Menial Tasks/Tactics

     I now employ a slew of tactics to ward off the depression, anger, boredom, frustration and other spiritual demons. The Big Book refers to them as RID (Restlessness, Irritability, Discontent), and they occur when we remove the substances. In fact, they tend to occur when we remove any kind of distraction whatsoever. And besides the spiritual or psychological work that all of us addicts and alcoholics must do, I usually have to engage in all sorts of menial tasks to try to get out of my head and raise my seratonin/dopamine levels. Ultimately, however, there no is activity that can fix us or free us. We must turn to something much Greater. 

     But they sure are useful.

     Exercise is one. And sure it’s like a form of torture to get up and go for a run after years of remaining sedentary. Making it a routine is near impossible, but I can assure you that once you motivate to exercise enough times, it becomes less difficult, and eventually it’s just like eating or sleeping… or something you just have to do in order to ward off the various forms of insanity.
    Menial tasks such as cleaning, organizing or gardening can also bring me back into the moment and clear my head. Pick up a broom and see what happens. If your mind is in any way as active and nutso as mine, it may help. The past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet, so why go there? Just to cause us more pain? To think that I might actually be pain-dependant, or something equally masochistic. How ridiculous.
     Finally, there is no such thing as missing out. I used to think that if I stayed at home and cleaned, then somehow I was missing out on life, on having fun, on some job, or maybe on becoming a star! Nope. There is no ‘missing out’. Because even if I was living some fantasy dream, none of it would matter if I was constantly suffering. 

     Who cares what we have, what we’re doing, or who we’re with if we feel like complete and total shit? All that really matters is how we’re feeling inside. If I am content and at peace, then it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. That’s why some of my happiest times are when I’m scrubbing scum off of my kitchen floor or scooping up a pile of dog shit in my yard.

God, please show me healthier, more productive ways to distract myself when necessary…

Drugs For Drugs?

     Guess what the best, Harvard educated minds gave me to solve my problem with drugs? Drugs. Yes, I’m aware that such advice sounds like a ridiculous joke. And yes, the best and brightest of an entire medical community know little more than nothing about addiction and treating addiction. Doctors and psychiatrists think that addiction is purely a bio-chemical issue. They also think that addiction should be part of a dual-diagnosis (hoax), sitting beside some mental illness. The truth is they haven’t the faintest clue how to treat your addiction, so they just treat you for mental illness (and usually fail at that as well, especially since much of it is induced by the substance use).

     Take some of the drugs I’ve been offered just for the drug-related portion of my problem: methadone, suboxone, ativan.

     Methadone and suboxone are opiates, like heroin or oxycontin. The argument is that at least you’re not buying dope off the street and we can ween you off in a clinical setting. So the solution is to remain an absolute junkhead, but hey, at least it’s prescribed… and after years of methadone ‘maintenance’, I can try to ween myself off it once the withdrawal effects have become so bad that I’d rather just kill myself or shoot dope again.

     I was given Ativan to calm down and sleep at night, and it took all of a week to become a full blown benzo addict. Benzodiazepines such as valium, ativan, xanax and klonopin are the modern equivalent of barbituates. They have replaced old-school barbiturate tranquilizers because they don’t depress respiratory functioning. Why is this important? Because they pass these things out like Skittles. Everybody with anxiety has xanax in their pocketbook. But doctors assume that people with anxiety also drink alcohol, and if you were to drink on a barbiturate, it could just stop your breathing altogether, especially once you pass out.

     Now for the psychotropics. When I worked at an alternative recovery high school, many of the kids were on some combination of hardcore psychotropics. Seroquel was as common as cell phones. Very popular. But there are also mood-stabilzers like depakote, anti-pyschotics like zyprexa, and of course a slew of SSRIs and MAO-Inhibiters, commonly known as anti-depressants. These are powerful bio-chemical drugs that literally rewire your brain. The end result is that I become nothing short of a zombie – emotionally, psychologically, creatively etc. After years of use, you need to embark on a recovery program just from the physical and psychological effects of the drugs you took to help yourself. Plus there’s a good chance you may have irreparable brain damage. And remember, these were the drugs that were supposed to help you with the other drug problem you had.

     Finally, many of the kids were on stimulants for ADD or ADHD, such as ritalin and adderall. Pumping kids or addicts (or anybody) with speed is one of the dumbest things a doctor or parent can do. You might as well just give them cocaine or crack. Long term, consistent use of these drugs, as well as seroquel and other anti-psychotics, can lead to permanent brain damage. Seroquel et al can cause Tardive Diskenisia, an irreversible neurological disorder that includes such permanent symptoms as tongue protrusion, grimacing, rapid eye blinking, lip smacking, rapid arm movement and other involuntary movements. Try going to a job interview and sticking out your tongue at the interviewer about a hundred times uncontrollably. Great solution.

      So that is what one of the best psychiatric medical teams in the country had to offer me. Or I could have just been treated for my alcoholism. Is it any wonder they don’t prescribe a spiritual program of action that may work wonders but offers no financial incentive???

God, make me willing to take action to get better, and give me the power and the strength to act without more drugs…

Grand Canyon

     One of the things that tortured me about being sober was the enormous space between who I was and who I wanted to be. Being jammed helped me forget about what I could do with my life, but sober, it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of my abilities stared me in the face. Ruled by fear, I never pushed through my feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity to just do what I loved. I never really pursued my gifts… yet remained convinced that I was put on earth to write songs and stories, play music and act.

