Selfish No Matter What

     See also: Why Alcoholics Hurt People & Why Addicts Can’t Stay Sober

     One of the many convenient delusions among addicts and alcoholics is that we somehow only hurt ourselves when we drink, so why doesn’t everybody just leave us alone? I personally don’t think alcoholics and drug addicts are really that stupid. I mean, yes we are definitely stupid, but not in that way.

     Drinking or using drugs is selfish in so many ways it hurts. Let’s just take it from the top…

     Drinking is literally selfish because we drink to make ourselves feel better. We drink for effect. That is selfish.

     Fine, but why are all of you people affected by my drinking? What if I’m just a nice, quiet drunk who hangs out in the house and plays solitaire over a fifth of vodka? The answer is because there are actually people out there who love us. Imagine that. Consider love. What is it? Why do we love others? Why do my parents love me? Why do I love my wife and son and dog? To be perfectly honest, I can’t pinpoint some exact reason why. It’s more of a feeling. I love someone because I care about them. I care about their well-being. Love is a feeling we have and we can’t simply turn it off. In fact, there’s not much we can do about it if we truly love someone.

     Therefore, every time an alcoholic drinks or a drug addict uses, we are hurting those who love us, even if they are never in the room. Why? Because anything we do to hurt ourselves hurts those who love us. Imagine for a second, your spouse or someone very close to you. Now, what if you came home one day to find them hammered and wallowing in a pit of despair? Or what if you came home one day to find them smoking crack and pimping themselves out for cash for more crack? Or what if you came home one day to find them cutting themselves with a razor blade? Yup, that’s right, it would break your heart. That’s why drinking is selfish. And by the way, that’s really the only reason anybody needs to stop… if reasons worked for addicts. Unfortunately they don’t.

     Lastly, some obstinate teenager or stubborn bastard might try to argue with me and say,

     “Okay, Charlie, what if there is no one in my life to hurt, huh? What if I live in a cave in the mountains and no one cares about me? Am I still hurting others then? Huh, Charlie? Answer that one, dumbass!”


     First of all, you don’t live in a cave and there are people in your life, but let’s just use this ridiculous scenario for shits and giggles. Even if there is no one in the world who loves you or cares about you, drinking is still selfish and causes damage to others.

     Why? How? How could this possibly be?

     Because as a human being, I am responsible to act in a way that I would recommend for all others. By drinking or using drugs chronically, I am, in effect, saying that it’s okay to behave this way. What if everyone on earth was a raging alcoholic, a heroin addict, or a crackhead? What would our beautiful earth look like at that point? Exactly. We are responsible as human beings to do the right thing. We do damage whether we like it or not. We do damage whether we’re all alone doing nothing or whether we’re out in the world being an ass to everybody. If we have lost control, then every time we use, we hurt others.

     So, unfortunately for all of us knuckleheads, with all of our delusions, no matter how you slice it, using drugs is selfish.

God, please rid me of selfishness that I may better serve You and Others…

Whining and Complaining

     Normal people get up and go to work and don’t complain about it. They don’t need to remove the time-release coating from an OC 80, crush it up and sniff the entire thing in one line just to get in the shower. They also don’t need to get plastered to have a conversation with someone. They don’t need to whine and complain incessantly about everything. They don’t need to be so narcissistic as to presume that nobody else in the world suffers the way they do. So don’t even bother asking anything of an alcoholic or drug addict… or a narcissist for that matter. Their life is just way too tough to be giving to anybody else.

     Normal people have bad days too. Normal people wake up sometimes and feel depressed, or anxious, or angry, or sad, or even hopeless. It’s just that they don’t complain about it and drive to Happy Market in Dorchester to meet Pablo for a bag of dope. They just walk right through what they are feeling and do what needs to be done. They are adults. Drug addicts are children… with some additional issues. Why do I feel entitled to make myself comfortable every second of my life? For some reason, I thought that life was all about ME feeling good all of the time.

     Wait, you mean it isn’t? It’s about others too???

