Sunday, March 29, 2015

My word is my bond, this time. –Gulliver’s Travels

I made a lot of promises in my active addiction.  My unmanageability includes all the times I swore off of pot or porn or purging or prescription meds, as well as all the foxhole promises I made if I could be excused from one of my painful consequences.  I wanted so much to have those oaths come true.  Twelve Step literature tells me that I cannot make never-forever promises.  I am in denial when I think otherwise.

And better than what I promise, is what I do.  I am not perfect.  I stumble and backslide.  I keep making promises that I struggle with (I will go to a meeting today, I will call my sponsor today, I will show up on time today).  But I get a new chance every day.  A chance to do instead of speak my truth.  A chance to let my actions speak for me.  A chance to follow god’s path, right my wrongs, combat my denial.  A chance to live with God and my fellows in recovery.
Tomorrow’s actions will speak louder than today’s promises.


Charles Van Doren:  I’ll take my chances.
Dick Goodwin:  A chance is what I’m giving you.
–Quiz Show

I don’t consider myself a risk taker.  I am prudent and cautious.  I am careful and trustworthy.  That is pretty much true except in one aspect of my life.  In my addiction, my denial is thick and hides risks that I wouldn’t want to tell anyone.  Spending tens of thousands of dollars on my addiction.  A college tuition, a down payment on a house, a retirement, all gone in a never ending quest for more – not sound risks.  More is not an investment plan, more is not a goal.  It is a desire that cannot be obtained.

My denial shows me where my risks are and where I need help.  When I think I can make it on my own, I can bet that I won’t.  When I think the risk I’m taking is reasonable or safe enough, I can bet that it’s not.  When I think I know what’s best, what will work for me, what will keep me safe and sober, I can bet that I’m better off trusting my brothers and sisters in recovery.  In my denial, I can’t recognize my best chance; honesty and God’s path.  But if I look to my left and to my right, I will see others trudging along with me and know that I’m in the right place.

My higher power gives me so many chances; I don’t even recognize all of them.


I’ll be back. –Terminator

Addiction is relentless.  It is unmerciful.  It is absolute.  It is unambiguous.  When I get high, it is unstoppable.  Whatever I sniff or ingest or imbibe or whoever I give myself or my power or my body to, once I begin, the consequences are immutable.  I must go through tremendous intellectual gymnastics to make myself think I will not crash, to make myself forget what will absolutely happen.  But like a train on tracks, when I get high my destination is certain, and my addiction is as out of my control as a locomotive.

Even if consequences are delayed, they will come.  There are no freebies in addiction.  There are no free hits.  Every one takes up residence in my heart and decays my life.  And one of the truest signs of my denial – I sit with that decay, I let it putrefy within me, I add heat and darkness to it, and let it fester.  Who would live such a life?  Not someone stupid, just someone sick..  An ordinary addict like me.  How can I get clean?  Turning on the light and opening a window helps.  The true antidote does take tremendous courage.  I tell my experience to another addict.  It won’t be fun.  But in program, I will be accepted.

My higher power came before my addiction and is available to me every day.


We’re on a mission from God. –The Blues Brothers

Safe to say that I don’t know much about my higher power.  I have certain ideas about what I think HP should be like, should do, how HP should treat me (or make other people treat me).  I like to specify outcomes and consequences to my HP.  Sometimes I treat my HP like I treat myself – lots of demands and not much acceptance.

But I do believe in my higher power.  Not just a higher power, but the one that I understand – for me, he’s nice, fatherly, bearded, not religiously affiliated, straight out of a Simpson’s episode; that’s just my HP, no one else’s.  And I do believe in my HP.  I don’t mean that I believe in the existence of God; nor do I mean that my HP will save my soul.  What I mean is that when I am honest and truthful with myself, I believe that there’s no way I could have ended up here without the intervention of something outside of myself.  Do I still want more from my HP?  All the time.  But then again, I’ve often had trouble understanding the concept of ‘enough’.  My guess is that I get just what I need. 

My higher power is just as reliable as my addiction, and a lot nicer.


 You wanna be a true friend to them?  Be honest, and unmerciful. –Almost Famous

You know what I hate.  I hate it when someone calls me out.  My natural inclination is to look for bullshit co-signers.  My denial comes to me as tiny creeping insects.  My denial takes up residence as stealthily as a snake and as camouflaged as a chameleon.  My denial uses the environment of my mind, twists ‘near facts’ into structures of fun house mirrors.  Some threads of my denial are years, even decades in the making.  In that frame of mind, the last thing I’m interested in is rigorous honesty.

What an order indeed.  Unmerciful truth is not my thing.  It’s too much for me.  I can barely order food at a restaurant without lying.  How am I supposed to handle truth without denial? 

