Wednesday, November 30, 2016


     Overheard this at a meeting some years ago: "I used to think that in recovery I was living on borrowed time. In fact I was living on earned time."

Monday, November 28, 2016


     Every worry is a negative prayer, an error message to one's Higher Power that it just doesn't pack the gear. If your Higher Power is that wimpy, you need to upgrade because a wimpy HP can't keep you clean.
     If your HP isn't wimpy, then why worry?

     Always keep the dynamic of addiction in mind: If the recovering addict gets miserable enough, the addict will use. It isn't any more complicated than that. Can worrying solve problems or accomplish anything positive? Can worrying make the worrier miserable? Can it affect the worrier's health? Can it affect the worrier's loved ones?
     You know the answers.
     If you worry, why pray? If you pray, why worry?

Sunday, November 27, 2016


     There is a saying in the writing business that I found useful in staying clean and growing in recovery. It is called "Nolan's Observation," and, no, I do not know who Nolan was or is. It goes like this:
     "The difference between smart people and dumb people isn't that smart people don't make mistakes. They just don't keep making the same mistake over and over again."

     There is another saying attributed to writers Mark Twain and Tom Clancy: "The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense."

     Be careful out there.

Friday, November 25, 2016


     The day after Thanksgiving and I'm thinking about those I've known in the program who went out again, used, and died. It reminds me of something I heard years ago at a meeting: "Every time history repeats itself the price goes up."
     If you've been the route of addiction, recovery, and relapse, you are familiar with the relapse price schedule. The last few items on the cost sheet are read out at the beginning of every Narcotics Anonymous meeting: "Jails, institutions, and death."
     Why does this need to be pointed out and repeated until everyone becomes bored by the repetition? That's because the disease of addiction talks to addicts and is articulate, entertaining, and clever in doing so. Addiction first tells you that you haven't got it. Then it tells you it wasn't so bad. Then it starts moaning about all the friends and fun you're missing. And somewhere along the line it coaxes you into thinking life is too dull or painful to endure without help. Finally it convinces you that one drink or one drug won't hurt.
     Take a lesson from John F. who stumbled into my home group, The Dragon Slayers in Farmington, Maine, attended meetings, got clean, entered counseling, and after one particular counseling session went to our meeting and shared with us that his counselor had recommended to him that he go to drug rehab. After sharing that with the group, he asked for feedback. Short version, we all agreed with his counselor. He definitely needed to go to rehab.
     He said he needed to think about that.
     Three nights later, he went to a bar, got drunk, got into a fistfight, and was beaten to death.
     Be careful out there brothers and sisters. The dragon never sleeps and there is nobody using down in the graves.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


     Tears? Despair? Depression? Disappointment? Anger? Hopelessness? If you live in the United States, this holiday is called "Thanksgiving," or "giving thanks." Thanks to whom? Thanks for what?"
     Yeah, the disease of addiction doesn't want you to feel grateful for anything because grateful addicts don't use. If you are pondering what to be grateful for on this day, begin with being alive and able to write a gratitude list. Go ahead. Use pencil, pen, computer, pad, or beach sand and begin writing down what you are grateful for. I always start with being grateful I'm not a turkey.
     List them: Who do you love, like, or care about? Who loves, likes, cares about you? Have you been clean so far today? Got plans for today? You can always make it to a meeting or call your sponsor or someone in the program. There are those who believe that N.A. stands for "Never Alone." Got a job? Prospects? Health? Health getting better? Can you laugh? Can you love? Can you care about anyone else?"
     The only way you can be grateful for nothing is for the disease to be in 100% charge of you and your brain. The theme is survival. Do your gratitude list and have a really great day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


