Addiction Is a Spiritual Problem

     Addiction is a spiritual problem.

     Yes, I understand there are physical and mental components, but these elements manifest themselves after we have become spiritually ill. Addiction is a symptom of spiritual malady. That is the truth, regardless of what anyone may say.

     Before moving on to the solution, it is imperative to explain the mental component to better help non-addicts truly understand what it’s like to be an addict. The mental problem we have is why once we get sober, we cannot stay that way. People have to understand that there is nothing that can stop us from using once that switch goes off in our heads, even if we’ve been sober for months and months at a time. This is what it means to have no power, to have lost the power of choice. Perhaps a brief anecdote may help to describe the curious phenomenon of having a broken mind, if you will.

     Years ago, while working in Boston, I writhed in bed for days like a coward before finally kicking OxyContin and heroin. I withdrew all substances from my body and was totally clean and sober. About five days later, as I began to feel better, I remember having a conversation with myself as I drove home from work. I was done. I knew it in my heart. I went over my entire life and came to grips with the tragedy, loss and heartache my addiction had caused everyone around me. I felt strong and confident. I wanted a better life. I committed to never going back. I was done for good.

     Then the phone rang.

     It was my one of my dealers.

     This you must understand: As soon as the phone rang, for all intents and purposes, the car drove itself off of Storrow Drive and straight to my dealer’s house. I didn’t think for a split second. I couldn’t. Why? Because it was just a reflex at that point. I saw my caller ID and the entire 20-minute conversation I had with myself seconds before just vanished into thin air and I ripped the steering wheel around and sped to his house without a single thought entering my head (except what’s the quickest route?). And please don’t mistake my phone or the dealer’s number as a trigger, because it’s not. Breathing is the only trigger. If the dealer didn’t call, I wouldn’t have made it out of the city anyway. The phone is irrelevant.

     To note, what I just described was purely a mental phenomenon and had nothing to do with the physical disease of addiction, or rather, the physical compulsions associated with addiction. The ‘disease’ portion of our addiction only manifests AFTER we begin using. When we are completely sober, what occurs is purely mental (and spiritual, of course).

     And that, my friends, is the mental obsession. We have no defense against it. Trust me, no doctor, pill, therapy session, call from a sponsor or relapse prevention program can do anything at all once an obsession of this sort manifests itself in our minds. That is a type of insanity that cannot be fought and conquered by any human force. We are completely, utterly defenseless. That is addiction. That is why we can’t stay sober. We go insane.

     So what is the solution?

     If our problem is spiritual than so must be our solution.

     The solution is spiritual action, or practically speaking, SERVICE. The very moment we become other-centered is the very moment we begin to change and recover permanently (mentally, not physically, as we will never be safe from actually drinking or using drugs of any sort. Our bodies are permanently damaged). But the secret to addiction is service, which is why the entire Western medical community has no clue how to treat it. They try and they try but they just can’t seem to crack it. Plus there’s no financial incentive in telling drug addicts to simply give of themselves. But if we really want to get better and truly change, we have to serve others instead of ourselves. Service is the SILVER BULLET. Best thing for addicts, by far.

     And why does spiritual action and service work? Because with each right action, we are brought closer to God. And GOD, of course, can heal anybody of anything.

Frothy Emotional Appeal

     “Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices.” 

     Translation: People can’t keep us sober or fix us. That is, nothing anybody says has the power to restore us to sanity… so trying to plead with an addict is entirely a waste of time.

     “Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives... Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive, that while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks… and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, The Doctor’s Opinion, xxviii, xxix

“Charlie, why do you drink when you have so much potential?”
     Huh?
“Charlie, why do you use drugs when you have so much talent?”
     Are you serious?
“Charlie, we love you so much. Isn’t that enough?”
     Nope.
“Charlie, now that you have this beautiful, wonderful wife and child, that should be enough, right?”
     It should be, but you people have no idea how sick I really am.
“Charlie, with all of your loving friends and family, plus all of our resources and modern medicine at your disposal, you should be able to get sober and stay sober, right?”
     Wrong.
“Charlie, the doctor says you will die if you continue to drink.”
     Um, can I borrow some money? Oh, and thanks, that’s great about the doctor thing.

     Unfortunately, non-addicts don’t understand addiction. It doesn’t matter how much shit I have, or who I have, or what potential I have. You could give me a billion dollars, my dream job, a mansion on the water, an angel wife, two beautiful kids and the best of friends… and I think I’ll go get jammed out of my fucking skull. I’m an addict. I use. That’s what addicts do. No pile of “frothy emotional appeal” is going to do the trick.

     Here’s the deal: Yes, addiction is plain and simple a physiological disease. We have broken our bodies and can never again use normally. But the reason why we can’t STAY sober has nothing to do with our bodies. There is no physical craving of drugs when we’re sitting there butt sober. We only begin craving drugs or alcohol AFTER we start drinking or using.

     So no, the reason why we can’t stay sober has nothing to do with the bio-chemical illness of alcoholism or addiction. The reason why we can’t stay sober is because we have a spiritual problem. We have a moral problem. Yes, a moral problem, along with the insanity of the mental obsession. Do me a favor… go out there and try to stay clean while acting immorally. Try to stay sober while lying, cheating, manipulating, being selfish, angry, depressed and abusive. Good luck with that. You will need luck because it doesn’t work.

     Once we become addicts and realize that we have a serious problem, the only thing keeping us actively using is doing the wrong thing. If we were living by spiritual principles, there would be no need to use. We would know how selfish we are, and we would go and fix our broken minds. We would have an entire psychic change, find God, restore ourselves to sanity, and never again suffer from the random mental obsession to drink or use drugs.

