Monday, March 26, 2012


"The program isn't my life.  The program gave me back my life." —Bruce Chamberlain

All or nothing: That was how I ran my life and everything else before getting clean in the program. Work, sex, research, writing—I went at it all as though my life depended on it, which included drinking and using prescriptions. When I began writing a story, I would begin writing and wouldn't stop until—sometimes days later—I would finish. Things like moderation and balance were vague and mostly meaningless concepts from Eastern philosophy that had little to do with me, even after my way of doing things gave me a heart attack at the age of thirty-six..

Then I ran headlong into a wall called "addiction," rehab, Narcotics Anonymous, and a person whose name I can no longer remember who told me, "All you need to do to get and stay in recovery is change everything but your hair color—unless changing your hair color helps, then change that, too."

I didn't have to change my hair color, so I did. When my beard started turning gray, I used a product that was supposed to return my beard to its original color—a youthful light brown. The color I got, however was Big Bird yellow! About the same time that my gray beard grew back in, the hair on top decided to thin the crop.  I was falling apart! At a meeting I went to, a young man was sharing about the gray hair that was peppering his sleek locks. "I told my sponsor about it, and he held out his hands and said, "I don't know what to tell you; if you don't use you get older."

The frantic way I went about my recovery mirrored my behavior when I was still using. If I was going to be a recovering addict, I would be the most perfect recovering addict the planet had ever seen. Meeting attendance, service work, sponsors, sponsees, Twelfth Step calls, buried myself in literature, and when it came to Higher Powers, I fell into an endless pile of research on ancient and modern religion.

Slowing down. The first time I actually heard and listened to this concept, I was at an Al-Anon meeting. How much should I slow down was the obvious next question, and the response I got was sobering . . . so to speak. "Take a quarter of what you're doing now and do half of that." I talked to my sponsor about that, and he agreed. “God didn’t put you on this earth to sit in endless meetings and chant steps and traditions like a robot. The program is medicine for the disease of addiction. It’s not a life. Out there somewhere you have a life. Go and find it —but don’t forget to keep taking your medicine.”

Today I'm not running as hard as I can to wind up in the same place. I have a life, people I love and who love me, fun things to do and see, wonderful books and movies to experience, places to go, things to see, causes I like that can use my help, and downhill skiing. I also am still writing and enjoying it much more now that I'm not hovering over myself with a bullwhip, driving myself into another cardiac problem.

Easy does it—but do it!

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