Relapse Is Unthinkable

   “Once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, xxix

     “‘Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.'” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.27

     I’ve been trying to pound the pavement lately and get my book onto the bookshelves. Sure this is an act of self-will, yet my gut is telling me to go and do it.

     Why did I write the book? Initially, I wanted people to know that you don’t have to get sober and fight through each day. I wanted people to have the spiritual experience I had, to feel that relief and freedom. I also selfishly wanted to initiate a writing career. After being railroaded out of the taxpayer-funded recovery school (i.e. another public trough leech) by a power-hungry director with NPD, I was determined to work for myself. I wanted to be a writer and ideally to help others in the act. Finally, I want the book to sell. For profit? Not necessarily, as I was well aware of how impoverishing a writing career can be. The margins are horrible and I’ve only lost money to this point. But if the book caught fire and did make money, my vision was to start a treatment center roughly modeled after the 12 Step retreat up North that fixed me.

     That has yet to happen, but I have learned something over the last 8 years. Having worked as a chef, counselor, educator, actor, writer, landlord, trader and investor, one thing remains true: Working with others and speaking to others fills me up spiritually like nothing else. And this is why relapse is unthinkable. Because, above all else, my #1 priority in life is my relationship with God, my spiritual health, and the health and recovery of others. So long as that is the case, relapse is unthinkable.

     Since the night I read inventory up North back in 2005, my mind has remained fundamentally changed. From that moment on, not a single thought/desire to drink or use has penetrated my better half. Not only have substances lost all of the power they once had over me, but I naturally repel them. And my old life and my old way of thinking seems more like a past life, or even someone else’s life, rather than my own. Relapse is unthinkable because I can’t even remember what it’s like to think the way I used to.

     The moment that helping others no longer fills me up, I am done. The moment I stop putting my spiritual health and my relationship with God above everything, I am done. Relapse is unthinkable until the moment I stop caring.

Addiction & Advertising

     The sad truth is that conventional treatment programs and philosophies have sprung out of marketing and advertising (and government intervention, of course). The last thing they want you to hear is that all you need to get better is another alcoholic and a Big Book. Their message is, “YOU WON’T EVER TRULY BE OKAY.” All you can hope for is to keep your symptoms at bay. And they pump the same negative, false message with every illness, disease and mental disorder. Hmm, golly gee, I wonder why? Maybe it’s because if people became recovered for life by taking the (free) Steps with another alcoholic, there is no demand for prescription drug cocktails and overpriced, 55-minute therapy sessions.

     The last thing most treatment centers, methadone clinics, doctors, therapists and pharmaceutical companies want you to do is to fully recover. That would put them out of business. If we believe that we will always be sick, struggling and “in recovery”, then we will need a lifetime of detox stays, treatment stays, therapy visits, pills and other clinical interventions. That’s how these scumbags stay in business. You can’t turn on the television without seeing some shameless actor peddling a dangerous new drug or the snake oil salesman on CNN (Controlled News Network) peddling his alcoholism and addiction cure book, along with the $67,000 charge to jump in a hot tub with a bunch of entitled children from Hollywood. If people are sick, there is always a profit to be made. But if people get better, the cash stops flowing. 
     Today, this notion has infected even well-intentioned treatment specialists and programs. The mainstream belief that addicts and alcoholics will never fully recover originated in the sinful dens of marketers and advertisers. All we can do is keep our symptoms at bay, right? All we can do is write down our triggers and forever avoid people, places and things that make us want to use, right? And then when we relapse, we can come running back into the loving arms of detox, pills, methadone (pure evil), therapy, and cushy treatment programs with a day spa for all of the needy, whiny babies coming through the doors. 
     By the way, this is just what addicts and alcoholics want to hear… that they can’t really get better. Great, we now have a lifelong excuse to drink and use drugs.

     Well, gee, since I can’t ever truly recover, I might as well relapse. I mean… life is pretty tough for me right now!
     Question: Why are we giving the most manipulative, selfish, dishonest group of people an excuse? Why are we giving the easy-street drug addict an easy time? Drug addicts should be roasted and humbled beyond belief, and then built back together one spiritual brick at a time. 