     So if you’re an alcoholic or an addict out there and you plan on staying sober after you pat yourself on the back for going to detox, you better change the person you are. You have no chance of staying clean if you do not embrace spiritual principles and live a moral life. Drinking booze and using drugs is 100% connected to morals, or lack thereof. Do we really think the average alcoholic, heroin addict or crackhead out there is living right? Please. So when you get a pamphlet or an article that some clueless PhD wrote about how addiction is not a moral problem but rather purely a physiological phenomenon, you are absorbing information that will undoubtedly lead to relapse, and perhaps your eventual death.

God, teach me to live by Your principles of love, honesty, patience, tolerance, courage, compassion, strength, honesty and service…

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…

Triggers Don’t Exist

     Why does the mainstream treatment community tell us that relapse is part of recovery when it has nothing to do with recovery? Newsflash: It’s not okay to relapse. Doctors, therapists, social workers, and so-called addiction specialists blindly recite the false text book mantra that “relapse is part of recovery.”

     Why?

     Because they simply don’t know anything else. The sad truth is that millions of professionals out there don’t actually know what addiction is (spiritual ailment) or how to treat it. Why is it okay to relapse when relapsing means another long and destructive cycle of lies, theft, sadness, pain, heartache and damage to countless others?

     Treatment ‘experts’ say that triggers exist for addicts and alcoholics, and as such, treatment revolves around avoiding people or places or things that trigger us. Ah, you gotta be kidding me. First of all, triggers don’t exist. Flimsy excuses. Being alive is our only trigger. Nothing makes us want to use. We want to use ALL THE TIME.

     Secondly, what sort of solution is that for a drug addict? So my solution involves desperately trying not to bump into this person, or walk by that place, or keep all drugs and alcohol out of my sight? If that is my only hope then I should just lock myself up and throw away the key, because I am doomed.

     This sort of information is actually dangerous. To tell an addict that it is their triggers that make them use is to basically eliminate any personal and moral responsibility they might assume, which might then trigger them to go get better (pun intended). Furthermore, to teach an addict that it is someone or something outside of themselves that makes them go drink or pick up is unbelievably irresponsible and stems from pure ignorance. WE are the only reason. We drink because we like drinking and because we are selfish beyond belief. Nothing makes us want to drink. Our only trigger is breathing.

     If I buy this notion and take this advice about triggers, then I basically have prevented myself from recovering. The world will forever be a dangerous place for an addict. I will be walking around subject to relapse at any point in time. I am cursed to struggle and fight through each day to stay sober. I will forever crave drugs and alcohol and fend off urges day and night. Mainstream treatment tells us that there is really no hope, that the addict or alcoholic never really gets better, and thus we never can truly recover.

     That is complete and total bullshit.

     We can recover fully and forever. We can live utterly free from any urges or desires to drink or use. We can become free and happy men and women. And this freedom means we can walk by any store, down any block, or sit there and stare at a medicine cabinet full of juicy meds. This means we can hang out with anybody, regardless of how fucked up they still are. This means we can have wine in the house for guests. This means we can even buy our friend a bag of dope just to get his ass to detox or treatment.

     But Charlie, how can you say such things?!?!

     Because we can deliver ourselves from our insanity. Or rather, God can deliver us. We can grow new minds and remain permanently free from the mental obsession to drink or use drugs. We can travel, work, and enjoy life without having to drag ourselves to five meetings a day until the day that we die. We don’t have to merely live “in recovery”.

     We can become RECOVERED.

     Personally, I took Steps to recover. I am now a free man. And the same can be true for any drug addict or alcoholic out there. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Don’t feed yourself a bunch of excuses. Don’t let yourself off the hook. And always remember:

     Triggers don’t exist.

God, help me to remember that nothing outside of myself is responsible for my drinking or drug use…

Nothing & Nobody

     When I came home from treatment, a friend of mine looked at me and said something like, “Man, I’m so proud of you! No wonder you got better… look at everything you have! You got sober for your wife and your family and all the stuff you have. Good job!”

     I thought to myself, Oh my God, this guy has no idea how sick I really am.

     He didn’t understand that nothing we have can get us sober or keep us sober. Likewise, nothing anybody says to us can keep us from drinking or using. No relationship, job, or possession means shit to us when it comes to our addiction. Trust me, I didn’t get sober because I was hurting my wife and mom. Sure, that would be a damn good reason. But the truth is that there is nothing on this earth that could actually get me to stop.

      When I did finally manage to stop after 15 years of chronic drug addiction, it was only because I was broke, couldn’t get more money, could barely stand up, felt like I was dying, and to avoid feeling like I was dying, I dragged myself into an emergency room so some detox program would medicate me. That’s all. Yes, it’s sick. Yes, it’s selfish. And yes, it’s somewhat sociopathic.

     But everyone should be clear: Nothing and nobody can make or give addicts enough reasons to stop. They will only stop once they’re broke, in jail, or their hearts stop. Non-addicts can’t fully understand the inability of an addict to stay sober. They think it’s entirely a matter of control and willpower. Well, what if your will is broken? What if you can no longer respond rationally or reasonably to thoughts of using? What if you are insane?

     Bottom line: Addicts have a chip missing. Nothing can get us to stop unless we somehow manage to get ourselves clean and then wind up with a recovered sponsor or wind up at a treatment center/sober house where we take Steps, find God, and grow a new mind.

     But if you’re an addict out there, maybe don’t tell your wife about that right when you get home. It might be nice for her to think you got sober because of her… and perhaps for her.

“Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices.” – Dr. William D. Silkworth

God, teach us that no person, place or thing can fix us or keep us sober…