And what about my ‘friends’ who share their honest impressions with me?  I’m not used to friends like that; I resent them because I take their honesty as criticism and judgment.  But if I ask, I will usually learn that these recovery peers are speaking from their own personal experience.  Let’s face it, I can see the truth in others much more quickly than I can in myself.  Sure I take what works and leave the rest.  Honesty is not always comfortable, but it is tolerable.  Addiction may seem comfortable, but it’s deadly.

My program will give me what I need, but not necessarily what I want.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I ran outta gas.I had a flat tire.I didn’t have enough money for cab fare.My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners.An old friend came in from outta town.Someone stole my car.There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts.It wasn’t my fault!! I swear to God!!  --The Blues Brothers
Some of my lies in addiction were precious. Statements that were so ludicrous that the people I spoke them to probably couldn’t believe that I would offer them such fantasy.I once told someone that I spent $800 on taxis in one week (I had really used it to pay for sex).My friend once told his parents that his bag of pot and pipe were just for tobacco for a prop in a movie (that one has some nice parental denial in it).

The people I lie to in addiction know I am lying just as I do; or they choose to believe the lie to delay some other pain or reality of their own, just as I do.In addiction I use a lack of confrontation as‘getting away with it’.In recovery I have found that I don’t get away with anything. All my actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed for weeks, months or even years, and others ongoing indefinitely.And the program helps me identify the consequences and unmanageability, and ask God to change me, and make amends for those consequences.It all happens step by step, with my higher power in the lead.

After I give up on excuses, I can rely on the truth as God shows it to me.

Do you hear that sound Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your death. –The Matrix

I am drawn to my addiction because of its guarantee. My addiction promises me oblivion; it promises to transport me to a fantasy world of pleasure. I believe this promise. I am usually disappointed: I have a bad trip, or I get ripped off, or the high is just a trace of what it used to be that first time. The guarantee of oblivion that I believe is always one hit, one score, one drink, one binge away.

So instead of the guarantee of my fantasy, there are two inevitabilities that I ignore. The first is that my addiction is a progressive disease, so I will always need more to chase the ever-fading high. The second is that my addiction will lead to my spiritual and eventually physical death. That’s what it does to every other addict who doesn’t find God’s path. And that’s what it will do to me. My survival comes by way of the program and my higher power’s grace.

Addiction guarantees destruction; my higher power guarantees a path of grace.


Welcome to the real world. –The Matrix.

In my addiction, I lived in a haze; a fog of self-deception, lies and duplicity. Let’s face it, I would have to be wearing blinders to put myself through the insanity of my addiction. Entering abandoned buildings, making myself black out, exposing myself to diseases, exposing my personal information to criminals. There are pimps out there who may still have my credit card number, home address and work address – that is unmanageable.

In sobriety, I am reintroduced to the real world. The real world can be harsh. The real world does not erase late rent or utility payments, or bounced checks, or credit card debt. When I trash my car or home during a binge, it’s still a wreck when I sober up.

But the real world is run by someone I can trust. My higher power is working to make reality exactly what I need.

I can trust my higher power to help me face reality.


Are you the one who tells the joke about my being a … pickle? –Mel Brooks as Hitler in To Be or Not To Be

            It’s wonderful to have a great sense of humor.  In my addiction, I usually used by humor to identify myself as someone available for a high.  And I used my humor to proposition women, to downplay or deny consequences and to gauge reactions and figure out who was willing to party.  You know what I did not find funny?  Anything about myself.  I took my misery, my loneliness, my intelligence and my addiction a seriously as a heart attack.  I think because I was afraid that if I lost any of them, I would actually have a heart attack.

            My humor has changed in recovery.  Now it’s clean (as clean as I am – if I stray to inappropriate humor, usually I am flirting with conduct that is inappropriate or unhealthy for me).  Now I have the ability to laugh at myself without being self-deprecating, without taking myself down a notch.  My humor now is about realizing that I already am down a notch from where I thought I was as a melodramatic, self-centered addict.  My program and my humor have taught me that I am a lot like every other addict, and a lot like every other person – valuable, perfectly imperfect, and afraid of clowns.

My humor is not about being worse or better than others, it’s about identifying with others in our strengths and weaknesses.


"Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." --Annie Hall

            Addiction is about living in denial.  I deny that I am harming myself so that I can bear to continue to take the drug that destroys me.  I convince myself that getting high is a good idea.  I ignore the consequences that always appear.  It’s denial with fantasies filling in the gaps.

            The program can help me dismantle my denial.  I can check my ideas out with my sponsor or recovery peers.  When I do I will likely learn a few important realities:  First, that the payoff I’m interested in is laced with self-destruction and horror.  Second, my logic that rationalizes going to my addiction is probably based on black and white thinking, or self-loathing or shame.  Third, by working the program in this way, I will be reminded that I am surrounded by people who care about me, sometimes more than I’m able to care about myself. 

If I work on dismantling denial today, I’m paving the way for today’s sobriety.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

            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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.