Don’t Care How You Feel & Don’t Care What You Believe

Spirituality isn’t about trying to achieve constant rapture. It’s about facing reality and being human. 

     Charlie, we really don’t care how you feel. Getting better has nothing to do with feelings. It’s all action…

     That is by far the most helpful thing anybody has ever said to me. Often when I start working with someone, they go on endless rants about how they feel – “Yeah but this, yeah but that…” It’s always that somehow their addiction makes sense because of how they feel. And the best is that I don’t understand. I don’t understand how they feel so screwed over by someone, so unheard, so misunderstood, so alone, so weak, so useless, so depressed, so not living up to their potential, so blah, blah, blah. Um, yeah, I get it. I whined too about how nobody understands. I justified using drugs and alcohol like an absolute pig because of the way I felt. “Well, you would be drinking and sniffing heroin too if you went through what I went through!”
     Um, no, sorry. Most people don’t do that. And yes, they even suffer, too.

     This is why therapy is such a joke. Addicts who I sponsor say, “Yeah bro, the Steps are great but I also want to dig into my stuff, my feelings. You need to know how I feel, man!” No, I don’t. And fine, call me a sociopath but I really don’t care. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has it completely backwards. Addicts and alcoholics are so fucked in the head, we can’t think our way into right action. We just need to shut up and start acting our way into right thinking…

     I also don’t care what you believe. It really doesn’t matter compared to what you do. You can believe in the most noble, lofty principles in the world and still be a useless sack. You can believe in every good thing in the world and never truly evolve or grow spiritually. You can have your doctrine of choice memorized front to back and never really change at all. You can be one of those religious show-offs who throws passages around like no other and still be a deranged monster. What matters is what we do, not what we believe.

     Bottom line: Getting better has nothing to do with our feelings. In fact, our feelings quite often prevent us from getting better. The most important thing any addict wanting to get better can do is to drop his preoccupation with SELF. Stop focusing on how you feel because the truth is it doesn’t matter and nobody cares anyway. We need to walk through our feelings without broadcasting them on the nightly news. It is action, not feelings or beliefs, that will ultimately give us freedom.

God, please give me the willingness and the power to grow along spiritual lines…

Want To Stop But Can’t

     As I stood, emaciated and dope-sick, staring into the broken bathroom mirror of the shithole real estate office I worked for, I finally wanted to change but had reached the point of no return. When you want to stop but can’t, that’s when you know you’re screwed. No hope, no will, no energy, no power… and worst of all, no solution. I’d already tried every imaginable remedy to get better and fix myself but failed miserably every time. I tried therapy, pills, relationships, traveling, jobs, herbs, homeopathy, self-help books, AA & NA meetings, and on and on.

     I drank and used for fifteen years until I was sick, spiritless, incoherent, numb and careless. My depression was so great that it wouldn’t let me go. It was like I had fallen in wet cement and woke up one day to find myself immovable. Officially unsalvagable.
     It was only because I was financially broke that I finally dragged myself to detox. Once physically sober, I decided to go up North, but that was mainly because my wife, mother, and some bitter social worker lady wouldn’t stop bitching at me. So to shut everyone up, I went. Perhaps I knew deep inside that if I walked out of detox, I was a dead man. Or maybe it was a simple case of divine intervention.
     It wasn’t long before my entire attitude changed. After meeting a recovered addict for the first time, I not only wanted to change, but for the first time in my life, I became willing to do anything it took to accomplish that. No thought, feeling, relationship, circumstance or life event was going to stop me, regardless of how dark or horrifying.
     So my advice to addicts is: At some point it will really help your cause if you WANT to change. I believe with all my heart that if we truly want to change and are willing to go to any lengths, the universe will conspire to bring us opportunities to make that happen. God is there for us… we just need to get over ourselves and then humbly and wholeheartedly ask Him for help.
     I was reading Proof of Heaven the other night and it amazed me that the same thought came into my head as I faced death. In 1996, after being hit by a drunk driver plowing the wrong way down the highway, I regained consciousness some two days later in the ICU unit at Mass General. I couldn’t move or see. I knew something was terribly wrong. After realizing my predicament, the first thought that went through my head was, God help me. I suppose the Big Book is right when it says that God or God-consciousness is simply fundamental to our make-up as human beings.