     I was such a baby when it came to life. The slightest discomfort would send me reeling, and a frantic search for comfort would ensue. Even if it meant I had to hurt people. Even if it meant I had to become a pathological liar. And most unfortunate, even if it meant I had to define what it means to be a selfish asshole. The sad truth is that we addicts can’t deal with any discomfort.

     Well, guess what?

     It’s okay to suffer a little bit. It’s especially okay to suffer and not complain about it. As grown adults, we have the responsibility to get up and work, take care of ourselves and our families, and be honest. We have the responsibility to do the right thing. It is the human responsibility. What we no longer have is the right to drink or use. We no longer have the right to whine about our feelings or broadcast them to the entire world (who really doesn’t give a shit anyway) in a fit of self-pity or despair. We no longer have the right to let our feelings of discomfort stop us from living life and living right.

God, please give me the wisdom and the willingness to be a better person, a responsible person…

Crossing Lines

     There is no, “I’m an alcoholic but not a drug addict.” There is no, “I have a problem with heroin but not cocaine.” Or the best is, “I’m addicted to everything (or nothing) except weed.” That one even tops, “Prescription drugs aren’t really drugs. I mean, it’s not like I’m some dirty, toothless crackhead rotting away under a bridge.”

     No, you’re not… not yet.

     If you think you’re different from the drug addict because all you do is chug wine every night and play solitaire, think again. There is no difference.

     If I am an addict, then I have an allergy to alcohol and drugs that crosses all lines. If I am an alcoholic, then I’m also a heroin addict, a cocaine addict, a benzodiazepine addict, and a pothead. Once you have the body of an addict, NOTHING is safe. Not even Tylenol PM. Why? Because any mood-altering substance will trigger the same physiological response. Any drug will trigger an allergic reaction, characterized by a physical craving for more and more and more. Craving is a physical event, not that urge you feel when you’re sober. We don’t crave things. We obsess over things.

     Sure addicts have their preferences. But when the booze dries up and your grandma has some Valium in her cabinet, it’s a done deal. Sure I don’t really care for benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, but if I (just by accident, of course) stumble across them in your medicine cabinet, don’t expect to see them next time you need one. I wasn’t really a cocaine guy, but if you put a pile of it in front of me, it’s goodbye to your cocaine, and then it’s suddenly sunrise and let’s call the dealer for some more even though my jaw could really use a break.

     Addiction is addiction. Alcoholics have the same broken body as crackheads do, though they might have an air about them in their respective AA meetings. One of the first local meetings I ever went to, the speaker preempted his ‘look at all the things that I did’ speech with something like, “By the way, this is AA – that’s Alcoholics Anonymous – not druggie anonymous or pot anonymous. If you’re in here ’cause you smoke pot, you’re no alcoholic, so get out! AA is for alcoholics only!”

     That guy may have killed some heroin addict who got up, left, and then overdosed in his car in the church parking lot. That dumbass speaker didn’t realize he’s distinguishing between the SAME illness, just different symptoms. You drink, I sniff OxyContin. You blow cocaine, I like Xanax. You eat Ritalin all day, I smoke weed all day. Same thing. By the way, I became an opiate addict, and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (and the program for alcoholics contained within) saved my life.

God, teach me and others that our allergy crosses all lines…


     Addicts and alcoholics don’t just have a drug and alcohol problem, they have a ‘living life’ problem. They run around propelled by self-will, which is absolutely hopeless. For me, navigating this world by self-will ensured that I was completely useless to those around me. I couldn’t get a job, keep a job, finish school, control my emotions, have healthy relationships, stay sober, not sink into a mind-blowing depression… and the shameful list goes on and on.

     This is why I took a 3rd Step and attempted to turn my will over to God. Sounds ridiculous, right? Fine, let’s look at it on a practical level. All this means is that I’m not going to rely on my fucked up mind to guide me through life anymore. Instead, I was going to pray and listen. I wasn’t going to ignore what I felt was the right thing to do. I was going to start listening to my gut, to my conscience. I had to. My attempts at planning life, trying to script what I should do, making life decisions, controlling things = sheer comedy. Doing things my own way = total disaster. When I do something my way, bad things happen. Cars are totalled. Jobs are totalled. Savings is totalled. Credit score is totalled. Girlfriends are totalled. Close friendships are lost. Respect of family is lost. Self-esteem and self-worth are lost. Hope, purpose, and will are all lost. Feelings overwhelm me. Darkness wraps itself around me and then I’m toast.

