Don’t Let Your Feelings Stop You

     So this is one of my secrets to getting better. My entire life changed the day I began to apply this simple (and free) prescription. Of course, after first hearing this from a wise friend at the age of 19, I first wasted another 10 years cowering and more or less paralyzed by self-consciousness and insecurity. When the going got tough, Charlie ran the other way. Don’t do that.

     I spent the first 28 years of my life crippled by fear, and I’ve learned that the only way to conquer it is to literally walk right into it… and then right through it. Do the very things we fear. If we fear public speaking, speak publicly. If we fear intimacy, be intimate. If we fear what we have done to someone in the past, find that person and make a direct amends to him or her.
     Contrary to popular belief, recovering from addiction is all about growing up. It’s not about avoiding triggers and talking in individual or group therapy about your family or your feelings. It’s not about taking more drugs or injecting yourself with some science project that makes you sick when you drink or use. Sorry, but nope. It’s not the drugs and alcohol we need to address, it’s ourselves. It’s addressing the condition of being, for lack of a better term, a man-child. It’s about addressing the ridiculous belief addicts have that life is about us feeling good 24/7, and that it is our right to do anything it takes to maintain our comfort even if that comes at the expense of others.  
     And if you want to grow up in lightening speed, go make some amends. Coming out of a tough amends to someone, I was a different person than going in. To walk right into shame, to feel that sort of humility, to sweat through the ass of my pants from nervousness, to speak honestly about how I’ve wronged you… this will change anybody, unless of course, you are a sociopath and lack the capacity to be honest. In that case, there isn’t much hope. But anyone who can be honest with themselves can change, heal, grow and recover.
     My feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity used to be so strong, they paralyzed me. I didn’t have the guts to face the world, to do what I needed to do. But the moment I begin to push myself and do what I need to do regardless of how shitty I feel, that’s when I start getting better. Do what you fear and that which you fear loses power. It becomes easier and easier. Now I run, not walk towards any opportunity to speak publicly if it might help or inspire people. I’ve actually come to enjoy it. The bigger the crowd, the better.
     Have you ever had a nasty cold or something and then had to teach, speak, lead, or be of some service to others? What happens when you start giving of yourself? I had the flu one time when I had to guest speak at a sober house late in the evening. The second I opened my mouth, the flu was gone… and gone it stayed until I was driving home. Giving of ourselves when we don’t feel like it is pure magic. And it turns a man-child into a man.
God, please give me the courage and the power to walk right into my fear…

Methadone & Powerlessness

     Let me help out a bit.

     Just read another blogger who is a staunch supporter of Methadone, as well as Smart Recovery (CBT and no God), which is perhaps useful if you’re not an actual alcoholic or drug addict, but if you are, then call me from detox when you relapse.
     As well, it’s pretty strange to purposely keep the presence of a Higher Power out of the program given that an attitude of humility is so vital for alcoholics and addicts to achieve long-term sobriety and inner peace. Generally speaking, the arrogance (not to mention the irony) of ‘I can do anything, I’m not powerless when it comes to chronic relapse and drug addiction is, needless to say, quite dangerous. Um, yeah, if you could do anything on your own power than you probably wouldn’t be a full blown drug addict now, would you?
     Of course, the notion of powerlessness in recovery is widely misunderstood. Physically, we will always be powerless. Mentally, however, powerlessness is a specific and temporary state that occurs when our willpower has weakened to the point where it is no longer sufficient to keep us sober. Powerlessness is not a way to beat ourselves up and consider ourselves to be fundamentally damaged. It simply refers to our ability to stay sober.
     We humans can become temporarily powerless over any number of things. This is just a way to understand our addiction and have the proper attitude towards drugs and alcohol. Thinking I had power over drugs and alcohol was completely delusional, and it is precisely what kept me ill, relapsing, and absent from my family for 15 years. I liken it to a form of arrogance. Sure I could do tons of other things just fine, but when it came to drugs and alcohol, sorry, but no power. If you think you have power after you’ve just been admitted to detox for heroin addiction, then I can’t help you. Again, you wouldn’t be sitting there in detox if you had power now, would you?
     But back to Methadone. The blogger refers to addicts on Methadone as being in “Methadone recovery”. Recovery? Ah, no. But fine, so you recovered (not really) from the heroin addiction but, um, now you have to recover from the Methadone addiction. More importantly, you are still powerless, and thus no better at all. Truth be told, all you are doing is coiling a spring that is sooner or later going to explode.
     Methadone is a state-sponsored, synthetic opiate drug. Sorry, but there’s no getting around that fact. How does that have anything to do with freedom, life and recovery? Perhaps I’m not on the street buying heroin but I’m still chained to addiction, and by the way, how’s my spiritual condition? How’s my mental and psychological condition? And how is my body doing? Not too well, I imagine.
     Here’s a little excerpt from my story about my very own “Methadone recovery”, since negative personal stories regarding Methadone apparently don’t count.

