Saturday, December 30, 2017

A HAPPY, SAFE, GRATEFUL, AND SANE NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL

At this moment (9:00pm) 36 years ago, I was on my first night in rehab in the midst of one hellacious blizzard, sitting through my first mandatory AA meeting. I had already decided that a horrible mistake had been made and that as soon as I felt better, I was going to get on a plane, leave Minneapolis, and fly back to Maine. As it happened, it took me a month to feel better, and during that time I went through basic training on How To Be A Human. Between my friends and a whole bunch of strangers in NA, my HP, a couple of sponsors, and thousands upon thousands of meetings, I'm pleased to say, I'm still on the ride and the only mistake made December 30th, 1981 was made by me.

The NA groups (and quite a few AAs) will be putting on our annual New Year's Eve bash in the Bass Room (not bathroom) in Franklin Memorial Hospital, West Farmington, Maine beginning 6:00 pm tomorrow night. Pot luck, great munchies, games, music, and a whole bunch of men, women, and kids celebrating another day clean. We'd be glad to see you, but if you can't make it, have a safe, grateful, and happy new year.

The picture is of the former St. Mary's Rehab, now Fairview Rehab. The flower pot in the middle of the stairs was added many years after I went there. When I stood on that sidewalk in the snow and wind thirty-six years ago, the cab driver rolled down his window, and asked me, "Think it'll do you any good?"

"These people have an impossible task," I answered, "trying to convince me that there is a good reason for being in this world alive and sober at the same time."

Mission Accomplished. What was the reason? How'd they do it? Read the damned book! (That's Saint Mary Blue)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

LONELY AND ALONE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

It has been said that the ultimate reasons for using drugs are the same ultimate reasons for getting clean through Narcotics Anonymous. The shallow reasons for using drugs everyone knows: To lessen pain, to shut down the think machine, to fit it with the other druggies, to be rebellious. The ultimate reasons for using drugs are to achieve happiness, fulfillment, and a meaningful life.

Eventually, as using addicts learn, drugs let the user down in both these areas, the shallow and the ultimate. The high gets low, the think machine climbs into a pit of depression and can think of nothing else, and eventually no one can stand being around the user, and finally one finds out that instead of being a rebel, the user has become a member of one of the oldest and most restrictive and oppressive establishments on earth.

In a good recovery program, such as any of the Twelve Step variety, such as NA or AA, the newcomer learns how to stop using, then learns how become a human being. Pain is lessened and often removed altogether. The user learns how to choose thoughts and attitudes, confront and overcome obstacles and challenges, and every meeting comes with a set of new and old friends.

Happiness comes from being happy. Being happy comes from no longer horriblizing one's life. Learning how to do that is why recovering addicts go to meetings, listen at meetings, get sponsors, use the sponsors they get, read the program literature, and work the Twelve Steps of Recovery. Fulfillment and a meaningful life are the results of the work the recovering addict does through the program.

Finding yourself alone and isolated as the holidays approach? An addict inside his or
"Isolation" by Aidansane
her own head in isolation is behind enemy lines. If you are in recovery and alone and isolated, that is a choice. There are friends in the program you can call, meet, have coffee, go shopping, or go to a movie together. Most important is sharing how you feel, getting it out in the open, doubling the good feelings and cutting the bad ones in half. Misery is optional.

This applies to the using addicts, as well. If you are in the shit up to your eyeballs, don't know which way to turn, the pain, rage, and depression have chased everyone out of your life, find a Twelve Step meeting of NA or AA. Links for the world directories are in the "To Learn More" section  at the top right-hand side of the page.

Happiness is a choice. My warmest wishes to each of you for happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

THE BAH, HUMBUGS!

"'Tis the season to be jolly . . ." is all the recovering addict in seasonal misery mode needs to hear to amp up the gloom and renew gathering new resentments and add a coat or two of new polish on old resentments.

Many persons, not just addicts, have a hard time during holidays. Many suffered abuse during childhood, and when those "perfect" little family dramas come up on TV or in the movie theaters it is enough to cause those who grew up in really sick homes to chew pig iron and spit out bullets. The sarcasm and biting comments abound.

