There Is No Worse Than

     Once we cross over that line, we are all the same…

     A speaker that I once looked up to stunned me one night at a meeting. He was handing out a 1-year sobriety chip and essentially glorifying how ‘bad’ of an addict this girl was. The money quote was, “She wasn’t just some suburban dope sniffer…” As if it’s harder to get better because of what we use, or the way we use, or what town we come from, or our ethnicity, wealth, status or privilege.

     The very second we cross over that line and become addicts, we are all equally screwed and the mountain we have to climb to recover is the same exact height. Just ask two vastly different recovered people how easy it was to actually go through a rigorous, thorough and honest 12 Step process. It’s not easy at all, no matter who you are. To go from being insane to sane is a miraculous feat, and one that requires spiritual help. And the internal effort it takes to access this spiritual Power is pretty much the same for all of us.

     Bottom line: Neither wealth nor poverty will prevent you from becoming a full blown addict. And neither wealth nor poverty will fix you once you get there. No matter who we are, where we come from, or what we use, we are all equally screwed once we acquire this allergy to drugs and alcohol. The only difference amongst addicts and alcoholics is that some of us are ‘recovered’ and have been joined by taking Steps and others are simply ‘recovering’ or ‘in recovery’, meaning that they are still insane and subject to relapse at any point in time.

God, help me remember that I am one drink away from detox…

Non-Spiritual Basis?

     “Whether a person can quit upon a non-spiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.34

     Translation: If you are too far gone, chances are that you cannot recover without the help of God.

      The Big Book also says, “Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.32

     Translation: Before you mutated yourself into a chronic, hopeless drunk, you may have been able to quit without spiritual help. You may have been able to still recover on your own power and self-will… but maybe not, hahaha.

     The Big Book spends the first 43 pages just trying to drill a 1st Step into our heads. There is no moving forward until we know with every cell in our body that we are powerless over drugs and alcohol. We must know that despite all of our brains and talents and skills and other faculties, we cannot fix ourselves. We are not capable of recovering on our own because we have lost the power to do so. We are not capable of recovering without spiritual help. In order for the true alcoholic or drug addict to get better, he must smash the notion that he can get himself better.

     Once we let go and realize that alone we are not powerful enough, then real growth and recovery is possible. Then we can get underneath something and accept that we may need a much greater power to fix us. We have tried for years on our own and we have failed miserably. Only a miracle will fundamentally rewire our brains and restore our hearts and spirits. Isn’t it time to let go of our arrogance? Isn’t time to stop holding onto our pride and ego?

     And even if you could recover on your own, isn’t it better to think this way? Isn’t it better to live with some humility? Giving ourselves too much credit for getting better will lead the addict right back to his warped thinking. He will think,

     Gee, look at me. I’m the man! I got myself all better. Hmmm, maybe I can control my addiction this time since I’m so talented and amazing and powerful…

God, teach me that alone I am useless…

2nd Step

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

     If I can take a 1st Step, then I can take a 2nd Step. Without knowing it, by taking a 1st Step, we’ve already taken a 2nd Step.

     I remember sitting in treatment and a fellow knucklehead was trying to convince me that I had no power. I went on one of my embarrassing rants, asserting that I had power… just let it get a little out of hand. That’s when another guy stared me down and told me if I was still thinking that way, I just wasted my first three days.

     And then the 1st Step hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that for all the things I could do, the one thing I couldn’t was to control my addiction. Drugs and alcohol had me by the balls. That’s probably why I was sitting in rehab wearing four flannel shirts in the middle of summer after stumbling into detox looking like a corpse.

     So I’ve just admitted that drugs and alcohol are more powerful than me. If I can believe that, why can’t I believe that there is something else more powerful that can fix me? Suddenly I realized that I didn’t have to freak out about believing in a Greater Power. There are an endless slew of things more powerful than us humans. We are at the mercy of so many forces, both worldly and other-worldly.

     But to keep it simple, if I’ve just admitted, felt, and understood that drugs and alcohol have power over me, it was simple logic to accept the possibility of something else more powerful that could effect positive change. And it wasn’t long before my blind faith proved true. There was indeed something much, much more powerful than myself, and it shook me to the core one night up North. For a brief time, I felt a force far greater than drugs and alcohol take over my body and mind. In an instant, it removed any and all urge to drink or use drugs. It emptied my mind and filled my heart. I’m sure you can guess what it was. And as it began to seep through my veins, I began to feel a sense of purpose. Instead of a compulsion to drink or use drugs, I felt a compulsion to help others.

     Seven years later, I still feel that compulsion. Living proof that the 12 Steps effect miracles and life long recovery (if taken directly from the Big Book and if taken thoroughly and fearlessly. 99% = 0%.)

God, teach us to be still and know…

Mental Obsession

     Mental Obsession: Recurring thoughts or ideas that do not respond to ration or reason.

     Besides the physical allergy and the underlying spiritual illness, the other component of addiction is the presence of a mental obsession – a very unique form of insanity, and one that can manifest quite randomly and for no apparent reason. It is also otherwise non-existent except when it rears its demonic head.