God, please teach me to let go of Self…

AA Has Lost Its Way

     I don’t go to meetings anymore.

     One of the reasons is the guy who came up to me in the gym today and told me that I definitely need to go to more meetings, that I’m not gonna make it, and that I must not be an addict if I don’t need meetings to be okay. If he had done some work on himself, like say, taken Steps, he might have refrained from taking my inventory. To state the obvious, going to meetings doesn’t get people better. Right action does. Spiritual action does. And sorry, but I got better to take care of the people I love and to live the life I was supposed to live, not to go to meetings all day long.

     Most people in and out of AA think that the program of AA is going to meetings, though nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when people ask me if I’m in AA, they ask me if I go to meetings and how many I go to, to which I reply, “None.” Then they freak out and tell me I’m going to relapse soon. I have been a recovered alcoholic and drug addict for almost 8 years and I am completely okay. They say, “Well then, what do you do?” to which I reply, “I take Steps.” I should also mention (in an effort to dispel all of the dual-diagnosis nonsense, or perhaps hoax is a better word) that I’m totally unmedicated… and I’ve never been more balanced and successful in my entire life. Right action and GOD made me better and fixed my broken mind, not some insane cocktail of brain-damaging and soul-crushing psychotropics.

     Searching other blogs one day, I came across stories of people who have left AA… and I must say that I don’t blame them. They described and summarized meetings much the way I do, but worse. Several of these stories were from women who attended ‘Young Persons’ meetings and saw nothing but disgusting, 50+ year-old losers who were in there to stalk and stare at young, vulnerable women. I have seen this myself in ‘YP’ AA meetings in the Boston area. I have also seen dogma, status, anger, insanity, sickness, rampant untreated alcoholism, and Holier Than Thou nonsense. Yes, AA has most certainly lost its way.

     But we must distinguish between this sick, watered-down AA and the original Twelve Step program, which was nothing more than a spiritual set of actions. The original Twelve Steps teach us to become better people. They teach us to become more honest, loving, selfless and courageous. AA was never intended to devolve into a slew of sick meetings, where the trash and filth of the earth prey on young people, or where some speaker preaches the Steps but is completely nuts.

     I’m sure Bill Wilson and Bob Smith are rolling in their graves. When did it become okay for dry drunks to run groups, repeatedly give advice that contradicts fundamental principles of AA, abuse false power, hand out sobriety chips and incessantly tell their self-aggrandizing war stories, or worse yet, their sob stories? Countless numbers spit out AA slogans and yet, you wouldn’t follow some of these folks around if there was a gun to your head, let alone cop a ride home with them all alone. 

     So does AA need to reassess? Absolutely. AA is getting a bad rap for being a cultish group of nutjobs and moral degenerates who don’t do any real work on themselves and 13 Step young girls. I will, for now, do what I can by teaching others what AA actually is/was (see links on blog), what the Twelve Steps actually are, and how this once mystical and miraculous spiritual program has gone astray.

God, please guide AA back to its original, spiritual, moral, action-oriented self…

Progress, Not Perfection

     Um, just for the record, I make tons of mistakes and usually on a daily basis. I still lose it on idiot Massachusetts drivers who generally have such low self-esteem that when they do something wrong they regress into children, yelling and swearing at you because they nearly slammed into you while texting, thereby killing your wife and infant child sitting on the passenger side – yup, somehow that was my fault. Sometimes I lose patience with my wife for no other reason than I’m not basking in my comfort zone, so I figure I’ll just take it out on her – like the other day when she was graciously helping me with some publicity stuff and I said in return, “Enough comments for now, thanks…” I still judge and criticize and generalize. I still make false assumptions and project my own flaws onto others. I still sometimes resent the very things that I do myself. I’m still sometimes a mouthy jerk who is petty, self-seeking, and almost pathologically selfish.