     Nice, huh?

     So right now I’m pretty much about to wrap this up. Therefore, all I need to think about and focus on is finishing this. Then I’ll publish it. Then I’ll probably have to walk around the house with my newborn son and sing to him to calm him down. Then the dog goes out for her late night pee. Then I brush my teeth and so forth. In early recovery, when I was in trouble and felt like I was going crazy, this is exactly what I did – just what was right in front of me. No need to think about the past or the future. Neither exist. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and do what’s next. Focusing on whatever simple activity is right in front of you is a great way to stay in the moment. For sure, I am happiest when I’m NOT thinking. An empty mind is true peace.

God, keep me out of my head today…

Neutral = Reverse

     Neutral is reverse for guys like me. I woke up this morning, forgot to take a moment to stop, be still, listen and pray, and instead just started rushing around. As years go by, I find myself getting up and without thinking or stopping, I go full speed ahead, diving into bills, work, this, that.

     Let me warn drug addicts NOT to do that.

     Don’t do what I do, at least not on those days. Why? Because guys like me naturally move backwards if we’re not moving forward. I naturally become sicker if I’m not actively working on myself. I can’t stop praying or meditating, I can’t stop thinking about others or helping others, I can’t stop emptying my mind of resentment or stop searching for other ways to heal and evolve… at least not without becoming spiritually sick again. I must grow. Hanging out is not an option. Floating is not an option. Neutral is not a gear addicts have in their transmission.

     To hide from what I need to do, I distract myself by using several coping methods. Exercise is probably the best and most effective distraction. Sure it’s healthy. Sure it’s good for me. It also alters my bio-chemistry by releasing endorphins that act on the dopaminergic reward system in my brain, thereby flushing my nervous system with natural pain relief. In English, exercising is like a mini drug, an anti-depressant. Should I stop exercising? No, but it’s still a distraction. Finding something to fix in my house is another wonderful distraction. I’ll wake up some days and decide to go scrape and paint my entire stairwell for no reason whatsoever. Hours and hours soar by without a single thought invading my mind. Pure peace. Cleaning and organizing are other decent distractions. TV and that movie theatre-style popcorn they sell now are some of the more unproductive distractions. And we quickly go down from there. Use your imagination. 
     What’s the point? Well, for one, these distractions are only necessary when I’m not okay, or when I’m not willing to do the real work on myself. It’s easier to just go exercise, or paint, or watch TV than it is to meditate, or write inventory, or go speak to a group of people about addiction and the Twelve Steps. Let me assure any addicts out there that the harder thing to do is without question the better thing. Easy is bad for alcoholics and junkies. Easy is what we do. Easy is like our personal code or creed. Easy is our religion. Just like selfish is. But hard is good for us. If I’m not challenging myself, it’s all over.
     That’s one reason why and how I got better. I’m such a stubborn bastard, that I made it a challenge. I wanted to prove to myself and to everybody else that I wasn’t a total loser and a complete fucking coward, so I put every ounce of energy and willingness that I had left in my mind, body and soul towards getting better. For the first several years of recovery, the only thing that went through my mind was how I can serve God. Then I remembered I also have a wife and family. And believe me, taking care of your family is probably the single best thing you can do with your life. The easy amends was the one to the clerk at Dunkin’ Donuts who I verbally abused because she charged me for an empty cup. But the living amends to my family that goes on and on everyday for the rest of my life. That’s the real work. Why? For one, I don’t wipe my hands after a quick ‘sorry’ and off I go. Nope. I owe it to them to become a better husband, son and brother every day until I die.

     It’s always good for addicts to remember that they really don’t deserve the people who stick it out with them. How lucky we truly are…

God, teach me to stop, listen, pray, and remember You before I start my day…