Friday, May 05, 2017


     It has a lot of names, such as, "turd-stacking," "projecting the wreckage of the future," "horriblizing" one's life, "fly-speck magnification," "asshole gazing," and many other ways to describe the disease of addiction's practice of adjusting an addict's focus until all he or she can see is what's wrong: in the universe, in the world, in the nation, in the job, in the home, and in his or her life.
       As an old sponsor of mine pointed out to me, "If you stare into an asshole long enough, sooner or later you are going to get an eyeful of something that won't make you very happy."
       Addiction's main tool to get us back into the nightmare is this: If I can make myself miserable enough, I'll use. Pain, troubles, unhappiness at work, at school, at home, it all comes down to "If you had my troubles, you'd use, too."
       "What do you mean 'Make myself miserable,'" I asked in rehab after being told the above dynamic.
       Then I learned one of the most important facts of addiction and my experience with it: I didn't use because I had troubles; I had troubles in order to give myself excuses to use."
       My original reaction was, "Bullshit. It can't be that simple. Why would I make myself miserable?"
       The more I studied upon it, the answer to why I would make myself miserable was to give myself excuses to self-medicate. I could look at a pristine wall of white alabaster, find one tiny flyspeck on that wall, and focus on this filthy, gross, immoral imperfection until the entire wall became that flyspeck, and then I, in cooperation with my disease, would inflate that flyspeck until it covered everything I cared about. The result? Life sucks, and if so many horrible things like this are going on, I mean, why stay clean?
       The grateful addict never uses. When you are feeling less than grateful, check your focus. What are you focusing on? Are you saving and stacking turds until your recovery gets caught in an avalanche? How important is your recovery? Just how big and how important is that flyspeck?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


This weekend I am attending the Brothers In Spirit men's retreat in Alfred, Maine. Flyers and details are available at the NA Maine website under "Events." The theme is Guilt & Shame and what to do with them. Both are prime setups to go back to using ("If you'd done what I did, you'd use, too.")

Even if you do not attend the retreat, the program is published below mainly because it's fairly self-explanatory and make excellent topics for meetings, sponsorship discussions, or just plain writing.
    Friday's Program:
about brothers IN SPIRIT
Welcome, a little about Brothers in Spirit, about our theme, and a time to meet and share.
    Saturday's Program:
Guilt, shame, & the payoff
What is guilt? What is shame? How does the disease of addiction use these to encourage relapse.

letting go of shame
To let it go we have to pick it up. Using sharing, sponsors, friends, and Steps Six and Seven as parts of letting go of shame.

Clearing past  wreckage using Steps Eight and Nine

Forgiving the guilt and shame we put on others, and forgiving ourselves: Resolving resentments.

     Sunday's Program:
Without resentment, shame, and guilt what's left is a future as a human dealing with problems instead of medicating them, keeping the way clear for happiness, serenity, and fulfillment. Step Ten, hope, and keeping growth in recovery

Regarding the question, "What Price Sanity?" the answer is, "Whatever it takes."

Friday, April 21, 2017


It was in my nightmares in rehab when I first called my disease "The Dragon." The label had to do with the disease in general, but, particularly the cravings and desire to chuck it all and simply give in. Such feelings never happened on days when I was feeling great, the weather was invigorating, I was healthy, and the work was going well. Days like that seemed few in my early recovery. As we have said here before: A grateful recovering addict never uses, but gratitude was in short supply during those first few months.

Time passed, though, I didn't use, things got better, and who knew? I became one of those grateful recovering addicts. After thirty-five years of this recovery, one might think I might be confidently placed in everyone's "safe" column. Naaa, not so much. The only "safe" for a recovering addict is either at a meeting or in the grave.

See, yesterday . . . Well, it began with two story problems, one each in two different novels, popping up with solutions! What to do had been dogging me for many months and I was not coming up with any answers, then *Pop, Pop!* there the answers were! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' to coin an exclamation.

Then there was some email to answer and to clean up. The filing and deleting was moving right along, I answered a few letters and was confident of getting in a great day of writing. I chortled in my joy.

