Recovering vs Recovered

     Not sure why, but folks in AA look at me like I’m evil when I say I’m a recovered alcoholic. This is especially fascinating considering the title page of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly states, The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have RECOVERED From Alcoholism (caps used for emphasis – yes, pun intended).

     If we are “recovering” or “in recovery”, then we have achieved physical sobriety but continue to struggle. We are restless, irritable and discontent. We still want to drink. We fight to stay sober and get through each day. Terms like dry drunk and white knuckling it are reserved for those who are merely recovering.

     Why does this sound harsh and why make a fuss about the distinction?

     Because being in recovery is not the solution that AA prescribes. AA makes no mention that its program in intended to leave an individual suffering, craving, fighting and utterly miserable. And what sucks is that people commonly think that any alcoholic or addict who gets clean is always on the edge of relapse for the rest of their shitty, selfish lives.

     The truth is that AA is a rigorous program of action that brings a sober alcoholic or addict from “recovering” to “recovered”. Recovered is what we can achieve once we become willing to go to any lengths to get better, once we fearlessly embark on the Twelve Step actions laid out in the AA text book (The Big Book). When we have this spiritual experience and a psychic change occurs, our once broken minds become fixed and we are sane again. We no longer suffer from any obsession to drink or use drugs. We are no longer out of control emotionally. We no longer whine and complain and suck others dry. We no longer fight and struggle through every second of the day. In fact, a natural urge to repel drugs and alcohol lives in us and becomes stronger and stronger with each spiritual action we take.

     When we become recovered, people no longer see us as alcoholics. While in recovery, we still act like children and remain enslaved by our self-centered frame of mind. Recovered, we act like adults who can tend to the needs of others.

     Drinking doesn’t have to be a problem for alcoholics, nor drugs for addicts. Life, work, emotions and relationships don’t have to be a problem. If they are for anyone out there, then there is something wrong or missing in your program. I’m not trying to be a dick, I’m just saying that it blows my mind that there are so many thousands of men and women in AA who are fighting desperately to stay sober, when AA is, in fact, The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism.

     The solution is sitting right there for any of us lazy knuckleheads to harness and run with. We just have to open the book and do the work.

God, please show me what Your will for me is, and please give me the power to carry it out…

God Brass

     If alcoholics and addicts have the capacity to be honest with themselves, they have the seed of God within. And because a seed that is nourished can grow forever, there is no limit to our spiritual growth. There is no limit to how much we can change and heal and thrive and give back. We must simply find the willingness to turn our inner seed into a fountain of strength.

     For willingness, we pray. Two of my favorites are ‘God, make me a better man today‘ & ‘God, bring the opportunity to help someone.’ I have no idea if the first one ever comes true. But the second one always does. There are always people to help.
     
     I’d like to think that the seed of God is in all of us. Someone once likened this seed to a ball of brass. Perhaps it is dull, worn, small, and has lost its glow. Yet when we polish it and shed the layers of resentment, fear, selfishness and dishonesty, gradually it becomes brighter and brighter. It begins to glow once again. It begins to grow. Our conscience expands, and we become acutely aware of what is right and what is wrong. So my job is to make sure I continue to polish my God brass on a regular basis so that it never becomes dull or loses its shine. 

God, help me to grow spiritually, that my God brass may shine within…

Sex Inventory

(Also see Resentment, Resentment Inventory, Resentment Inventory Example & Fear Inventory.)

Sex inventory…

The instructions are: a) write who I’ve hurt, b) write who ELSE I’ve hurt, c) write what happened, and d) write what I should have doneinstead.

Here’s an example:

1st Column – Who?
College girl   
2nd Column – Who else? 
Her husband 
3rd Column – What happened? 
Slept with her knowing she was married, and pretended I cared about her.  
4th Column – What should I have done instead?
Left her alone. At the very least I should have masturbated rather than destroy someone’s marriage.
As a conscienceless addict, I filled my emptiness by manipulating women and using them for sex. I used a foreign girl in college fully aware that she was married. I used my gifts to manipulate her, taking her into piano rooms on campus and playing Chopin while I stared into her eyes. From piano recitals to piano room seductions… this is what I became. I acted like I cared about women just to have sex with them, and then I got as far away as possible. I showed little or no remorse at all. And when I showed it, I never really felt it inside. Yes, I knew it was wrong, but satisfying lust was far more important. That’s the sort of behavior that must cease forever if I plan on staying sober.

God, please help my conscience to grow and grow, and give me the power and the willingness to never ignore it…

Projection

     When we engage in projection, we are in a state of delusion. Projection is when we transfer or “project” our own defects onto someone else. We accuse others of the very qualities, behaviors and attitudes that we own ourselves. So when I’m screaming at someone, or judging them, or calling them names, or ripping them apart from every angle, I should be screaming in a mirror because I’m really just talking about myself. I tend to think that when we lash out angrily at others, most of what we say is projection. Addicts, narcissists and crazy people who are incapable of assuming any responsibility for their words, thoughts and actions engage in pathological projection. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism born of too much pride, shame, self-hatred and immaturity.
   
