots of "better ways."  Not one of them, however, didn't sound really stupid to me by the time that next meeting started.

        "There are three kinds of men: The ones who learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves."
                                              --Will Rodgers

Monday, January 04, 2016


This morning an old classmate of mine sent me one of those slogan mini-posters in an email. It came with the subject "Wisdom." It said:

     When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others.
      It is the same when you are stupid.
     It should have continued, however, with the following:

      It is the same when you are an addict.
     And when an addict knows he or she is an addict and doesn't get help, then the addict is also stupid.
     And then the addict dies.

     Have a smart New Year. 


Friday, January 01, 2016


 "Don't use, go to meetings, and ask for help." That first part, "don't use," needs more explanation. As has been pointed out, if I could simply not use drugs, why would I need a program?"

Will power, as most of us have learned, can drive us crazy and into really crazy and desperate situations, but it cannot cure addiction. The best it can do is that form of serenity-shattering white-knuckling abstinence those in AA call being a "dry drunk." In all my years I've never heard an equivalent expression for the white-knuckle abstinent addict. "Abstinent suffering bastard?" "White-knuckle straightitude?" One miserable existence whatever we call it, miserable for the addict and anyone close to or in the vicinity of the addict.

So, don't use, but within a program that makes not picking up your opening to recovery rather than your ticket to hell. That means doing whatever you have to do not to pick up. The two biggest items of what to do not to pick up are: (1) Go to meetings, and (2) ask for help.

In meetings and from sponsors and others in the program, and from program literature, are where we find out about the tools of recovery: Meetings, literature, sponsorship, service work in NA, writing, working the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and for some, work with therapists to resolve traumas from the past that serve as ready excuses to use.

Here are some other practical things to do to keep from picking up: In the program it's called "Changing playthings, playgrounds, and playmates."
Get the stuff (booze, drugs) out of your house or apartment. Make your new playthings hobbies (I took up wood carving), exercise (I took up downhill skiing), rebuilding your relationships, keeping promises, getting a job or doing the job you have better (I had to relearn how to write as well as why to write), paying off debts, going back to school, becoming a valuable functioning member of the human race.
Get and stay away from those who use. Usually using friends and acquaintances will shy away from you and eventually leave you alone. There is a believe out there that sobriety and being clean are contagious conditions, and they may be. Develop friendships with those who don't use. You can find them in meetings, classrooms, workplaces, churches, mosques, synagogues, AA and NA service gatherings, and program retreats and conventions. You might begin with the person you ask to be your sponsor.
Stay away from places where drugs are used. For many, this is the hardest one. Students in high school have the toughest course to follow. Other users at the school, students and some teachers, really don't want someone trying to get clean in their midst. Getting the newly recovering addict back to using often becomes an important objective.
Most schools, particularly public and state schools, have yet to understand this situation or do anything about it.  Another tough situation is the workplace. On-the-job drug use is commonplace in many if not most  industries and occupations. Sometimes the choice is either put up with it or do without an education, job, or place to live.
The answer? Find people in recovery. At most schools and workplaces there are others trying to stay clean. Make them your friends. They will help thin out the crowd of users. Use your telephone numbers and call others in the program when things start closing in on you. Use your sponsor. In any event, do what you have to do not to pick up. I know physicians who gave up writing prescriptions and nurses who changed occupations to stay away from drugs.
So, do what you have to do to not pick up, to attend meetings, and to ask for help. It is doable and millions have done and are doing it. Tool boxes are not much use if you leave them closed.

My sponsor and me at Sunday River
Different playthings, playmates, and playgrounds

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Don't pick up, go to meetings, and ask for help.
            For the fourth week in a row, the views of Life Sucks Better Clean from Russia top the numbers from everywhere else, including the United States. Again this makes me wonder how the Google translation gadget works. When I use the translation device on Facebook to understand what my Spanish-speaking friends are saying (and I took Spanish for four years) frequently the result is the kind of gibberish that would cause me to call the paramedics had I heard something similar from an English-speaking friend.
            Please let me know if you have used the translation gadget at the top of the page, and if so, does it work well?
            Which brings me to slang, slogans, and meaning. If you attend English-speaking NA meetings, or read this blog, you will have heard the expression "Don't pick up (or use), go to meetings, and ask for help." From some comments I've gotten, this doesn't make it through the translator very well.
            Don't pick up or use a mood altering drug, which includes, of course, alcohol. For me it also includes not engaging in any of my other addictions, such as compulsive overeating and gambling. To be in recovery begins by stopping the addictive behavior.
             Just for today, don't pick up or use.
            This means Twelve Step meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and so on. At first, hit as many meetings as you can. The old rule is ninety meetings in ninety days. Those who regularly attend these meetings get and stay clean. They also learn to become fully functioning human beings. That's what we call "recovery."
            No meetings in your area? Start one. Get in touch with the world services (See the Learn More links on the right side of this page), find the "Start a meeting" link, and get ready to commit to a couple of years of work keeping the meeting going. Invite speakers from established meetings, leave your meeting information with doctors, hospitals, treatment centers, mental health hospitals, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, jails, prisons, courts, and law enforcement units. Recovering addicts need other recovering addicts. That's how it works, why it works, and why the meetings are so important.
            Time passes, you've heard it all before, and the meetings get boring? Make sure to keep going to the meetings. Why? (1) You are never cured or recovered from addiction. (2) And your disease will try to get you to stop doing the things that keep you in recovery, like going to meetings. (3) There is probably someone at that meeting who is in need of just the kind of help your own recovery can provide if shared.
            Just for today, find a meeting and give it a try.
            "What do I do to get clean and stay clean?" That's one way to ask for help.
            "Will you be my sponsor?" is another.
            "Can anyone help me deal with . . . [Fill in the horror of the moment]." Family problems, financial problems, legal problems, homelessness, unemployment, jail time to serve, resentments, Higher Power problems—whatever. There is someone at the meeting, your sponsor, perhaps another program member you call on the phone who can tell you what they did in similar circumstances.
            Just for today, reach out and ask for the help you need.
Don't pick up, go to meetings, and ask for help. It is a very simple program for very complicated people—and it works.
            Common Era (Christian) New Year is making its way around the globe as I'm writing this. For many in the world, 2015 was a hardship or horror. As always, the next year is looked upon with hope and promise. Some things we can count on: The days in 2016 will be 24 hours long, the disease of addiction will not go away, and recovering addicts who work their programs will still be clean this time next year.
            Take care and be good to yourself. A happy, clean, and sane New Year for everyone willing to work for it.