Sunday, September 24, 2023

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 that tells you that you haven't got it. Denial often sneaks in after entering recovery. When I went in rehab my addictions were to what I called a beverage and little items I always referred to as medicine. In rehab I learned that a mood altering drug (MAD) is a drug. Still, in those early months of recovery in NA, various complaints came out of my mouth as though I was impersonating a stupidity generator:

"When I got clean there were no wine spritzers, and that was before Coors came to my state."

"In rehab I learned about a whole lot of drugs I never got in trouble with. Maybe . . ."

"I know a guy in Al-Anon who told me he goes to Al-Anon so he can get the program and he doesn't have to stop drinking."

And then I listened to my sponsor who quit Narcotics Anonymous and joined Alcoholics Anonymous so that he "could smoke pot and it would be okay."

That was a rough number of weeks for me, but not quite as rough as it was for my ex-sponsor. It took three weeks, but during that period his wife left him, he lost his job, he dropped out of AA, and he seems to have vanished. No one who knows him knows where he is. Perhaps he returned to the program. It's a hope. What he was doing so many years ago is what a famous country singer has recently referred to as being "California sober," which is defined as "Not drinking or using hard drugs, but continuing with marijuana and psychedelics." By that token I suppose "California Clean" would be putting down pot and mushrooms and confining one's use to fentanyl laced alcohol and compulsive gambling.

It was dangerous forty-one years ago when I got clean. Dragon smoke always comes in the form of denial: rationalizing dangerous drugs into that group of things that it is okay to use. The consequences now, in the end, are the same: The Graybar Hotel, the padded room, or the graveyard. The consequences today, however, come quicker and more severely. Way back alkies, potheads, methroids, and pill poppers on average had a good many years to collect data such as unemployment, wrecked relationships, heart attacks, liver problems, money problems, a tour or two in the House of Slams, and eventually all the freedom, joys, and infections to experience in curbside living. I can't say that we had it easy, but we had it more slowly.

Today's addicts, many of them, do not have the time to put together a war story for when they finally make it into the program. That is mostly because they are dead. The  fentanyl miracle: For many it is a one-pop solution to all of one's problems. It may not work as quickly as sodium cyanide, it might feel better for a moment (I don't know. Dead dudes tell no tales), but it all winds up in a hole in the ground. On top of that is the well publicized abilities possessed by everyone to become whoever, whatever, and wherever they want simply by playing with words, particularly definitions. 

Each person, you see, can develop his, hers, or its individual "truth." Such "truths" have little to do with empirical evidence, and anytime you feel the need to be called a terrible name, point out most of these "truths" have nothing to do with reality. I mention it here because in recovery from addiction, the addict cannot afford to play around with semantics. The recovering addict needs a firm grip on reality. There are some hard truths we have to live by if we want to live, grow, and be happy. If you do not know what these truths are, go to a meeting, call your sponsor, work the Steps. If you do not go to NA meetings, or you do not have a sponsor, or for some reason haven't gotten around to the Steps, it would appear to be time for a change. Don't pick up, go to meetings, ask for help. That is the beginning lesson in fighting the meanest and sneakiest disease on the planet: Addiction.

 I pray for the best for everyone who reads this, but if you are an addict, if you are not on your own team, my prayers won't do you a lick of good. You can pick your age, your sex, your occupation, your lifestyle, and political leanings. If you are an addict, though, your disease has picked you and it does not care at all about the identity you picked. What you do about that in the real world will determine the kind and degree of fantasies you can bring to reality in the future.

Stay smart, stay safe, and stay clean. And if the idea of California Clean begins to look appealing, take a look at California's definition of "clean." Our brothers and sisters in the homeless encampments may be willing to give you a tour.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Wishes, Resolutions, and Pleas


I posted the following on Facebook on December 31st, 2022: 
2023, huh? Well, may the forces of stupid become self-aware, the forces of the power hungry find self-worth, and all those offended by words, dress, occupation, faith, skin tone, merit, and belief become themselves Awakened.
Happy New Year, and for those who use words to inform, entertain, educate, or manipulate others please note an ancient plea known as "The Three Gates of Speech." For your own peace of mind and in aid of the peace of the world, before what you say or write is made available, the words must pass through three tests or "gates."
The tests are:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary? and
3. Is it kind?
In the event your communication fails to make it through all three gates, employ the wisdom of Will Rogers: "Never miss a good chance to shut up."
In my early years I was a great one for turning pages. Each time I would be sent to a new school, or a new school year would begin, or New Years would come, and I would take the old page crowded with my failures, wreckage, crimes, and shortcomings, turn it, call it "the past," put it behind me, and set forth upon my fresh new page ready to record upon it the new me and my shining new future of accomplishment. Then would come the next New Year's Eve, my page littered with the same or worse failures, wreckage, crimes, and shortcomings as the previous year. It was the same with the endings of school years and new school stays.
The disease of addiction loves such moments. How small can I make myself feel? How worthless? How Evil? By the time I reached the weeks before January in 1981, I attempted suicide for the second time. I had given up page turning and resolutions. I had given up hope. The payback, of course, was using. Facing the darkness of the endlessly deep hole I was in, I gave up.

Friends and family pulled an intervention on me, I spent that New Years in rehab in Minneapolis, got out at the end of January confused, frightened, angry, and convinced that I was in big trouble and not at all convinced that staying clean was an answer nor that Twelve Step programs were an effective way to stay clean should I wish to do so.

I stayed clean and continued going to meetings until what I should do became clear for me. It eventually did become clear: Stay clean and continue going to meetings. One more thing: Learn all I could about the program of Narcotics Anonymous and put what I learn into practice. At the end of December, 2023 I celebrated forty-one years clean. 

I once asked my sponsor about "special" days: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and the beginning of a new year. He said they are just like any other day: twenty-four hours long and filled with miracles, hope, promise, love, and growth. After all this time, it still works and so does my life.

My prayers and best wishes to any and every one taking this moment, this beginning year, to begin taking that first step out of the nightmare.


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...