God Isn’t Santa Claus

     What is prayer? And why doesn’t selfish prayer work? I was taught that prayer is supposed to be an unselfish action of humility that grants us access to God, to something greater. It can open up a telephone line between me and Power. When I’m engaged in selfish thought, word or action, I am shut off from any connection to God. That is why selfish prayer doesn’t work. We cannot reach or connect to God when engaged in selfishness.

     Early in recovery, sure I prayed for myself. But it wasn’t for cars, money, or a promotion. It was for the willingness to walk through a fear I was having, or the patience to make an amends to someone difficult, or the power to walk through my exhaustion and get myself to work. I had to pray for these things to 1) get better, and 2) to become more useful to God and to others.

     But as we continue to grow up and get better, we learn to pray unselfishly. Generally, unselfish prayer isn’t directed toward self anymore. We start praying for others. We pray for others to have joy, peace, happiness, love, courage, strength, prosperity, and God in their lives. Sure I sometimes do this for selfish reasons. I pray for someone whom I resent to have everything I want for myself. I do this to relieve me of the resentment, and that of course, is selfish. But ridding ourselves of resentment is also unselfish in the sense that it cleans us and allows to us then be more useful.

     I still need to pray for myself at times. I pray for help being more honest, more tolerant, more willing to grow spiritually. I pray to become a better man. But you should be able to feel it in your gut if your prayer is purely selfish and therefore wrong. If we find ourselves praying for something to feed our ego or pride, we should feel that it is wrong. And we should feel shut off from Spirit. When we pray unselfishly, there is an immediate internal shift. Sure it may be subtle, but we should feel a quietness, a calmness, a humility, a connection. We have officially tapped in.

God, teach me how to pray unselfishly…

Why Many Don’t Respond To AA

     Many alcoholics don’t respond to AA for the same reason we don’t respond to therapy. The guy talking to us doesn’t really know what he’s talking about and has no solution to offer. Sure, the speakers in AA may have a slight affinity to us in that they drank alcohol. But sadly, it often ends there.

     In order for me to listen to you, you have to have felt and used the way I did. And yes, this is sometimes true in AA. But you also must be in the sort of condition I want to be in if I’m going to get sober and take your advice. I don’t want to be a sober mess, running from meeting to meeting, shaking, chain smoking, chugging coffee, restless, irritable, anxious, depressed, empty, lonely, miserable, selfish, and with no purpose whatsoever other than desperately trying to not drink.
     In fact, that was never the solution that AA offered us long ago. Alcoholics Anonymous says that we can recover by taking steps and then live in freedom and peace. But that’s not what you hear in AA. You hear stories, and the staple advice is “just keep comin'”, because this Group ODrunks can keep you clean. Wow, that’s pretty shitty advice. I know plenty of people and believe me, none of them can keep me sober. For sure, there are two separate programs, both called AA. 
     Sorry, but I’m all set. I’m only going to listen to you if you’ve not only felt and used the way I did, but you are also standing there before me with internal strength, calm, centered, content, secure, stable, happy, productive and fearless. This is what you see when you meet and talk to a recovered person. You can’t tell they were ever some dirty heroin addict or some wreaking drunk on the street. They have been reborn. They are transformed. They have grown new minds and have been filled with the spirit and power of GOD.
     So that’s why people are turned off by AA. Because what you see in meetings today is not what AA ever intended. AA was a 12 Step program of action designed to expel certain spiritual poisons from us to allow for a new Power to come into us, thereby replacing our addiction with something that really works. So if collecting sobriety chips and cranking butts all day isn’t cutting it for you, do yourself a favor and find a recovered person to talk to. Trust me, it will be eye-opening.
God, teach us how to live Your solution and Your principles, that we may serve as examples of real recovery…

Moral Compass

     The problem with alcoholics and addicts isn’t alcohol and drugs. Our problem is that we are void of spiritual principles. We have no moral compass. So getting better has little to do with just getting sober. To get better we must replace the poisons of fear, dishonesty, pride, resentment, self-pity, self-seeking and narcissism with honesty, courage, tolerance, patience, humility and other-centeredness.

