Sunday, June 23, 2013


Curly:  Do you know what the meaning of life is? It's this [holding up one finger].
Mitch:  You're finger?
Curly:  It's one thing.
Mitch:  What?
Curly:  You have to figure out that for yourself.
–City Slickers

As an addict, my only real goals were to get high and get away with it.  That becomes a progressively more difficult task as my consequences pile up on themselves.  I had a life, but it was happenstance and unintentional. 

Now in recovery, I have the same goals every day, staying sober, finding God’s path, and being of service.  That is my foundation, but is it a life?

And even outside my addiction and recovery, what is my life’s work?  Is it the job title I hold, or the neighborhood I live in?  Is it achieving a level of recognition?  Is it earning a certain amount of money?  Spending a certain amount of money?  Is it getting someone’s approval?

What if it’s none of those things?  What if my life’s work is the process of living life?  What if my life’s work happens every day, and is not a final product or destination, but instead is the living of my life?  If I need a daily inventory, I can look at Step 10.  I can remember that there is no rule book to life and no prize to win except for the experience of living.

Living life is life.
 

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Every day I’m learning; All my life, I’ve only been pretending  –Les Miserables

There are so many lies in the lie of denial.  I lie to myself.  I lie to my family and my friends and my work colleagues.  I omit truths.  I put on a show of what I think other people want to see.  I play the role of someone else.  All of those lies and rules become exhausting.  Maybe that’s why it always seems to fall apart.

And why all the pretending?  It’s because I think I’m unbearable.  I think that I can’t stand myself and no one else can stand me either.  It’s all a tremendous drama, self obsession, the bondage of self.

Am I really that bad?  I have made mistakes, yes.  I have hurt people that I would never want to hurt, yes.  I have to live with consequences that make me sad and angry and afraid, yes.  Guess who else lives like that?  Everyone in my meetings, everyone in recovery, and in fact, all 6 billion people in the world.  I am not alone in my imperfect, organic life.  I can try showing my real self, mistakes and all.  I can learn to be a better friend to myself.

The real me is really pretty cool.


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I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.  –Annie Hall

Why do I get high?  Why do I drink?  Why do I act out?  One reason, I just don’t like myself.  I don’t think I’m good enough to respect myself.  First, that thinking a lie, so I go to my addiction to make the lie true.  Second, those kind of not-good-enough thoughts devastate me, and I turn to my addiction to numb that self-inflicted pain.

The reality is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy for me to keep myself down and feeling like I’m no good.  I take a tremendous amount of energy to make me and everyone I know lose respect for me.

Recovery is a whole different way of life.  I put my energy towards honesty, accepting reality, developing faith, cleaning house and offering service.  That takes a tremendous amount of energy too.  And it leaves me with self-esteem.

I can ignore the rules in my head and be good to myself.
 

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One is too many and a thousand is not enough. I have that problem with men. –Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Some things I can do without consequences.  Like swimming.  I can go swimming or not go swimming without issue.  I’ve never missed work because I was swimming.  I’ve never lied to my spouse or family or friends about swimming.  I’ve never spent my entire paycheck, or racked up thousands in debt to go swimming.  I’ve never gone swimming when I didn’t really want to.  I’ve never gone swimming and felt worthless afterwards.  I’ve never sworn off swimming and then not been able to stick to that decision.

Why?  Well, I’m not powerless over swimming.  My life is not unmanageable because I go swimming.  Maybe that’s what some people experience, but not me.  I’m not addicted to swimming.  Whether I never go swimming again in my life, or go everyday for a week or a month, it doesn’t destroy my life.  It’s different for me with liquor and beer and food and sugar and sex and drugs and people who are not safe for me to be around. 

And no matter how many clever analogies, I will never really understand why I’m an addict or how my addiction works.  All I know is that I just can’t do it, because if I do it, I just can’t stop.

I can stay sober, even if I don’t understand my addiction.

 
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Forrest:  What's my destiny momma?
Momma:  You have to figure that out for yourself.
–Forrest Gump

            Sometimes I just wish someone would tell me exactly what to do, how to feel, what to say, how to live.  Let’s just suppose that for today, I get it, I’m an addict, I don’t know what’s best for me, I’ve got a thinking disease, I can’t do it alone.  So, how about a little help, huh?  I’m willing today to turn my life and will over to the care of my higher power.  So why the noodle isn’t my higher power taking over?  I should wake up with a list and schedule next to my bed showing me exactly how to get through the day.

            I’ve never gotten such a note from God.  Have I?  What about the time my phone broke when I tried to call my dealer?  What about when I actually stopped and smelled a flower?  What about when my recovery friend called when I was in pain?  God is there, keeping me on his path and helping me become a full person.  A person who cares about myself and others.  A person who is choosing life over death.  I may not know how it will turn out, but I am learning what direction I want to choose.

My destiny is in God’s hands and when I’m sober, God let’s me steer a little.
 

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Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise.  –Les Miserables

            It’s the forgetting disease, addiction.  Something happens, good or bad, and my thoughts narrow.  I forget I have options.  I forget the truth.  I forget acceptance.  I forget the chance for joy in my imperfect life.  I forget to be humane to myself.  I forget that I’m powerless.  I forget about consequences.  I forget that my lies will be discovered.  I forget that addiction leads to brutal shame.  I forget that I matter.  I forget that I can hurt my loved ones with my actions.  I forget that God is there and that God loves me.

            And I can go in circles about whether I really forget or I just don’t care.  Either way, there is a very simple and very hard choice to make:  Can I believe?  And even, can I act-as-if even if I don’t believe?  No matter what my human brain may concoct, the truth is that God is always there, whatever I’m experiencing will always pass, whatever I’m convinced of about myself – good or bad – will change.  Whatever challenges I am facing will not kill me.  The only way my addiction can kill me, is if I feed it.

I can make it through today sober, no matter what I may think or feel.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.  –Groundhog Day

As an addict, I’m looking for a deal.  I’m looking for a way out that free and easy.  I want half measures that actually work.  I think this way because I want some guarantee of the future.  I want to know that there will be enough, enough joy, enough food, enough numbness, enough safety.  I want a secure tomorrow so I can live without obligation or limits today.  I want sobriety for free. 

That’s not what the program offers.  The Twelve Steps are not about how to get high without getting high.  The Twelve Steps are about honesty, surrender, inventory, becoming ready, amending, service.  No one promised us an easy program, just a simple one.

My recovery and my higher power give me all I need.

 
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What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?  –Groundhog Day

            As an addict, it’s very easy for me to resort to black and white thinking.  Truth is sometimes bad stuff does happen.  Life has issues and troubles and hardships.  I was never promised an easy, trouble-free life – that notion came to me early in recovery when my addict brain tried to interpret the 12 Step Programs and determined that the hope of the program could be translated to promises of a fantasy world.  How do I know that my addiction tried to corrupt that hope?  Because, at the end of any such stream of thinking, I would get to drink or smoke or trip or eat or sex with impunity.

            Reality at all costs shows me that while there are troubles, that does not mean my life is hopeless.  The issues every person faces in a day, and the unique issues that every addict faces in a day, are not the full sum and total of my life.  Even if the troubles continue on into a monotony of pain, there is evidence of my higher power holding up the earth beneath my feet.  And that’s where I find hope that at the end of today, it’s worth it for me to put my head on my pillow.

My higher power gives me recovery and the chance to fill my life.

