Monday, December 26, 2016

HOPE

     The addict pessimist says "Things can't get any worse than this!"
     The addict optimist says, "Yes they can!"

     In early recovery from addiction, hope that things might get better is what keeps most addicts trying. NA is hope for the hopeless, and addicts freeing themselves from the chains of addiction through working an NA program of recovery is something I have seen and experienced.
     If you have a drug problem and want to get clean and once again live life as a human being, there is a lot of help out there. Look in your phone book for the helpline numbers for NA. Nothing there, use the NA links on this page. Bring yourself to a meeting and listen. Maybe you won't get a lot out of your first meeting; maybe you will. In either case, go to another meeting. Talk with the people there. "How do you stay clean?" is a great question to ask.
     Listen to the answers. No addict seeking recovery through NA needs to die from addiction. Lives can be rebuilt. The future can be a place of opportunities and possibilities.
     Pick up that phone and call an NA helpline number or drag your ass to a meeting, put it in a chair, and open up your ears. The coming New Year can be all yours, if you reach out for help.
     And remember:
 Hope is saying there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I might not be holding my flashlight backwards



Sunday, December 25, 2016

PEACE ON EARTH, AND YEAH . . .RIGHT

     There is a saying from India that goes like this: "God gave humans the truth, then the Devil came and said, 'I'll organize it for you and call it religion'."
     Considering the history of India, the persecutions and bloody clashes between religions and sects, it is apt that India was the source of the above saying. The same could be said, however, had the saying come from Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Israel, Syria, Italy, France, Britain, Ireland, the United States, Germany, Mexico, Canada, or many other nations on this planet.
     In the United States, more and more, religion has gotten into politics, which makes it no different than most of the other major religions in the world. Most of these efforts on some level may have had good intentions, but look at the historical body count: Crusades, wars of Islamic expansion, inquisitions, pogroms, sect-based civil wars, persecutions, "ethnic cleansings," death camps, ghettos, mass executions, and so on.
     Those who grow up within a religion and have known nothing else but that belief have a ready excuse for violence when politics is put into the mix and persons with different religious beliefs are on the opposing political side.
     Some religions hold that there is but one belief, one set of rituals, and anyone who believes differently is a non-believer and is either going to Hell when they die, or deserve to be killed for the crime of not believing.
     In Twelve Step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, each individual is urged to pick his or her own conception of a Higher Power. When I first needed to approach this matter in recovery, my sponsor sat me down before a piece of paper, handed me a pencil, and said, "Now you are going to design a Higher Power for yourself. My only requirement is that your HP have the power to give you the strength to stay clean for twenty-four hours. Anything else you want, add it."
      There are places on Earth where professing such beliefs would get you beheaded or tortured to death. But I followed the instructions and added one other provision: That it would be okay for me to test my Higher Power.
      I have tested my HP, my particular HP is there and has passed all of the tests including keeping me free from alcohol and other drugs for thirty-five years. It works for me. One of the things I've had to learn is toleration of the Higher Power beliefs of others, including those who wish to explore their spirituality through an established religion.
      It is okay if you do not believe as I do. Whatever you believe, the test is: Is it working for you? I can only judge if my Higher Power is working for me. I am not offended by anyone's spiritual beliefs except in one area: If you believe that everyone else must believe as you do by the use of force or horror, that is wrong. Certainly wrong for me since my HP is unique to me. I believe this narrow-minded view is wrong for you, as well. By intolerance of other beliefs, the parts of those beliefs that would be useful to you and your recovery you will never hear.
     Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, the indispensable spiritual principles of recovery, for this day and age, need a fourth: Tolerance of the beliefs of others.
     For the love of God, for Christ's sake, for the love of Allah, for the love of Mike, Lord Buddha, Vishnu, George, Chair, Nick, Teddy Bear, Buster, Slick, Coincidence (the revered Supreme Being of the Atheists), and that great native New England American spirit, Highah Powah, pass it on.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

WHAT MAKES GREAT?

Something upon which to meditate: a quotation by Pliny the Younger.
Secunda Felices, Adversa Magnos Probent.
(Prosperity proves the fortunate, adversity the great.)