"Bah! Humbug!" as Ebenezer Scrooge used to say. Every thing from decorations to wrapping paper and ribbons seems to underscore the loneliness and pain of holidays as well as mock all the imperfections of one's own existence. Sooner or later, for recovering addicts, a feeling emerges that is the next to final step before slipping back into the nightmare. It is a sneaky little thought that, in whatever words are used, comes down to: "Why stay clean? What's the point?" The choices then are very few, as real as a wildfire, and twice as deadly.

~~~ A Christmas Eve Tale ~~~

Once upon a time, in a land quite close actually, there was an addict new in recovery who was feeling bad about the holidays and actually broke down and called his sponsor about it. His sponsor told him the Story of the two Santas. "There is the bad Santa who dumps the kale juice and tofu on the floor, takes a leak on the Christmas tree, and leaves horribly wrapped presents beneath the tree for everyone that no one wants, and without return slips. He turns the heat up, leaves the lights on, then Bad Santa gets back in his moldy black sleigh, whips the dragons pulling his sleigh, and curses them onto the next home.

"Then there is the good Santa who eats the cookies, drinks the milk left for him, and leaves a thank you note for the refreshments. He then places the beautifully wrapped presents for which everyone is grateful beneath the tree, sprinkles a bit of magic dust on the tree bringing peace and joy to everyone in the family. He then zips up onto the roof, climbs into his red and gold sled with the gleaming silver runners, calls to his reindeer, and they draw on the magic sleigh pulling it up into the night sky to go onto the next home."

"Gee, Sponsor," said the addict new in recovery. "Do you know which Santa will come to my house?"

"The Santa you feed, Pidge. Who will come to your house is the Santa you feed."

It matters not what your religion is, nor even if you have a religion. Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, etc., etc., this is a season in which the world gives itself permission to be jolly, to be generous and kind to our fellow humans, and wish peace and good will to all. It is all up to you and your attitude. Which Santa will you feed?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WHO DID IT?

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."  ---Theodore Roosevelt

A fellow at the meeting said his sponsor told him to stick on his bathroom mirror, in big black letters, the following statement: "You Are Looking At The Problem!"

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." (Often attributed to Mark Twain) 

There is something the disease of addiction believes, and it has thousands of years and billions of examples for evidence to back up its belief. My disease believes if I get miserable enough, I will go back to using drugs. There is another way to put that: If I can make myself miserable enough, I will go back and use drugs.

Find yourself taking offense at every little thing? The weather isn't perfect? Find a new scratch on your car? Some motorist turned around in your driveway? There's a grease spot on your pants you can't remove? The wrong person (in your view) is dating your sister, daughter, or mother? The wrong person (in your view) is president, prime minister, or dictator? Or the wrong person is criticizing the president, prime minister, or dictator? Rent, taxes, prices too high? Wages and allowances too low? Meetings seem to be a waste of time?

Most normal persons, when they get a flat tire, either change the tire or phone a garage or the auto club. A recovering addict who is letting addiction choose the kind of day he or she will have looks upon a flat tire as just one more confirmation that life sucks and staying abstinent from mood altering chemicals is a complete and utter waste of time, happiness, and life.

Life is the purpose of life. Just as addiction wants to keep on using, life wants to keep on living. As it says in NA literature, the ends of untreated addiction are always the same: "jails, institutions, and death." To live, to serve life, runs counter to addiction. To serve my recovery and my life, I need to avoid feeding my own misery---what a friend of mine in the program called horriblizing her life. 

Today I am going to learn how to start my day over, with me, my life, and my desire for recovery doing the thinking rather than my disease.

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.



Monday, March 13, 2017

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

One way to look at it:

►When Velveeta got clean, she found herself in serious financial trouble. Her business had gone bust and she was in dire financial straits. She was so desperate that she decided to go straight to her higher power for help. She prayed, “God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my home and car as well. Please let me win the lottery.”  
The night of the drawing came, Vel held her breath waiting for the announcement, and, sad to tell, someone else was the winner. The next morning the bank foreclosed on her home.