Then I was notified that my summer home away from home, a convention that I had attended for decades, that, for as many decades my wife and I had regarded as our Summer break from endless rounds of hospitals and keyboards, no longer cared to have me as a guest. "Okay!" said my disease, "Enough of this grateful recovering addict shit. Welcome back to Hell." Depression was all over me, I couldn't shake it off, and then I began collecting and stacking turds, real and imaginary, in full awareness that, should I stack those turds high enough, I will use.

Among the real pieces of crap to sorrow over was another terrorist attack, a couple of brutal murders on the news, a good man killed, a very gray day, and the snow still hadn't melted where I live. Among the imaginary pieces of crap were, "What had I done?" Was it because I offended someone? The committee found out who I voted for in the last national election? I'm really a fraud as an author? as a panelist? as a lecturer?

And guess who was waiting for me: Black Gloomy The Dragon. They told me on my first day in rehab, I don't use because I have problems. I have problems in order to give myself excuses to use. And when real problems come along, well, that is prime dragon chow. So I meditated. Then I prayed. The storm passed and I thought I would share with you the lesson: No one in recovery is ever completely safe from addiction. Is there something outside yourself that if it went the wrong way your disease would find that thread and begin to unravel your recovery? Be aware. Be aware.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


     The issues dividing Americans, and many others outside the United States, affect those in Twelve Step programs, as well. They are the kinds of issues that can tear apart a meeting with very real life and death consequences. That is why "we have no opinion on outside issues."
     Still, to be responsible and productive citizens, the issues that affect us and the issues we can affect need to be addressed maturely and responsibly so that when we do sit and share in those meetings, we know we have done what we can do and can then let go of it all at the meeting in order to deal with the big problem: addiction.
      So . . . health care. . . . Maybe we should begin with something easier. The national debt is a prob . . . ."
     Okay, let me start again. Hillary Clinton lost because . . . . Enh! Screw it! I'm going skiing.
PS. That is not me.

Monday, March 13, 2017


One way to look at it:

►When Velveeta got clean, she found herself in serious financial trouble. Her business had gone bust and she was in dire financial straits. She was so desperate that she decided to go straight to her higher power for help. She prayed, “God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my home and car as well. Please let me win the lottery.”  
The night of the drawing came, Vel held her breath waiting for the announcement, and, sad to tell, someone else was the winner. The next morning the bank foreclosed on her home.
Disappointed and thinking that she hadn’t prayed hard enough, she prayed again, this time getting down on her knees in the snow. “God, please let me win the lottery! I've lost my business, my home, and I'm going to lose my car as well.”

The night of the next drawing came, Vel held her breath and crossed her fingers waiting for the announcement, and, sad to tell, someone else was the winner. The next morning the repo man came and took her car.
Heartbroken, Velveeta prayed again, this time lying prostrate on the ice. “My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me? I have lost my business, my house, and my car. My children will starve next. My sponsor told me to pray to you for the things I need, and I really need to win the lottery so I can get my life back in order. Please, please, please, please, please let me win the lottery!”
The clouds parted and a blinding white light appeared as the voice of God boomed down at the woman from the sky: “Velveeta, now work with me on this concept, okay? First, you buy a ticket!”
Another way to look at it:
►St. Francis of Assisi was showing someone his garden, and the man was very impressed. “Your garden is beautiful and so productive,” said the man. “You must have prayed very hard to get it like this.”
“Yes,” said Francis, “and every time I prayed I picked up a hoe.”

►What do the two items above have to do with staying in recovery and growing in the program? Meditate on that question then apply the answer.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


This was sent to me by my friend Jeremy.