     You got problems? Troubles and disasters that seem to have waited until you stopped using drugs to drop on you? Employment, relationships, health, school going sour? These aren't tests. They are life. The big question is will you take one or more problems to use as excuses to pick up that first drug?
     I know many great persons in the program. The one thing they have in common is that they use the tools of the program not to use.
     Be great, and be careful out there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ANNIVERSARIES

     In Twelve Step programs we celebrate anniversaries. Some individuals choose not to celebrate, but the majority of members I know in NA do. It started off for me pretty much as "Look what I did!" As I got more time and humility, it became "Look what we did!" Years, decades passed and anniversaries to me became the most important message that can be passed on to the newcomer: It works. It works. Pass it on.
     Last night at the Dragon Slayers Group of Narcotics Anonymous in Farmington, Maine (the oldest continuous NA meeting in the state), three of us celebrated anniversaries and two of us celebrated monthiversaries (my spell checker didn't like that!). There was cake, ice cream, and good fellowship following the meeting.
     Friends, acquaintances, strangers desperate to become and stay free of the slavery of addiction. It does work. Pass it on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

HELPFUL THOUGHTS

     Keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out.
     An optimist sees a glass as half full; A pessimist sees the glass as half empty; An engineer sees the glass as twice as big as it needs to be.
     Instant gratification takes too long.
     Never try to argue an addict into getting clean. All you'll do is waste your time and piss off the addict.
     "In the midst of great joy, do not promise anyone anything. In the midst of great anger, do not answer anyone's letter.—Chinese Proverb
     Bring your ass to meetings. Your heart and brain will eventually follow.
     

Monday, December 19, 2016

FAITH FOR THE FAITHLESS

     Mark Twain once wrote that "faith" is "believing what you know ain't so." Active addicts most often have little use for Higher Powers, faith, and prayer except when the police start closing in, the job depends on a clean urine test, or an angry armed dealer wants his money.
     In rehab, for the first time, I read the Twelve Steps of recovery, and there was a great deal of god, prayer, meditation, and such in there. Since as a small child I had vowed to kill God by refusing to believe in gods, I was in a bad place. I had a disease that wanted to kill me, the only path to recovery that anyone knew of involved a "spiritual awakening," and that was something I believed I couldn't do.
     It took time, staying clean, listening to other addicts in recovery about their Higher Powers, and experiencing a lot of pain and loneliness, but I at last tried out a Higher Power, found that it worked, and then came to believe. It helped me to stay in recovery.
     My faith in my HP was shaken when some really terrible health issues came up, friends in the program I cared about died, and difficulties with my work came up.  So, what was going on? I'm clean, being good, praying to my HP, so why was all this crap hitting me at the same time?
     Then I heard at a meeting that until it's tested and withstands the test, faith isn't faith; It's only a theory.
       
 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

GROWTH MOMENTS

     The topic was problems piling on the addict in early recovery. One person wondered if his Higher Power was testing him by dumping problems on him. Another speculated that God has a supply of celestial shitballs on hand, and when things seem to be going too well for a recovering addict, the missiles descend.
     Growth moments. They seem to have been waiting in ambush to drop upon the addict new in recovery. Friends, close relatives dying, things break down, troublesome health news, terrorism, unemployment, atrocities, poverty, and the entire world inventory of things that can and do go wrong.
     Addiction sees these things and couldn't be happier. The more miserable, the more troubled the addict gets, the closer that addict is to picking up that next drug, that first step back to the nightmare of active addiction.
     The truth is, many of the problems we get hit with in early recovery have always been there. Using addicts either didn't notice or didn't care. Now that we're clean and have a growing awareness as to what's going on, Ouch!
      Using drugs is how many of us coped with problems. It was a treatment that has unpleasant and terrible side effects, not the least of which is addiction. The problems are still there and the program gives us the tools with which we can deal with problems without using drugs. Meetings, sponsors, the telephone, writing, program literature, meditation, prayer, working the steps, and the slogans: Easy does it, How important is it?, One day at a time, Think it through.
     No one became clean to be miserable, and we get absolutely no points in life or in the hereafter by beating ourselves or denying ourselves happiness.
     Deal with problems by dealing with them.
     On the list of those to whom you need to make amends, place your own name at the top.
     Balance your view of things that are going wrong with a gratitude list of the things that are going right.
     Use all the tools of recovery.
     And remember, happiness is a choice. In the words of Latin writer, Publilus Syrus, "No man is happy who does not think himself so."
.
     .   