Disappointed and thinking that she hadn’t prayed hard enough, she prayed again, this time getting down on her knees in the snow. “God, please let me win the lottery! I've lost my business, my home, and I'm going to lose my car as well.”

The night of the next drawing came, Vel held her breath and crossed her fingers waiting for the announcement, and, sad to tell, someone else was the winner. The next morning the repo man came and took her car.
Heartbroken, Velveeta prayed again, this time lying prostrate on the ice. “My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me? I have lost my business, my house, and my car. My children will starve next. My sponsor told me to pray to you for the things I need, and I really need to win the lottery so I can get my life back in order. Please, please, please, please, please let me win the lottery!”
The clouds parted and a blinding white light appeared as the voice of God boomed down at the woman from the sky: “Velveeta, now work with me on this concept, okay? First, you buy a ticket!”
 
Another way to look at it:
 
►St. Francis of Assisi was showing someone his garden, and the man was very impressed. “Your garden is beautiful and so productive,” said the man. “You must have prayed very hard to get it like this.”
“Yes,” said Francis, “and every time I prayed I picked up a hoe.”


►What do the two items above have to do with staying in recovery and growing in the program? Meditate on that question then apply the answer.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

HOT AIR

This was sent to me by my friend Jeremy.

A man was traveling in a hot air balloon and had become completely lost. He spied a man walking way down below, so he lowered the balloon within calling range.
     “Excuse me,” he called out, “I promised a friend I would meet him a half hour from now and I have no idea where I am. Can you help me out?”
The man on the ground said, “Certainly. You are in a hot air balloon  about 30 feet above the ground. You're at longitude 70 degrees west and latitude 30 degrees north.”
The man in the balloon thought on it a moment and said, “You have got to be a sponsor.”
The man on the ground said, “As a matter of fact I am a sponsor, but how did you know?”
The man in the balloon said, “Everything you've told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with the information and, frankly, I'm still lost.”
The man on the ground nodded and said, “You must be a sponsee.”
The man in the balloon said , “As a matter of fact, I am a sponsee, but how did you know?”
The man on the ground said, “You have no idea where you are, you have no idea where you're going. You've made a promise you have no idea how to keep. You expect me to solve your problem for you and even though you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, it has now somehow become my fault.

Friday, March 10, 2017

AN UNNATURAL ACT


"My name is Jay and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."
The above quotation was obtained first hand by me from Jay the first time back when rocks were still soft—a long time ago. Over the years at various events Jay and I attended, at workshops and meetings where the first-name "Who's here?" goes around, Jay always introduced himself that way.

This is not an obituary, so calm down. Jay only moved away from Maine and went West. I consider Jay a valuable friend both for who he is and for his recovery. He has been through the mill several times and survived without using drugs, but by using the program of Narcotics  Anonymous. So, I miss him.

But then, not long after he moved away, I noticed a strange thing. At NA meetings I attend, several times now I have heard addicts introduce themselves with "My name is (so-and-so) and today I did the most unnatural thing an addict can do: I didn't use."

The first time I heard it, I asked the very young man if he knew Jay. He didn't. Then I asked him why he introduced himself that way. He had only weeks in recovery and was brand new to Maine NA. "That's how my new sponsor introduces himself," explained the newcomer. "It sounds good and it's something important I need to remember." Jay's recovery has effects that reach down to persons he has never met.

It reminded me of the closing ceremony at one of the Miracle conventions I attended years ago. Neil, a very good friend of Jay's and a man who I loved and respected, was at the outside meeting. There were perhaps ninety addicts in the circle either sitting on the grass or in a variety of chairs from those molded plastic things to camp chairs and folding chaise-lounges. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze, and birds singing in the trees. Neil had shared at an earlier meeting that day that he had been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and I had been thinking about that. Then it was my turn to speak.

On my way to the podium, I noticed Neil was only a few places away to the right of me. There was something I had seen many years earlier at a high school graduation that really impressed me, and it seemed like an ideal time to try it out on an NA meeting.

I asked Neil to stand. His face reddened as he stood and said, "Oh, shit," wondering what kind of gag I was going to pull. I don't know why, but I seem to have a reputation as a prankster.