    When we become a cauldron of moral and spiritual decay, we begin to have a problem with everything and everyone, even though our circumstances are nobody’s fault but our own.

     Without spiritual guidance, we are lost. We think it is normal and okay to judge, criticize, gossip, be petty and emotional. We become emotionally immature and eventually somewhat retarded. We slowly lose ourselves and eventually we lose our souls altogether. We take everything for granted as we become lost in self-absorption. Soon we are no longer capable of swallowing our pride at all. We can’t swallow our ego, our self-seeking, our fear or our dishonesty. We fail to ever admit our wrongs or take responsibility for anything. Humility is no longer in our vocabulary. Hey, what do you know… we’ve become sociopaths.

     By the way, if we are incapable or unwilling to ever admit our fault in anything, then we can’t have any genuine relationships. All of our relationships are phony at that point. And sadly, we are phony.

     Lack of spiritual guidance and action leaves us with no purpose, which gradually turns us into sociopaths. With no moral compass, we have no compass at all. We are lost in the dark. This is why we need to get better. We need to fix ourselves not because of our drug and alcohol addiction, but because of the people we’ve become.

God, help me do the right thing today…

Cause & Effect

     For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… – Isaac Newton

    Addicts and alcoholics must be careful about the universal laws of cause & effect, for these laws are also alive and well in the mental, emotional and spiritual realms. There is an effect to everything we do, whether physical or mental.

     If we think angry thoughts, chances are we will attract angry people to us who come and piss us off even more. If we embrace and indulge our resentment towards others, chances are we will reap ongoing negativity and outside judgement. If we choose to lash out verbally, there is no doubt someone will return the favor. If we distract ourselves constantly and fill our minds with say, the garbage on E! Television, we will probably suffer from boredom, frustration, apathy, and indifference. Even if we neglect ourselves spiritually or emotionally by slacking off on certain right actions that we have committed to take consistently, rest assured we will suffer in a multitude of ways. We will become depressed (a form of self-absorption) which will effect our ability to be present with others, to give to others, to love others.

     And it’s just the same with positive actions, thoughts and words. There is a positive effect, whether it’s good people, or worldly blessings, something unseen, or most importantly, peace inside. The effect of goodness is goodness, and vice versa. Cause & effect can destroy us or it can save us. This is a lesson I have learned intellectually yet I continue to violate on almost a daily basis. Addicts and alcoholics will always make mistakes. We will always act, think and speak negatively. It’s what we do about it that matters. Making it right will gradually effect our character and change us slowly over the long run. Are you in it for the long run? And do you want to just get sober or do you really want to change? Sometimes I have to ask myself these questions. And it’s in the answer that I eventually find the results.

God, please give me the willingness, strength and goodness to honor the laws of cause and effect…

Never Too Early

     Watch out for mainstream AA. The first time I was “12 Stepped” by someone at a local meeting was eye opening. I had just done my 5th, 6th and 7th Steps, and returned home from treatment. My sponsor told me to immediately start making amends or else… Or else what? Or else I would soon return to insanity and relapse.

     But the AA guy gave me a mouthful. He told me that it was “way too early” to be making amends to anyone. He said I had no idea what I was doing and that I “wouldn’t be ready to make amends for like a year” or more. He also told me I probably went through the Steps “way too quickly”, and that I “need a sponsor”. The last thing he said was that all I should be doing right now is to “just keep going to meetings”.

     If you’re an alcoholic or an addict new to recovery and someone accosts you at a meeting and says that, here is some sound advice: RUN the other way. If I had listened to this guy, my wife and my mother would have most likely buried me several years ago. If I had stopped making amends, stopped growing, stopped healing, stopped changing, stopped shedding my self will and selfishness, I would have soon lost my mind, sunk into a depression, cut the cord with God and become encroached by RID (Restlessness, Irritability, Discontent). Then I relapse. Then I lose everything. Then I die. Great advice.

     So I looked at the guy and said, “It’s never too early to get better.”

     Halfway through the meeting, he came over to me and apologized, and then left the meeting early. Boy, I hope that guy didn’t have a ton of sponsees. It’s a shame that this is the sort of watered down AA that so many newcomers get, only to continue suffering and struggling day after day. The end result is either relapse or untreated alcoholism, both of which ensure ongoing harm to all who surround the alcoholic. I’m not saying there is only one way, but if we’re talking about AA, the last time I checked there was only one program and it’s laid out in the first 164 pages of the Big Book.

God, please help us narcissistic addicts truly recover first before cluelessly chasing people around…

Living Meditation

     Beating myself up for not adhering to a strict zen meditation routine is a daily occurrence. But I realized something after deleting Facebook the other day. First of all, the effect of simply removing cable television service and social media like Facebook is nothing to scoff at. Despite having been my lazy self when it comes to meditation and Step work, the last three days I have basked in the present moment. I have been living one moment at a time, one thought at a time, one action at a time. I have been moving slower, eating slower, and reacting less. Best of all, my incessant stimulus headaches are gone.

     What I have discovered is ‘living mediation’. Our lives can be a constant meditation. All we have to do is slow down and just do what’s in front of us, mindfully and deliberately. We don’t necessarily have to carve out time to pack in a good half-hour meditation session. Meditation can be a 24/7 thing, if we can discipline ourselves to live moment to moment.

     Removing distractions is just the first step, but an important one. It’s hard to clear out the mind and think one thought at a time if we’re constantly jamming clutter into our storage space. After that, it’s a simple matter of practice. I do what’s in front of me, but I try to do it slowly and deliberately. I try to just focus on that one thing. And if my head jumps into the future or the past, I pray for help bringing me back and keeping me there (or here, rather).

     Maintaining sanity and dosing ourselves with some peace of mind and happiness can be as simple as removing worldly garbage and slowing down. And if for some reason you find it hard to cancel Comcast or delete Facebook, pray for the willingness. I assure you, it will come. Plus, do you really want Facebook scum management selling your information to the NSA and the current administration to be scrutinized and assessed to see if you need to be detained indefinitely under the president’s illegal and wildly immoral NDAA act?

God, please teach me to live each moment mindfully and deliberately, that I may live my life in constant meditation…

Building God vs God Building

     Not that it really matters, but the truth is that I feel the presence of God less in a building and more when I’m looking at the ocean, or walking in the woods, or watching a sunset. I feel It when I’m playing music or writing. And I especially feel It when I’m helping another addict or speaking to a room full of addicts. I feel It when I’m praying or meditating. I feel It when I’m taking action.

     But we don’t need to worry too much about the whole God thing. AA wants us to build our own conception of God, regardless of how simple it may be, although… if your sponsor tells you to use the coffee pot for a Higher Power, you might have some problems.

     The point is to get underneath. The point is realizing that we are not the most powerful force in our lives. The point is understanding that there is something far greater than us, something limitless in its power and capable of anything. If we are chained by addiction, it is important to stop believing in ourselves only. Chances are that hopeless alcoholics and junkies cannot recover without this inner change in attitude. Changing our understanding of what power is and where it comes from is humbling, and anything that humbles us is good for us.

God, please bring us closer to You and give us the strength and power to take spiritual action everyday… not just on Sunday.

One of Seven Billion

     Guess what? I am just one of seven billion people who all feel the same things and go through the same things. My human experience in no more novel than anybody else’s.

     My pain is no more excruciating. My depression is no more brutal. My addiction and alcoholism is no tougher. My anxiety, insecurity and self-consciousness are no more agonizing. My life problems are no harder. My relationships, jobs, finances are no more complicated. My thoughts, emotions and feelings are no more unique. My challenges, both internal and external, are no more difficult.

     My life takes place in the same human body and the same human mind as everybody else’s. There’s nothing special about me. How do we addicts become so narcissistic as to assume we are somehow different from everybody else?

