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."
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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.

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...