Sunday, December 11, 2016

RECOVERY: AN ACTION PROGRAM

     "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all." —Sam Ewing

      To me now, staying clean seems simple—usually. I don't pick up a drink or a drug, I go to meetings on a regular basis, I get in touch with my sponsor every so often, and I use the Twelve Steps as a way of life. In exchange for this minimal investment, I get to live my life as a human being. That means I don't hurt loved ones, business associates, friends, or myself. I do things in my life that help me learn and grow. I earn my way, pay my bills, help others when I can, and appreciate the world around me and those in it.
     The disease however never sleeps, never goes away, and never grows weak. Although it is much less effort and trouble to be in recovery than it was to survive lost in the labyrinth of active addiction, there is still necessary work to do. Slack off on meetings, play with euphoric recall, isolate, focus on everything that's wrong, projecting the wreckage of the future—sooner or later you will be miserable enough to allow the disease of addiction to talk you back to playing on the railroad tracks.
     Those with long-term recovery suit up, show up, share, and continue to grow. I hope to see you at a meeting sometime.


     The Life Sucks Better Clean blog is getting an unusual increase in views from those seeking recovery in Russia. I welcome you all and hope to hear from those who would like to share. God bless us every one.

 

Friday, December 09, 2016

I'M ONLY HURTING MYSELF

     What addict hasn't made this claim when confronted with early objections to his or her using. I heard a fellow share at a meeting that when he first tried to go to an AA meeting, he went into the meeting place and asked an old-timer there where the AA beginner's meeting was. The old guy told him to go to a particular room and wait.
    The meeting started, the fellow listened, and pretty soon he realized that the person everyone was talking about was him. And one thing he learned was that a using addict isn't only hurting him or herself. The addict hurts everyone he or she is close to from parents, wives, husbands, children, friends, co-workers, and employers. He was in an Al-Anon meeting; a "beginner's meeting" with a very important lesson for addicts: You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
    

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

JUST WHAT ARE OLD-TIMERS GOOD FOR?



A very old dog was in the jungle looking for something to eat when he looked up and realized he didn't know where he was. "I'm so stupid," he said. "I can't believe I let myself get lost." He wandered around trying to find his way out of the jungle when he noticed a huge panther moving rapidly though the brush heading in the old dog's direction. "Unless I think of something quickly," said the dog, "I'm lunch."
Looking around, the old dog saw some bones on the ground. He settled down with his back to the approaching cat and began gnawing on the bones and saying loudly, "My, my, but that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more of them around here."
Hearing this, the young panther stopped dead and in a panic turned and crept off into the jungle away from the old mongrel dog, whispering to himself," "That was a close call. That old dog nearly had me."

There was a young squirrel who had been watching from a tree as the drama below played out. He decided to use his knowledge in trade to the panther for the cat's protection. The squirrel caught up with the panther and told the cat what he saw. The squirrel then struck a deal with the panther for the squirrel's protection.
The young panther was furious at being tricked and said, "Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what I'm going to do to that old dog!"
The old dog, still wandering around trying to find his way out of the jungle, saw the young panther with the young squirrel on his back charging toward him. He looked around but there weren't any bones. So the old dog sat with his back to the rushing panther, began licking his paw, and said loudly, "Just where is that damned squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!"
Moral of the story? Don't mess with old dogs. They know a thing or two because they've seen a thing or two. Both wisdom and brilliantly crafted bullshit come only with age and experience.
 What does this have to do with staying clean in recovery? Now you just meditate on that and answer your own question.


 
 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

WANTS AND NEEDS

The Sage has said: "You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice."