 
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Roy:  Hey Herb, how’s life?
Herb:  Takin’ forever.
--Kingpin

            My addiction, unchecked, is a suicide.  Likely not even a slow suicide.  My addiction ends in insanity, institutions, or death.  Which ultimately means, my addiction ends in death.  That death can come as fast as my consequences chase me.  In active addiction, I am one hazy, intoxicated decision away from causing my own demise.  Whether it’s following a dealer into a dangerous looking building, going home for sex with a total stranger, or pushing my high jamming my fingers down my throat a little further, any decision I make in my addiction can always be my last.

            Even out of active addiction, am I embracing life, or waiting for death?  Do I have a sobriety plan that includes self-care?  If I have a bottom line, do I have a top line as well?  What am I filling the hole of my addiction with?  It matters, not because I used to be “bad” and now I have to be “good”.  It matters because the hole of addiction is a hole in my self and my soul, and it’s worth filling with self-respect and self-love.  How do I know that?  My higher power tells me so.

Being me is good.

 
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Phil:  What if there were no tomorrow? 
Gus:  No tomorrow.  That would mean there would be no consequences, no hangovers, we could do whatever we wanted.
–Groundhog Day

            Throughout my addiction, I believed in the fantasy of denial.  I believed that if I was willing to lie to myself, if I believed my lies, then everyone else would too.  And maybe they did, or maybe they were in just as much denial as I have been or maybe their self care involved not saving the unwilling.

            The lies do not hold up.  To believe there are no consequences is to believe a lie.  In fact the only way for no consequences to be the truth is to let addiction win and give up on tomorrow, literally.  I have walked that circle of thinking many a long and lonely night in my addiction.  And all the while there has been a side door for me to escape.  The door is surrender, surrender the lies, give up the fantasies, find another addict and follow a new path.  My new path is straight and it is paved with the truth and leads directly to my higher power.

If I think there’s no way out, I just might be wrong.

 
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Although you’ll never know all the steps, you must learn to join the dance.  --Prince of Egypt

            I procrastinate a lot.  I often say, I will do that thing, I will take that risk, when I get a sign.  I will engage in self-care when it’s proven to me that I should, that I’m worth it.  I will call my peer when I feel better about myself, when I feel like I have something meaningful to say.  I will share at a meeting when I am good and ready.  What am I waiting for?  I’m waiting for perfection.  I’m waiting until I can guarantee myself that I won’t make a mistake, won’t sound stupid, won’t embarrass myself, won’t get it wrong.

            But that thought process ends in continual self-denial.  The truth is I will never know all that I need to know, I will never be without mistakes, I will never achieve perfection – even if sometimes I accomplish exactly what I dreamed about, that doesn’t make me perfect.  So maybe I can take a chance, maybe the next time I’m at a wedding or a christening or a bar mitzvah, I can get up and join the dance, not because I will be perfect or even be good, but because it’s okay to be me, as God intended.

‘Mistake” is not a bad word.


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I’ll give you a winter prediction – it’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be gray, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.  –Groundhog Day

            The winter can be relentless.  It can be bleak.  It can be long.  It can seem interminable.  Why?  Because I am human, and an addict, and so I have a hard time perceiving reality.  I easily forgot the truth and think that the frozen world will persist forever.  I believe that I will never get out from under, never feel free, never win.

            No matter how cold it gets, no matter how bone-chilling the winter, the isolation, the pain, there is one guarantee that our higher power gives us.  Change.  The very sidewalk that is covered in snow, and the very wind that penetrates every layer of my protection from the cold, will someday bring sunlight and warmth and life and joy.  Green leaves will come again.  The flowers will perfume again.  The sun will rise tomorrow and I can be there for it.  All I have to do is be willing to do the next right thing.

All I need to know about tomorrow is that it will come.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

In this lifetime you don't have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself. --Rudy

As an addict, I struggle with basic understanding of myself.  I continue to return to basic ‘truths’ about myself, that are in fact, false.  One of those truths is that my value comes from something or someone outside of me.  Another is that I will never have a reliable connection to that external source of my value.  In English?  It means that I am always inclined to seek out someone’s approval – my dad, my sponsor, my therapist, my abuser.  And because even the president of my fan club has to take a break once in a while, if I put my worth in someone else’s hands, they may not treat it as I want.

            And the magical answer is . . . sorry, no magic.  Just the old standbys of willingness, acceptance, faith, fellowship, program.  Can I be willing to live another imperfect day?  Can I accept that I am worth sobriety today?  Can I have faith that God will not forsake me today?  Can I reach out of my isolation that tells me awful things about myself?  Can I let program in today?  Not easy, but simple.

I can be my worst critic or my ultimate supporter.

 
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Every man dies, not every man really lives. --Braveheart

            It’s going to end.  Some days we want it to.  Some days we think it never will.  Some days we think we are immune.  But we will expire.  We will become food for worms.  And no matter what you may believe happens after that, we are all pretty certain that it will be different from what we’ve known all our lives.

            Even when we have the clarity to know we will die, we don’t always have the clarity of how to live our lives.  Yes, we’ve come to know that sobriety is a better path.  But what does that mean?  If addiction meant parties and being high and being reckless and having what we called fun, what does sobriety have to offer?  Said another way, as an addict I always like to ask:  any chance of me getting high but still staying sober?

            The Program and fellowship have us covered.  We are not saints.  We have found a sober path, and we can line that path with friends, reconnections, tastes, sounds, sights, beauty, spirit –all the stuff that we have been dead to; all the stuff we’ve been avoiding; all the stuff that makes a life.

Today I choose to live, not die.

 
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Two elderly women, one of them says, boy, the food at this place is really terrible.  The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such ... small portions. --Annie Hall

            In my addiction, I want more, no matter what.  After a while, I want more even if I’m in pain, or can’t stay conscious.  I want more even though the high I’m seeking becomes debilitating.  I want more of the worst experiences of my life.  I voluntarily seek out more poison, even as I watch the poison slowly kill me.

            The program is a mirror.  Step One helps me see that I am addicted to conduct that leaves my life unmanageable.  And let’s face it, unmanageable is usually putting it lightly.  Flat broke, kicked out of my home and fired is not just ‘unmanageable’ – it’s a red hot mess.  Step One is about putting down the fork and ceasing, one day at a time, the constant ingestion of food that is really terrible.  And the rest of the steps show me that there are not only other items on the menu, there are other restaurants, and even the option to make to eat in my home with my family and friends.

If I’m not sure if something is bad for me, I can ask someone else in program.

 
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Allan:  What are you doing Saturday?
Woman:  Committing suicide.
Allan:  What about Friday night? 
--Play it Again Sam

            As an addict, I am used to treating myself poorly.  And I’m used to tolerating poor treatment from others.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to hold out for decent treatment when I don’t think I’m worth it.  We sometimes say, we’re willing to accept crumbs and call it a good meal.

            With some sobriety and distance from my unmanageability, I can see clearly enough to learn what is healthy for me.  Turns out, hanging around with people who disrespect me is not good for me.  I don’t have to tolerate physical or sexual abuse.  I don’t have to stay in a relationship with someone who is not trustworthy, or who belittles or uses me.  There’s nothing wrong with me raising my standards for my life, my friends, and myself.  That doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to exclusively date models and eat in 4 star restaurants.  But I don’t have to accept dregs any more.

I can gauge my recovery by the fellowship I keep.

 
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I made you up didn't I Eddie?  You weren't real.  --The Hustler

            In addiction, I rely on fantasy.  I depend on make believe.  I have to.  I need to make the true untrue and vice versa.  I need to believe that more of my drug won’t hurt me, that I can control my problem, that my unmanageability is manageable.  The lies I tell myself are what keeps me in addiction.  Denial.  That is why the way of the 12 Steps is a way of truth and reality at all costs.