     “But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.39

     That is why psychotherapy is pretty much useless for an alcoholic or an addict. Knowledge doesn’t get addicts better, nor can it keep us sober. Power does.
     Think of it as a missing chip. When we become addicts, we lose the power to choose not to drink or use drugs. No amount of self-knowledge will replace this chip. In fact, we ourselves can’t even replace it. Power, once lost, must come from a power source, and since we are no longer that source, it must come from outside of ourselves. That source is God. To note, another fallacy perpetuated by conventional treatment programs is that we get ourselves better. Not true. God does.
     Alcoholics without power are subject to go insane at any moment, at which point all ration and reason disappear. When this occurs, any self-knowledge or information we may have accrued is completely useless. Nothing short of a miracle can fight off the obsession to drink once it hits us. If we think we can get better or stay sober just because we learned something about ourselves, think again.
     So when we are without the power of choice, it needs to be re-inserted back into our brains and our beings. Knowledge is great, but alone it is useless. Knowledge with Power will change lives.
God, knowing that I must take rigorous spiritual action, please restore me to sanity and give me power back…

Is The Coffee Pot Your Higher Power?

     “We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we recovered is the main purpose of this book.” From Alcoholics Anonymous, xiii, Forward to the First Edition.

     Interesting that the preamble in many AA meetings today comes from page 25 or page 58 of the Big Book, as if the program starts there. Maybe that’s why so few recover from modern-day AA groups and quasi-12 Step treatment programs.
     The one and only time I introduced myself as a “recovered” alcoholic at a local meeting, about 40 or 50 heads whipped around and stared me down angrily. You’re not supposed to use the word “recovered” in AA now, even though the first line of AA’s Big Book (1939) couldn’t be more clear: “Alcoholics Anonymous – The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism.”
     If I never opened up the book written by AA’s co-founders, I would have (sadly) forever caste myself as being ‘recovering’ or ‘in recovery’. I would have always been recovering and never recovered. Sure, I was ‘in recovery’ as I left detox and embarked on the Steps. But as I began to take action and grow spiritually, my mind was made sane again and I no longer suffered from the insanity of alcoholism. I no longer had to worry about picking up a drink or any other temptation. From that moment on, I have been recovered.
     Sure if I were to stop growing and begin hurting others, I could then re-enter non-recovered territory. And yes, I know that I am always one drink away from detox, and that I will forever have ZERO power of alcohol. But I also know this: If I need to drive around all day going from meeting to meeting after 20 years of sobriety, there is definitely something wrong with my program. AA was intended to free the alcoholic or drug addict from their insanity. AA is a spiritual program of action that lifts the mental obsession and puts us into contact with God.
     Today, sponsors in watered-down, spiritually sick AA groups will tell newcomers to just make their Higher Power the group of people in the meeting. ‘G.O.D.’ refers to Group Of Drunks, as if a group of drunks can keep a chronic, hopeless alcoholic sober. One time I listened to a speaker tell the group that she just makes her Higher Power the coffee pot. Some sound advice: Don’t make your Higher Power the coffee pot at your home group. And you also might run into some trouble making your Higher Power the rims on your car, the knocker on your door, your new iphone, or the 52-inch TV in your living room (a popular one).
     Bottom line: Chronic, hopeless alcoholics and addicts can and do recover and live a lifetime of freedom, peace and happiness. The difference is that those who are free have taken Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book, the original AA textbook. The Big Book, contrary to what we might hear before the raffle at our local AA meeting, is not just a collection of stories. It describes the specific 12 Step process in detail. It lays out clear-cut directions on how to take these Steps and recover from “a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.” (Ibid.)
God, I am still and I know…

Alcoholic = Addict

     I was just barely getting through a local meeting one night when I heard roughly this from the speaker:

     “By the way, if you’re a pothead hippie or some shit, then go to another meeting for like potheads anonymous. This is alcoholics anonymous. AA is for alcoholics, not drug addicts. If you smoke pot, you don’t even need to come here ’cause you’re still sober.”

     The guy was excruciating but I ended up laughing, as this sort of attitude is so common in my region. Clearly the speaker wasn’t an alcoholic. In fact, thousands of AA members around here aren’t even in the vicinity of alcoholism. What we’ve got is a slew of heavy drinkers who procured a few DUIs and were court-ordered to attend AA. Having no prior social skills and therefore no social life, they grab onto it like the bottle, come religiously, and saunter around the halls like Holier Than Thou ‘old timers’.

     Yes I know that is a generalization but you can trust me when I say I’ve been to just about every meeting on the north shore and there is virtually NO distinction. AA meetings around here are a shining example of untreated alcoholism.

     So regarding the difference between addicts and alcoholics, let’s just say that the notion itself is an oxymoron. There is no difference. The body of an addict is no physiologically different than the body of an alcoholic. Plus, if any of our so-called old timers picked up the Big Book, they could learn about how our allergic reaction to alcohol crosses all lines. If we experience the phenomenon of craving when we take a drink, then we will experience the phenomenon of craving when we take any mood-altering substance.

     Try it, if you want.

     If you’re a north shore drunk, go dump a pile of cocaine in front of you and call me at 6am when you’re practically seizing out but need another bag. Or why don’t you throw down a couple OC 40s every day for a week and then talk to me about how you need to get your hands on the OC 80s instead. Or perhaps you should start taking your wife’s anxiety medication and try not to rack up another DUI after passing out behind the wheel. But sure, of course you’re not also a drug addict… just an alcoholic, right?

     It doesn’t matter what your poison is. It doesn’t even matter if you hate coke or weed or benzos or dope. If you have the allergy, you are 100% screwed and therefore any substance will deliver you straight back to detox. But until then, have fun at the semi-annual sober dances.

God, teach us that the allergy crosses all lines and therefore we are not safe from any mood-altering substance…

Pure Love

     Unconditional love is spiritual in nature, not sexual, physical, or even emotional. Pure love of this sort often eludes us.

     Relationships are, of course, not uncomplicated. They are sticky, chaotic and confusing. They mix us up and pull us in just about every direction. They test us and push us and teach us invaluable life lessons. They will bring us to our limits and force us to either evolve, or just run the other way. And while it is our responsibility to put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to each other, our greater responsibility is to be aware of the other person’s spiritual well being. If we can clearly see or just feel inside that they are suffering with us, then real love is letting them go. In my belief, true selflessness means doing whatever necessary to ensure the greatest spiritual health of others.

     That being said, many of us may be good for each other. And we should know that relationships are hard work… especially for the addict or alcoholic. It’s easier for us to just break up, even after we get sober. But the harder way is to come home from treatment and give everything we have within us to better love our spouses every day, which means quietly enduring and lovingly accepting their pain, sadness, heartache, anger and resentment that has built up, bubbled over, or perhaps exploded on us after we’ve cleaned up. This is why they say that the living amends are the hardest ones. We shouldn’t run away from our spouses just because it would be easier to go off and be some lone spiritual warrior. Real strength means staying, facing it, facing our past, and working hard to make it better each and every day.

Pain Dependent?

     Are we pain dependent? Yes, we are! Why in hell would someone be pain dependent? Well, it’s because happiness, joy, calm, peace, stability and success are just way too foreign to us. Chaos, misery, pain, sadness, suffering, depression, anger, angst and failure are much more familiar territory.

     That sounds demented and insane, doesn’t it? Yeah, that’s because the mind of an alcoholic/addict is demented and insane, which is precisely why achieving physical sobriety alone won’t solve anything. Our problem is much larger than alcohol and drugs.
     After years of masochistic behavior, the totality of self-abuse engrains a certain frame of reference. Everything in life becomes a struggle. Everything is a disappointment. Everything is hard. Nothing works out. Nobody understands us. Nobody is on our side. Everybody is out to get us. The world is totally messed up. Nobody feels the way we do. Nobody cares. Failure is inevitable. Success and contentment are unreachable. There is a permanent abyss between who we are and who we wish we could be.
     If that is our mind set, our chaotic and troubled way of life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It becomes natural to fail, butt heads, and screw up. It becomes natural to have drama, controversy, and confrontation. Bad luck is a daily routine.
     When this is our reality, chaos, confusion, deception and misery become our preferred way of life, simply because they are so familiar. Conversely, success, love and joy are like foreign enemies, more of a threat than a comfort. Instead of bringing us peace, they make us more uncomfortable and insecure.
     As alcoholics and addicts, we much prefer to set the bar as low as possible. That way nobody is surprised when we screw up, and any success whatsoever gets us a pat on the back. How messed up is that? Yeah, I know, but that is who we are. Believe it or not, we are actually pain-dependent.
God, free me from self-will today…

Nature Knows Best

     “Nature knows best

       because it doesn’t expect
       anything to come
       except what comes next.”
      – C. Peabody, line from poem Nature Knows Best, 1997
     Truly does the wisdom of nature contain within it the secret to life. Observe nature and you will see pure and absolute freedom. Observe nature and you will see problem-free life. And if we can somehow live by the rules of nature, that is the closest we might come to infinite peace, freedom and contentment. What is the secret?
     Self-help gurus call it non-resistance. Nature is perfectly happy to let whatever comes come, and to let whatever goes go. It does not stand up stubbornly and fight against the forces acting against it. If the wind blows against the trees, they do not refuse to budge, but rather move in the direction the wind blows them. Even if the wind comes strong and breaks a branch, the tree doesn’t run after the lost branch nor does it cry or whine or retaliate in anger.
     When the waves break upon the rocks along the shore, they do not turn around and run the other way. The water simply moves around the rocks, flowing in any direction it can. Some flows right, some flows left, but it’s no big deal. The water doesn’t complain about the rocks being in its path. Neither does the rock complain about getting all wet. They accept each other. They accept the forces acting upon them. They accept whatever happens, whether good or bad, warm or cold, wet or dry.
     And this is the secret. Sure we all have problems. And no, we are not doormats. If we’re being oppressed, we stand up and fight. But most of our problems are the kind we make up in our heads. Sure there are certain real problems such as food, clothing, shelter and money. But what about all the rest? 
     Couldn’t we eliminate a mountain of pain from our lives simply by changing our perception, or changing our response to, say, a non-response? Next time something outside of our control happens, why suffer more than we have to? Why not just accept it? If we gain, we gain. If we lose, we lose. But either way, we’re okay with the outcome because we accept everything and expect nothing. We don’t fight against what is, what was, or what may be. We don’t budge. We don’t resist. We rise to the nobility, the grace, the beauty and the wisdom of nature.
God, help me see that everything is a miracle… 

Addicts Are Cowards

     The way to grow is to do the very thing we are scared to do.

     Why is it that alcoholics and drug addicts can’t ever seem to kick the habit for good? Why do they stay sick for so long? Sure it’s because they are stubborn, obstinate, self-absorbed children. But it can be summed up in one word: fear. We are cowards, and therefore we are scared shitless to recover, as that would actually require some (gulp) work.

     Addicts refuse at all costs to step out of their comfort zones. Anything difficult or uncomfortable they avoid like the plague. The truth is that we refuse to become adults. We cannot accept that life might not be solely about us feeling good all of the time. We cannot deal with the fact that life might be tough sometimes, that we might have bad days, feel sad or self-conscious or depressed. We simply cannot fathom the idea of living life on life’s terms. If life does not suit us, we drink or use. We do whatever we have to do to maintain our comfort… like a child who wants a candy bar even if mommy can’t afford it. We will whine and shout and even begin to hurt ourselves until we get it.

     Getting better is really quite simple. It is just doing that which we fear. We do all of those things that addicts hate doing – admitting when we are wrong, being accountable and responsible for ourselves and our addiction, thinking about others once in a while, taking care of our families, and going to work even when we are tired and don’t want to, just like every other human being. Guess what? Other people actually get up and go to work even when they’re having bad days. They don’t need to get jammed out of their skull just to get in the shower in the morning or get plastered as soon as they punch out.

     We get better by walking through our fears. We face the embarrassing character defects that we have amassed. We admit them and discover the healthier way. We become accountable for our harmful behavior towards others. We come to understand that we are not the most amazing things in the world, that we alone cannot fix ourselves. We consider humility, and get underneath something for the first time ever. We accept help from others… and most importantly, from God.

     Growing simply requires we do that which all other humans have to do, and we don’t complain about it. By acting like adults, we will magically find that we don’t need to shoot heroin, sniff a pile of coke, smoke meth, or drink like a pig just to get in or out of bed. By walking through fear we melt away cowardice… and we become free men and women.

God, please rid me of the poison of cowardice…