Thursday, December 01, 2016

YOUR HIGHER POWER IS TALKING TO YOU

     A man and his wife were sitting in their living room and he said to her, "Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens to me, just pull the plug."
     So his wife got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out all his beer.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LIVING ON BORROWED TIME

     Overheard this at a meeting some years ago: "I used to think that in recovery I was living on borrowed time. In fact I was living on earned time."

Monday, November 28, 2016

SOMETHING NEW TO WORRY ABOUT

     Every worry is a negative prayer, an error message to one's Higher Power that it just doesn't pack the gear. If your Higher Power is that wimpy, you need to upgrade because a wimpy HP can't keep you clean.
     If your HP isn't wimpy, then why worry?

     Always keep the dynamic of addiction in mind: If the recovering addict gets miserable enough, the addict will use. It isn't any more complicated than that. Can worrying solve problems or accomplish anything positive? Can worrying make the worrier miserable? Can it affect the worrier's health? Can it affect the worrier's loved ones?
     You know the answers.
     If you worry, why pray? If you pray, why worry?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

SMART AND DUMB

     There is a saying in the writing business that I found useful in staying clean and growing in recovery. It is called "Nolan's Observation," and, no, I do not know who Nolan was or is. It goes like this:
     "The difference between smart people and dumb people isn't that smart people don't make mistakes. They just don't keep making the same mistake over and over again."

     There is another saying attributed to writers Mark Twain and Tom Clancy: "The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense."


     Be careful out there.






Friday, November 25, 2016

TOMBSTONE SOBRIETY

     The day after Thanksgiving and I'm thinking about those I've known in the program who went out again, used, and died. It reminds me of something I heard years ago at a meeting: "Every time history repeats itself the price goes up."
     If you've been the route of addiction, recovery, and relapse, you are familiar with the relapse price schedule. The last few items on the cost sheet are read out at the beginning of every Narcotics Anonymous meeting: "Jails, institutions, and death."
     Why does this need to be pointed out and repeated until everyone becomes bored by the repetition? That's because the disease of addiction talks to addicts and is articulate, entertaining, and clever in doing so. Addiction first tells you that you haven't got it. Then it tells you it wasn't so bad. Then it starts moaning about all the friends and fun you're missing. And somewhere along the line it coaxes you into thinking life is too dull or painful to endure without help. Finally it convinces you that one drink or one drug won't hurt.
     Take a lesson from John F. who stumbled into my home group, The Dragon Slayers in Farmington, Maine, attended meetings, got clean, entered counseling, and after one particular counseling session went to our meeting and shared with us that his counselor had recommended to him that he go to drug rehab. After sharing that with the group, he asked for feedback. Short version, we all agreed with his counselor. He definitely needed to go to rehab.
     He said he needed to think about that.
     Three nights later, he went to a bar, got drunk, got into a fistfight, and was beaten to death.
     Be careful out there brothers and sisters. The dragon never sleeps and there is nobody using down in the graves.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

THANKSGIVING

     Tears? Despair? Depression? Disappointment? Anger? Hopelessness? If you live in the United States, this holiday is called "Thanksgiving," or "giving thanks." Thanks to whom? Thanks for what?"
     Yeah, the disease of addiction doesn't want you to feel grateful for anything because grateful addicts don't use. If you are pondering what to be grateful for on this day, begin with being alive and able to write a gratitude list. Go ahead. Use pencil, pen, computer, pad, or beach sand and begin writing down what you are grateful for. I always start with being grateful I'm not a turkey.
     List them: Who do you love, like, or care about? Who loves, likes, cares about you? Have you been clean so far today? Got plans for today? You can always make it to a meeting or call your sponsor or someone in the program. There are those who believe that N.A. stands for "Never Alone." Got a job? Prospects? Health? Health getting better? Can you laugh? Can you love? Can you care about anyone else?"
     The only way you can be grateful for nothing is for the disease to be in 100% charge of you and your brain. The theme is survival. Do your gratitude list and have a really great day.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE PROMISE