            And with distance from my acting out in addiction, I can see that I use denial in all areas of my life.  I invent qualities in people that they don’t have.  I believe facts that are blatantly untrue.  I expect outcomes that I cannot control.  Every day is a chance for me to leave denial behind and come into the light of truth.  It’s not always an easy place to be – which is why I avoid it for so strongly.  But with the light of reality, I can see more clearly, and I find there are peers there who can help me along the way.

My addiction is a lie, but my recovery is real.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dr. Rosen:  You can't think this away.
John Nash:  Why not, why can't I?
Dr. Rosen:  Because your mind is where the problem is in the first place.
--Beautiful Mind

            Eventually I will figure out my addiction.  Sometimes I have a break in sobriety and when I come I really start to get this thing.  I really understand this time what my addiction is about, how my addiction traps me, how I can protect myself.

            That would be great.  To find the answer to my addiction would be terrific.  But thinking that I can or will find the answer to my addiction is flawed for me.  For a few reasons.  First, such a thought does not take into account the First Step.  I will always be powerless over my addiction – no amount of learning or observation or thinking will change that.  That doesn’t mean that knowing my triggers and knowing my weaknesses is unhelpful.  But that information is most useful in the context of my ongoing admissions of powerlessness.

            The second flaw in the ‘figure it out’ theory is that I have one consciousness. And as I have proven to myself over and over again, my one consciousness is flawed, even on my very best day, with addictive thinking.  And this allows me to take the greatest leap, the leap that puts me entirely outside the realm of the thought and into the realm of faith.  My most reliable path in recovery:  stay on god’s path, and let go of my thinking solution.

My brain is a dangerous neighborhood, I will not go there alone.


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Aaronow:  I get nervous when I talk to the police.
Roma:  You know who doesn’t?
Aaronow:  No.
Roma:  Thieves.
--Glengarry Glen Ross

            My how we lied.  Sometimes practiced and rehearsed; sometimes spontaneous improvisation.  With every line of bull, we feared our uncovering.  And yet somehow, we managed to pull it off.  And with each lie came the relief of not being caught.  And the reward or punishment for the lie:  more addiction.  And the guilt of the ongoing charade.  And with each round of deception we knew one solid truth – the only way out of the trap of addiction would be to finally, one day, tell the truth.

            The truth may have come with a bold move of honesty.  Or it may have come when the weight of the decades of lies collapsed on itself.  In either case, we had the chance to be free, to live life with one less burden.  To stop the insult of asking our loved ones to continue to believe our lies.  And all of that energy that had been bound up in maintaining those lies?  We have a new use for the energy:  the daily choice to stay in recovery; the act of following higher power’s path; the clearing of wreckage as we follow our sponsor’s guidance to work the steps of recovery.

 To tell the truth is to break free from addiction.
 

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Knight:  Nothing escapes you.
Death:  Nothing escapes me.
--The Seventh Seal

            In addiction, we cheated death.  With every rail, every binge, every drunken blackout, every painful throat scraping purge, every encounter with an anonymous sexual partner, we faced the real possibility of our death.  And every time, we went for the addiction.  How many times did I look at the source of my drug and I say to myself, “He looks safe,” or “She looks healthy”?  Wishing my way into my addictive high and walking directly past the reality of my situation:  drug dealers are not safe, repeated forced vomiting can be deadly, sexually transmitted diseases can strike anyone and can be detected only by testing, not by the attractiveness of the sex partner.

            With some distance from the insanity of addiction and with the experience, strength and hope of recovering addicts, we can see that we are lucky we made it this far; we are lucky we made it to the program.  We will die someday, of course.  And we can face eventual death with acceptance of ourselves as addicts and acceptance of our higher power’s care.  For that is the only way we made it through, by god’s grace.

God is keeping me sober, just as God kept me alive through my addiction.

 
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Paul:  It must be nice to always believe you know better.  To think you're always the smartest person in the room.
Jane:  No, it's awful. 
--Broadcast News

            Some of the smartest people I have ever met are in the rooms of Twelve Step recovery.  All that intelligence proved a huge burden in my addiction.  Because I thought I could use my intelligence to control my addiction..  I would think, it won’t get me this time if I just do a little bit.  If I use my head this time, I can control this outcome.

            The truth is that trying to control addiction is like trying to ride a bull.  I may stay on for a bit, but eventually I will be thrown off.  And unless there is someone there to help me, there’s a good chance that when I land I will be very badly hurt.

            The reality is that I do not know better than my addiction?  I cannot control it and I cannot cheat the consequences or unmanageability of addiction.  If I start again right now, if I start drinking again, or drugging again, or paying for sex, or looking at pornography or eating compulsively, I just don’t know when I will stop.  It may be in a day or a few days, or it may be in a few weeks, or it may be in 7 years.  Or it just might never stop.  So my best way forward?  I can choose to not start and stay on the path my higher power and my program offer me every day.

I can use my intelligence at work, on crossword puzzles and in card games, for recovery I will stay on the bus and ride with the program.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Do or do not, there is no try --Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back

            In the beginning, I figured I would give the program a try.  I told myself, I’ll give this program a year, and if I’m not back on track, cured, all wreckage cleared, relationship fixed, living in a house in the suburbs continuing the life I had planned for myself, then forget it.  Friends at my meetings must have been amused. 

I have since come to understand what half measures are.  And that they avail us nothing.  And the most I will ever get is a daily reprieve.  So I get to make a choice every day.  That doesn’t mean that I have to get all twelve steps done in one day; it is progress not perfection (and certainly not completion).  However, just trying the program doesn’t not mean I am in program.  If I just give this recovery thing a whirl, then I haven’t really made that choice.  Our lot as addicts is that if we don’t choose our recovery today, we have by default chosen our addiction. 

Every day I can take a step in recovery.

 
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I was a like a child, hoping that my problems would just go away --Quiz Show

King baby – it’s not just that I want what I want when I want it.  It’s also that I continue to believe in the magical world of childhood.  It’s adorable on kids.  But we are not kids now.  And the character defect of selfishness, self-absorption, narcissism is not adorable.  I often played it off as passion, or principle, or dedication to my work or my cause or my art or my life. 

But reality is the world we live in.  Reality is where I conduct my relationships; reality is where I am accountable for my actions.  The consequences of my unmanageability cannot be wished away.  As a friend in program explained, she had her head in the sand, which left her rear waving in the wind.

Accepting my problems and my consequences is not easy.  And there is no struggle-free program that I’m aware of.  But there also no expectation that I do anything alone or perfectly or even the right way.  The program is there for me. 

Program doesn’t make my problems magically disappear, but it helps me face them.

 
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Look who knows so much.  Turns out your friend is only mostly dead.  --The Princess Bride

            Holy Hannah do we as addicts have our convictions.  There are truths we are just convinced of, positive of.  Sometimes it’s a humorous flaw, like when we're convinced that "irregardless" is a word (I had to look that up several times).  Other times it’s petty, like when we’re positive we returned that message, even though we’ve been shown that we did not.  And sometimes it is hopeless, like when we are convinced that we can’t stay sober.

            Why do we invest so strongly in black or white thinking?  Well, there are some internal truths that we have clung to for our entire lives – truths like, I’m not good enough; I’m not loveable; I am only accepted when I fill myself with booze or pills or food or sexual conquests.  But the program shows us the gray, and how much gray there is.  There is humility in not only admitting our wrongs, but coming to believe that there are things we cannot possibly know, or that are not on our side of the street.  The truth:  what we don’t know literally fills libraries. 

