Wait, You Don’t Like Me?

     I don’t get it… I got sober and did all this work on myself and completely changed… I literally performed a miracle act, and now my wife doesn’t even like me!

     This is one of the many false assumptions we addicts fall prey to, as do our spouses. We think that once we get sober and repair ourselves, we will finally have the relationship we always dreamed of. To add insult to injury, our spouses get all excited while we’re away at treatment, fantasizing about our new life together. And then what happens? We come home and it hits us both like a ton of bricks. That old person, as demented and sick as he or she was, is usually the person our spouses met and fell in love with, not the person who has come home from treatment.

     Suddenly they realize, Wait a minute, I’m not sure I even like you anymore. And yikes, I’ve suddenly lost some of my desire for you. Shit, maybe I don’t really love you, this new person you are.

     Why does this happen? Most likely because when the alcoholic or addict recovers, he acts and behaves like a completely different person. His behavior changes. His thoughts and actions change. Even his speech changes.

     Needless to say, this isn’t always the case. Many of us met our spouses long before we mutated into useless drug addicts. Others were already gone. But either way, hope isn’t altogether lost. Both the addict and his or her spouse can decide to continue changing individually and therefore grow together.

     When I came home from treatment, my wife was absolutely miserable. Not only had she been preoccupied with my insanity and the mess I made, but to top it off, it was ME who got to go away to my cushy, cozy spiritual retreat. I come home glowing with my newfound peace of mind and she has a volcano of involuntarily repressed grief, despair, heartache and stress beginning to erupt inside her. She knew we wouldn’t make it unless she changed too. So she took Steps as well, embarking on a rigorous program of action. She’s not an addict and yet she decided to go through the same process I did. Our spouses can and probably should take Steps as well.

     But what are they powerless over if they’re not addicted to drugs or alcohol? For one, they are powerless over our addiction and over the ability to fix us. They may also be powerless over their own feelings – their depression, their anger, their grief. We can become powerless over many things.

     Back to the point. Often times a sober person just isn’t the same person as the addicted one. Sure we owe it to our spouses to do everything we can to make it work. But if she just doesn’t like you anymore, there isn’t much you can do. To note, it is usually the dry drunks who become unbearable. If we actually do some work on ourselves and change in the real way, there is almost always a chance to heal our relationships as well as retain all of the good stuff about our former personalities. So definitely keep your sense of humor. No one likes a hyper-serious, hyper-sensitive, boring as hell sober person.

     One way or the other, good relationships require work, sacrifice and trade-offs. Don’t expect to just float around and keep the flames going.

Pray For Those We Resent

     What happens if we write inventory but a resentment continues to haunt us?

     Pray for that person. I suggested this to someone who my wife and I were trying to help and her response was, “I’m not praying for that bitch! I pray that she rots in fucking hell!”

     She relapsed about two weeks later, becoming delusional once again.

     If you can’t pray for someone whom you resent, then you probably aren’t cut out for the Steps. If we don’t have the guts or the courage or the willingness to grow spiritually, than relapse is inevitable. Swallowing our pride and ego and anger is a sign of maturity, but a refusal to mature and evolve will surely lead to failure. We will relapse, cause more pain to others, and eventually leave behind an unresolved life after a premature death.

From Alcoholics Anonymous, p.552:

     “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

     When we pray for others in this way, we harness the power and willingness necessary to diffuse our anger and judgement. Trust me, letting go is pure and total freedom.

God, please give me the courage and willingness to pray for those I resent…

Resenting Ourselves?

     Just saw a google search on the stats page that read, how do you inventory self-resentment? I’ve also been asked this question by sponsees who are writing their 4th Step inventory.

     Can I resent myself? 
     No. We do not write inventory about resentments we may have towards ourselves. We do not resent ourselves because it is selfish. It is a form of self-pity. Engaging in self-deprecation and regret is an act of selfishness. We must forgive ourselves so we can move on and serve others. And it is the same with every other Step.
     Ultimately, we are not taking Steps for ourselves. We are taking Steps to recover so that we can become useful to others and to God. The goal is to finally grow up, get outside of ourselves, and give back. The goal is to be able and willing to help others.
     Take the 9th Step amends for example. We don’t make these amends to clear our conscience. We make them for the object of our amends, the person we hurt. We make them to give them some solace. We make them to give back. We make them because it is our responsibility and because it is the right thing to do. If, as a byproduct of doing this work, we find peace, strength, happiness or joy, than great. But that isn’t our priority. Our priority in taking Steps is to repair the damage we have done, to set things right, and to fix ourselves so that we may live a life of meaning and service. We take Steps to become fit to serve God by helping others.
     Believe me, I often make this mistake myself. Often I will use these tools for selfish purposes. I will do this work to clear out my head, clear my conscience, or to just plain feel better. That is not wrong, but it is not the primary purpose of the Steps. Sure this process also exists to give us our life back and pursue our dreams. But I must remember the reason I had to do this in the first place. It is because I lost control, hurt others, and now owe a debt to God. First we must remove our selfishness and give back. Then we can go and do our thing and have a great life.
God, help me to let go of self-pity and regret so I may better serve You and others…

Couples Therapy

     We can’t change the inner reality by changing the outer reality…

     Why didn’t couples therapy save our relationship? For the very same reason that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t save the addict. It’s backwards. We’re talking about two damaged people with their own individual issues trying to focus on fixing the specifics of their marriage. Huh? How can a marriage of two screwed up people be fixed by focusing on the marriage? What saved our torn marriage wasn’t couples therapy. What saved our marriage was the fact that both of us worked on ourselves separately, and as a byproduct of individual change, our relationship healed. If we don’t fix ourselves, everything else will eventually fail.
     This is true in all other facets of life. We can’t try to fix some problem in our lives without changing ourselves. We will fail every time. Why? Because our outer lives are merely a reflection of our inner lives. When we realize this and begin to change from within, that is when our lives get better. When we stop focusing on trying to control and fix everything around us, then we have the energy to deal with the real problem: us. It is nothing but the work we do on our minds, our bodies, our spirits, our psyches and our emotional balance that changes our relationships and our professional lives, etc. Better lives come as a byproduct of changing ourselves, not the other way around.

     Regarding couples, obviously there are often specific issues to work on in a relationship or marriage. But if we fix ourselves, then we have the willingness to address these issues without becoming defensive, proud, indignant, obstinate, angry, hurt, resentful, or fearful of loss, rejection, abandonment, etc. It is hard to put good ideas into action and practice them on a daily basis when we are suffering and ridden with negative behavioral patterns.  

God, help me see that inner work = outer results…

Triggers Don’t Exist

     Why does the mainstream treatment community tell us that relapse is part of recovery when it has nothing to do with recovery? Newsflash: It’s not okay to relapse. Doctors, therapists, social workers, and so-called addiction specialists blindly recite the false text book mantra that “relapse is part of recovery.”


     Because they simply don’t know anything else. The sad truth is that millions of professionals out there don’t actually know what addiction is (spiritual ailment) or how to treat it. Why is it okay to relapse when relapsing means another long and destructive cycle of lies, theft, sadness, pain, heartache and damage to countless others?

     Treatment ‘experts’ say that triggers exist for addicts and alcoholics, and as such, treatment revolves around avoiding people or places or things that trigger us. Ah, you gotta be kidding me. First of all, triggers don’t exist. Flimsy excuses. Being alive is our only trigger. Nothing makes us want to use. We want to use ALL THE TIME.

     Secondly, what sort of solution is that for a drug addict? So my solution involves desperately trying not to bump into this person, or walk by that place, or keep all drugs and alcohol out of my sight? If that is my only hope then I should just lock myself up and throw away the key, because I am doomed.

     This sort of information is actually dangerous. To tell an addict that it is their triggers that make them use is to basically eliminate any personal and moral responsibility they might assume, which might then trigger them to go get better (pun intended). Furthermore, to teach an addict that it is someone or something outside of themselves that makes them go drink or pick up is unbelievably irresponsible and stems from pure ignorance. WE are the only reason. We drink because we like drinking and because we are selfish beyond belief. Nothing makes us want to drink. Our only trigger is breathing.

     If I buy this notion and take this advice about triggers, then I basically have prevented myself from recovering. The world will forever be a dangerous place for an addict. I will be walking around subject to relapse at any point in time. I am cursed to struggle and fight through each day to stay sober. I will forever crave drugs and alcohol and fend off urges day and night. Mainstream treatment tells us that there is really no hope, that the addict or alcoholic never really gets better, and thus we never can truly recover.

     That is complete and total bullshit.

     We can recover fully and forever. We can live utterly free from any urges or desires to drink or use. We can become free and happy men and women. And this freedom means we can walk by any store, down any block, or sit there and stare at a medicine cabinet full of juicy meds. This means we can hang out with anybody, regardless of how fucked up they still are. This means we can have wine in the house for guests. This means we can even buy our friend a bag of dope just to get his ass to detox or treatment.

     But Charlie, how can you say such things?!?!

     Because we can deliver ourselves from our insanity. Or rather, God can deliver us. We can grow new minds and remain permanently free from the mental obsession to drink or use drugs. We can travel, work, and enjoy life without having to drag ourselves to five meetings a day until the day that we die. We don’t have to merely live “in recovery”.

     We can become RECOVERED.

     Personally, I took Steps to recover. I am now a free man. And the same can be true for any drug addict or alcoholic out there. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Don’t feed yourself a bunch of excuses. Don’t let yourself off the hook. And always remember:

     Triggers don’t exist.

God, help me to remember that nothing outside of myself is responsible for my drinking or drug use…