     Much of the sharing at the meeting was about relapses, sometimes called "slips." Both terms refer to picking up, using, giving in to addiction by taking that first drug. Those at the meeting who had experienced relapses, using after getting into recovery, they all said the same thing: "It began by stopping going to meetings."
     This pattern was one of the first things I noticed when I was new in recovery. Those who went out, used, and managed to struggle back again all said the same thing: "I stopped going to meetings."
     Those were the days when I considered myself terribly unique, and if I relapsed and managed to make it back again, I didn't want to have to resort to that threadbare cliché "I stopped going to meetings." So I made a promise to myself: If I ever found a better way to stay clean, or found a good reason for me to no longer attend meetings, I would go to my next scheduled meeting and share my discovery with my fellow recovering addicts. I mean, why keep all this good news to myself?
     Since I made that promise to myself almost thirty-five years ago, I've found dozens of really good reasons to quit going to meetings. However, by the time I was sitting in that next meeting, without exception, they all sounded either sick, stupid, or both.
     Whenever you are arguing with yourself about whether to go to a meeting, remember that the thing holding down the "don't go" side of the argument is the disease of addiction.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


"The way people deal with things that go wrong is an indicator of how they deal with change." ---Roberto Goizueta
     On college campuses in the U.S. there are "cry-ins," disappointed and distraught student exam dispensations, and regiments of counselors made available to student Clinton supporters who have yet to accept that their candidate did not win.
      In the streets in many of the nation's major cities, there are protests and, in some, violent riots because Donald Trump won the election for president of the United States.
      The  subject is change, and how most persons deal with change is not the concern here. How those in recovery from addiction deal with change is the concern.
      What is it going to take for you to say "To hell with it!" and pick up that drug? Whatever it is you have set aside for a good enough excuse for going back to using is called a "back door." If this happens, then what's the point in staying clean? If my mate leaves me, if I lose my children, if I get fired from my job, if I go bankrupt, if my health takes a turn for the worse, if taxes go up, if Trump wins the election . . .
      If all those things happen, don't pick up. There is no disappointment you will ever experience that cannot be made worse by using.
      And to all those celebrating, don't pick up. Committing suicide is not an intelligent way to celebrate victory.
      The key is acceptance.  As the great sage once said, "Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue."
      Face the day clean and find the happy spots.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


First thing I learned in rehab: I didn't use drugs because I had problems; I had problems in order to give myself excuses to use. I call the desire to use, my Lower Power, "The Dragon." That fire smoking lizard takes new days, searches for the day's real or imagined flaws, and magnifies them until all I can see is failure, lost hope, and shattered dreams.
     "So," says the Dragon, "as long as everything is crappy anyway, why not score a little something ease the pain?"
     Meetings, talking with your sponsor and other addicts, reading the literature, using the telephone, staying close to one's higher power, seeing things back in perspective, and the crisis is over.
     Throwing destructive temper tantrums, setting things on fire, saying "to hell with it," and picking up a mood altering drug means whatever nightmare you are in is about to get infinitely worse.
     Live in the solution, not in the problem.
     What can you build on this new day?
     Don't let sadness, anger, depression, disappointment, or pain pick the kind of day you are going to have. Use the program and you pick the kind of day you are going to have.
     Yeah, the above might be considered "free advice," but it wasn't free; It damn near cost me my life.
     Take care. 


Thursday, November 10, 2016


The People of the United States, and many of the peoples of the world, awakened yesterday to find out that what could not possibly have happened . . . happened. Someone who has and continues to be characterized in the most vile terms was elected president of the United States. An outside issue to be sure, but how recovering addicts choose to react to that event is smack in the middle of the subject of recovery.
     To Trump supporters who believe that the nation and world have just been saved, the evildoers cast into the darkness, and (just this one time) celebrations with mood altering drugs are in order, Think about it.
     To Clinton supporters who believe that Trump winning is one of the signs of the coming apocalypse and (just this one time) drowning sorrows with mood altering drugs is called for, Think about it.
     Humility is the quality of accepting the facts of reality. One indispensable fact of reality for recovering addicts is being powerless over addiction. There is no "just this one time" for addicts. Celebrating or attempting to ease pain by using is the back door to despair, destruction, and death.
     Life on life's terms.
     It is what it is.
     Life sucks (and is great) better clean.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016