     The great canyon between who I was in reality and who I knew I could be felt too overwhelming. Crossing this great divide was too far a journey. I barely took a first step without going to pieces. And it was this very gap that killed me. It ripped me apart inside. It was this predicament that caused me endless agony. It fed and fueled my depression. It maintained my state of sober paralysis. And finally, it convinced me that the easier choice would be to just become a drug addict. Doing what I loved would require feeling uncomfortable at times, and being the loser that I was, that was completely unacceptable.

     Ironically, now that I’m sober and actively working on myself, things have changed. One thing is that I don’t consider my art to be the most important thing in life anymore. First is my relationship with God. Then my family. And then my art – music, writing, acting. But without my spiritual health, nothing else is possible or sustainable. Once I start trying to make my own decisions, once I start trying to control my life, once I start acting on self-will, it all goes to shit. So if it is God’s will that I play music or write or act, then so be it. Then I can do it and do it well. Then I can even succeed in it. But if it is not God’s will, then I must do other things.

     What I’ve learned is that it’s basically okay to either use these gifts or not use them. As long as I’m at peace inside and as long as my conscience is clean, then it really doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I’m happy as a clam doing menial labor so long as I am okay inside. But I’m also quite sure God doesn’t want us to hoard our gifts. As long as we do the right thing, we should use them and share them with the world. But I’ve learned to let go of the result. Before, I needed to have a hit album, a #1 bestseller, and a movie deal in like two weeks or else I’d become infuriated and hopeless and quit. Now I can just play music or write or act for the sake of doing it. If something becomes of it… great. If nothing happens at all… great.

     All I care about now is making sure that I’m being useful to God and to others. All that matters now is that I’m being a good husband, son, brother and friend. All that matters is that I am doing what God wants me to do… and that pretty much means giving of myself.

God, teach me not to hoard my gifts, and to let go of the result…

Removing Substances

     Fallacy: Once I remove the alcohol, I’m no longer an alcoholic.

     When we remove the drugs and alcohol, what is left? Well, let me tell you what is left: A living, walking, breathing nightmare.  We alcoholics are worse when you take away our alcohol, not better. If you think we were selfish when drinking, just wait until we try white-knuckling it. Our self-absorption reaches new heights, sometimes becoming pathological. Our preoccupation with self reaches new heights. Our minds become saturated with nothing but our feelings, our thoughts, our discomforts, our frustrations, our boredom, our anger and our depression. Our attitudes deteriorate rapidly. Our capacity for intimacy and friendship deteriorate rapidly. Our willingness to serve others becomes non-existent. To even think about others becomes a form of torture. So I hope there is no one else in a sober and untreated addict’s life because they’re definitely not getting any attention. In fact, they’re most likely getting less than nothing, i.e. an annoying, pissed off, useless jerk. Sure, we’ll gladly listen to you blab on about your day when we’re completely jammed. But if not, it’s when are you gonna shut up so we can go use the way we want to?

     So what is the solution for this sort of hopeless predicament? Should we go to therapy, outpatient addiction treatment, inpatient treatment, psychiatric treatment? Should we switch jobs or towns or schools? Should we take our drug addicted teenagers out of school and send them to a recovery high school? Ummmm, let’s see… NO! Unless you want to fail. Unless you want to relapse. Unless you want to talk about triggers and feelings and your family. Unless you want to be coddled and given opportunities that you don’t need. Unless you want to continue the bullshit of not addressing your real problem, which is spiritual. Unless you want to forgo a real solution that produces real results. And trust me, you better be able to get better in a normal environment. No cushy program or recovery school or physical location will keep you sober.

     What is the solution for an alcoholic or drug addict? Personally, I took Steps to get better. A group of recovered addicts pulled the 12 Step instructions out of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. They told me exactly what to do to get better. They told me what actions to take. So I took these actions and I recovered. I addressed the real problem with alcoholism and drug addiction, which is NOT alcohol and drugs. It is spiritual. If you can recover spiritually and replace your addiction with a greater purpose, then you should be alright. Otherwise, true alcoholics and drug addicts really don’t stand a chance.

     By the way, taking Steps doesn’t cost anything. Guess how much you (i.e. your parents who you you are stabbing in the heart) can blow on therapy and addiction programs???

God, please give me the willingness to do anything it takes to get better…

Fear Inventory

(Also see Resentment, Resentment Inventory, Resentment Inventory Example and Sex Inventory.)

     Fear is selfish. It prevents me from being useful and from growing spiritually. I thought it was real and that feelings might actually kill me. But by avoiding things that scared me, the fear grew stronger. So to deflate it, I do the exact thing that frightens me. If I fear confrontation, I confront. If I fear public speaking, I speak publically. If I fear intimacy, I become intimate. To conquer it, do it. Doing it vaporizes the fear and gradually the action in question becomes easier. Someone told me once that I don’t have to let feelings stop me. Guess I managed to block that out for a while.

     Fear inventory. The instructions are: a) write down each fear I’ve ever had, b) write why I fear each one c) dig deeper to find why I really fear each one, and d) figure out why it’s selfish to have that fear. The task was to peel away and uncover what was really underneath my fears.
Here are some basic examples:

1st Column – Fear               
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
They freak me out.                 
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?                            
They make me act like a wimp.          
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?                                          
I kill them so I don’t have to feel uncomfortable.                   
1st Column – Fear
Public speaking
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
It makes me self-conscious.
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?
I have to step outside my comfort zone.
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?
I refuse to speak publically even though it may help others.
1st Column – Fear
Becoming Dad
2nd Column – Why do I fear this?
I’m prone to depression.
3rd Column – Why do I really fear this?
I fear what others think of me.
4th Column – How is this fear selfish?
Time spent thinking about this is time I’m not spending helping and loving Dad.

God, show me how my fear is selfish, and teach me that fear is a self-created illusion…