Monday, February 27, 2017


     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


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


     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 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


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


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

 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.

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


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."


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...