A man was traveling in a hot air balloon and had become completely lost. He spied a man walking way down below, so he lowered the balloon within calling range.
     “Excuse me,” he called out, “I promised a friend I would meet him a half hour from now and I have no idea where I am. Can you help me out?”
The man on the ground said, “Certainly. You are in a hot air balloon  about 30 feet above the ground. You're at longitude 70 degrees west and latitude 30 degrees north.”
The man in the balloon thought on it a moment and said, “You have got to be a sponsor.”
The man on the ground said, “As a matter of fact I am a sponsor, but how did you know?”
The man in the balloon said, “Everything you've told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with the information and, frankly, I'm still lost.”
The man on the ground nodded and said, “You must be a sponsee.”
The man in the balloon said , “As a matter of fact, I am a sponsee, but how did you know?”
The man on the ground said, “You have no idea where you are, you have no idea where you're going. You've made a promise you have no idea how to keep. You expect me to solve your problem for you and even though you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, it has now somehow become my fault.

Friday, March 10, 2017


"My name is Jay and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."
The above quotation was obtained first hand by me from Jay the first time back when rocks were still soft—a long time ago. Over the years at various events Jay and I attended, at workshops and meetings where the first-name "Who's here?" goes around, Jay always introduced himself that way.

This is not an obituary, so calm down. Jay only moved away from Maine and went West. I consider Jay a valuable friend both for who he is and for his recovery. He has been through the mill several times and survived without using drugs, but by using the program of Narcotics  Anonymous. So, I miss him.

But then, not long after he moved away, I noticed a strange thing. At NA meetings I attend, several times now I have heard addicts introduce themselves with "My name is (so-and-so) and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."

The first time I heard it, I asked the very young man if he knew Jay. He didn't. Then I asked him why he introduced himself that way. He had only weeks in recovery and was brand new to Maine NA. "That's how my new sponsor introduces himself," explained the newcomer. "It sounds good and it's something important I need to remember." Jay's recovery has effects that reach down to persons he has never met.

It reminded me of the closing ceremony at one of the Miracle conventions I attended years ago. Neil, a very good friend of Jay's and a man who I loved and respected, was at the outside meeting. There were perhaps ninety addicts in the circle either sitting on the grass or in a variety of chairs from those molded plastic things to camp chairs and folding chaise-lounges. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze, and birds singing in the trees. Neil had shared at an earlier meeting that day that he had been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and I had been thinking about that. Then it was my turn to speak.

On my way to the podium, I noticed Neil was only a few places away to the right of me. There was something I had seen many years earlier at a high school graduation that really impressed me, and it seemed like an ideal time to try it out on an NA meeting.

I asked Neil to stand. His face reddened as he stood and said, "Oh, shit," wondering what kind of gag I was going to pull. I don't know why, but I seem to have a reputation as a prankster.

As I stood there looking out at that large ring of recovering addicts, wondering if what I was about to do would have the effect I wanted, I asked everyone who respected and had learned from Neil's shared recovery in NA to stand. It looked to me that around thirty persons in the circle stood. Then I asked everyone who respected and learned from the shared recovery of any of those who were standing to stand, as well. All of those still seated in the circle got to their feet. Everyone in the circle was standing. "That is how it works," I said and returned to my place.

Denis Hall is where the We Are A Miracle convention
takes place. In front of this building is where I said good-bye to Neil
Neil and his shared recovery had affected everyone at the convention, and right there was the visible proof for all to see, especially including Neil. As the meeting broke up and Neil was about to leave, I hugged him, he got into his vehicle, and drove off on his way to New York. That was the last time I saw him. We learned a few months later that he died. 

We don't often realize the good we do in recovery, the extent of it, the valuable lives we help save. In my own case I find that those who leave the program, relapse, and die tend to occupy my attention while the successes occupy a minor "They're safe" bin in the back of my brain.

It is a good thing to recognize those successes we see around us at every meeting, and when one of those miracles lets us know how much we mean to them because of our words, or our actions, or recovery, don't brush it off with a quick "Great," or :"You too." Do that unnatural thing addicts often fail to do properly. Be aware that you have been instrumental in saving a valuable life, and let the person who shared how much you have meant to them know their message has been taken in by saying, "Thank you."

What the hell. Throw in a hug, too. It is a big deal. After all, that person being in recovery is part of an ongoing miracle that you helped keep working.