     Much of the sharing at the meeting was about relapses, sometimes called "slips." Both terms refer to picking up, using, giving in to addiction by taking that first drug. Those at the meeting who had experienced relapses, using after getting into recovery, they all said the same thing: "It began by stopping going to meetings."
     This pattern was one of the first things I noticed when I was new in recovery. Those who went out, used, and managed to struggle back again all said the same thing: "I stopped going to meetings."
     Those were the days when I considered myself terribly unique, and if I relapsed and managed to make it back again, I didn't want to have to resort to that threadbare cliché "I stopped going to meetings." So I made a promise to myself: If I ever found a better way to stay clean, or found a good reason for me to no longer attend meetings, I would go to my next scheduled meeting and share my discovery with my fellow recovering addicts. I mean, why keep all this good news to myself?
     Since I made that promise to myself almost thirty-five years ago, I've found dozens of really good reasons to quit going to meetings. However, by the time I was sitting in that next meeting, without exception, they all sounded either sick, stupid, or both.
     Whenever you are arguing with yourself about whether to go to a meeting, remember that the thing holding down the "don't go" side of the argument is the disease of addiction.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

WHEN EXPECTATION FAILS

"The way people deal with things that go wrong is an indicator of how they deal with change." ---Roberto Goizueta
     On college campuses in the U.S. there are "cry-ins," disappointed and distraught student exam dispensations, and regiments of counselors made available to student Clinton supporters who have yet to accept that their candidate did not win.
      In the streets in many of the nation's major cities, there are protests and, in some, violent riots because Donald Trump won the election for president of the United States.
      The  subject is change, and how most persons deal with change is not the concern here. How those in recovery from addiction deal with change is the concern.
      What is it going to take for you to say "To hell with it!" and pick up that drug? Whatever it is you have set aside for a good enough excuse for going back to using is called a "back door." If this happens, then what's the point in staying clean? If my mate leaves me, if I lose my children, if I get fired from my job, if I go bankrupt, if my health takes a turn for the worse, if taxes go up, if Trump wins the election . . .
      If all those things happen, don't pick up. There is no disappointment you will ever experience that cannot be made worse by using.
      And to all those celebrating, don't pick up. Committing suicide is not an intelligent way to celebrate victory.
      The key is acceptance.  As the great sage once said, "Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue."
      Face the day clean and find the happy spots.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

POST ELECTION TEARS, ANGER, RIOTS, DESTRUCTION, BRATISM, AND THE DRAGON IS SO HAPPY

First thing I learned in rehab: I didn't use drugs because I had problems; I had problems in order to give myself excuses to use. I call the desire to use, my Lower Power, "The Dragon." That fire smoking lizard takes new days, searches for the day's real or imagined flaws, and magnifies them until all I can see is failure, lost hope, and shattered dreams.
     "So," says the Dragon, "as long as everything is crappy anyway, why not score a little something ease the pain?"
     Meetings, talking with your sponsor and other addicts, reading the literature, using the telephone, staying close to one's higher power, seeing things back in perspective, and the crisis is over.
     Throwing destructive temper tantrums, setting things on fire, saying "to hell with it," and picking up a mood altering drug means whatever nightmare you are in is about to get infinitely worse.
     Live in the solution, not in the problem.
     What can you build on this new day?
     Don't let sadness, anger, depression, disappointment, or pain pick the kind of day you are going to have. Use the program and you pick the kind of day you are going to have.
     Yeah, the above might be considered "free advice," but it wasn't free; It damn near cost me my life.
     Take care. 

  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

TRUMP - CLINTON: THINK ABOUT IT

The People of the United States, and many of the peoples of the world, awakened yesterday to find out that what could not possibly have happened . . . happened. Someone who has and continues to be characterized in the most vile terms was elected president of the United States. An outside issue to be sure, but how recovering addicts choose to react to that event is smack in the middle of the subject of recovery.
     To Trump supporters who believe that the nation and world have just been saved, the evildoers cast into the darkness, and (just this one time) celebrations with mood altering drugs are in order, Think about it.
     To Clinton supporters who believe that Trump winning is one of the signs of the coming apocalypse and (just this one time) drowning sorrows with mood altering drugs is called for, Think about it.
     Humility is the quality of accepting the facts of reality. One indispensable fact of reality for recovering addicts is being powerless over addiction. There is no "just this one time" for addicts. Celebrating or attempting to ease pain by using is the back door to despair, destruction, and death.
     Life on life's terms.
     It is what it is.
     Life sucks (and is great) better clean.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