As I stood there looking out at that large ring of recovering addicts, wondering if what I was about to do would have the effect I wanted, I asked everyone who respected and had learned from Neil's shared recovery in NA to stand. It looked to me that around thirty persons in the circle stood. Then I asked everyone who respected and learned from the shared recovery of any of those who were standing to stand, as well. All of those still seated in the circle got to their feet. Everyone in the circle was standing. "That is how it works," I said and returned to my place.


Denis Hall is where the We Are A Miracle convention
takes place. In front of this building is where I said good-bye to Neil
Neil and his shared recovery had affected everyone at the convention, and right there was the visible proof for all to see, especially including Neil. As the meeting broke up and Neil was about to leave, I hugged him, he got into his vehicle, and drove off on his way to New York. That was the last time I saw him. We learned a few months later that he died. 

We don't often realize the good we do in recovery, the extent of it, the valuable lives we help save. In my own case I find that those who leave the program, relapse, and die tend to occupy my attention while the successes occupy a minor "They're safe" bin in the back of my brain.

It is a good thing to recognize those successes we see around us at every meeting, and when one of those miracles lets us know how much we mean to them because of our words, or our actions, or recovery, don't brush it off with a quick "Great," or :"You too." Do that unnatural thing addicts often fail to do properly. Be aware that you have been instrumental in saving a valuable life, and let the person who shared how much you have meant to them know their message has been taken in by saying, "Thank you."

What the hell. Throw in a hug, too. It is a big deal. After all, that person being in recovery is part of an ongoing miracle that you helped keep working.

Monday, February 27, 2017

INSTANT RESENTMENTS?

     I don't know who said it first (a version of this is attributed to Philo), but the following has been for me the route out of many episodes of blaming, resentments, irritation and anger.

     "Be generous. Nearly everyone is fighting a hard battle."

     Pain, age, childhood demons, legal problems, unemployment, failure, relationships, the whole world of art, sports, and business struggles, and the world of issues surrounding addiction and recovery from addiction.
     So, someone gets a little short with you, cuts you out in traffic, butts a line, begins crying, doesn't show up on time, doesn't get perfect grades, before you judge or resort to anger, try to remember that no one knows another well enough to know all the battles that person is fighting.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

DEATH ON DEATH'S TERMS

As I posted on my Facebook page: "Migraines certainly complicate the shit out of everything." 
     I was upset. Angry. Urging reality to see the mistake it had made and remove my migraine.

     Yeah, I'm one of those migraine sufferers as a result of multiple concussions I received over a twenty-four hour period when I was in the U.S. Army. The first concussion was as a result of a shop accident where I was employed repairing and doing maintenance on HAWK missiles. The second and third concussions happened the next morning as the personnel at our missile site on Tokashiki Jima were called out to assist the islanders in fighting a forest fire. A jungle fire, actually, but there had been a severe drought, and it was as dry as a late summer forest, so we called it a forest fire.
     I was choppered away to the Camp Kue Hospital on Okinawa where I began the eventually successful struggle to regain my vision and also began my association with neck and spinal injuries, as well as migraine headaches.
 

Life on Life's Terms
     Chronic pain: I spent the next eighteen years trying to get out of what reality had dished up for me by numbing both the headaches and physical pain with alcohol and prescription drugs. Life on life's terms seemed like a bad deal and I was in a search for a better deal. There were two telling results. First, the numbing efforts with chemicals didn't work all that well, and, second, the additional pain inflicted on me, my work, and on those I loved far outweighed any relief I got from drugs.
     Which left me after I got clean with coping. "Coping" always seemed to mean, "If someone takes a swing at you, make sure he gets a clean shot at your chin."  It is very much like being forced into combat with neither weapon nor ammunition.
     There are a million bits of advice on what to do about migraines ranging from dietary changes to acupuncture. Some of them even work, to a degree. In my own case, through diet and exercise, I've managed to cut down the number of migraines from eight to ten per week to perhaps three or four per month. But they still come, they still cripple me, and in those moments of pain, the dragon blows its smoke in my ear: "It would be easier if we got some stuff. Pot is legal in Maine now, and you certainly qualify. There's all kinds of pills, and rum used to---"
     No! No, no, no!
    