     “In an effort to stop sniffing dope, I bought Methadone and was addicted immediately. Methadone, commonly and falsely thought of as an opiate blocker, is actually chemically considered to be a synthetic opioid, thus acting on the same receptors as morphine-based opiates like heroin or OxyContin. Methadone “maintenance” as a form of treatment is used in many state and federally funded programs to treat heroin addicts. It is highly addictive, causing serious and extended side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, tremors, severe joint pain, tachycardia, and psychological agony/cognitive effects including suicidal ideation, severe depression, paranoia, delusion and panic disorder, just to name a few. I loved it. I ate one hundred and sixty to two hundred milligrams (a lot) everyday and turned back into a rail. No one likes to be around that kind of weight loss.
     The wedding was a month away, but my golden rule in life was not to let anyone see me weak, insecure, or vulnerable. Ever. So I detoxed myself off the Methadone at home in bed. Some sound advice to any addicts out there: Don’t ever do Methadone. Worst thing I’ve ever felt.
     Having invested so much already, Future Wife had little choice but to get behind me. We bought ten, forty-milligram Methadone wafers and a bunch of Xanax from a friend who came to the rescue. We broke up the Methadone chips to wean me down by five milligrams a day. Xanax was for easing the withdrawals and getting some limited sleep.
     As the Methadone begins to run out, all there is for relief is the Xanax… then all of those are gone. First, all of my energy is sucked out of me. I’m beyond lethargic. My muscles feel like they weigh a thousand pounds. Moving anywhere becomes a struggle. Indescribable stomach pain begins, accompanied by sweats and chills. It’s the middle of the summer, temperature in the mid-nineties, and I’m freezing. I go around in pants and four shirts on, including a flannel jacket. My clothes hang off me, and if it isn’t clear that I’m a pathetic drug addict, I can easily be mistaken for a male anorexic.
     The pain gets worse and worse and is loyally followed by psychological torture. I feel like I’m going crazy. I become so frustrated, I pull my hair out, punch myself in the head, and bang my head against the wall. I hate myself.
     No appetite either. I mean zero fucking appetite. The thought of food makes me sicker and more depressed, forget about the constant reminder that I’ve been reduced to a Methadone-sick waif, writhing in bed. I try drinking a protein shake one morning. As soon as I gulp the shake, I throw it back up into the glass. I try to swallow it again and throw it up again. I manage to keep some down each time, so I repeat this swallowing and puking process over and over until the chocolate-flavored protein shake is gone. Protein shakes have to do it for a few days because I just can’t swallow food…” -The Privileged Addict, pp. 133-35.

Are You Recovering or Recovered?

     If you are recovered, you don’t want to use anymore.
     If you are recovering, you still want to use.
     If you are recovered, you no longer suffer from thoughts to use.
     If you are recovering, you still suffer from thoughts to use.
     So if you still want to drink or use, have thoughts about drinking or using, or still suffer quite a bit, then (no offense) there is something wrong with your program.

     Our program should be good enough to not only eliminate all desire and thoughts to drink or use, but to provide at least moderate peace, contentment and happiness. If it does not accomplish these things, then it is no program at all. We are not okay if we still want to drink or use, or if we still think about drinking or using.

     The only option is to become recovered. We owe it to ourselves, and more importantly, to our parents, spouses, families, friends… and the rest of the world. So if our program isn’t working, we may have to turn to something much greater.

God, please restore me to sanity…

Don’t Isolate

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch 

     This is perhaps the single most important thing for addicts to understand if we truly want to recover and conquer ALL of our demons, not simply drug and alcohol addiction.

     It was by doing the very things I didn’t want to do that fixed me and made me stronger. Doing the very things that scared me and made me uncomfortable, insecure and self-conscious is what repaired my mind and soul, enabling me to go from recovering to recovered. Making a tough amends, running a group or public speaking are good examples.