WITHOUT LOW SELF-ESTEEM I'D HAVE NO ESTEEM AT ALL

Joan Didion
A thought from writer Joan Didion:  "Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs."
     A program way of saying this is: "Recovery doesn't begin until you run out of people to blame." Yeah, a lot of bad stuff happened to me as a child and as an adult, but that's not why I used drugs. I became an addict because I have the disease of addiction.
     So where does "accepting responsibility for my own life" come in? It begins with accepting the responsibility for my own recovery. It is no one else's job to get and keep me clean. That's the responsibility of my recovery team: Meetings, Steps, sponsor, literature, Higher Power, my fellow recovering addicts, and my own active participation—being on my own team.
     Self-respect comes from being and doing things worthy of respect—doing the next right thing, even when no one is looking. —especially when no one is looking. As we heard in meetings, "Reputation is who others think you are; Character is who you and God know you are."
     Be careful out there.




Tuesday, November 08, 2016

WHO AM I?

"Barry, I want you to say three good things about yourself." The words of my rehab counselor June Qualy gave me that instruction in group and it struck such fear in me I thought I was going to go into vapor lock. Three things! Self-hatred had left me with nothing in my esteem account. I came up with three things, but they were lies as far as I was concerned. They were true and I could reach outside myself for documentation in case anyone wanted to dispute my selections, but I didn't believe them.


Low self-esteem, self hatred: they are the rewards of addiction. Try controlling drug use, try quitting, try and fail at it often enough, and the feeling you're worthless flowers like some evil alien plant. Stop the drugs, get clean, and make no other changes, the self-hatred and sense of worthlessness continues growing unchecked until your disease uses it as an excuse to climb back into the chemicals or simply end it all.

Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli once wrote, "The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own." That is valuable advice for a person to do for him or herself, as well. In doing your Fourth Step Inventory, remember to list all of the good that you are. It will be hard at first. The disease tells you that evil people and crazy people have no place in recovery so they may as well continue using. And the disease wants you dead. But how do you fight back?

Take a piece of paper and a pencil or pen and write at the top: "These are my riches." Then list them. I could make suggestions, but the answers have to come from inside you, not from somebody else's list. What are your riches?
 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

SO, WHAT IS A DRUG ANYWAY?

Some sharing stories in meetings are so familiar they seem to be part of addict racial memory.
     "I've been clean for six years, but then alcohol . . ."
     "But it's medical marijuana . . ."
     "I couldn't see how one drink would hurt . . ."
     "Prescription drugs are medicine, aren't they?"

     And so on, the addict and his or her disease looking for the loopholes in recovery, each loophole leading back to the nightmare.

     With addiction, we are talking about mood altering substances and behaviors. The addiction is not to a particular chemical or card game. The addiction is to the alteration of mood. In illustration:
      For many years, the treatment for pain in surgical procedures was opium. The result, of course, was a disturbing number of opium addicts. Around the time of the American Civil War, researchers came up with a non-addictive pain-killer they called morphine. The result was so many morphine addicts that addiction became known as "Old Soldier's Disease." In later attempts to come up with a non-addictive substitute for morphine, the result was a new non-addictive pain-killer called heroin. All three drugs altered moods, hence all three drugs were addictive.

     Same with sugar, food, sex, porn, video games, gambling, religion, overwork (as in workaholism), smoking and so on. If you do it, and doing it causes you life problems, and you keep on doing it, you are an addict.

     The above information is for those wanting to get and stay clean; Who want to recover from addiction. If you disagree with the above, that's okay. Simply print out the information and tuck the page away someplace safe for when you run out of answers.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

FIRST THINGS FIRST

     A thought on priorities: Don't allow the things you get in recovery to take you away from recovery.




     Or, as a friend of mine once put it: "If you make anything more important than recovery, you will lose your recovery, and you will also lose whatever it was you made more important than your recovery."
     Take care.

