Monday, May 21, 2012

THE SIZE OF THE BOAT

Blogger.com  blogs have a neat statistics page through which I can see from where the Life Sucks Better Clean page views come. Today's page views, for example, come from the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, India, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Gabon, and Slovenia. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the disease of addiction is universal. No country, no social or ethnic group, no particular class, no one rich or poor, smart or dim, strong or weak, religious or reasoning is exempt.

If you've got the bug of addiction and then pick up the substance and use it, the dark-side adventure begins and continues day-after-day, year-after-year, decade-after-decade until you either die, kill someone, get imprisoned, or get into recovery. I have no doubt that once we make contact with beings from other galaxies, they will have addicts, and they will do the same dumb, sick, cruel, self-destructive things we all did. If they have recovery programs that work, chances are they will involve the addict putting down the substance, reaching outside of him, her, or itself to a Higher Power for help, and going to meetings (or perhaps melding with the nest consciousness).

I write a lot of science fiction. The one universe I have yet to create is one in which addiction in all its forms (Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior-OCB) does not and never had existed. I can't imagine it. If one is a living being, one seeks pleasure. Given the opportunity, a certain portion of any group of beings will seek their pleasure to the exclusion of anything else; In other words, they are addicts.

Back in the Late 'Sixties, I watched a news item on TV in which a rat had an electrode implanted in the pleasure center of its brain. The rat could stimulate this pleasure center by pushing a button in its cage. On the screen it showed the animal pushing the button again and again. The voice over mentioned that the rat would continue doing this to the exclusion of any other behavior until it died of thirst or starved to death.

I also remember my wife's reaction to the story: "What a terrible thing to do to an animal." I remember my reaction, as well: "Where can I get one of those gadgets?"

Drugs or life? Health or sickness? Being a monster or being a human? Existence under slavery or existence under freedom? Life or death? They are all very real choices. We are all in the same boat whatever our spoken language, color, politics, economic system, or available substances. The forms of recovery, however, are different from culture to culture depending upon how much reliance the addict can place in his anonymity. One is reluctant to share about one's use and abuse of alcohol in a society in which alcohol is forbidden and using it has serious consequences at law. You don't want your using exploits to find their way into the files of the secret police or the local news media.

What is the state of recovery from addiction in your country? What changes or adaptations did you find necessary? Are there any stories of hope and recovery from all these different countries? Twelve Step Recovery programs were born in the United States from seeds planted by the Oxford Group, which had it's roots in England. But just as the disease covers the planet, so does the opportunity to create and take advantage of recovery.

I'd really like to hear your stories.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Perspectives

A thing I realized after passing my 70th birthday is that I had reached some kind of universal cutoff point. When one is 69 years old and dies, everyone says: "Aw, he was so young!" If you die at 70, though, what they say is: "Well, he didn't have a great run, but it wasn't bad."

When he would be in a bunch of recovering addicts who were pissing and moaning about aches, pains, medical problems and all the crap associated with aging, my late sponsor used to grin and remind them all, "Hey, remember, we aren't even supposed to be here." When you take an addict and add the addict to recovery, the best you can hope for is a recovering addict who is getting older and older. The resultant old addicts are something new on the scene. In the past, addicts never had to worry about getting old.

This is the gift of life; A gift, incidentally, for which those in Twelve Step programs have to work their asses off to receive and maintain. The disease never sleeps, though. Instead of being grateful for still being alive ("If you wake up in the morning, congratulations! You have another chance!"), the disease wants us to look for the flaws in our lives. Got a new medical problem? A bad back? Chronic cough? Allergies? Hair falling out? You can't get it to comb right? Those tacos turning into muffin tops, then into beach balls?

"Don't stop there," urges the dragon. "What about the economic picture? Unemployment? Monetary inflation? Debt? What about politics?"

It doesn't take a lot of effort to feel like crap. The disease will do all the work for you. For the recovering addict, however, gratitude needs to be earned. The work one needs to do is incredibly burdensome. Can you take a piece of paper and write down five things for which you are grateful? No?  Look again.

Is there anyone you love still alive?
Do you have any fond memories about anything?
Could you feed yourself this morning?
Are you able to dress yourself, wipe your own ass?
Are there any musical artists whose work you like?
Any movies, plays, books, paintings?
Do you have any friends ? (and if your answer to this one is "no," get your ass to a meeting and begin making friends.)

The disease wants to find that single fly speck on that huge, lovely clean wall, and focus on it until that fly speck fills your universe. The antidote is gratitude: reminding yourself of all the parts of that wall free of that fly speck.



If that can't move you off the pity pot, there is a twelve year old girl named Anna King who was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, was restricted from strenuous activities, and told she needs a heart transplant. Now, that's what I call a fly speck! What a great opportunity to go into a self pity wallow. Watch the video and see how Anna dealt with the news: