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…

Best of Times

     “Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.20

     It was usually during the best of times that I wanted to get high the most. Why? Um, why not? If you can amplify the good times by getting jammed, then hey, load up. The whole myth that bad shit happening is what makes us HAVE to go out and drink or get high is all bullshit, trust me. Nothing bad has to happen to make addicts use. We want to use all the time, and especially when everything is going great.

     Why do we like to drink and use drugs like pigs during even the best of times? Simple, because we are the most selfish creatures on the planet. We will do anything to make ourselves more comfortable than we already are. The addict’s life is about feeling good ALWAYS. We believe it is our divine right to remain in our comfort zone every second until the moment we die… and pathetically, even if that comes at the expense of others. Even if it comes at the expense of others’ time, energy, love, health or money, let alone our own. But we don’t really care because compared to making ourselves cozy and comfortable, nobody else matters. That’s how selfish and ridiculous we are.

     Addicts cannot fathom that life could possibility be about something other than feeling good, feeling saturated by relief and bliss 24/7. We don’t understand that life might be about work, thinking, creating, contributing, self sacrifice, morals, or dare I say… other people? Is is too much to ask us to spend one iota of time and energy thinking about someone other than ourselves? Ah, yes, that’s way too much to ask! And that is precisely why addicts have no chance of getting better and no chance in hell of staying sober, if we do not give of ourselves to others. To recover, we must become other-centered. Hey, don’t yell at me, that’s what it says in the Big Book – a prophetical work, in my opinion.

God, please rid me of selfishness so I may give of myself more… 

Why Addicts Can’t Stay Sober

1) The mental obsession. A mere sober addict is still completely insane and subject to relapse. Sober-only addicts will experience thoughts to drink or use that do not respond to ration or reason. We can, however, remove this obsession through spiritual action and achieve lifelong sobriety, free from the danger of relapse. But if we don’t change, if we don’t restore ourselves to sanity and re-acquire the power of choice, we have no chance in hell.

     Usually the removal of such a condition requires divine intervention. To be more accurate, the result of our sincere work and desire to change may induce the power of God to remove our obsession, as man-made remedies simply aren’t capable of such a task. There is no pill nor any expert that can remove this obsession. There is no pill that can make an insane man sane. And most importantly, the addict himself is not capable of removing his obsession. The combination of his insanity and his total loss of willpower leave him incapacitated. If you don’t believe me, feel free to try going from a chronic and hopeless drug addict to completely and utterly free inside for the rest of your life on your own volition. And by free I mean zero urge or desire to self-destruct + inner peace and contentment.

2) We still want to feel good in sobriety. Therefore, everything the addict does after getting sober is simply to feel good or to achieve maximum comfort. If we fail to rid ourselves of this attitude, this comfort addiction and this selfish frame of mind, then we have no chance.

3) Happiness, success and normalcy are too unfamiliar. Addicts have complacently adjusted to a status quo of chaos, failure and sabotage. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. However, if an addict is going to make it, he or she must embrace and get used to things working out. Things aren’t suddenly working out because of magic, they’re working out because we’re doing the right thing.

4) Refusing to act morally and to make things right. If we fail to sincerely make our amends to spouses, family, friends, colleagues, institutions and creditors, then we have no chance. We will soon fall spiritually ill and relapse. Furthermore, if we don’t change the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis, we will rapidly move backwards and become ill. We must change the way we think, speak and act. There is no staying sober without living by spiritual principles and treating others with kindness, love, tolerance and respect. We must also never ignore requests for our service. If the people in our lives need our help, we must always respond. Failure to do so, failure to become other-centered will crush our conscience once again and we will surely relapse.

5) Failure to continue growing spiritually. If we truly want to change and grow and recover, then we must continue to evolve spiritually. That means we must continue writing inventory and reading it. It means we must continue praying. It means we must continue meditating. It means we must help other addicts when the opportunity presents itself. To remain sane and free from addiction, we must continue to work on not just our outer lives, but our inner lives as well. Stillness, prayer and meditation are crucial for the mind and heart of an addict. Failure to maintain our inner health will also result in eventual relapse.