Monday, October 31, 2016

UPS AND DOWNS

     Last week I posted a quotation from the comment cards from the Bridger Wilderness (Bridger-Teton National Forest). Here's another:
     "Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill."

     It read funny to me until I began thinking that many of the prayers I hear issued in and out of the program often come down to "No more uphill climbs." It's similar to Oprah Winfrey's prayer: "Lord, don't teach me nothin' new today." My late sister Judith used to phrase it this way, "God, please make two plus two not equal four," and my sister was a mathematician.

     Life on life's terms means taking life as it comes and dealing with the problems which are simply a part of being alive on this planet as a human being. If we're clean and using our brains and the tools provided by the program, we can climb the up-hills. If we use, our abilities to make those climbs diminishes day-by-day. That's why this blog is titled "Life Sucks Better Clean."

     And remember, without the up-hills we don't get to appreciate the down-hills.



Friday, October 28, 2016

THE STATS

     "Statistics are like bikinis: they show a lot, but not what's most important." ---Anonymous




     When I was in rehab, I was told that one out of three of us would make it into recovery. That was what the rehab's two-year follow-up numbers showed. Later I heard statistics from somewhere else that said that only one out of every thirty-six addicts ever gets clean and stays in recovery.
     Pretty discouraging numbers. They are the kind of numbers the disease of addiction uses to convince the addict that there is no point in trying. "Look at all those who failed. What makes you think you have a chance."
     Okay, here are some other numbers researched by members of NA and AA. One hundred percent of those who attend meetings, work the Steps, stay in touch with other recovering addicts, and otherwise continue to work a program of recovery get clean and stay in recovery. Everyone else gets to explore the "jails, institutions, and death" options.
      A friend of mine in recovery likes to put it this way: "Lots of meetings, lots of chances. Few meetings, few chances. No meetings, no chance in hell of recovery."
     
     Recovery: If you do the work, you can get and stay clean. If you don't, you won't. Do the thinking. Mental floss prevents truth decay.  
   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

HUMILITY IS . . .

In our quest for positive character traits, eventually we come to humility. This is a much misunderstood concept frequently confused with weakness, groveling, and humiliation. Humility is simply being in touch with reality. Humiliation is reality getting in touch with you.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ONE OF THESE DAYS . . ..



Otto von Bismarck
     "When you say that you agree to a thing in principle you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice."
                             Otto von Bismarck




     Getting clean, stopping drinking, stopping smoking, stopping gambling, getting a job, making amends, taking your kids fishing, being there for life and loved ones; We are filled with good intentions as though thinking about rehab should earn you just as many life and love points as actually going.
     In making up your list of positive character traits, remember this:
Discipline is doing it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

SIGNS OF CHARACTER

Wilhelm von Humboldt
     My meditation for this morning is the following quotation by German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt:
     "How a person masters his fate is more important than what his fate is."

     This covers so many areas helped by Twelve Step programs, I hate to make a list for fear of excluding what is most important to you or me. The main program way of expressing the above principle is: "Instead of living in the problem, I live in the solution."

     An example of living in the problem: "I'm an addict! Look at what happened to me! Why me?"
     An example of living in the solution: "I'm an addict. So, what can I do about that?"

     When I am working with new writers explaining the parts of a story, I tell them the requirements for a collection of words to be a story.
     You have a character and the character has a goal. There is an obstacle between the character and the character's goal of such a nature that it attacks the character in the character's most vulnerable place. The character contests with the obstacle, trying one thing then another, at last changing and overcoming its own vulnerability, achieving its goal (happy ending) or not achieving its goal (futility tale).

     One of my many vulnerabilities is that I am an addict. When using, I am a slave, miserable, hurting others, and killing myself. I cannot safely use mood altering drugs and I wanted to be free of them. I could not overcome that vulnerability on my own, so I got help (Rehab, 12 Step Meetings, Sponsor, Service, Becoming a sponsor) put in a lot of work, and am now free. Happy ending (one day at a time).
     What's your goal? What obstacle is standing between you and your goal? What changes do you need to make to achieve your goal?
  