     Trust me, we’re not. We just think we are. We think nobody in the world really knows what it’s like to be us, to feel the way we do, to think the way we do, to suffer the way we do. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes us at all is our degree of narcissism.

     So whether we are alcoholics, addicts, or just plain mentally ill, it’s good to look in the mirror at least once a day to affirm:

     You aren’t different. You aren’t special. You aren’t a victim. You don’t have it particularly tough in life. You don’t have problems that no one else has. You don’t have a harder life than others. You aren’t smarter than others. You aren’t more talented than others. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Nobody owes you anything. The only difference between you and other people your age is that you still haven’t grown up. You don’t realize that nobody else is responsible for your circumstances. You don’t realize that nobody else is responsible for the way you feel. You don’t realize that life isn’t about you feeling good all of the time.

     Guess what? There are seven billion of us. So stop whining and get to work…

God, help me to get outside of myself and remember that I am just one of seven billion…

This State Doesn’t Work Either

     I used to think that all I had to do to snap out of my depression was just to get out of my freakin’ house! I have to get out of town, man, and move across the country, yo. Breathe the fresh mountain air! Oops, no wait, now I have to drive back home to breathe the cool ocean air! Nope, wait a sec, that’s not working either. Okay, I think I should change schools or jobs or relationships. Yup! Nope. Hmmm, nothing works. What the hell, man?

     Gee, maybe because changing our external reality does absolutely nothing to change the way we feel inside, nor will it cure what ails us. One of the only good slogans I heard in AA is how when you try to escape your problems by driving from state to state, each welcome sign that you pass should say,

     “Welcome! This State Doesn’t Work Either.”

     Our problems will follow us wherever we go. Our fears, our depression, our anxiety, our alcoholism and our addiction will tow right behind us. To get rid of our demons, we must change, not travel. We must take action of a different nature… action which effects profound and fundamental change on an internal or spiritual level.

     Personally, I took Steps to get better, although there are many other ways we can change or grow or become sane once again. I took Steps because I am an addict. If I were something else, perhaps I would embark on a disciplined meditation routine, or perhaps I would do service of some sort. Volunteer somewhere. Teach others a skill that I have, or a talent.

     Usually changing involves giving. That is the only thing I am certain of when it comes to changing. No matter what our problem is, the solution must involve getting rid of SELF.

God, please bring all my fellow addicts who still suffer to the depths of despair and hopelessness, that they may begin to embark on real change…

"Is Addiction God’s Will?"

     Looking at some blog statistics, I noticed a Google search for, “Is it God’s will I become an addict?” This is something that should addressed, as my gut and my mind immediately answer a resounding “NO!” 

     But is there more to it?

     Ironically, the worse I became, the closer I came to getting better. It’s as if God was laughing every time I bought a bag of heroin, knowing that with each bag, I would get back to Him sooner than later.

     So even though using drugs is an act of self-will, what about my larger blueprint?

     If I had never wallowed in the dirty depths of alcoholism and opiate addiction, I’d never have the connection to God that I have now. I’d never have the spiritual tools that I have. I wouldn’t have this new fullness of experience, nor would I have been witness to so many miracles. I’m also quite certain I wouldn’t have the miriad of blessings that have showered my life.

     If we are becoming addicts or alcoholics, or if we have already stepped over that line but are progressing very slowly, perhaps the best thing we can do is to get worse. I’m aware that sounds ridiculous, but we usually don’t get better until we reach the point where we want to stop using but can’t. If we are still enjoying it, there is no way we will reach out to God with all that we have inside of us. Only when we reach the point that using does nothing except prevent us from entering withdrawal will we surrender our will.

     So is our addiction God’s will?

     I will always believe that we alone have made ourselves into addicts by our selfishness, but there is a larger and rather mystical component to the whole thing. Paradoxically, I have been given life through my ‘lethal’ addiction. Dare I say that I’m grateful for it?

God, teach me how to let go of my self will, that I may better do Thy will…