     According to the Big Book, the mental obsession can manifest itself in two ways: randomly or deliberately. When we deliberately succumb to the obsession to drink or get high, we are justifying it. We suddenly believe that we have the right to get plastered because nobody feels the way we do, because our job is stressful or our boss is an asshole, because we feel anxiety or because our best friend backstabbed us, because we lost a parent prematurely or because the town we live in sucks. Whatever the case, we are convinced that we have the right to stick a needle in our arm because our lives are so much tougher than everybody else’s. We believe this even if we have a long history of using abnormally, and worse yet, even if it comes at the expense of hurting others.

     When the mental obsession hits us randomly, that is the very crux of our problem. Spontaneously going insane for no reason at all is why addicts and alcoholics cannot stay sober. This is also why you meet so many addicts and alcoholics who say they are “recovering” as opposed to “recovered.” Trust me, there is most certainly a difference. To be recovering implies that we are still struggling and are therefore subject to relapse. To be recovered implies that we no longer suffer from the mental obsession, and therefore we are sane again, and therefore we are not subject to relapse. If an addict is sane, he or she is not “in recovery.” Hell, we could go work in a bar or a meth lab, because alcohol and meth have no power over us. There are no triggers for a recovered person. They are free. Yes, it is possible to be free and to go anywhere in the world safely.

     So the random obsession occurs, yup, you got it, randomly. We are going along, it’s a perfectly beautiful day, there is nothing wrong, feelin’ fine, perhaps we’re even happy (imagine that). Then…. suddenly the thought pops into our heads that it would be a great day to crush up an OxyContin and sniff it in the bathroom. I mean why not? What’s wrong with that? These random thoughts can occur weeks, months, or even years after achieving physical sobriety. And when they do, a switch goes off. From that point on, there is no way we will NOT use. A decision has been made. Once the thought enters our head, we obsess about it and continue to obsess until we finally drink or use. And there is no getting rid of the thought. This is the insanity of it.

     The insanity is also characterized by another strange occurrence. When these random thoughts hit us, we seem to suddenly forget everything we know about our history with addiction – the fact that we cannot use normally, all the people we will hurt or lose, all the trouble we will get into, and so on. All of it just disappears. Irrational thoughts suddenly seem rational. Even though we’ve been a chronic drug addict for 15 years, arrested, committed, totalled cars, burned bridges, lost money, respect, friends and family… it suddenly seems normal and of little concern to go get high. We suddenly believe we can handle it this time. Hunh?

     So yes, the addict is nuts.

God, please remove my obsession to drink alcohol and use drugs…

Allergy

     How do you know if you’re an alcoholic or not? Well, you can judge yourself, but I happen to agree with the Big Book that there are two components, aside from the underlying spiritual illness. The first is physical. Have we crossed over that invisible line? Have we broken our body? Have we acquired an allergy to drugs and alcohol? In short, can we stop once we start?

     I’m sure I didn’t start off as a full-fledged addict. It takes some time and effort to damage your body and brain past the point of no return. You need to get plastered or get high over and over and over again to cross that line. But when it happens, the body is forever changed.
     No exceptions.
     You will die with the body of an addict. That is a fact. There is a unique physiological response when I put any mood-altering substance in my body. Sure, normal people will have a few drinks and feel the pleasure of that, but then they stop, go home, and go to bed so they can wake up coherent in the morning and go to work. The addict’s body is quite different. He has a few drinks and an allergy is set off. He experiences what Dr. Silkworth, in his letter to Alcoholics Anonymous, referred to as the ‘phenomenon of craving’. His body begins to crave more to the extent that he cannot stop drinking until either he passes out, gets arrested, gets committed, or dies.
     In fact, if you are wondering, go test yourself. Go to a bar and start drinking. Have a few drinks and then see if you can stop. Can you? Better yet, see if you can have a few drinks and then stop for an entire year. Can you do that? The Big Book actually suggests that we test ourselves if there is any confusion as to whether or not we are an alcoholic. So go test yourself… unless your thing is speedballing heroin and cocaine into your aortic valve. That might kill you on the spot, and would sort of defeat the purpose of your test. We’d never know if you were a true junkbox!
     It also doesn’t matter how frequently we drink. Nor does it matter if we’ve somehow conjured the willpower to stay sober for a year, or maybe even five or ten years. Once we have the body of an addict, it doesn’t matter how long we can wait before drinking again. Our bodies are still the same when we go to pick up. It’s a question of how we drink when we drink, not when we drink. Try staying sober for 25 years and then have a drink… and then call me from detox. If you were an alcoholic 25 years ago, you’re an alcoholic today.
     The other component is mental and involves having a broken mind, if you will. Let’s do that another night, but in short, can you stay stopped once you stop? Can you? So bottom line: If you can’t stop once you start and you can’t stay stopped once you stop, chances are you’re an addict or alcoholic. And if all we do is remove the alcohol and drugs, we will relapse at some point. And once we relapse, we won’t stop. Relapsing will set off the phenomenon of craving.
     So we addicts and alcoholics will always have the bodies of alcoholics and addicts. We will die that way. What we can recover from, however, is the mental/spiritual problem. And if we can become sane again through right action, then we can stay stopped.
God, please help me to understand my allergy, that I may help educate other alcoholics…