Tuesday, October 26, 2004


The fox came on quiet feet
To eat at our bird feeder,
For pickings are slim
When the rains fail to come.
Amazing what one sees
With open eyes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Recovery House Rules

Perhaps memory has grown dim with age, but I seem to recall a time when persons could disagree with each other without being believed to be and labeled "traitors," "morons," "extremist nuts," or "evil." Perhaps it was another age, perhaps I don't remember clearly, perhaps I simply hung out with a more tolerant crowd. In any event, it seemed that way. Politics, religion, whatever—so-and-so believed what he believed, and Whatshisface believed what he believed. Sometimes it led to spirited arguments, sometimes it led to fights and long, grumpy periods of silence. On rare occasion, it even led to enlightenment. In the end, however, family and friendship usually won out over opinion and the need to win..

Now, however, if you root for that team, worship God by that name, insist on voting for that candidate, or voting for that proposition, you are—at the very least—ignorant, ill informed, confused, and influenced by the dark side. At the worst, however, you are stupid, evil, and may even be the Great Satan himself! This all leaves little room for later kissing and making up.

So, what does all this have to do with recovery?

Among those in Twelve Step programs, there are, at times, disagreements about how things ought to be done. These things include service work, the conduct of meetings, working the Twelve Steps, sponsorship, complying with the Traditions, and other matters ranging from the trivial to the significant. There are tools provided by the program for handling these disagreements, the main tool being the first part of the Second Tradition: "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—A loving god as he may express himself in our group conscience." In other words, if there is a disagreement, we vote on it. This works really great as long as we all agree to abide by the group conscience. For some, however, the Second Tradition is sacred as long as the decisions go their way. When the group conscience goes against what they want, however, it is obviously wrong and must be countermanded through other means.

One of these "other means," is to employ the same attitudes used in the world of disagreement outside the program. In other words, if the group conscience goes against what I want, then those voting "the wrong way" are obviously "evil, non-program, brainless, sick, and harbingers of the total destruction of the universe of recovery." This frequently is all the permission some folks need to employ means outside the Second Tradition to correct the error. Over the past couple of decades, I have seen many examples: Purposefully disrupting meetings disapproved of by the disruptors, character assassination, organized gossip, and "missionaries" who show up regularly at meetings to lecture the members at the meeting on how they ought to be running their meetings and their individual programs.

The results of all of this enthusiasm: Shut down meetings, disintegrating service structures, and old-timers and newcomers alike chased away from the meetings.
Here are some things I was told when I was brand new in recovery:

· It's an individual program. From everything you hear and witness in and outside the meetings, you have to piece together what's going to work for you.
· The First Tradition says that our personal recovery depends upon program unity—not uniformity.
· The sickest person in the room is the one who is focused on someone else's program.
· Addiction is slavery. Recovery is freedom—not exchanging one slave master for another.
· When you sit down, shut up, and listen, don't forget to shut up and listen.

Old-timer or newcomer, don't let control freaks and other well-meaning assholes chase you away from the meetings. Trust the Traditions. Call a business meeting, have a group conscience, vote on it, abide by the results, and everything will work out just the way it's supposed to.

Barry B. Longyear

You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. —Doug Floyd

Monday, October 18, 2004

Recovery or What?

"Man, I want to get clean, but what you people call recovery is just a bunch of losers sitting in a circle tossing platitudes at each other."

In different words, and in those same words, we've heard it countless times: I need a different way to live, but not that way. I mean, can you see me sitting in a meeting and . . . "sharing" my little story with a bunch of burnouts? And how many of these sessions would I have to attend? They're talking about ninety meetings in ninety days! I have a life. I can't fritter it away going to meetings. Besides, what if the people I work with find out about me going? It could affect my career.

So. What's your alternative? If you don't pick up, and if you do go to meetings (NA, AA, etc.) you're going to get and stay clean. There are countless gifts you'll receive upon cleaning up, but getting clean is the recovery thing. If you look for that easier softer way, though, such as moving from counselor to shrink, acupuncture to aroma therapy, while at the same time collecting prescriptions and continuing to bounce from one chemical to another, the one thing you won't be is clean. No clean, no recovery. Sorry. I don't make the rules, reality does. I am simply your humble reporter.

Well, what about all those moth-eaten slogans, old jokes, and boring drugalogs?
Hey, we appreciate well-done new material. Bring yours. By the way, there's another name for all those moth-eaten program slogans and old jokes: they're called "wisdom."

Barry B. Longyear

"When you have no one in your life who you can call and say, 'I'm scared,' then your life is uninteresting, unfulfilling, superficial. You need somebody you can trust enough to say, 'I need help.'" —Steven Soderbergh

Friday, October 15, 2004

What Are You Willing To Do?