What I know is not as important as what I feel.

 
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You've come this far, perhaps you're ready to come a little further.  --Shawshank Redemption

The First Step is an amazing accomplishment.  From where we stood as active addicts, to admit that we cannot by our own unaided will win against addiction is remarkable.  Take the daily admission of powerlessness found in the First Step, and add it to the willingness to believe that there is a greater power than me that can help me, again, a miraculous distance to travel.  We have come so far in our recoveries.

But regardless of what step we are on, the program always asks us, come a little further.  Have a little more faith.  Surrender even more of our lives to our higher power.  Admit today’s wrongs today.  Of course service – give more away today.  These are invitations that we heed imperfectly.  And the collection of these distances traveled, that is the road to happy destiny.

I can do a little more today than I did yesterday.

 
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Greg:  What's your most expensive bottle of champagne?
Clerk:  Mumm's, it’s on sale for …
Greg:  Really? That's it? You don't have, like, a nice, like, bottle of something?
Clerk:  You can get a whole bunch of Mumm's.
--Meet the Parents

The addict mantra:  more.  Give me more.  If this much is getting me high, then more will get me higher.  There is in fact no amount that will satisfy our addiction.  Daily drinking, constant over-eating, hours and hours of viewing pornography; we always needed more.  Think about it, has a binge ever ended with the thought, ‘now I’ve had enough’?  No.  Binges end when we run out of our drug of choice.  And sometimes we apply the theory of excess to the rest of our lives.  If some money is good, more money is better.  If being friends with some people is good, then being friends with everyone is better.  We can even turn this addictive thinking on the program itself:  She has more sobriety than me, she must be better than me.

Then, a glimpse of sanity, a god moment, a prayer, and…  We remember this is a thinking disease.  Which means my thinking is the problem.  And I can’t fix my thinking with the same brain that thinks up my insanity.  Luckily, my peers in recovery can tell me when my thinking is faulty, and share how they thought the same thing earlier that day.

In recovery, I do not have to think alone.

Monday, March 11, 2013

“I think a relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” –Annie Hall

            Addicts have those impossible dreams of half measures.  How about we work a great program for a month and then rest on our laurels?  How about we just white knuckle our way through recovery?  How about I receive the gifts but don’t do any service?  As long as we’re hoping, why not throw in free relapse with no consequences.

            Unfortunately, we have no facility with coasting.  My recovery needs to make progress, otherwise I will backslide.  Let’s face it, if coasting would work for us, we would already know that, because we’ve tried it so many times.  That means ‘progress not perfection’ can be read two different ways – we can’t expect flawless recovery, but also, our program is at its best when we take a step every day, make some progress, however small that step may be. 

Small steps lead to big changes.

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“Life's a mess, dude, but we're all just doing the best we can.” --Terri

            As addicts we have high expectations.  We’re not being treated well enough, we aren’t being recognized enough, we don’t have it easy enough.  And these are exactly the kind of thoughts that bring us back to addiction.  Life is just not fair, and taking our comfort is a way of evening the karmic scales; that hit, that joint, that pill, that man or woman, that binge is what we’re entitled to because of the injustice we face.

            And the answer is not that we’re wrong.  The truth is that life is often very unfair, and that the pain of that unfairness is real and harsh, and seemingly unbearable.  But all we have to do is limp our way through that pain, feel the emotion, and on the other end, we can find acceptance.  If I try to accept a cold, hard truth before I’ve felt my feelings about the truth, it’s a bit like expecting a flower to bloom before the stalk grows.  Once I’ve felt my emotions, then I can move to acceptance, and realize that the people who I think have let me down, are themselves just doing the best that they can do in a world that may treat them just as we are treated.

As I trudge the happy road of destiny, I have the option to feel my feelings rather than numb or avoid them.

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"There’s nothing that can’t be done" --Usual Suspects

            Coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves even exists, much less can restore us to sanity, that’s a tall order.  Considering what we’ve seen in addiction – the pain, the humiliation, the repeated return to abusive experiences, the trauma, the death – how can we be expected to believe in some power that’s doing good.

            What’s even crazier, those very same experiences can be the evidence of that power.  Whatever has happened to us and our loved ones, whatever consequences we have initiated with our insane addictive behavior, whatever the sorrow we have experienced and caused, we made it to program.  We learned a new path.  We admitted our powerlessness and suddenly found options where there were none.  We continue to survive our addictions every day we reach out to program.  That is miraculous.

 Believing in a power greater than myself is not easy, but my higher power supports me in my struggles.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Why did you sting me, Mr. Scorpion, for now we both will drown?" Scorpion replies, "I can't help it, it's in my nature." --The Crying Game

            My struggle with addiction is a struggle with reality.  I just don’t perceive reality in a reliable way.  I don’t believe, or I’m unwilling to believe, that the next time I indulge, I will feel what some literature calls “pitiful demoralization”.  I will feel that every time I go to my addiction, and yet I continually return.  The coming pain is real, but I cannot learn that reality.  Why do I go to my addiction?  Because of some unbearable truth about myself:  that I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, I’m letting down the people I love, I’m unlovable, I’m a source of shame.  Those beliefs about me are just as false as my hope that one more high is a good idea.

            Reality at all costs is not an easy road.  That’s why the program is based on me getting help.  I check out my thinking with my sponsor and my recovery peers and my trusted advisors.  I get support to feel the feelings that I struggle with.  I get help to stop expecting milk from the coffee earn and I get reminders that my addiction will sting every time.

I need to learn the reality of addiction every day.  I get support from program and can pass that support along to others.

 
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You had me at hello.  --Jerry Maguire

            Program teaches us to avoid contempt before investigation.  It’s a simple enough proposition.  I struggle with perceiving reality when I have all the facts, how reliable can my hate be if I haven’t even looked at the facts?  And what about the other side - how about obsessive idolizing before investigation?  How many times do fall in love in a day, or become convinced that this next diet, this next self-help book, this next fix will be the final fix?  I’ve found my “soul mate” on the bus without even seeing their face, just catching a glimpse of their arm or their hair or their shape.

            I am learning to save my caring and emotions and love for a receptive audience.  I don’t have to throw myself at someone without learning who they are and what they believe.  I don’t have to be a ‘cheap date’, I don’t have to make up for someone else’s shortcomings.  I don’t have to take crumbs in my relationships.  No one’s perfect, I know that all too well looking in the mirror, but I am learning to give myself to people after learning who they are.

I can learn about the people around me before I decide who to give my time and emotions to.

 
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Will he finish what he starts?  Learned enough you have?  --Empire Strikes Back

            How many times have we said, “I’ve got it now”?  We come out of the fog of addiction, put some time together, and then we really understand it.  We get it, finally.  We know it took us a while, but we finally get the program, we understand sobriety, we’re finally on track like everyone else at the meeting.  Cunning, baffling, powerful.  The truth is that being an addict means I’ll never get it.  I’ll wake up with the same problem every day – a thinking problem, a misconception that I can figure out this struggle, come up with a recipe and then coast without having to work.

            So, there’s nothing for me to ‘get’.  I can’t think my way out of this disease.  Whatever I think up today does not solve my problems of tomorrow.  My recovery work is never completed, because I can always wake up with the seemingly sane idea that today is a good day to get high.  What is it that I do learn?  That my health is based directly on my spiritual condition.  There is something for me to do every day in recovery.  That doesn’t mean I have to lead the world service organization every day, but I do need to take steps in my recovery every day so that I can remain spiritually fit.