I've heard the lesson at thousands of meetings and in as many telephone calls to other recovering addicts: Migraines eventually go; Active addiction never quits.
     Yeah. Step One, Step Four, I do remember the nightmare. Step Six, I do remember the horror of who I became. Step Eight, I do remember all those I hurt as a result of my using. And, no, I do not want to go back.
     Active addicts often attempt to get a better deal than life on life's terms by using drugs, cheating, and stealing. A thing I've learned since I got clean: Not only is there no better deal than life on life's terms, there is no other deal. All life is life on life's terms.
     Use drugs, the addict becomes addicted. Pick up again, the recovering addict activates his or her addiction. Commit crimes to support your addiction and get caught, it's time in county orange. Fall on your head a few times and get neural damage of a kind, you get a lifetime of migraines. If a frog jumps, it's going to bump its ass when it lands. Those are a few of life's terms. It is often called "reality."
     Life on life's terms is all anyone has whether in the program or out in the big experiment. Understand the terms and comply with them and you'll come out of it the best you can. Casting about looking for better deals where there are not even any other deals calls up that other name for reality: Death on Death's terms. 

 
    
    
        
  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I NEVER GOT INTO TROUBLE WITH POT

     The disease of addiction is a war gamer and the recovering addict is the disease's opponent. There are many dangerous games addiction plays with those new in recovery, and one of the many is "I never got in trouble with [Insert drug name], so maybe I could safely use that."
      When  I came into the program I was a rank amateur as a drug addict. My drugs were alcohol and prescription medications. Beginning in rehab, talking with the other patients, and later in meetings and talking with my brothers and sisters in Narcotics Anonymous, I learned about the world of drugs, the overwhelming majority of which  I had never used.
     A drug is a drug, I knew. Using or substituting one for another triggers the craving all over again, sending the addict back into the nightmare. It's right there in the readings, the literature, what the old-timers share during meetings.

Yeah, but. . . .
     But I never even tried pot, or Coors, or wine spritzers. Cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, crack . . . There had to be something I could use and not get addicted. 
     There were other newcomers in my home group, and my disease had me go to them for counsel rather than to those with time clean. After all, we learned as children not to ask permission from those we knew were going to say "No." Still, during one such parking lot discussion at night after a meeting, an old-timer was listening to the conversation. We all knew who it was when he laughed, his laugh being very distinctive.
    "Sorry," he said. "Just remembering something. Back when I was new in the program the old-timers called what you're planning 'riding pogo sticks through a minefield'. A couple days ago at a meeting I heard it called 'playing leapfrog with a unicorn'."




 

Monday, February 20, 2017

THE ADDICT AS OPTIMIST

The Russian optimist says: "Things cannot get any worse."
The addict optimist says: "Yes they can!"



     It is said a grateful addict never uses. When feeling down, sponsors will often suggest making a gratitude list. In one or two previous posts on this blog I've written on how to do a gratitude list. It is a good first step in pulling oneself out of the self-pity chasm.
     The disease knows if my attitude goes down and stays down long enough, I'll use. There is nothing I can gain from using, not even a temporary relief from pain. If I think it through, I remember all of the pain I was enduring as an active addict. I didn't get clean because everything was going great in my life. So, what's the alternative?
     When you are feeling down there are a great many alternatives to using: gratitude lists, meetings, telephone another addict, talk to your sponsor (and if you don't have one, get one!), help someone else, get into program service work, read program literature, work on your Steps with your sponsor, or begin your day over.
     One thing is to live in the solution rather than living in the problem. What does that mean?
     Living in the problem: "Look at what happened to me!"
     Living in the solution: "Okay, what am I going to do about it?"
     Your attitude, how you feel, is your choice as long as you remain clean and in recovery. The moment you pick up you zero out your choices.
      Thanks for looking in and pick a great day for yourself.

     

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TESTING THE WATERS


Walking into an NA meeting doesn't make you a recovering addict any more than walking into a mosque makes you a Muslim. Both depend on what you do when you are there and when you are not there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

WHERE TO MARK TIME?

Experience is the thing you have left
when everything else is gone.
                                                              ---Anonymous


