Wednesday, April 15, 2020


"Isolation" by Aidansane
 I have communed with the birds and squirrels, taken even more pictures of my dog, made home repairs, stayed in touch with the NA program and its people, I go to NA Zoom meetings and wait along with everyone else for things to go, well, not back to normal. But at least to lighten up. It is astonishing the complainers and foot draggers who cannot wait to return to jobs and schools they thought they hated. It was like when I got injured in the Army. I couldn't think of anything better than being in hospital with a (not too serious injury), lying around in bed all day, meals brought to me, and so on. After three days of that I was fit to be tied. After nineteen days I so grateful to get back to work upon my return I almost hugged my sergeant.

By occupation, I am a novelist and short story writer. It is not considered an essential occupation. What I can do, for those who like a good story, is fill up a stretch of time every day until the all-clear with some readings at no cost. The readings use the Zoom platform. Download the video conferencing app, and this will open a number of useful and entertaining doors. Once you have it on your device, click on the app, click on "Join Meeting" then enter the meeting code (see below).

I will be reading from Saint Mary Blue, the story of a group of patients going through rehab for addiction (researched the hard way). Curiously enough, one of the patients is a science fiction writer.

It is a very important story to me and to many of my readers. So, the following announcement:

●Beginning Thursday, March 16th, 2020 at 12 Noon EDST (-4 GMT) I will begin reading a chapter a day every noon from my recovery novel Saint Mary Blue (Internet willing and the creek don't rise). SMB is a story of very early recovery filled with laughs, tears, warnings, and hope.
●The Zoom reading meeting code is 292-024-0794. At the end of each chapter reading there will be some time for questions and comments. Hope to see you there.
12:00 noon (-4 GMT) beginning April 16th, Zoom 292-024-0794.  

Pass it on.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020


Scary times: invisible death stalking the streets, jobs lost, businesses going under, world and local disease and death tolls on the rise, meetings of all kinds---business, church, Twelve Step, Scout, National Guard, even boot camp---being cancelled, it's the Covid-19 Boogie. These are the kinds of times that remind me of early recovery when I couldn't work, all my remaining relationships were like walking through mine fields, I was frightened of everyone who I needed to ask for help, waiters in restaurants and friends at parties kept offering me drinks, and every cell in my body was demanding a return to business as usual. Then I would call my sponsor or a program old timer, lay my bucket of woes on him, and invariably the return comment I would get was, "Look for the opportunity."

Opportunity? My disease had latched onto twenty excellent reasons to feel terrified and miserable enough to use, and this guy wanted me to dig through all the horseshit to find the pony? 

Well, yes. See, a grateful addict doesn't use. And although times may be tough, the tough times contain and even generate opportunities. For example, at last night's video conferencing meeting of the Farmington, Maine Dragon Slayers Group of NA, a newcomer at the meeting from Pakistan shared that he was only a few months clean and was pretty much limited to one meeting a week in his area, which was not enough. Then came the pandemic, physical NA meetings around the world shut down, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms began holding NA meetings open to the world, and now he can do numbers of meetings every day. He found lots of opportunities.

I even found a couple of opportunities myself. At the three Farmington meetings, we had been pretty much limited to our local recovering community along with the occasional visitor. Now the number of those attending has increased quite a bit, and with recovering addicts attending from outside Franklin County, Maine, from all over the United States, and from many countries around the world. In the past week we have had recovering addicts from Iran, Australia, England, Iceland, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and Pakistan. The stories shared are both familiar and new. We are indeed a fellowship bound by a common disease arrested by the mechanism of one addict helping another through the program of Narcotics Anonymous. What's more, now the number of addicts who I can help and who can help me has increased enormously.

There was another opportunity I found for me. I have seen a lot of faces and heard a lot of voices in the virtual NA meetings, men and women, young and old, of many nationalities, religions, political persuasions, colors, and economic stations. Instead of focusing on those differences, at the NA meetings we focus on the common problem: Staying clean and growing as happy productive members of society. It shows me that we are but one race: The Human Race. And we are all in the same little lifeboat, Planet Earth, sailing through space. It shows me that if we focus on our common problems and treat each other with compassion and respect, there are answers to be found.

Times are tough, but there are many opportunities within and around you. You can find them if you look for them. If all you look for is pain and disaster, of course, that is all you will find. Or, as an old timer once advised me, "If all you do is look at an asshole, sooner or later you are going to get an eyeful of something you really do not want to see."
Be careful out there.


Saturday, April 04, 2020


Social distancing and staying home and what to do about those whose lives depend on regular meeting attendance? Modern technology provided us with video conferencing, and Many Narcotics Anonymous meetings are on Zoom. You have a screen with a lot of faces, the hugs are virtual, but the sharing is still the same, except now with people from all over the world. This morning, April 4th, at the Ninish Group of Narcotics Anonymous, we had at one point 80-90 persons logged in from all over the United States and Canada, as well as England, and even Iran. It was a terrific meeting. And then it was Zoom bombed.

Zoom bombing, for those who do not know, is disrupting a meeting by loud language, profanity, and putting up genuinely gross porno clips that essentially make it necessary to shut down the meeting. From eighty recovering addicts dealing with life and maintaining being clean and serene by getting in touch with other recovering addicts, it went straight down to . . . well, it was another opportunity to use the Serenity Prayer, call sponsors, and dust off that list of things I really needed to let go of.

The easiest thing for an addict to do when Zoom bombed is to judge, condemn, and begin turning that old rage crank. The disease loves that. Make yourself miserable, and the payoff is what? Using. On the other hand, a whole bunch of other addicts take such virtual violence, become frightened, and swear never to go to another meeting again. The disease loves that, too. Make yourself miserable, deny yourself the program, and the payoff is what? Using.

There is a bone in every recovering addict that has to vibrate at such disruption. Don't these people know they are costing lives? Have they no clue what is at risk? 

I believe that no one enters a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous by accident. See if you can relate to the using addict terrified of getting clean. If he or she can destroy recovery, then there is no point in putting down the drugs. I've seen this countless times over the years, mostly in school kids trying to get clean. Their using peers in school use all the pressure they can muster to drive the clean kid back into using. Don't these kids know they are costing lives? Have they no clue what is at risk?

All a using addict can see is that nothing comes between the addict and the drug. The law, health, family, future, loved ones, the respect for human life, none of it matters to one attempting to remove the threat of recovery from their lives. So, have I just inventoried a bunch of folks I don't know? Other than having been one of them at one point in my life, yeah, I guess I am. I think I'm pretty accurate, though.

The point is letting go: Accepting the things I cannot change (them), having the courage to change the things I can (myself and the settings on our Zoom meetings), and understanding that the best way to screw up your own day is to try and change someone else's.

I saw a terrific poster. It said, "Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

The meetings, with new settings, will continue as usual. It took learning a lot of technical stuff no one was interested in, and a few tests, and we will see how it goes at our next Zoom meeting on Tuesday. And when you send a prayer to your Higher Power, throw in a thought for those terribly frightened addicts driving themselves to despicable depths to run from recovery. Pray for them and be grateful you are not one of them.

Serenity, and . . . be careful out there.



Friday, March 27, 2020


 When in danger
When in doubt
Run in circles
Scream and shout!

Big worldwide health problem, really bad numbers, stock portfolios and paychecks in the tank, massive government solutions, many ignoring the health safeguards and spreading the disease because some folks think, "Everybody is making too much of this." On the other hand, many panic causing shortages and even spreading the virus attempting to get away from it. 

It is a war, and just as in the more traditional military and anti-terrorist kinds of wars, this war has the potential for many to fall through the cracks and get impoverished, lost, or killed because of drastic measures not specifically tailored to certain classes or segments of society. Recovering addicts and those wanting to enter recovery are such a segment. We have special needs, and the most important of them is not using. The isolation requirements of the health safety measures interfere with one of the program's most important tools to keep from using: program meetings.

I do not know what the rehabilitation centers are doing. Some may be converting to treat the Covid-19 patients, others might be simply shutting down until the all clear. In our local area, all the physical locations where AA, Al-Anon, and NA meetings were held have cancelled all meetings until further notice. Schools, colleges, theaters shutting down, as well. 

I call my disease "the dragon," and the dragon was the originator of the saying, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." This is because any crisis, any change, any bad thing happening anywhere in the world is, as far as the dragon is concerned, fuel for its favorite fire: reasons to pick up and use again. I remember sharing in my rehab patient group about the things troubling me and making me feel guilty. I still remember my group counselor, June Qualy, saying to me, "Barry, it's not your fault that the Soviet Union occupied Poland." That was true, but it was an awful thing, and the dragon loves awful things, as well as things it can make look awful. Troubles, folks. Real troubles. We got 'em. Now, the dragon wants to know, what are you going to do about them?

In my area and in much of Maine we are getting the meetings going again through video conferencing, particularly using the Zoom App. We are using the telephone more staying in touch with sponsors and others in the program. Those not computer or smart-phone savvy can get and stay in touch through the NA helplines. Mostly we recover by not picking up and doing what we need to do to stay grateful. If the walls feel like they are closing in and the dragon is blowing smoke in your ear, drag out that gratitude list and begin again. You can start with, "I'm still alive." Call a sponsor, someone else in the program, and if you are reading this you have access to the Zoom NA meetings. 

The great part about Zoom meetings is you can be anywhere in the world and join a meeting. NA Web Servants are busily getting the Zoom NA meetings up on the NA state and world websites. The point here is the same as it has always been: Willing to go to any lengths to recover from addiction. You ever wonder why this blog is titled "Life Sucks Better Clean?" That's because, like now, problems make it so life sucks. The one thing guaranteed to make it worse, though, is using. That's why Life Sucks Better Clean.

Be careful out there.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020


The disease of addiction loves change, discomfort, disruption, and chaos; It loves anything that can lure the recovering addict into thinking he or she is cut off from the program, things are horrible, and there is no hope. No meetings, no job, no toilet paper? Why try to stay clean?

We've done a couple posts on "Adapt, Improvise, Overcome." Examples of the NA program doing this, especially after traditional meeting places closed down, are the video conferencing meetings through Zoom and other venues. The Dragon Slayers in Farmington, Maine will be having its first Zoom meeting tonight. I posted the following on my Facebook page:

The Dragon Slayers Group of NA (Quarantined), the oldest NA meeting in the State of Maine, is meeting tonight (Tuesday 3-24) at 6:30 PM on Zoom. If you already Zoom, just enter the meeting number below before the meeting time. If you are new to Zoom meetings, do the following:
1. Go to Zoom and download the free app.
2. Click on the "Join" button.
3. In the "Enter Meeting ID" box, type in 468401171
At 6:30 PM EST You will be in the Dragon Slayers NA meeting.
It is recommended you use earbuds or earphones to prevent delay echoes.
The Dragon Slayers are doing this for the first time, Terry Z. will be hosting/chairing, and despite possible glitches it should fill in for us a very empty gap. Have a good meeting.

The basic Zoom app is free and there are no fees. There will be a Seventh Tradition PayPal button, but no payments are required. Zoom is the only video conferencing app with which I have experience, but I am sure there are more.  Share that information. This is a temporary disruption and the more of us who are clean, sober, and alive when the all-clear sounds, the easier it will be to put the old meetings back together.

Don't pick up, click on to meetings, and ask for help. 
This, too, shall pass.

The pen and ink drawing is by Martin Springett and is titled "Old Chums."

Friday, March 20, 2020


Death toll going up, kids on spring break sobering up long enough to quit playing sardines on the beaches, the number of dead in Italy overwhelming the ability of authorities to dispose of them, restaurants and theaters closing down, can't go to work, we're down to a ramen noodle diet, and we're still running out of toilet paper! Just to throw another pork chop on the pig-pile, the church in which the Dragon Slayers Group of NA meets (met) has closed down all meetings. So now what do we do?
Adapt, improvise, overcome. Right now we are looking into Zoom for conference meets, and in my mind's eye I see circles of automobiles in otherwise deserted parking lots, the drivers speaking into their phones and saying, "God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can . . ."

Perhaps that will not be the solution, but if not that then something else. Remember: Addiction is a room with countless exits. All you need to do is be willing to try the doors.

DO NOT FORGET: Call others in the program, call your sponsor (if you don't have one, now is a choice time to go and get one on the phone!),  read that literature, work those Steps, journal those feelings, and do not pick up. When the all-clear sounds, you want to be there to hear it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


We had a meeting last night at the Dragon Slayers NA Group in Farmington, Maine. There were four of us: Three in person and one by phone. Plenty of distance between participants, hand sanitizers and wipes, only one person touched the Seventh Tradition basket. At the closing we stood in a widely spaced circle (or triangle considering how few of us there were), said the "We" version of the Serenity Prayer, then it was back to the world.

A great many changes in numbers and format. The subject, however, was the same: Experience, strength, and hope on staying clean and in recovery for the next twenty-four hours. What did we do and what were we planning to do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and everyone else from the Covid-19 Virus. What had we done and what were we thinking of doing to make positives out of kids being home from closed schools and colleges. What had we done and what were we planning on doing to stay in touch with others in the program, to grow in the program, and stay in recovery. Among those things we discussed were conference call meetings, Face time, Zoom, and a number of other tech options.

It was a good meeting, and the Dragon Slayers is the oldest NA group in the State of Maine. It is not so much a prideful thing; It's just the way things turned out. The meeting is still going on because we were there. Those who attended are still clean partly because the meeting was there. Will it still be there next Tuesday? Who can say? But look at it this way: When you have been clean and gainfully employed for awhile, you can afford smart phones, laptop computers, and such. Newcomers though often come with little more than the clothes on their backs. A sit-down meeting is, perhaps, all they can manage. 

So, what if more than ten addicts show up at a meeting? Gatherings of more than ten are forbidden in our area. We heard of an AA meeting that exceeded this limit by the addition of a newcomer who came in off the street. Three  oldtimers got up, went to another room and had a meeting of their own there. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.

Someone was there when I was fresh out of rehab and others just in off the streets. In addition, "We can keep what we have only by giving it away." But what about the risks? The Covid-19 Virus is terribly contagious and has virtually paralyzed the world! What about an overabundance of caution?

True. But consider this: At this writing there have been 116 confirmed deaths in the United States from the Covid-19 Virus. Almost double that number die every day in the US from drug overdoses.

Wash your hands, use hand sanitizers, maintain "social distance," don't touch your face, when you get back home wash your clothes, and add all these tools to sponsorship, using the telephone, working the Steps, reading the literature, and making some kind of meeting. Through telephone lines, cell towers, wi-fi, or in person: Meeting makers make it. 

Be careful out there. Addiction can't be washed off, killed, nor does it ever self quarantine. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Seemingly overnight things are different. Classes, business, recovery, and political meetings, theme parks, and even restaurants and bars are shortening hours or suspending operations, or outright cancelling anything involving small, medium, or large gatherings. The Covid-19 pandemic is here, and many of us find change of even the littlest things burdensome. The changes brought on by attempting to cope with a pandemic, though, are momentous. Change can be inconvenient, disappointing, heart breaking, and calamitous. Many roll with reality's punches and simply get on with things. Many become grumpy and spoil their day and take it out on friends, family, and associates. For recovering addicts, such change is simply one more possible excuse to develop the fuckits and jump back into the nightmare.

The change list is endless: The kids are home all the time now, I had to leave my job to take care of them, Betty has a paper due for her history class and her boyfriend cancelled out on their date, my doctor's appointment has been moved to four months from now, they've cancelled the political rally I was going to attend, I can't find a mask anywhere, and we're running out of toilet paper!  

So, what can you do besides set your hair on fire and use drugs to make it through the coming weeks? Well, if you've ever been in the military, chances are you've heard the following: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.

Adapt: It is a verb, an action word, that means "(1) make suitable for a new use or purpose; modify; (2) become adjusted to new conditions." Change is the one thing that never changes. It happens all the time. Life forms that can successfully adapt to the changes survive. Those who cannot become extinct.  Kids are home all the time now, unplug the game platforms and start your own home school. All those home repairs you've been putting off? Now might be the time to get to work on them. Your home group recovery meeting has been suspended? Use the telephone, read the literature, work on your steps. The point here is that you have a mind; Use it.

Improvise: Another action word. This one means "(1) produce or make (something) from whatever is available." Running out of toilet paper? Ration what you have left, use Kleenex, bum wipes, or if you are really tough, those old rolls of Christmas wrapping paper. Before there ever was toilet paper, the Romans used sponges to wash their butts. Can you do your job from home? Can you learn how to do that? If your employment has been suspended, can you find a temporary job you can do at home? Perhaps your meetings could be done through conference calls, or social media. Your way of doing things may be interrupted, but you still have other choices.

Overcome: Yet one more action word which means "(1) succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty); (2) defeat (an opponent); prevail." In other words, win. For us winning involves getting through the next twenty-four hours intact, alive, sane, and clean.

Once you are in recovery, no matter what happens, relapsing is a choice. Reality is well stocked with curve balls to throw at us. Burning your bat and hitting up a dealer or your local bud emporium to numb out in response to those curve balls is a loser play.

Adapt, improvise, overcome, and be careful out there.


Monday, March 16, 2020


Complaining is a hostile form of prayer request usually directed at those who cannot do anything about the subject of the complaint.

Whining is attempting to change someone's mind through sheer weight of annoyance.

Rioting is whining through destruction.

Time to meditate upon living in the solution rather than in the problem. Recovery is an action program. As a priest in the fellowship once said to me, "You can't get goosed by the holy spirit sitting on your ass."

