Thursday, January 21, 2016


A friend of mine showed me this. It is titled "Memories of Alcohol."

"I drank for happiness and became unhappy. I drank for joy and became miserable. I drank for sociability and became argumentative. I drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. I drank for friendship and made enemies. I drank for strength and felt weak. I drank for relaxation and got the shakes. I drank for courage and became afraid. I drank for confidence and became doubtful. I drank to make conversation easier and slurred my speech. I drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell."    —Anonymous

There are a good many program sayings, writings such as that above, that strike so true to an addict, that thing we call "identification" happens. What is identification? It's that feeling that comes up from your gut and meets that realization in your brain that says, "Oh, yeah. Me too."

 A shorter version of the above goes like this: "Alcohol gave me wings, then it took away the sky."

 So what does this have to do with drug addiction? From my book, Saint Mary Blue:

There was the lecture last evening after that inedible dinner. Jacob hadn't been paying very close attention.  He had been sitting on the new fish row, the back.  Something the lecturer had said stuck.
"The most prominent symptom is that it's the disease that tells you that you haven't got it."
Someone from the front.  "You mean alcoholism?"
"What about drug addiction?"
"Are you one of those curious persons who believes that ethanol isn't a drug?"
"I know it's a drug, but aren't the diseases different?  Isn't alcoholism different than drug addiction?"
"The difference between drugs and alcohol: it's like changing seats on the Titanic."
Jacob had laughed.  It was a good line.

 Alcohol is a drug, and an alcoholic is a drug addict addicted to the drug ethanol. Deluding yourself that doing without alcohol and continuing to use other drugs is all you need to do to be "sober" is the kind of snobbery that can kill you. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Just out of rehab, at my first meeting in my hometown, I sat there in silence. To look at me from the outside, one would think that the lights are on but no one is home. Inside, however, there was a very unhappy and panic ridden circus performing:
        Part of me was terrified that the program wouldn't work for me; That I would go back, use, die a horrible death, and take my loved ones with me.
        Part of me was terrified that that the program would work and I would never use again; What would I do then?
         I was terribly nervous because I didn't know who I was supposed to become to hide the real me from these people.
        I was puzzled, too, because of all the laughter and happy faces.
        I was also reluctant because there was a very strong presence in my mind that kept telling me that I might not be an addict. In fact, I probably wasn't an addict.
        Then I was frightened because the part of me that knew I was an addict seemed a much smaller voice.
        I was saved by two of the persons at that meeting. They were both addicts, they had both picked up and used again, and after months in one case and years in the other, they had made it back into the halls. They both said the same thing: "Well, I stopped going to meetings."
        I heard the same thing several more times at different meetings when someone would return from a nip, slip, or a dip. "Well, I stopped going to meetings."
        Not wanting to travel such a well-beaten path, I made a promise to myself: If I found a better way than going to meeting to stay clean (and I was looking), I vowed that I would go to my next scheduled meeting and let the other addicts in on my great find. I mean, why keep it to myself?
        Since that day more than three decades ago, I have found lots of "better ways."  Not one of them, however, didn't sound really stupid to me by the time that next meeting started.

        "There are three kinds of men: The ones who learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves."
                                              --Will Rodgers

Monday, January 04, 2016


This morning an old classmate of mine sent me one of those slogan mini-posters in an email. It came with the subject "Wisdom." It said:

     When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others.
      It is the same when you are stupid.
     It should have continued, however, with the following:

      It is the same when you are an addict.
     And when an addict knows he or she is an addict and doesn't get help, then the addict is also stupid.
     And then the addict dies.

     Have a smart New Year. 


Friday, January 01, 2016


 "Don't use, go to meetings, and ask for help." That first part, "don't use," needs more explanation. As has been pointed out, if I could simply not use drugs, why would I need a program?"

Will power, as most of us have learned, can drive us crazy and into really crazy and desperate situations, but it cannot cure addiction. The best it can do is that form of serenity-shattering white-knuckling abstinence those in AA call being a "dry drunk." In all my years I've never heard an equivalent expression for the white-knuckle abstinent addict. "Abstinent suffering bastard?" "White-knuckle straightitude?" One miserable existence whatever we call it, miserable for the addict and anyone close to or in the vicinity of the addict.

So, don't use, but within a program that makes not picking up your opening to recovery rather than your ticket to hell. That means doing whatever you have to do not to pick up. The two biggest items of what to do not to pick up are: (1) Go to meetings, and (2) ask for help.

In meetings and from sponsors and others in the program, and from program literature, are where we find out about the tools of recovery: Meetings, literature, sponsorship, service work in NA, writing, working the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and for some, work with therapists to resolve traumas from the past that serve as ready excuses to use.

Here are some other practical things to do to keep from picking up: In the program it's called "Changing playthings, playgrounds, and playmates."
Get the stuff (booze, drugs) out of your house or apartment. Make your new playthings hobbies (I took up wood carving), exercise (I took up downhill skiing), rebuilding your relationships, keeping promises, getting a job or doing the job you have better (I had to relearn how to write as well as why to write), paying off debts, going back to school, becoming a valuable functioning member of the human race.
Get and stay away from those who use. Usually using friends and acquaintances will shy away from you and eventually leave you alone. There is a believe out there that sobriety and being clean are contagious conditions, and they may be. Develop friendships with those who don't use. You can find them in meetings, classrooms, workplaces, churches, mosques, synagogues, AA and NA service gatherings, and program retreats and conventions. You might begin with the person you ask to be your sponsor.
Stay away from places where drugs are used. For many, this is the hardest one. Students in high school have the toughest course to follow. Other users at the school, students and some teachers, really don't want someone trying to get clean in their midst. Getting the newly recovering addict back to using often becomes an important objective.
Most schools, particularly public and state schools, have yet to understand this situation or do anything about it.  Another tough situation is the workplace. On-the-job drug use is commonplace in many if not most  industries and occupations. Sometimes the choice is either put up with it or do without an education, job, or place to live.
The answer? Find people in recovery. At most schools and workplaces there are others trying to stay clean. Make them your friends. They will help thin out the crowd of users. Use your telephone numbers and call others in the program when things start closing in on you. Use your sponsor. In any event, do what you have to do not to pick up. I know physicians who gave up writing prescriptions and nurses who changed occupations to stay away from drugs.
So, do what you have to do to not pick up, to attend meetings, and to ask for help. It is doable and millions have done and are doing it. Tool boxes are not much use if you leave them closed.

My sponsor and me at Sunday River
Different playthings, playmates, and playgrounds

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