Joan Didion
A thought from writer Joan Didion:  "Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self-respect springs."
     A program way of saying this is: "Recovery doesn't begin until you run out of people to blame." Yeah, a lot of bad stuff happened to me as a child and as an adult, but that's not why I used drugs. I became an addict because I have the disease of addiction.
     So where does "accepting responsibility for my own life" come in? It begins with accepting the responsibility for my own recovery. It is no one else's job to get and keep me clean. That's the responsibility of my recovery team: Meetings, Steps, sponsor, literature, Higher Power, my fellow recovering addicts, and my own active participation—being on my own team.
     Self-respect comes from being and doing things worthy of respect—doing the next right thing, even when no one is looking. —especially when no one is looking. As we heard in meetings, "Reputation is who others think you are; Character is who you and God know you are."
     Be careful out there.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


"Barry, I want you to say three good things about yourself." The words of my rehab counselor June Qualy gave me that instruction in group and it struck such fear in me I thought I was going to go into vapor lock. Three things! Self-hatred had left me with nothing in my esteem account. I came up with three things, but they were lies as far as I was concerned. They were true and I could reach outside myself for documentation in case anyone wanted to dispute my selections, but I didn't believe them.

Low self-esteem, self hatred: they are the rewards of addiction. Try controlling drug use, try quitting, try and fail at it often enough, and the feeling you're worthless flowers like some evil alien plant. Stop the drugs, get clean, and make no other changes, the self-hatred and sense of worthlessness continues growing unchecked until your disease uses it as an excuse to climb back into the chemicals or simply end it all.

Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli once wrote, "The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own." That is valuable advice for a person to do for him or herself, as well. In doing your Fourth Step Inventory, remember to list all of the good that you are. It will be hard at first. The disease tells you that evil people and crazy people have no place in recovery so they may as well continue using. And the disease wants you dead. But how do you fight back?

Take a piece of paper and a pencil or pen and write at the top: "These are my riches." Then list them. I could make suggestions, but the answers have to come from inside you, not from somebody else's list. What are your riches?

Saturday, November 05, 2016


Some sharing stories in meetings are so familiar they seem to be part of addict racial memory.
     "I've been clean for six years, but then alcohol . . ."
     "But it's medical marijuana . . ."
     "I couldn't see how one drink would hurt . . ."
     "Prescription drugs are medicine, aren't they?"

     And so on, the addict and his or her disease looking for the loopholes in recovery, each loophole leading back to the nightmare.

     With addiction, we are talking about mood altering substances and behaviors. The addiction is not to a particular chemical or card game. The addiction is to the alteration of mood. In illustration:
      For many years, the treatment for pain in surgical procedures was opium. The result, of course, was a disturbing number of opium addicts. Around the time of the American Civil War, researchers came up with a non-addictive pain-killer they called morphine. The result was so many morphine addicts that addiction became known as "Old Soldier's Disease." In later attempts to come up with a non-addictive substitute for morphine, the result was a new non-addictive pain-killer called heroin. All three drugs altered moods, hence all three drugs were addictive.

     Same with sugar, food, sex, porn, video games, gambling, religion, overwork (as in workaholism), smoking and so on. If you do it, and doing it causes you life problems, and you keep on doing it, you are an addict.

     The above information is for those wanting to get and stay clean; Who want to recover from addiction. If you disagree with the above, that's okay. Simply print out the information and tuck the page away someplace safe for when you run out of answers.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


     A thought on priorities: Don't allow the things you get in recovery to take you away from recovery.

     Or, as a friend of mine once put it: "If you make anything more important than recovery, you will lose your recovery, and you will also lose whatever it was you made more important than your recovery."
     Take care.

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...