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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


"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.

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.

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.

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.

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.