    

Saturday, October 22, 2016

HOW TO REMOVE A FLY

Regarding the previous post, concerned with criticism and what kind of message an individual or meeting gives to the newcomer, the following Chinese proverb was passed on to me:
     "Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead."


     Love is wanting the best for someone.
     The best for a using addict is to get into recovery.
     The best for any addict in recovery, new or old-timer, is to stay in recovery.


     Time for a revised proverb: "Very tough to hear anything useful with a hatchet stuck in one's head."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

WHAT MESSAGE ARE YOU CARRYING?

If your message to another recovering addict is "You're doing it all wrong," then . . . uh, well, . . . you're doing it all wrong.

In rehab this drug addict got in touch with that aspect of his disease first. Later, after learning what is "a drug" and what is "addiction," he took another look at his history with alcohol and began identifying himself at meetings as "I'm Skippy, I'm a drug addict and alcoholic."

Where he went to rehab, the AA meetings were quite ecumenical. Addiction is addiction, a drug is a drug, and the important thing is that the recovering addict is recovering one day at a time.

So the addict went home a thousand miles away, and went to a local AA meeting. When the introductions went around, he once more identified himself as "I'm Skippy and I'm a drug addict and alcoholic."

Several of those in the meeting made it very clear that there was to be no mention of "drugs" in that meeting, and they took up the majority of the meeting talking about the only things they were allowed to talk about at that meeting. "The only thing I heard at that meeting," said Skippy to his sponsor, "is 'you're doing it all wrong and you don't belong here'."

That message has chased more than one recovering person clean out of Twelve Step recovery. When a newcomer to our meetings comes in and doesn't do things exactly the way we do them, we don't correct them in front of everyone or tell them to go and try some other kind of program. We say "Welcome." If they hang around long enough, they pick up on our customs, which is secondary. Most important is that they stick around; They keep coming back.

So take a look at the message you are sending to the newcomer. What message are others in meetings sending to you? The only way this works is if we are all in this together.   

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Food For Thought

The following is an actual comment received in 1996 from the Bridger Wilderness (Bridger-Teton National Forest) registration sheets and comment cards:

"The places where trails do not exist are not well-marked."


Reminds me of something I heard on the news a few years ago. On the street a robber pointed a gun at a fellow and said, "Give me your wallet or I'll shoot you." The man said, "Well, I'm not giving my wallet to you." Then the robber pulled the trigger and the gun didn't fire. . . . so, the robber then pointed the pistol at his own face, looked down the weapon's barrel, and pulled the trigger a second time. This time the gun fired, killing the robber, and giving his intended victim food for thought for the remainder of his life.

I'm not certain what any of the above has to do with recovering from addiction except the old saying, "Life is tough, and it's even tougher if you're stupid."

Take care of yourself today, and do the next smart thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What's It All About?



     There was a poster on the wall of my rehab counselor's office. Every time my group would go in there for a session, we would see it. It depicted a forest filled with leaves and these words: "An addict is a person who finds a single leaf and from it constructs a forest in which he immediately becomes lost."
     Getting clean does not change this. Stopping the drugs and making no other changes leaves the addict lost in the same old forest, but without the anesthetic. Changing things requires the addict to change him or herself. That kind of change, in Twelve Step programs, means attending meetings, listening at the meetings, getting a sponsor, using that sponsor, working the Twelve Steps with that sponsor, and not picking up.
     It's not just about getting clean; It is about getting into recovery; it's about moving from slavery to freedom.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's Everywhere, It's Everywhere!

     I live in Maine and was sent to a local Wal-Mart for groceries and for a cheese grater. After getting all the foodstuffs on my list, I began searching for the cheese grater. I looked through the grocery area, then began on the other areas of the store. I could not find the cheese grater. Eventually I wound up back in the grocery end of the store and one of the employees asked me, "Can I help you sir?"
     I said, "Yes. I'm searching for a cheese grater than myself." It just slipped out.
     The employee nodded his head and said, "For that you need to go to Wisconsin."
     (If you do not understand the anecdote above, you need to go to more meetings).

THINKING ABOUT REHAB?

I just had occasion to reformat my novel Saint Mary Blue and make it available again as both Kindle and trade paperback. To do that I had...