     However, other times, and fortunately more often than not, I am the opposite of those things and I live by moral and spiritual principles. The difference between me now and me then is that now I have a conscience which creeps through every cell in my body. I have strong and visceral feelings in my gut and in my heart when something is wrong, and I do not ignore my conscience. That is to say that I NEVER knowingly commit wrong. This is crucial for any addict who plans on staying sober for more than 24 hours. This is why he or she must stay close, very close to God. So when I screw up (which we all do because we are inherently flawed), I will admit my wrong and make it right. And by the way, if I did screw up and still haven’t figured it out (which is certainly possible because I am a moron) then please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to become accountable for my wrong and make it right with you, if possible.

God, please expand my conscience and give my the power, peace and willingness to listen… 

The Privileged Addict: How Not To Help Addicts

     I came across a blog today for parents of addicts, the Addiction Journal Blog and the book, The Healing Game, and from what I’ve read, it struck me as a great resource. So in honor of the many other efforts out there, as well as the parents group I was privileged (no pun intended) enough to speak at the other night, here is my reply to their discussion about one of my posts, followed by the post itself, entitled, How Not To Help Addicts.

  Hi Bill and Everyone, Charlie here, author of The Privileged Addict book and blog… I just got home and saw Bill’s generous post and ensuing discussion, and as requested, will try to contribute something worthwhile. Let me preface what I am about to say by honoring and respecting that we are all different, and different things work for different people. I am certainly not here to judge. 
  For me, though, a recovered drug addict, those who loved me the most helped me the least. All the love, support and ‘frothy emotional appeal’ I was showered with by my wonderful and loving wife and family simply allowed me to continue killing myself. Conversely, those who told me what I never wanted to hear saved my life. But more importantly, the truth is that there is nothing anybody can say or do that will stop us. And there is no human, man-made remedy that will truly [cure what ails us] help us in the slightest. 
  I was also diagnosed with depression, major depression, and bipolar disorder, which I believe, along with ADD, to be much of a hoax, or rather, a socially-created illness. I’m not saying that some of us do not have serious chemical imbalances, I am simply saying that drug addicts are frequently misdiagnosed, as we display many of the same symptoms. That being said, I believe that right, moral, spiritual action will cure us of even the most acute bio-chemical imbalances, given, of course, that we possess the ability to be honest with ourselves and are willing to go to any lengths to change. 
  Another conviction I have is that the powers that be really don’t want addicts becoming sane and recovering fully. Everything out there for us is designed to keep us chained to our addiction and our pathetic construction of self. Methadone, subuxone, any and all psychotropics, therapy, group therapy, CBT therapy, triggers/relapse prevention and all other conventional treatment methods are pretty much useless (for drug addicts). I have been recovered for 8 years via a free spiritual program and I cannot for the life of me understand why all state and federally funded programs, as well as any programs paid for by insurance companies, are not modeled after the spiritual retreat I went to up North. My mission is to do what I can to facilitate that change.
  But for now, back to parenting etc. Sure if you kick us out and cut us off, it will be heartbreaking and you might lose us… but I suppose the question then becomes, do we prefer a slow, painful death or do we roll the dice and pray? I am a parent now myself, and I will concede that I have no idea what I’d do until the (God forbid) situation presents itself. But I can tell you that the one thing I won’t do is what my parents did, which was to shower me with love and praise and support as I stood there obviously lying through my teeth in order to selfishly extract their time, love, energy, and money (or rather, work, as money is a proxy for your blood and sweat.) 

The Privileged Addict: How Not To Help Addicts:      Tell an addict what he wants to hear and you might as well sign his death warrant. In other words, the people who told me what I wanted…