Recovery work is whatever I have to do to stay sober today.

 
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Stupid is as stupid does.  --Forest Gump

            They best way to see how I’m doing in recovery?  Take a look at what I did today.  I can’t worry too much about what I think each day – my thoughts have proven to be unreliable.  But my actions tell a pretty accurate story – especially when I check them out with my peers in recovery.  Did I walk past the bar today?  Why didn’t I take the longer route through the park?  Did I cover my tracks today?  Where did those tracks lead and why wouldn’t I want others to know?  Who do I resent today?  What am I doing to stoke that fire?  What am I avoiding?  Every day I can continue to inventory my conduct, then I can realize I’m veering towards my addiction, rather that wake up surrounded by drugs or booze or junk food or pornography and wonder, how did I get here again? 

 My actions tell my story for the day.

 
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All my life I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's a fish -Splash

            Sometimes we are just convinced of what we need.  We set our expectations and will not let them go until they occur.  I have to get this job; She needs to understand what I mean; I’ll never be able to achieve this dream; or I have to think this certain way.  We’ve got it all figured out and if things don’t go as we expect, we can’t even imagine the result.

            And gratefully, the truth, we couldn’t even list all the possibilities for our lives.  The world is richer with more options than we can fathom.  And that means whatever limits we have conjured up are our own limits.  Faith in our higher power means that HP is in charge, HP comes up with the options, HP controls outcomes, HP drives the bus.  How good a job is HP doing?  When we think honestly and stay grounded in reality, the answer is that everything happens in God’s world for a reason.

I don’t have to figure out the answers, I just have to accept what they are.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Small steps kiddo, small steps.  --Contact

            When recovery starts to take hold, it can come with a wave of change that we want to spread to everyone we know, even total strangers.  We manage to give up cigarettes or beer or pills or weed or sugar or pornography a day at a time, and suddenly we’re convinced that that abstinence will cure every problem in the world.  Before you know it, we’ve got a business plan for opening mandatory twelve step programs in every part of the world.  We are two-stepping our way into our short-comings; we admitted our powerlessness and now we’re ready to carry the message.

            No doubt, the steps are powerful and can effect tremendous change.  That change is based first and foremost on my willingness to continue to admit powerlessness and take actions to stay sober and stay connected.  What happens outside of me is largely beyond my control.  But I can influence the world around me.  A whole bunch of small steps put together allow me to travel great distances.  I am able to take those small steps, and travel those great distances, when I focus on what’s directly in front of me:  sobriety, humility and service.

Help me focus on the here and now, that is the best way for me to prepare for the future.

 
Control the pitch and then let it go, you can't do anything after if leaves your hand --28 days

            So often, I’m convinced that I just can’t do it.  I just can’t stay sober.  How can I do this for the rest of my life?  I think, if things were different I could do it.  If I had a personal trainer, or a better house, or different parents, or a different childhood, or a better relationship, or if I was more like someone else, then maybe I could make my life work in sobriety.  Maybe sobriety would be easier.

            Unfortunately, nobody made us any promises about sobriety being easy.  And we only complicate it more, by trying to control all the things around us.  We cannot control how our lives will end up, we cannot control how other people think of us.  Can we even control our own thoughts and emotions?  And more importantly, do we need to?  The simple path forward is to focus on ourselves and work on accepting where we are.  That’s where we start as people, and in fact, that’s where our control ends.

Rather than trying to control my world, I can accept it.

 
If god be with us, who can be against us? --Henry V

            Stop and think for a second, isn’t it amazing that we’re still around?  Just think of the torture we’ve put ourselves through.  Consider how hard we have pushed away our loved ones.  Remember the extreme danger we put ourselves in – risking arrest, risking our health, risking our personal safety.  What about all the money, the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars or more that we have pumped into our addictions.  It has been like riding a death machine that we fuel with our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones.

            And yet, we’re here.  In fact we’re beginning to thrive.  We are living in ways we never thought possible for ourselves.  We are embracing relationships, and caring for ourselves, and laughing, and crying like real sentient humans.  How in the world did we make it through?  How in the world do we continue to wake up with the willingness to follow the path, or at least the willingness to be willing.  If we go with God, it’s hard to lose.

When I choose God’s path, I will see that I have always been with God.

 
You're madness Diane, virulent madness. Everything you touch dies with you. But not me, not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain, and love --Network

            What is this disease of addiction?  What is it really about?  There is the obsession, where we just can’t stop thinking about that hit, or food, or fantasy, or person.  There is the inability to put down, the compulsion.  No matter how bad it gets, we still just want a little more to get through how bad it is.

            But is the addiction just that?  Underneath, there is the truth of addiction, and it is brutal.  The truth of addiction is that we hate ourselves so much, so completely, that we can offer nothing but hate to everyone and everything in the world.  It is so miserable being ourselves that we need to block it out, or medicate that devastation.  But we think we’re miserable, it’s the thinking that does it.  And when we are stuck in those thoughts, there’s no way to feel.  When we take our heads out of the sand of addiction, and clear away the wreckage we have wrought, we are left with true emotions, the feelings we’ve been running from all our lives.  And those feelings mean we are alive.  Which beats the alternative that we’ve suffered with for so long.

Emotions come in all flavors, some hard to tolerate, but all are indications that we are alive.

 
I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member. --Annie Hall

            How many times have we thought, I’m the dumbest in the room, I’m the weakest, the least sober, the biggest failure?  It is so easy to go to that chorus of negative self talk.  We’re convinced that we’re the worst in the world.  And we’ve got the facts to prove it.

            But if we can slow down and get out of the world of black and white, we can remember that we’re not always the best judge of facts and circumstances – that’s why the program is working for us.  And we can remember that that voice in our heads, that voice of doom and self-loathing, is not our inner voice of truth and is not our higher power’s voice.  It is just a character defect.  It is not fact, it is disease.  And that means that the program can help.  We can pray for god to remove that defect of character.  And we can see that our lives are wonderful, not in spite of ourselves, but because of ourselves.

I’m a good person and I’m good enough for me.

 
Remember, I'm sorry, I love you.  --Smart People

            Getting ready for Step 9 is not easy.  I need to drop the blame and stay on my side of the street.  I need to talk about myself and make amends when I’m ready, not when I think the other person deserves it.  My frequent thought on Step 9 was, I’ll make amends to them when they make amends to me.

            But the program gives me the support I need.  My sponsor is there for a reality check.  And the literature tells me the right frame of mind for amends making.  And the best route is the simple one.  I start with “I was wrong”.  That’s the big one, ownership for my conduct.  Then I ask, “How can I help?”  Then I can listen.  There is a person on the other end of the amends, and the process is about taking responsibility for what I did to that person.  It’s simple, but not easy.

My strongest amends is taking ownership for my actions.

 
Stick with the truth George, it's the easiest thing to remember.  --Glengarry Glen Ross

            We must have been architects in addiction, because we create some amazingly elaborate structures.  The lies we concocted were incredible.  Lies within lies on top of lies connected to lies.  Brand new lies and old reliable lies stitched together into a dizzying array of deception.  We were so relieved to get away with it, that we had little time to realize the lies were devastating, and spiteful, and uncaring to the ones closest to us.

            Sobriety is clear and open.  We stick to the truth and we save time, and save money and save energy that we no longer have to invest in our lies.  It is so much easier that carrying around any new lies is just too much.  And now every drawer in my house, every number in my contact list, every story I tell is so clean that I don’t have to hide any of it.

