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…

Reward = Not Being An Addict

     The reward in getting better is not being an addict.

     Trust me, acting counter to our old addict self really works. Try it. Try acting normal. Try working hard. Try being busy and productive. Try being a good person and giving to others. Try being honest and strong. Try having courage. Just try living right and you will see that it’s like medicine.

     This is why a spiritual solution works. When we act right, it cures what ails us, as it feeds and nourishes our spirit and fills the emptiness within. What drugs and alcohol falsely provided us, acting right actually does provide.

     Right action also replaces our addiction with something powerful. Action is powerful stuff. There is energy in action. And ripple effects. Doing right begets more doing right, and things being to grow up all around us. I personally had to stop thinking and theorizing so much and just begin doing things – healthy, productive things. Putting one foot in front of the other year after year has given me a life and a purpose and a family. I have built a life for myself not by talking in therapy or studying academics or reading self-help books or taking medications, but simply by taking action.

     Action is the only solution there is. And we get the power to act from God. Pray for it if you don’t have it. So I don’t take credit and I don’t thank myself for anything I’ve done. I thank the source of ALL power, which is God. Trust me, if we get better and build lives for ourselves, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back. We didn’t do it.

God, please give me the willingness and power to act right…

Ever Consider Not Running To Meds?

    Dear suboxone and methadone lovers, not to mention the countless mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and other Godless psychotropics they try to shove down our throats for the pharmaceutical elite:

    I wish I had tried meditating regularly before going to McLean hospital to become a psychiatrist’s slave.

    With our culture in a seemingly terminal decline, so many of us addicts and alcoholics and our poor families have become conditioned and trained to do the easiest but most dangerous thing for either our own or our loved ones’ mental problems, especially when addicts should be doing the absolute least easy thing. The best remedies for us are undoubtedly those that require the greatest amount of work, discipline, discomfort, diligence, courage and personal insight.

     Not only did practicing zen meditation everyday for a year conquer my depression and anxiety, but it completely altered my bio-chemistry, contrary to popular belief. Doctors told me I would forever need medication to maintain balance and live a functional life. They have no clue how much harm they are doing, pumping meds that may cause irreversible brain damage and all but annihilate our personalities, creativity, spiritual capacity and conscious contact with God. These drugs simply put up a brick wall between us and God, as there is little to no access to His power when we’re doped out on such powerful and dangerous poisons. Do we want to be free, or do we want to be a lab rat or a guinea pig that some dissociated shrink experiments on to get off and get paid?

     And remember, this is what the powers that be want, for us to be heavily medicated zombies who don’t think for ourselves, who don’t question anything, who conform and do what we’re told like good little slaves. So though we addicts have been a community of sheep, let us instead do what’s in our hearts and make informed decisions.

     Happy Easter. Bless our Lord.

God, please help us…

Sobriety vs Changing

     The reason alcoholics and addicts don’t get better is very simple:

     They don’t want to change.
     Sure, some may think they want to change or cry out that they’ve had enough and must change, but real change is quite different and quite dramatic. Real change refers to not simply wanting to be sober, but wanting to change the people we are, wanting to change the course of our entire lives. And this is why so many never get better. They either don’t really want to change, or they want to change, but not completely.
     To recover, we have to be willing to drop everything, to rearrange everything, and to completely uproot ourselves if that’s what it takes. We must be willing to do an entirely different type of job, to sever relationships or to cultivate relationships, to sacrifice our time, to do what we may not want to do, to never ignore our conscious and to never ignore another addict who is reaching out for help.

     To recover, we essentially have to do any fucking thing it takes, which is why the Big Book so eloquently states just that.

     “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.” 
– Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 58

God, help me to continue to want to change and grow spiritually, not simply be sober…

Make It a Challenge

     We’ve spent so much time focusing on our comfort and doing what’s easy and soft, why not try the opposite? Instead of focusing on how many drugs you can take, focus on how much pain and reality and real life you can take.

     Think of it as the ultimate challenge, and we all know how much we hate losing things. As pathetic as we may be, we are still stubborn and obstinate and want to win. So make it a challenge, and know that with each problem we face, our character grows, we get stronger, and we build a reservoir of peace, freedom and relief. Make it your new form on intoxication, knowing that those who do this are strong and courageous. And since we are so self-seeking, know that these types of people are admired by others, and are considered quite a bit more attractive than emaciated junkies or falling down drunks.

     I remember having this attitude of like ‘bring it on’, back when I first grabbed onto this thing because I knew that I was only freeing myself more and more by walking through stuff, whether it be fear, pain, exhaustion, tough days, jobs, work, people, the world, you name it. Walk right into it. Face the shit out of it. That’s what living spiritually really is. It has nothing to do with ease and comfort and rapture. And it certainty has nothing to do with getting high.

     Be the opposite of what you were. And yes, there is actually a high to it because it’s such a fucking novelty for us to do what’s right, to do what’s tough and uncomfortable but necessary to our well-being or the well-being of others. Do it even out of spite if you have to, or to prove to yourself that you’re not going to lose this competition, that you’re not going to let anything get the best of you.

     Challenge yourself to see how much soberness and reality and pain and discomfort you can take and then one day you’ll wake up and you’ll be free. You will know peace and serenity. Not only will your drug problem vanish but you won’t even remember who you once were. You won’t just be sober and recovering, all vulnerable and teetering on the edge. You will be an unstoppable force, off and running, living life and doing great things. You won’t even turn your head around to see where you came from because you’ve got too much to do. Nothing will stop you because fear is your new best friend. You welcome it as it increasingly loses power, along with all of your other self-created demons.

     So instead of walking, start running into life’s challenges and you will never know you were ever a junkbox to begin with.

God, give us power…

Why I Do This

     It’s not because I want to eviscerate modern AA or tell people that what they’re doing is wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. If what you’re doing works then that’s awesome and wonderful and God bless you. I just know how much I still suffered after only achieving physical sobriety and I want others to know there is a solution. You don’t have to feel that way. You don’t have to struggle.

     It’s not because I want to be ‘public’ or because I want to violate the First Tradition, as some of the bashers like to assert, foaming at the mouth and so forth. And regarding the First Tradition, there is nothing private about AA or its history, or its founders, or the twelve step process, and even so, it doesn’t matter because I’m not affiliated with AA in any way, shape or form. I simply took Steps to recover and choose to bring them to others in any way that I can, albeit with some additional commentary on the side. But don’t forget that the purpose of the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous is to take a twelfth step. All other steps are merely equipping us to be able to carry this message to others.

     It’s not because I want to “harvest souls for my religious cult” (that was a good one). I couldn’t care less what you believe. I care about what people do. Beliefs don’t get us better. Action does. And by the way, beliefs alone don’t save people. You can’t simply believe in God and then walk the earth hurting people and expect to be saved. It doesn’t work that way.

     I do this for one simple reason. The incredible people who took me through the Step process asked of me one thing and one thing only, and that was to carry this message to other alcoholics and addicts and their families who may be suffering. So I’m simply fulfilling a promise I made nine years ago. I want as many addicts and families as possible to take Steps, and if not actually take them, then at least to learn about them and maybe have a seed planted.

     Lastly, this has nothing to do with me. I’m nobody. It really doesn’t matter what I write. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Or better yet, start your own blog about how much you hate my blog 😉 I don’t care either way because nothing and nobody is going to stop me from trying to help my fellow addicts get better and stop hurting their moms – and dads, siblings, spouses, friends, and everybody else. So forgive me for imposing but maybe all the trolls should stop wasting time having aneurisms and go help someone.

God, please teach me how to let go and be more tolerant of others…