     We who project are like children who never grew up. We become ever more damaged and now live in a deluded world of our own, broken from reality and shattered to the core. I know a few crazies like this, and let me say that now I know how annoying and pathetic I once was. When my son was born, I became the object of someone’s projection, and I thanked God that though I became an alcoholic, I didn’t become damaged beyond repair. I never lost the capacity to be honest with myself, which, along with willingness, is the one requirement to getting better. But if I had become this damaged, my entire life would have become a joke. It would have become a waste of air, water and other precious natural resources. I would have gone through my entire life hurting others with no shame, no remorse, no accountability…

     So to my fellow addicts out there still abusing people at will, take the advice one of my guides so kindly imparted to me long ago:

     Grow up.

God, please remove my defects of character, and replace them with love…

God Proof

     In the 2nd Step, we are asked to believe in a power outside of ourselves, one that is capable of fixing us – GOD. Boy, what a loaded word that is. But God is just a three-letter word meant to convey an idea, like any other word. The problem is when we mention God, all sorts of man-made concepts and belief systems invade our consciousness, not to mention traumatic personal experiences with religious fundamentalism, or religiously justified domestic abuse, or even (gulp) ethnic cleansing. But codes, creeds, rituals, churches, pipe organs, Sunday school, and a big throne with a Caucasian, bearded man sitting there with his rod and staff are all just man-made social constructs.

     Who are we to know what God is and what he looks like? And why is God in a building on Sunday morning but not outside in the woods on Monday afternoon?

     And then there’s atheism. Some of us think that if you can’t see, hear or touch something, then it doesn’t exist. Some think you cannot prove the existence of God. Well, first of all, let me say that I think the whole of science simply proves the existence of God because science just shows us how incredible and miraculous everything is.

     But the best argument is found right in the Big Book, and in an old Dexter episode I was watching the other night. The argument is quite simple. The Big Book asks,

     “Who are we to say there is no God?”

     And Dexter counters to the assertion that we can’t prove the existence of God by flipping the coin.

     “Maybe I can’t prove there is a God but you can’t prove there isn’t.”

God, help me to suspend my disbelief long enough for You to fill me up…

Blind Faith

     Blind faith is the key to getting better.

     Alcoholics and addicts are stubborn, obstinate, and tend to worship their own minds/intellect. We think we can get ourselves better if and when we choose to, which is a fallacy. And no matter how smart we think we are, our minds have instead become narrow, limited and ignorant. We demand to see results. We demand to know exactly what it is that will fix us. We want to see it to believe it. But that may be the one thing standing in the way of getting better.

     Until I read my inventory (5th Step) and recited the 7th Step prayer, I didn’t know if any of it would work. Sometimes it was difficult to embark on this mountain of work without knowing the end result. There was no guarantee I would have some profound psychic change. There was no guarantee I would recover. This is exactly why us addicts need to take a leap of faith… to break a lifelong pattern of never trusting in the unknown. We always have to know. We cling to our own self-will and sense of control because we don’t trust in letting go. We don’t trust in God’s will.

     So in the Steps we are asked to step into the darkness, unsure of where we will land. We are asked to just do the work on faith and see what happens. It’s like a trust fall. You don’t know that all of those people will catch you when you fall back. You have to trust that they will. Faith is trust. Trust that it will work. Trust that you will be okay. Trust in your recovery. Trust in the unknown. Trust in God. And hey, why not?

God, teach me to be still and know…

Anger

     Anger is a lack of purpose…

     Some punk kid called me a prick the other day after wrecking one of our apartment doors, so I pretty much lost it. The best is that I didn’t react at first, but upon further reflection, or rather lack thereof, I let him have it. I just couldn’t let it go.

     Anger is a code word, like depression. Underneath depression is anger. Underneath anger is grief, and underneath grief is spiritual imbalance. Spiritual illness often results from a lack of purpose. If I’m on the wrong path, I am spiritually ill. If I’m on a path that doesn’t serve anyone, I am spiritually ill. And if I have found the right path of service but stop serving for a while, I become spiritually ill.

     Conversely, when I am giving of myself, I don’t get angry. When I am working with others, I don’t get angry. When I am speaking, writing, meditating and praying, I don’t get angry. When I am constantly taking actions that bring me closer to God, I don’t get angry.

     We addicts should never retreat from life, from others, from reaching out. We should never isolate and become consumed by self. Service is by far the greatest gift we have been given.

God, help me to let go of my anger, fear, resentment and self-loathing…

Recovery NOT A Function Of Time

     Bottom line: The better I want to get, the more action I will take. The better I want to feel, the more action I will take.