Integrity is hard, but perpetuating the lies is harder.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

He was the same at home as in public --To Kill a Mockingbird

We often hear in meetings that our insides need to match our outsides.  That can be a bit confusing, especially having lived a life in addiction that was based on deception, secrecy and hiding.  In addiction, our outsides may have been a reflection of what we thought others expected of us.  Our outsides were a ruse and a suit of armor.  Inside was shame, isolation, pain, sadness, chaos, fantasy.  We were convinced that if anyone even suspected what we felt and experienced inside, we would be rejected absolutely.  As our disease progressed, we found chinks in our armor -- we may have been found out in a way that brought everything to a complete standstill. 

As we found our way to meetings and recovery, we found the courage to address our addiction and accept our insides.  If we can find that courage and acceptance on a daily basis, we develop an equilibrium, what we think and feel dictates how we act, how we act reflects what we think and feel.  Transparency.  Serenity. 

 I can travel the road of integrity, my program is my map.

 
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You're not bad, you're just in pain --Scent of a Woman.  

How many times have we concluded that we are bad?  We tell ourselves that we are, at the core, unworthy, bad, even evil.  It can be harrowing, the lengths to which we go to berate ourselves.  And of course we lead ourselves down a path to a self-fulfilling prophesy of indulging in our addictions and endless shame.  But we aren't evil, or bad, or unworthy of sobriety.  We are in pain, often in such pain that we lean on our addiction to get some kind of relief. 

But in recovery, we learn to lean on our Twelve Step program, our peers who walk the same path we do, and our higher power.  We lift our heads out of the fog of addiction long enough to realize, we are not bad, though we may have engaged in bad actions.  And we begin to live lives that include pain, but also joy, and perhaps importantly, truth. 

I am not a bad person, even if I imagine that I am. 

 
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Just had to keep getting up in the morning, who knows what the tide will bring --Castaway

There's more to recovery than trying to stay optimistic.  We've often mistaken our addictions as bad habits or depression or just a bad attitude.  Can't we just get with it, be more positive?  Is it that tough to clean up our acts?  To stay sober?  Next thing you know our efforts to help ourselves turn into anger directed at ourselves or even resentments of others and how they must have it easier. 

But remember the steps?  There's the answer.  Do I believe that my higher power has something in store for me?  Do I believe that my higher power is in charge?  Can I let go of my expectations and realize that God has a plant for me.  It's not easy, but we've seen God come through for ourselves and others many times.  If I can say "it could have been worse," then I know God was with me during my struggles.  And if I can stay alive, can stay sober long enough, God will bring to me exactly what I need -- probably something I could never have dreamed up for myself. 

 God is looking out for me, even if I'm convinced he's not.  All God asks of me is to be patient.

 
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What we do in life echoes in eternity --Gladiator

In our addiction, we were convinced that nothing mattered.  Abstaining from our addictions was irrelevant either because we thought we could hide our actions or we cared so little about ourselves that indulging in our addiction couldn't make us much worse.  If anything, indulging seemed to help, if just for a little while, even a few seconds.  Then something changed, the dynamic was turned on its head.  Maybe our secrets were exposed, our hiding and lies were called out and we learned, often painfully that our actions do matter, our addictions harmed others.  Or maybe we found our addiction no longer worked, we couldn't even get our few seconds of oblivion before the shame and pain and secrets compounded again. 

In recovery, what we do in life matters, how we treat ourselves matters, how we treat others matters, whether we show up at meetings matters, standing up one single folding chair in a dingy basement meeting matters, even if it's the chair we will sit on.  And with more and more sobriety we learn that our lives will matter to others, even after we are gone. 

My life matters to me, to my loved ones, to new comers, to old timers; my life matters to people I haven't even met yet.

 
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Your excuses are your own.  Glengarry Glen Ross

The truth is universal, our lies are our own burdens.  Part of being an addict is taking the extraordinary effort required to make room for our addictions.  This requires altering reality, it requires lying to ourselves.  I never get a fair shake.  I am entitled to reward myself.  No one has suffered the way I have.  Our excuses keep us isolated from the truth, and from the people around us.  And in that isolation, there's no one around to call us out on our excuses. 

In recovery, we let go of the false cover of our excuses and live in truth and reality.  We join in the fellowship of sober truth tellers, we let go of the patchwork of excuses that enabled our addictive behavior.  We dismantle the structure of lies that was our life.  And we create a new life that we can accept and share with all, because it is real. 

 I am a unique person, though my disease is not unique.

 
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Can you stay clean for one week?  Can you? --Less Than Zero

We may feel like non-addicts just don't get it.  And maybe they don't.  The program tells us it's a day at a time, we listen, or face peril.  And still friends and relatives may not get it.  A non-addict friend once said, "You don't want to get high, you just think you want to."  That's right.  He's right.  But that fact doesn't lessen the problem for an addict.  The problem we face as addicts is that what we think affects what we want and do and say.  And what we think is often destructive and isolating and damaging. 

And then there's the program, a room full of addicts or alcoholics or compulsive eaters who understand exactly the conflict between what we want and want we think.  Our stories are the same even when they are different.  And as we walk the path of recovery, everyone has a gift for us.  Our program is always there when we need it, along with our friends trudging the happy road of destiny with us, we can turn to them, to help us stay sober, one day at a time. 

 My brothers and sisters in recovery are at my side, even before I turn to embrace them.

 
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Get busy living, get busy or dying --Shawshank Redemption

When you strip away the obsession, the compulsion, the high, the remorse, the cycle of shame, you can see the truth.  Addiction is a suicide.  A decision we make to put ourselves in peril.  A decision to not come to our own aid.  A decision to abandon ourselves, to be passive, to accept our death at whatever pace.  We may protest, it's not quite that dire, our addiction is not as bad as others'.  But as addicts, we know that we are given only two options, embrace recovery, or embrace addiction.  We do not have the luxury of coasting through life.  We have no talent for ambiguity.  That's because our diseases are deadly.  Once more binge could kill us, one more bottle, one more dose, one more purge, one more hit, one more high, one more indulgence could be our last.  The blessing of addiction is that the solution leaves us in a better place. 

 I am willing to embrace recovery, and as I do, I embrace life.

 
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You've been down that road before Neo, you know where it leads -- The Matrix

Somehow we always tend to return to our addiction.  It always meets our expectations.  It always gets us high, although over time we need more and more.  But the cycle is also reliable.  The obsession, the regret, the consequences, the danger, the shame, the isolation, the fear, the return to what has hurt us over and over and over again.  Addiction is a different path.  Less predictable.  But ironically more safe. 

Recovery does not come with the predictability of obsession and compulsion.  Recovery may not always feel safe.  Recovery is usually a harder road for us to travel.  But it is a path laid down by our higher power, and God's ways are not predictable ways.  We may feel fear in the unknown, but we can find serenity when we leave behind the old road of pain and self-destruction. 

 I may not know where today will take me, but I can trust the path of recovery.

 
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I just have to ignore my mind -- Beautiful Mind

Addiction is a thinking disease.  Addiction is a brain disease.  Our best thinking brought us to our knees.  The more we indulged, the more indulging seemed like a good idea.  The more shame we felt, the more we thought we needed to escape.  Not matter what the problem, the answer we always thought up was, go back to our addiction.  Our logic was always flawed, sometimes profoundly, amazingly, hilariously flawed.  But it was our thinking that was leading the way. 

Recovery is a process of dismantling that intricate facade of failed logic.  We come out of denial.  We face truth and reject deception.  We set aside the repeating chorus of flawed thinking that runs continuously in our minds and learn to be a bit more skeptical of our instincts, our brilliant first thoughts. 

