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."

Friday, May 05, 2017

FOCUS & EARLY RECOVERY

     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

WHAT PRICE SANITY?

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.

RESOLVING GUILT
Clearing past  wreckage using Steps Eight and Nine

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

     Sunday's Program:
HAPPY, JOYOUS, AND FREE
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

BLACK GLOOMY THE DRAGON

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

TRUMP, CLINTON, HEALTH CARE, BUDGET, MILITARY BUILDUP, ISIS, IMMIGRATION, WIRETAPS & SERENITY

     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.