     Recovery, or rather, mental and spiritual health, is NOT a function of time… it is a function of what actions we take and at what frequency we take them (consistency). I’ve known many people only six months into sobriety yet involved in a rigorous program of action who are far more sane, healthy, coherent, useful and at peace than a slew of untreated types I have met in AA who are sober for ten, twenty, even thirty years yet are still filled to the brim with resentment, depression, chaos, and who struggle as if it is, and must be, a fight to stay sober from one day to the next.

     But those who have taken Steps the way they are laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are people I would trust with my life. They take honesty and right action more seriously than anything else. They value and put their relationship with GOD above all else. They are people who will do their absolute best to do the right thing, say the right thing, and think the right thing. They are willing to be honest and do anything it takes to get better. I can trust them completely, though I may hardly know them personally. But I know what they have done.

     Those who live in this solution are happy, strong, solid people. They are a joy to be in the company of. I do not hear self-pity and sob stories from them. I do not feel emotionally drained and sucked dry of all my energy when I spend time with them. I do not need an aspirin after just five-minutes of a one-sided conversation. Instead, they are comforting. We laugh and we join together to help others.

God, please give me the power and the strength to take spiritual action…

Psychotherapy

     Not to bash psychotherapy, but it’s pretty useless for a drug addict.

     Most addicts, being pathological liars and manipulators, will simply get the therapist to tell them what they want to hear. Hearing that we had a rough childhood, that we were abused, that we have anger, depression and sadness is like music to our ears. All of that victim bullshit just allows us to justify our drinking and using. Then we can go home and scream at everyone that,

     No wonder we’re on drugs you assholes! It’s not our fault, it’s our crazy families, or our abusive dads, or our alcoholic genes, or some disorder, or some life event!

     Bullshit. It’s like,

     Hey, sorry I totalled the car Dad, but it wasn’t me, it was the bipolar I have! OR Sorry I just called you a crazy bitch, Mom, but I can’t help it because I have depression! OR Sorry I verbally abused you just to get out of the door to go buy more heroin from Pablo, sweetheart, but I just can’t help it because I’m an addict…  and oh yeah, I have a crazy family so it’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it!

     Therapists give us excuses. The more screwed up we are, the better.

     Talking is not a solution for addicts. We are the biggest bullshit artists in the world. All we do is talk. We talk about this, we talk about that, we talk our way into and out of anything. And even if we are honest in therapy, it’s still useless. Sure talking may educate us about ourselves a bit, but then we leave our 55-minute sessions totally unequipped. What happens for the 6 days and 23 hours left in the week? What tools have we been given for after we leave the office? An insane, hopeless addict is going to need more than a once-a-week bullshit session.

     We need a slew of tools that we can use in our daily lives. We need to learn how to live, work, relate, give back. We need to learn how to meditate, pray, write inventory and help others.

     Finally, unless a therapist has felt and used the way we did, he or she is once again, useless. We have no interest in listening to you if you aren’t an addict who has found a solution that really works. We will only listen to you if you are a junkbox but somehow you are standing before us calm, centered, strong, content and without any air about you. We will only listen to you if you have something that we want.

     Therapists don’t have anything I want. I don’t need something out of an academic textbook. I need nothing short of a spiritual experience. Can my 55-minute sessions produce a profound spiritual experience? Never happened to me, but definitely let me know if did to you.

     P.S. Writing a thorough 4th Step inventory is like the equivalent of 20 odd years of psychotherapy… but it’s free and it doesn’t take 20 years.

God, teach me to embrace action, work, service and looking forward as opposed to talking, excuses, reasons and looking backwards…

Unfamiliar Territory

     Why do addicts sabotage everything… over and over and over?

     Because being happy is such unfamiliar territory. They’ve gotten used to misery and drama and negativity. They’ve gotten used to destroying everything. They’ve become pain-dependent. Being happy and successful and fulfilled and at peace is far too strange a feeling for addicts. So when things start going our way, it’s much easier to just tear the whole thing down.
     Sabotaging all the good things in our life is also a defense mechanism, oddly enough. If we’re always screwed up and making a mess of things, no one will expect that much from us. It takes the pressure and the focus off. More importantly, it allows us to use the way we want to. It allows us enough moral relativity to just do whatever we want to. We can justify doing the stupidest shit in the world because we’re ‘just screwed up that way’. Great excuse, huh? So sabotage is a defense mechanism because it allows us to keep the standard lower. When we relapse and destroy everything, nobody is surprised.
     By the way, that is the most ridiculous reason not to get better. We should get better because we have lived a life of cowardice. We should get better because we have put ourselves in front of all others. We should get better because we have ripped our loved ones’ hearts out. We should get better because we have destroyed friendships, burned bridges, and become a waste of the world’s natural resources. We should get better because it is the right thing to do.
     Why not drop the preoccupation with self-comfort and challenge myself not to be a complete loser? Why not grow up and walk through some pain and discomfort like the rest of the people on the planet? Who are we addicts to remain in our comfort zones if doing so comes at the expense of hurting others?
God, help me to trust in my recovery, that I may embrace strength and success…