Getting clean seems like a great idea up until it comes to putting down the drug. If you've tried it before, you know the universe is about to transform itself into a place where all life's problems can be solved—the important ones anyway—by picking up that drug just one more time. Pain, fear, anxiety, that clawing never-ending need, how much more important it becomes to end all that than that silly little goal of getting clean. Then, trashed once again, new crimes added to the old, overwhelming sickness driving you down, you may say again, "I gotta stop doing this." Perhaps you've said it so often by now, though, you've replaced it with, "I can't do it. It cannot be done. Why try?"

Sound familiar? Yeah, it's all well and good to hand out advice on getting clean, but we're talking about taking on a monster that doesn't know anything but how to hurt you if you don't keep feeding him his stuff. I've tried it before. I've tried it a lot of times. I can't do it.

What is being "ready?" Everyone I know who made it into recovery and stayed there was ready for recovery. When someone goes out again (relapses), odds are you'll hear someone say: "I guess he wasn't ready." So, what is "ready?"

Addiction is a disease of stages. Stage one is the yum-yum stage. Drugs are new, they're fun, they feel good, they seem to answer some very deep needs, and they come with a lot of friends and parties. Stage two is the pain collecting stage. Drugs have become a clawing need, it's all you can do to keep away the pain, all of those deep needs have multiplied, and no one wants to see you unless you come with either money or drugs. Physical problems, mental problems, relationship problems, legal problems—they stack up higher and higher until one of two things happens: Either death through suicide, murder, or physical collapse, or; The next stage: You become ready for recovery.

You are ready for recovery when you become willing to go to any lengths to recover. Willing to go to any lengths to recover.

Well, what does that mean?

If that's the question you're asking, you're not ready. Go collect more pain.

If the question you're asking is, "Okay, I'm ready to try anything. What do I do?" you might be ready.

Any lengths, right?

Try this: Pick whatever higher power you want—one off the rack, a mountain, a teddy bear, a crystal, a painted volleyball, whatever—and say to it, "I don't know what to do. Please help me."

Well . . . what then?

That's between you and the powers of the universe. Once you've collected enough pain, are ready to recover, and ask your higher power for help, miraculous things begin happening. You might hear an ad on TV, run across an NA help line number, someone mentions a particular rehab, someone else might invite you to a meeting. It can be many things, but it all comes down to the universe putting answers into your life. There is a lot of help out there for those who are ready for recovery. To see it, all you have to do is ask for it.

But, I don't believe in this crap!

That's okay. You don't have to believe in a higher power. All you need to do is use it. And when you get your answers, keep in mind that they are not suggestions or guidelines.

Barry B. Longyear

PS. No, the entry above is not a load of laughs. After my open-heart surgery two weeks ago, I had a rough night last night and was feeling good and sick today. It reminded me of another time when I was good and sick, up to my ears in pain, and was driven to ask a higher power for help. In my case, however, the HP I asked was some faceless creature at the nurses station in rehab almost twenty-three years ago. I said to her, "You know, I feel terrible." That was the best I could do at the time in asking for help. I got the help I needed and have been clean ever since.

Meeting Addiction

"I don't want to make a regular thing out of going to NA meetings. What If I become addicted to them?"

Becoming addicted to meetings is not a big risk, unless you are one peculiar addict. If, in your addiction to drugs you frequently found yourself saying, "You know, I don't think I need a drug tonight," you may well have a meeting addiction problem. The solution, of course, is: don't use, go to meetings, and ask for help.

Barry B. Longyear

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Way To Go

Any retreat can be turned into an advance simply by changing direction. —Anonymous

Barry B. Longyear

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Once upon a time there was a little sparrow who delayed his trip south for the winter so long that when he finally left he ran into an ice storm. Frozen and almost dead from exhaustion, he fell to earth in a barnyard. As the sparrow was breathing its last, a cow walked over and evacuated its bowels over the tiny bird.

“This is a terrible way to die,” thought the bird, but as the heat from the manure seeped into the bird’s bones, it warmed him and life began to return to its body.

The sparrow was so happy at being warm and alive, it began to sing. At that moment a large cat heard the singing, dug into the cow pie, uncovered the bird, and ate it.

This story has three morals:
1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
2) Not everyone who takes shit off you is a friend; and
3) When you are happy, even if you are in shit up to your eyeballs, keep your damned mouth shut.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


First, the plan: There's an NA retreat (the Miracle) I go to every year because it's an important part of my recovery, I love the friends I have there, hence I always look forward to attending. Friday Sept. 17th, I put my plan in motion, arrived at the Miracle, and had a fun, very important opening day. Then came Saturday.