Sunday, March 15, 2020


I have had to cancel out of my high school reunion which means I will be available not to attend a conflicting NA retreat. A friend from Boston called to say that the hospital in which several AA and NA meetings were held has closed down all meetings. Our own local hospital, which hosts several AA and NA meetings, has also closed down all meetings. The slogan is: "Meeting Makers Make It." If the meetings are cut by 70 to 90 percent, what then?

A lesson a new downhill skier or snowboarder gets early in his or her instruction is: If you get into a tight spot and it looks as though disaster is only a second or two away: Do Not Panic! Do the best you can at what you know even though things things look bleak. Try. You just might get through it and look damned good doing it. The one thing guaranteed to bust you up and possibly kill you, however, is to give in to panic. This applies to life and to recovery, as well. It certainly applies to what health services, nations, and businesses are doing these days to help lessen the spreading of the Covid-19 virus and how those measures affect those in recovery and those attempting to get clean.   

Nothing new. You do what it takes to stay clean and sober. Instead of sitting at home and playing with resentments, watching TV, or eating bonbons, now might be a good time to dust off that Basic Text or Big Book and read about recovery. We are told to look for the opportunities in adversity, and if your meetings are cancelled, what a great opportunity to get to work on that next Step. Perhaps you can pick up that sanitized telephone and call your sponsor or someone else in the program. There is always program literature to read, and the recovery tool of writing. Take that warren of worries in your head, write and put your feelings on paper (works better than tapping on a keyboard; Don't know why).

Alcoholics Anonymous pioneered solving the problem of recovery in isolation. Through the mail, through the telephone, and now through the net and social media we still have a program, meetings, and recovery.  Those in recovery can share here and in their social media specific information regarding Facebook recovery groups, online and telephone meetings for all Twelve Step recovery programs.

As the newcomer was explaining all of the complex issues and reasons making it impossible for him to come to meetings, the old timer said, "You're wearing yourself out. If you want out of the program, any path will take you there." 

The excuses for skipping meetings now have never been better. Please share below what you are going to do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


So, another great set of excuses for not going to meetings is spreading across the world. This time it is the Corona Virus. Colds are okay excuses, and there is always the flu. Now that NA has some decades behind it, we also have a gaggle of aged oldtimers, many with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems. 

Funny the Dragon should mention that: about the "possibly fatal illness." I already have a more than possibly fatal illness called "addiction." In addition, its fatality rate makes the Corona Virus look like a case of sniffles in comparison.

My disease of addiction absolutely loves these moments. They present countless opportunities to sabotage my program of recovery. "Drop meetings," it says. "It only makes sense. I mean, they hug at those things! Do you want to catch a possibly fatal illness?" "Put the step work aside for now; It's time to clean the house and stock up on canned goods." "No point in calling my sponsor; He's probably becoming a hermit."
"Jails, institutions, and death." Left untreated, those are the end results of addiction. Over the course of my recovery I have had endless excuses and some pretty good reasons to skip meetings, avoid my runny nosed brothers and sisters, mostly to "look out for myself." You know, "protect my health."

Protecting my health, back when I was using, was my disease's rational for me to switch from rum to "diet" beer. I was saving thousands of calories a day and I couldn't understand why I was gaining so much weight. Then my disease suggested I quit the diet beer and drink rum. Rum had even fewer calories. The point here is that the suggestions my disease makes to me regarding health and medical issues, relationships, choices in clothing, parenting skills, or whether to attend meetings are by design aimed at one purpose: to get and keep me back in the nightmare.

There are sensible precautions one can take during cold and flu season and throughout the occasional pandemic. Possibly your meeting could forego the traditional closing hug. If that is not agreeable, those at risk (old, immune compromised) could stand aside from the hug circle during the closing. If you are sick, wear a mask to keep from spreading it. Wash your hands, use the hand sanitizers, stay hydrated, don't touch your face, and avoid putting stuff in your mouth handed to you by someone else. 

There are telephone meetings and I can see virtual meetings through the net and social media coming into their own. Stay in touch with your sponsor, keep on with your program, use the telephone, read the literature, check in with your HP, keep up with step work, and hit those meetings. Should you live so long and make it back to a meeting after a relapso grande, do you really want to say that why you stopped going to meetings was because you were afraid of catching something? If you are like me, you already have something and it is a disease that is doing its best to kill me. There is a proven way to arrest my disease which does not involve either separating myself from the program nor isolating myself.  

Be careful out there and do not let the disease choose your day.


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...