Sunday, November 29, 2015

GRATITUDE AND FOCUS

"My name is Harry and I'm a grateful recovering alcoholic."
     ---a what? I thought. Grateful? Grateful? What bullshit! 
     It was one of my first AA speaker meetings I was required to attend while undergoing treatment in rehab. The first speaker introduced himself as a "grateful recovering alcoholic," and I heard almost nothing else. I couldn't get my head around that word "grateful."
     Grateful? Yeah, man, I am just tickled pink to have the disease of alcoholism (which I would later learn to call "addiction"). Who was this guy kidding anyway? He was, at the very least, I believed, kidding himself.
     By then I had gotten far enough along in treatment to admit I was an addict, but I still hadn't quite gotten around to accepting it. I was still in a self-pity/rage fest about life, the universe, God, or whoever singling me out for this particular gift: Addiction. I mean, how could something like this happen to a nice guy like me?
     There was no need for me to total up all of the things I was damned ungrateful for. I had that list carved in stone and chained to me so that I dragged it around and had it weigh me down wherever I went.
     Physical problems
     Legal problems
     Loved ones I had hurt
     Pets I had hurt
     Employees I had hurt
     Endless valuable things I had trashed
     The money I had wasted
     The money I failed to make, opportunities lost through loss of productivity, all of the stories that never got written.
     This helpless, hopeless, dark little universe in which I was confined; a place where the world was shit, nothing worked, there was no such thing as a temporary problem, a world in which I was convinced everyone hated me, and where I punished those who still dared to love me.
     It was a world in which I stayed in bed for two weeks trying to figure out how to kill myself without making a mess, and failing.
    Yeah, I had my anti-gratitude list up and running all right. Any time I needed an excuse to use drugs, all of my reasons were right there in glorious black and blacker. Gratitude my ass!

     Time passed, I didn't use, I went to meetings, I got a sponsor, I listened at the meetings and did what my sponsor told me. Learned a few things, too.
     1. If all I look for is shit, shit is all I'm ever going to find.
     2. If in the center of a perfectly clean wall is a fly speck, and all I do is focus on the fly speck, the universe will appear as though it is covered in filth.
     3. That my focus is governed by my attitude, and my attitude is one of the things I can change.
     5. That my disease considers me a crap magnet. It figures once I'm covered in enough crap, I'll use.
     6. It's tough to clean a septic tank when you're sitting in it.

     I also learned how to move my focus off the fly speck by doing a gratitude list. I've covered this before, but Blogger doesn't make going through the older posts very easy, so here it is again:
How To Do A Gratitude List
     There are many different ways to do a gratitude list. This is the way my sponsor taught me thirty-three years ago.
     Take a letter-sized piece of paper, draw a line down the center of the paper. At the top of the left-hand column, write your clean date (If you don't know what your clean date is, go to the NA  link, find out where the nearest meeting is, and go there now.)
     At the top of the right-hand column, write today's date.
     Back at the left-hand column, write down the names of everyone you truly loved on your clean date. Didn't take me long at all because I loved no one, including myself.
     Over to the right-hand column, write down the names of everyone you love now. That usually takes me most of a morning.
     Back to the left hand column. Write down the names of everyone who, on your clean date, you felt or believed loved you. Again, I drew a blank.
     Over to the right-hand column, write down the names of everyone who, today, you feel or believe love you.
     I usually don't have to do any more than that to both eat up a morning and end up feeling wealthy in love. However, if you need more, do the same thing with your physical condition then and now, relationships then and now, possessions, occupation, outlook, and so on with every aspect of your existence.
     This coming December I will have been clean thirty-four years. I am living on borrowed time, and the best thing about borrowed time is, you don't have to pay it back. For that and for many, many other things, I am grateful.
     Two final things to remember: (1) Grateful addicts don't pick up, and (2) If the world didn't suck we'd all fall off.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

THE FAMILY END




Alex and his wife Edna were sitting in their living room watching a television documentary on heroic measures to keep terminal patients alive and why everyone should have a living will. He finished his drink, looked at his wife and said, "Just so you know, Edna: I never want to be kept alive in a vegetative state, dependent on some damn machine and fluids from a bottle. If that should ever happen to me, just pull the plug. Promise?"
"I promise," Edna replied, got up from her chair, pulled the plug on the television set, went into the kitchen, and threw out all of his whisky. 

~ 

In rehab I learned that addiction is called "The Family Disease." It doesn't matter who takes the drugs, everyone gets sick. If you've ever said to yourself or anyone else, "I'm only hurting myself," if you don't already know, let me be the first to tell you: That is bullshit. "Everyone gets sick" means everyone gets hurt. 

My mother used to blame me for her being "sick" all the time, for which she needed to take horse-stunning pain killers and sleeping pills. My father was the man who was never there. My home was a nest of violence, sexual abuse, and mental torture that left me believing that chronic depression and playing with suicide was normal. I had to twist and bend my perception of reality until I could say to myself that I had a great childhood, almost none of which I can remember. 

Try to do your algebra homework while everyone around you is screaming and fighting. You don't invite friends over to your house to meet your parents because you have no idea what's going to be on the other side of your front door: War zone, drunk tank, boxing match, or fun house. So you do without friends. 

Some family members sneak off to cry, some cope by getting into drugs themselves, some take it out on the world around them through violence and crime, some leave never to return, and some simply end the pain by taking their own lives. 

Addicts: All of the above is not a good excuse to use. Instead it is a call for you to reach out for help. Rehab, Narcotics Anonymous Twelve Step meetings, get clean, and grow the hell up.

Family members of addicts: None of the above is a good excuse to say or think of the addict, "He or she has the problem; Not me." Everyone gets sick. Everyone who is sick with any aspect of the disease of addiction needs help to recover. The programs below are designed to do exactly that.

Nar-anon is a Twelve Step program for those affected by addicts: parents, siblings, employees, employers, and friends.

Al-Anon is a Twelve Step program for those affected by an alcoholic: Parents, siblings, employees, employers, and friends.

Alateen is a Twelve Step program for young children of alcoholics, or siblings of alcoholics. 

The links to the world services of all of the programs mentioned above are over in the "Learn More" box on the right side of the page. Your happiness and the happiness of those you love are what is at stake. What's important is what you do next.