Midmorning Saturday, I was attending a meeting when I realized that I had forgotten something up in my room. I left the meeting, got about three quarters of the way up the stairs and, to my dismay, ran out of air. I was out of breath, told a couple of friends, and they sat with me while I tried to make up my mind what to do. A half hour or so later, I still hadn't gotten back my breath, so I asked my friends to take me to the Maine Medical Center in Portland, which was nearby. My Plan had a hitch in it. "Why now?" I asked HP.

The Prayer: For many years I have been plagued with intermittent bouts of profound weakness and fatigue that doctors simply couldn't diagnose. The weakness was so profound that, at times, I literally could not get out of bed, much less work or otherwise function. These bouts were so abrupt and unpredictable that in the middle of a ski run the fatigue would hit and the next thing I knew I'd be doing turns on my face. These bouts were so frustrating that anger and bitterness eventually evolved into tears. I had been tested and treated for everything and nothing worked.

On the morning of the 17th of September last, I was in the middle of a mild version of this affliction. I was taking our dog, Ti, out for his morning bladder gladdening. Ti wanted to go up our road, which begins with a bit of an uphill grade. I couldn't make it up the hill. Again I broke down in helpless frustration, but I also prayed to my particular HP for an answer.

The answer, it turned out was multiple blockages in a heart that was running at about 20% efficiency. Personally, I think 24 hour service is pretty good. But, as I was being carted off to the hospital by my friends, I had asked why that particular day, which was right in the middle of a retreat I had so looked forward to attending. The answer came to me several medical tests and operations later: At that particular moment I had been close to the Maine Medical Center, which includes one of the two best cardiac units in the United States.

Right now I am more weak and tired than I have ever been in my life, but I now have hope that once I regain my health, health is what I will have.

So, you don't believe in prayer? Well, personally, I'm having a tough time calling this coincidence.

Thinking of getting clean? Having a tough time humping your stuff through Step Four? You're up against it, you're all out of answers, and you don't know what to do? There are answers out there and they are patiently waiting for you to ask for them. And, no, you don't have to believe in the power or the process.

Prayer is like electricity. You don't have to understand or believe in electricity for it to work for you. All you have to do is turn on the switch.

Barry B. Longyear

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


God changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves. —The Koran

Barry B. Longyear

Monday, October 04, 2004


An elderly lady phoned her telephone company to report that her telephone failed to ring when her friends called - and that on the few occasions when it did ring, her pet dog always moaned right before the phone rang.
The telephone repairman proceeded to the scene, curious to see this psychic dog or senile elderly lady. He climbed a nearby telephone pole, hooked in his test set, and dialed the subscriber's house. The phone didn't ring right away, but then the dog moaned loudly and the telephone began to ring.
Climbing down from the pole, the telephone repairman found: 1. The dog was tied to the telephone system's ground wire via a steel chain and collar. 2. The wire connection to the ground rod was loose. 3. The dog was receiving 90 volts of signaling current when the phone number was called. 4. After a couple of such jolts, the dog would start moaning and then urinate on himself and the ground. 5. The wet ground would complete the circuit, thus causing the phone to ring. Which demonstrates that some problems CAN be fixed by pissing and moaning.

Barry B. Longyear

Sunday, October 03, 2004


1. Don't let being tired pick the kind of day you're going to have.
2. Don't let pain pick the kind of day you're going to have.

3. Don’t let fear, disappointment, sadness, or depression pick the kind of day you're going to have.
4. You pick the kind of day you're going to have.
5. If you can't figure out how to do that, ask your sponsor.
6. If you don't have a sponsor, go and get one.
7. If you can't find one, go to a meeting and ask someone with time
8. If there is no one with time at the meeting, go to another meeting.
9. If you do not know where the meetings are, go to the NA website.
10. If you don't have access to a computer, ask someone who does.
11. If you don't know anyone with access to a computer, ask at a police station.
12. And if you have outstanding warrants and are tired of these suggestions, see Step (1), above.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Do I choose to grow up and relate to life directly or do I choose to live and die in fear? —Pema Chodron in The Places That Scare You.

I’ve always been afraid of angry people. I used to think that it was their fault, and it was up to the angry people to change, thereby relieving me of my fear.

The fear is mine, however, and that makes dealing with it my responsibility. Short of actual physical threats, which I can either handle or avoid, the rest is me allowing the past to vibrate my present, bringing old fear to life.

My choices are to attack, defend, or offer love by asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

California Clean and a Brief Peek at Reality

  Denial, that old Egyptian river. It is the principle symptom of active addiction. This is why addiction is often described as the disease...