 When I was new in recovery, I had a disease blowing dragon smoke in my ear. There were lots of drugs I'd never tried, and therefore hadn't gotten into trouble with. And in those days, Cocaine and pot were considered "only psychologically addictive." And a couple beers on a hot day, some wine or a cocktail at dinner —I mean, it was the compulsive use, the overuse of drugs that was the problem, right? Right?


All this NA "is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs" is bullshit, right? Don't some cardiac patients have to take drugs? Diabetics? Those with cancer? So there are exceptions, right?
So . . . maybe I can go use recreationally without triggering off my addiction. Whadya think?
I heard a newcomer say something like that to an old-timer in the program. The old-timer snorted, shrugged and said, "Anything's possible. You might just be the first."


I recently got a message from someone new in recovery to the effect that alcohol might not be a problem for that person. Time to bail out of the program and experiment.


Yeah. This is a mistake. You know the person is an accident going someplace to happen. What you never know is if they will live long enough to make it back into recovery. It's not like that person didn't know. You know that person has heard those lines a hundred times or more at the beginning of every NA meeting:


"Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse . . . we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover." [Narcotics Anonymous, 6th Ed, p.18]


There are NA groups in Maine who make it a practice during that particular reading to shout "duh!" after the word relapse above, and shout period! after the word recover.


Okay, it's not all drugs. You may take your heart medication. It is all mood-altering drugs. Is alcohol a mood altering drug? Yes! The organization that fathered all Twelve Step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, figured that out in the Nineteen thirties, the medical community getting the message some time later.


A drug is a drug.
Alcohol is a drug.
Picking up and using any mood altering drug sends recovering addicts back into the nightmare.
Duh!


So, what did I do in early recovery trying to decide if I'm really an addict, and if there were any of those mood-altering formulas that might not get me into trouble? Staying clean and in the program struck me as the most sensible place to gather evidence, learn what I could, and then make a decision.


You have doubts about being an addict, reservations about giving up certain drugs, afraid you might be missing out on the good life? Clean and in the program is where to gather evidence and make such decisions. You can take advantage of the experiences of those recovering addicts sitting in the circle. You don't have to lose everything, including your life, to figure out addiction is your problem and safely using mood-altering drugs is not a possibility.


One of the first AA slogans was "Think." Then came, "Think First," and "Think It Through." Another question to ask yourself when contemplating using a drug or substituting one for another, is this:
"What could possibly go wrong?"

Saturday, February 04, 2017

RETHINK THAT HIGHER POWER THING


Ralph, new in the program, was walking in the woods thinking about his new sponsor's urging that he think seriously about getting a Higher Power. After a life of atheism, Ralph decided taking up a faith in some kind of deity would be rank hypocrisy, so he decided to do without. Besides, it was a beautiful day in the woods, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the leaves on the trees above him whispering in soft warm breezes. Wasn't that spiritual?
Just then Ralph heard rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned and saw an eight foot grizzly bear charge toward him. Running as fast as he could, Ralph glanced over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing on him. Just then he tripped on an exposed root and fell on the ground. He rolled over and saw that the bear was over him, roaring, its huge clawed paws waving over its head the bear ready to strike.
"Oh, my god!" cried Ralph.
Time stopped.
The bear froze.
All was silent.
As a bright light came from the sky, Ralph heard a voice say, "Didn't your sponsor tell you to get a Higher Power? Are you ready for one now?"
Ralph was consistent, if not sensible. "It would be hypocritical of me to change my whole life and suddenly ask a god, which you seem to think you are, to protect me." The bear was still up there, however, claws poised to tear Ralph to pieces, drool still dangling from the tips of the beast's teeth. Ralph happened upon a way to work around all the Higher Power/menacing bear stuff.
"So," prompted the voice, "am I your Higher Power now?"
"No. I'm not ready for that just yet. But maybe you could make the bear a Christian?"
"Very well," said the voice."
The light dimmed.
The sounds of the forest resumed.
The bear looked confused for a moment, then bowed its head, put its paws together, and said, "Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."

 

AGAIN . . . and again, again, again . . .

Slips are not slips. This was one of the first things pointed out to me in early recovery. The term "slip" is a way of minimizing...