 Although my first thought may be to rely on my addiction, I can make a program call and hear another point of view. 

 
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The force is an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, binds us --Star Wars

Turning to God can sound like a crutch or a ploy.  A free pass from a magical force.  But all the literature is pretty clear, all the way back to the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous -- a higher power is at the very least an acknowledgement that there is something else in this world besides us.  We've heard all the versions, the ocean, a tree, a chair, our sponsor, the collective wisdom in the rooms.  Or maybe a traditional understanding of God from our religious lives.  The point is that there's something else out there besides our will, our addiction, our thoughts, our expectations, our fear, our character defects, our isolation.  The more recovery we experience, the more serenity in our lives, we may find our higher power showing up in more and more ways.  Coincidences seem spiritual.  Luck feels more like God's way. 

 When I follow my higher power's path for me, the opportunities for humility abound.

 
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Lois, I never lie.  --Superman

A life of addiction is a life of deception.  The lies quickly pile up and sometimes we even need a moment before we talk to someone to remember, what do they know, what version of myself have I concocted for this person.  We develop a full-fledged double life, one life of addiction and indulgence, another life of lies to hide the version of ourselves that we cannot bear to show.  Then, one day the lies collapse on themselves, we are discovered, we are found out, we let our deception surface.  The reality is that that is a lucky day for us.  It gives us the chance to come clean and start a new way of life.  A life rooted in reality and truth.  We can, if we choose, live the rest of our days without ever telling another lie, we can choose to correct and admit any lies we tell.  We can live a life without the constant burden of deception. 

When I live a life without lies, all I have to remember is the truth.

 
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You complete me.  --Jerry Maguire

There's a story that we believe as addicts.  It goes something like:  I'm defective.  I'm unlovable.  I need something else to be okay.  Once I get this drink, or this food, or this money, or this hit, or this lover, I will be okay.  We feel like there is a hole inside of ourselves and our lives in addiction is a futile mission to fill the hole with as much of our drug as we can. 

Recovery teaches us that we are okay, as is, with all our faults.  Turns out that what's primarily wrong with us is our obsession with the thought that there's something wrong with us.  We learn to accept ourselves, as addicts, and as imperfect human beings.  We can fill that hole in ourselves with our program, our love for our supportive family and friends, our hopes for ourselves, our higher power.  Rather than feeling we need something from the outside to complete us, we learn to complete ourselves.  And as we do, we find more and more room to connect with others. 

 Today I accept myself as I truly am.

 
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I want things to be prettier than they are.  --Days of Wine and Roses

There was a time when the high we got was enough.  Wasn't there?  The first time maybe.  We were content with a few drinks, or one night of excess in a week, or one bag of chips.  Then, quickly, before we were aware, or admitted to ourselves, we needed more.  We couldn't even imagine an amount that would be "enough".  One hour of obsession turned into a full weekend of obsession.  A few cigarettes turned into a pack, and then another.  We came to expect it, to demand it.  And that expectation began to affect how we saw our lives.  Not enough control, not enough money, not enough power, not enough perfection.  Until we learned that we weren't really in life, we weren't in the reality that most of the rest of the world was sharing in.  Our program taught us that what we receive is all we need.  That imperfection is the true mark of humanity.  That beauty is in the margin between what is within us and what is in a power greater than ourselves.  

 Today I will find the beauty in the things I say I don't like. 

 
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We carve an idol out of fear, and call it God. --The Seventh Seal

We are scared.  We are afraid.  It is an ancient feeling for us as addicts, perhaps the first emotion we ever felt.  And when we were young, it was probably the right emotion.  And the surge of energy we feel in that fear was our first addiction.  We bonded with fear and it became our sole operating principle.  No matter the events in our lives, we were afraid, we clung to our fear.  Our false god, our idol.  The difficult truth is that we will continue to pray to that idol until we make a choice to do otherwise. 

But our higher power is there for us, was there for us even as we prayed to our fear and addiction instead.  Our higher power is large, it encompasses our fear and teaches us anger, and sadness, and joy, and compassion, and love. 

 God has been with me every step of the way, I can see that now in recovery.

 
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Then you start to miss the pain, for the same reason that you miss her, because you lived with it for so long --Swingers

If we are honest about it, our addiction has not been an easy road.  A hangover every morning is exhausting.  Purging over a toilet bowl is not appealing.  Paying for sex is ultimately sorrowful.   The desperation of our need drains our souls.  And yet we clung to that path believing our survival depended on our drug.  And when we finally find the willingness to choose a different path, the road gets harder, not easier.  Withdrawal is real and it is painful, maybe even excruciating.  And still our fouled up logic tells us that we want to go back to addiction, we want to ease our pain. 

And the truth is that even in recovery, still turn to our drug.  Not because we think it's healthy or good for us or the next right move.  But because we thought, once, that it was the only friend we could rely on.  Although it may have seemed loyal to us for many, many years, we now know that true friends do not hurt us. 

 I make new friends in recovery, I am choosing to rely on my program instead of my addiction.

 
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I must break you.  --Rocky V

Part of our addiction was our repeated attempts to break our addiction.  Really, it was a trap of our addiction -- filling us with the belief that we had to prevail, we had to overcome, we could fight a solitary battle and win, not just reward of recovery, but the accolades of a victor.  In recovery, the first step, the very first thing we must do, every day, is to surrender that fight.  In a one-on-one battle against our addiction, we will lose every time.  Given the odds objectively, even we would bet against ourselves.  And yet we still want to fight that battle.  And that is what it means to be an addict. 

Our program shows us how to forgo the fight, how to save our energy up for the effort to find willingness instead of wasting all our resources on a battle that is doomed.  We cannot lose a battle if we do not fight it.  

If I have the courage to surrender, I will win back my life.

 
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It was the getting away with it part that I couldn't stand --Quiz Show

Many of us in addiction got away with our secrets, sometimes for years or even decades.  We developed a lattice work of lies, half truths, misdirection and it worked.  We presented ourselves as innocent, unremarkable.  Sometimes people closest to us did not suspect anything at all.  We had successfully manufactured a parallel life.  We may even have felt untouchable.  But then we were found out.  We got sloppy or arrogant or we wanted to get caught.  The carefully structured lattice work of lies was crushed by its own weight.  The secret was out. 

After the shame of discovery lessened (or for some of us, even before), a sense of relief set in.  Like an early glimpse at the serenity the program offers, we were finally able to stand upright, to stop the old lies and not create any new ones.  And we learned that in active addiction, the lies, the double life was as unbearable as the pain and insanity of our obsession and compulsion.  We discovered that there is no peace in deception. 

I choose truth and honesty today, because I have integrity.

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Bravery comes after doing the thing you’re scared of.  --Three Kings

One of the reasons we couldn't let go of our addiction is that we were scared.  The fact is that addiction is how we coped with fear and uncertainty.  Instead of facing the pain and shame and anger in our lives scared us nearly to death.  The concept of letting go of our one coping mechanism for fear was unthinkable for us.  In addiction we knew two truths:  Fear is real and obsession and compulsion bring a measure of relief.  But the relief is short lived and comes with more consequences than we could ultimately handle. 

In recovery we learn to let go.  And almost instantly, fear returns.  And yet we now have tools to address our fears -- we pick up the phone, get support from someone in the program, we call our sponsor, we pray, we remember what we are grateful for.  With each day, the fear subsides a little.  It comes back and we bring out our tools again.  We dance on the shore of recovery with our fear, learning to let go of this partner.  We may find that only when the fear begins to fade do we recognize that we are brave. 