See also: Addiction is a Spiritual ProblemComfort AddictsNever Give UpAddicts Are Cowards, Courage or Cowardice? & Are You Free?

God, teach me that You love me…

To Parents, Spouses & Codependents

     If you are living with an addict, you are living with a crazy person. If you read Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More (which every spouse & parent of an addict should read), you will realize that by living with a crazy person, you can become some degree of crazy yourself.

     Therefore, parents and spouses of addicts may also be quite ill. If they have been preoccupied with our addiction all of these years, chances are they have been avoiding anything and everything inside themselves. If and when the addict recovers, what happens when this once ongoing distraction is removed? What happens is that all sorts of pain, anger, sadness, resentment and a mountain of other unresolved stuff comes bubbling to the surface.

     In some cases, parents, spouses and codependents might use someone else’s addiction to avoid doing work on themselves. And sadly, when the addict does recover, their resentment sometimes grows much stronger. Their own flaws suddenly become more apparent, but they are bitter. “Why should I have to change and work on myself also when you are the piece of shit who was drinking, using, lying, stealing and breaking my heart all these years?!” 

     So what can be done? Let me tell you about my wife. When I came home from treatment, it was apparent that there was a profound change in me. She knew I was better and that the worrying sick and the preoccupation was over. Uh oh. She became all but miserable, knowing that if she didn’t also grow and change, we wouldn’t make it together. She wanted and deserved the peace and calm that I had found.

     So what did she do? She found a girl (a recovered addict, in fact) and went through the exact same Twelve Step spiritual process that I did. And yes, anybody can take Steps. The only word that you really have to change is ‘alcohol’ in the 1st Step. Substitute it with any number of things. Parents and spouses and codependents can be powerless over the addict, over his or her addiction, over their own feelings of anger, resentment or depression, over themselves, or over their lives. Anybody’s life can become unmanageable, meaningless or spiritually sick… and therefore we can all take Steps. Even if you just write a 4th Step inventory, or just begin to pray and meditate. These spiritual principles and tools can benefit anyone, not just demented addicts. Trust me, you will see changes inside yourself and in your outer life as well if you harness these simple tools.

God, please help parents, spouses and codependents also find their way to the Steps and to You… 

Triggers & Relapse Prevention

     I know I’ve said this before, but it’s important…

     If an addict is honest with himself, he will admit that triggers don’t exist. Breathing, waking up, the fact that we’re alive – these are the only triggers. Everything is a trigger, or rather, nothing is. We don’t need a reason to use. Triggers are flimsy excuses that allow us to avoid taking responsibility for relapsing. The truth is that so long as we suffer from the mental obsession, anything could be a trigger. The overwhelming thought to use will come for any reason or for no reason at all. So avoiding triggers is a useless endeavor. You cannot escape the mental obsession. The only way to free ourselves from triggers is to undergo a psychic change that fundamentally restores our minds, hearts and spirits.

     That’s why relapse prevention is a joke. It assumes that triggers actually exist and as such, treatment amounts to avoiding people, places and things that make us want to use. Sorry, but that’s not a solution, which is a shame given this is the only thing MSM (Mainstream Treatment Methods) has to offer – to remain an insane drug addict and pray that you don’t bump into one of your triggers. That would make it pretty tough just to get to work…

     Hmmm, can’t go that way because I pass by the liquor store… but I can’t go the other way because I pass by the park I used to get high at and that’s a trigger of mine also… Gee, I guess I’ll have to just lock myself up and throw away the key…

     Is that a solution? Nope. How about becoming free to go anywhere on earth that we so desire? Is that possible for even the most beat up, hopeless drug addicts? Yup, sure is. As soon as you get out of detox, find a recovered individual to take you through a Step process (as its laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous). Be completely honest, thorough and fearless (99% = ZERO). Go to any lengths. Don’t give up. If you really want to change, if you really want to grow spiritually, if you really want to be free, then God will free you.

God, please give me the power and willingness to go to any length to get better…