     At times we all feel like isolating, shutting off, going inward and avoiding people, places and things that push us out of our comfort zone. But this is exactly why the most important part of the Step process is to go work with other people. When we get up and force ourselves to sit with another addict who is suffering, it thrusts us out of isolation and lifts us up inside. It shifts our direction from the small and narrow world of self-focus to the colorful and limitless world of service. Giving, sharing and being with others is perhaps the greatest contributor to personal strength, and adds the most to our reservoir of relief and freedom.

     Do yourself a favor and step outside of your comfort zone, something many programs, doctors and counselors in the addiction world don’t recommend for some reason. But the truth is that it’s often the things that scare us the most which are also the most healing for us and for those in our lives. So don’t isolate, but rather, do the opposite.

God, please give me the power and willingness to walk through fear, pain and discomfort…

Think Through A Drink? Huh???

     “The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.43

     These few lines are prophetic. And may I point out that they contradict one of the most popular slogans today, “think through the drink” or “think it through”. Sure thinking it through would be great if we could do that, but we cannot. That’s what alcoholism is. That’s what addiction is.

     “Think through the drink” contradicts the principle of powerlessness, which is a fundamental principle of Alcoholics Anonymous. That the alcoholic or addicted mind is utterly powerless leaves us with no mental defense. People with no mental defense cannot think through a drink or drug. Furthermore, this slogan is an example of CBT, which is useless for true alcoholics and addicts because it is backwards. Our minds are beyond warped. We cannot think our way into right action, we can only act our way into right thinking, at least in early sobriety. This slogan also assumes the alcoholic mind has ration and reason when thoughts about drinking arise. As well, it assumes that we have choice. Finally, it assumes the alcoholic or addict is not insane, which he or she is. All of these assumptions are quite wrong. Thinking you can think through the drink may get you killed by yourself.

     We can only begin to think sanely regarding drugs and alcohol once the mental obsession has been lifted, once the missing chip is re-inserted, once we are made sane again. Until then, alcoholics are subject to relapse at any point in time and for no reason at all. This is what doctors, therapists, treatment centers, modern bumper sticker AA, educators, social workers, addiction counselors, academics and intellectuals don’t understand. The power of choice does not exist in true alcoholics and addicts. And once lost, it does not simply re-emerge from either our own efforts or those of others. Power once lost can only be regained through a vital spiritual experience. We must take enough action to access the power of God, and once accessed, our insanity is often immediately removed. From that point on the addict or alcoholic no longer suffers from thoughts to drink or use. He is safe. He is free. Until then, however, he is subject to relapse.

     This is why achieving physical sobriety alone is quite a useless endeavor. ALL sober addicts and alcoholics are simply ticking time bombs, and one day the thought to drink will just float into their heads and once that occurs, they have no chance. They cannot think through the drink. So, if you are in this rather tortured state, the state of recovery, which most addicts remain in for life, then relapse rates will forever be horrible. And these are the folks that mainstream treatment base their understanding of addiction on. They have no consideration for those of us who were as hopeless as hopeless gets and have recovered instantly and for life.

     There is all sorts of nonsense out there about how it takes our brains a year to bio-chemically repair etc. etc. etc. Then how do they explain that all thoughts to use or self-destruct were instantly gone the moment I recited the 7th Step prayer? Not only that, but how do they explain that a lifetime of guiding principles, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors were also instantly rearranged and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to grow spiritually and get other addicts to have this relief that I experienced? Let me answer that. They have no explanation, because there is no earthly explanation to what happened to me and to many I know. And this is why stigma exists. Because the mainstream understanding of addiction is that addicts are always “in recovery” and therefore perma-damaged. This is as sad as it is entirely false. Yes many are simply in recovery, suffering, struggling and teetering on the edge, but none of them need to be.

     Every addict and alcoholic in the world can become totally recovered. If we want to change, and if we want to grow spiritually with all of our heart, the universe will conspire to make that happen. And if we take the leap, and pass the test of faith, God will reach out with His mind-blowing, unlimited, incomprehensible, unfathomable Power and touch us. And a mere dusting of this sort of Power is enough to restore the heart, mind and soul for life. Trust me, it happens. Miracles happen. I’ve seen many. I am one myself.

God, please teach us…