 Asking for help is evidence of my strength not my weakness.

 
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Worship all you can see, and more will appear --Equus

Addiction is a progressive disease.  We may not have even noticed, but the key to our obsession and compulsion was more.  We learn the same if we relapse.   When we return to addiction after abstinence, we don't return to the beginning stages, we go straight to our most progressive stage, maybe we even go beyond it. 

Turns out recovery is progressive too.  At first it feels tenuous, or frankly worse than addiction felt.  We stick to the program a day at a time.  We learn to pray.  We find our higher power was always with us, that's what kept us alive.  And the more we pray, the more we stay sober, the more the program has to offer us.  We learn about bounty and humility, we see god in a share at a meeting, a phone call from a sponsee, a friend's smile, a plant we get to water.  We learn that there's more life in a single day than we can imagine.  We learn how to accept abundance. 

 My higher power gives me more than I need.

 
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Without other people, you're just a zombie.  --Zombieland

In our addiction, isolation served as the soil.  If we could just get some time alone, even a few minutes, we could get back to our obsession and compulsion.  Of course, a few minutes would never do for long.  Instead we stayed up all night, binging on empty calories, looking at pornography, taking hit after hit after hit.  Our indulgence could last for days.  Days of constant addiction.  Days in isolation.  We turned into the living dead. 

Reaching out can help.  And boy do we addicts dislike reaching out.  But pushing through the isolation, even just to leave someone a message, can arrest our addiction.  We remember that everyone in our program has struggled with isolation.  No one in recovery has done it perfectly.  And breaking out of isolation brings us back to the living. 

 The more I connect with other people, the more alive I feel.

 
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Andy:  There's something inside, something they can't touch.

Red:  Whatchu talkin about?

Andy:  Hope

--Shawshank Redemption

            Addiction is a prison.  A uniquely crafted set of bars that we continue to slam into every time we reach for a beer or a bud or a body or a burger thinking it will help us get out of prison.  We will continue to bang our heads into those walls until we take the scariest, craziest risk we could ever conjure:  lie down in that prison and let it go.  Let it go and ask for help.  At first it seems insane to believe, to have hope, to ask for help.  Hope seems like the worst idea to consider.  For suckers only.

            Yet it is working isn’t it?  When we have hope, the prison walls don’t disappear, but it turns out there were ever three walls, or the door was always open if we just gave it a tap.  We see smokers that quit.  We see prostitutes that become students again.  And no, it doesn’t work just for others.  And the hope we need – it is always available to us, it is a choice we can make every day and every second and no one can take that choice away from us.

             Hope is sane; addiction is insane.

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He is starting to believe.  --The Matrix

            Recovery is a process.  When we start, it all seems like trick we’re not getting, with everyone speaking a foreign language.  It is a revolution in our thinking and living that is a bit much to accept.  We are asked to do the opposite of our every instinct.  In disease, the answer is to isolate, and conceal all to be acceptable to others and to save the feelings of our loved ones.  We create an alternate reality where alcohol, or drugs, or sex or food or pleasing others is the only thing we rely on.

            Then there’s a crack in that false reality.  We enter program and try something new.  We consider that we can get something other than shame from those around us.  We start to believe that the answers we have been seeking are all around us, available to us in the true reality.  A reality where our belief in God is a strength, not a weakness.  When we start to believe, the world all around us conspires to support our recovery, and in return we allow the world to change us.

 When I believe, I embody the change I seek.

 
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I've always known the right path, but I never took because it was too damn hard.  --Scent of a Woman

            We have been told so many times that it’s a simple program, but not an easy one.  The solution of recovery is not necessary a revelation.  Often the right next step is just what we knew it would be.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.  In fact, knowing the next right thing can be yet another source of resentment and resistance; an internal voice of ‘I told you so’, or ‘can’t you get it right’.

            Oh if there were only an easier path.  That’s another admission we can make – we can admit that we expect more, more magic, more coasting, more feeling better.  And our expectation is not exactly a surprise – as addicts we have always believed in that easy answer, maybe because we have in fact been overwhelmed for so much of our lives.  So say it out loud, check in about it – it’s too hard for me today.  Someone else is probably feeling the same thing.  And sharing that truth may be the help you need to make it easier.

 I can pray to have an easy day; and then I can seek the help I need today.

 
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That's your problem ...  You don't look at the things that you have.  You only look at the stuff you don't have.  –Swingers

            A fundamental struggle in addiction is an inability to perceive reality.  I’m often convinced that I’m just no good, or that my higher power just won’t help me, or worse, doesn’t exist.  In that ‘reality’, there will never be enough.  I’ll never be sober enough, or happy enough, or safe enough, or willing enough.  And then if I turn to my addiction, I’ll never be high enough, or have enough to eat, or get enough sex, or be loved enough.

            Speaking at a meeting, or making a call, allows me to share my emptiness.  I can share how I feel.  I can experience that feeling of insufficiency.  And then I can see there is another explanation, another story.  The other story is closer to the truth; that I have bounty in my own way, that God has been there for me, that the glass may not be overflowing, but it is at least half full.

 I know how to fill my glass, it starts with accepting reality and relying on my higher power.

 
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See you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly day by day --Godspell

            The more we experience God’s presence, the more there is to experience.  We get out of God’s way and find our higher power has more to offer us than we could have imagined.  We are able to see God’s intricate simplicity all around us, in the vastness of grains of sand or flakes of snow.  We experience God momentum, a machine of perpetual motion.

            Recovery begets more recovery.  We focus on the simple, God shows us the multitudes.  We find more to love in the world, God gives us more bounty.  We follow God’s path, God shows us how to lead with humility. 

 God will give me exactly what I need, and then show me how much more there is.

 
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Praying is something we do in our time.  The answers come in God's time.  --Rudy

            Seems as if everyone talks about prayer like it’s panacea; it solves all problems magically.  When I tried prayer early in recovery, didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  I did not seem to have my prayers answered.  My character defects did not magically fall away.  My problems did not ease just from asking God to ease them. 

            Safe to say that God changes us, the program changes us, even though we may feel little of it along the way.  Those changes have collected and in that collection we find the answers that we asked God about in the first days of recovery – How can I stay sober?  Why did addiction happen to me?  When will all this get easier?  Can I trust the program? 

We have gotten answers to those questions from our recovery programs, our trusted advisors, our higher powers.  And the answers are dynamic, changing as we change, but consistent in their message – acceptance, faith, service.  

If I don’t think God is answering my prayers, I can pray for patience.

 
 
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Hope is a dangerous thing. Drive a man insane. It's got no place here. Better get used to the idea. --Shawshank Redemption

Step 2 is a son of a gun. As addicts we have run from pain, from our past; in many cases, we are running from trauma and brutality, whatever form that has taken. Where was a higher power during those times? Or let’s say we have come so far that we believe there is a higher power out there – we have seen her working. Do we think she is really working for us? Wouldn’t things be different if God was really returning us to sanity? Why for example are we still struggling with addiction and with life?

There’s good news and there’s the truth. The good news is . . . our higher power has saved us from untold horrors, large and small. There are the ones we know about– the last second calls that saved us from going back out there. And the truth? When we run from pain, we run from reality, we escape our lives, we turn our backs on God, we reject what our higher power is giving us, we discard the sanity that our higher power is offering us. At the depths of our disease and isolation and stinking thinking, that is when we turn to God’s strongest offering – Hope that things can and will change.

Hope is sane thinking, backed by God.