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…

Humility

     As addicts, it is very important for us not to engage in any sort of “I am a victim” attitude, as if life is so tough for us, and oh the burden that we have to endure being addicts. Um, we made ourselves addicts, remember?  We chose to use over and over again like a pig until we broke ourselves. So nothing made us addicts except for our cowardice. It is equally important for us not to pat ourselves on the back or give ourselves medals for getting better, or rather, for choosing to stop hurting others. And finally, it is imperative that we do not take credit for what we have done. The truth is that we BARELY deserve what we still have, and if we have any chance of rebuilding our lives, we must live in humility. We must forever remain under God, repelling arrogance of any sort.

     The moment we begin bronzing trophies for ourselves, it is game over. The moment we begin taking credit for recovering and for the blessings in our lives, it is game over. This doesn’t mean that we go around hating ourselves, self-deprecating or being someone else’s doormat. On the contrary, true humility is real strength. Humility means that we have the right attitude.

     But the moment we get cocky is the moment we get sick again, as our ability to be honest starts crumbling. Then we lose awareness of what we are thinking, saying and doing. We begin failing to see how we are affecting others. We stop feeling how we are affecting others. Then we are insane, and if we haven’t already relapsed at that point, we relapse. Then we’re on a full blown run until we either wind up in detox again, or in jail, or in the graveyard. And now we can really pat ourselves on the back for we have managed to once again rip everything and everyone to shreds, break the hearts of those closest to us, sabotage everything good in our lives, and bring enduring shame to our family and any semblance of a good name we once had. Good job.

God, please give me the willingness, courage and strength to live by Your principle of humility…

Spiritual Realm

     Is there a spiritual realm?

     Yes. There is without a doubt much more happening than we can see, hear, or touch.

     As I knelt down to pray one night up North, I was touched by something beyond comprehension. The scope of Its power is something I can’t even fathom. It cannot be described or measured. It is beyond man-made definitions, boundaries and conceptions. It is beautiful, mystical, and unexplainable. And in a single moment, it freed me from the lifelong chains of fear, anger, sadness, depression and emptiness.

     So why spoil something that we fragile, flawed, and fleeting humans can barely handle? We have to box everything, define everything, describe everything, own everything, and assert doctrines, codes and creeds as if they are absolute and come from this Power. Who are we to define and possess God? Who are we to fight over God?

     Forgive me, but it feels like some of our man-made conceptions of God seem rather silly, if not altogether ridiculous. Trying to ‘create’ God, if you will, with our limited brains and faculties appears to me to be a fruitless endeavor. How can we define something that we cannot truly understand or comprehend?

     Unfortunately, God is such a loaded word, which is why I had to look beyond words and symbols, buildings and rituals, traditions and doctrines. I had to look beyond human capacity. Not to exude jade towards organized, mass worship, but when you have a mind-bending spiritual experience, man-made anything goes out the window.

     So what is this great Power that people try endlessly to define? The truth is that I have absolutely no idea. Question: Would there be so much petty religious violence if we all admitted that we have no clue? Isn’t it more a show of humility to say ‘yes’ to getting underneath something but ‘no’ to defining and possessing It? Are we really so very special?

     The truth: I don’t know what God is. I don’t know His depths or limits, other than to assume that He is limitless and well beyond the boundaries of space and time. Therefore, why should I have the arrogance to think that I understand God? I don’t have a clue, and I’m pretty sure nobody else does either. Perhaps some of us have meditated long enough to have a slightly deeper glimpse into the spirit world, but those are men and women who have done more work on themselves than 99% of us could even conceive of.

    One thing I do believe now is that God can do anything God wants, whenever it wants to. My advice is to get on the right side of that trade, if you will.

Addicts Are Cowards

     The way to grow is to do the very thing we are scared to do.

     Why is it that alcoholics and drug addicts can’t ever seem to kick the habit for good? Why do they stay sick for so long? Sure it’s because they are stubborn, obstinate, self-absorbed children. But it can be summed up in one word: fear. We are cowards, and therefore we are scared shitless to recover, as that would actually require some (gulp) work.

     Addicts refuse at all costs to step out of their comfort zones. Anything difficult or uncomfortable they avoid like the plague. The truth is that we refuse to become adults. We cannot accept that life might not be solely about us feeling good all of the time. We cannot deal with the fact that life might be tough sometimes, that we might have bad days, feel sad or self-conscious or depressed. We simply cannot fathom the idea of living life on life’s terms. If life does not suit us, we drink or use. We do whatever we have to do to maintain our comfort… like a child who wants a candy bar even if mommy can’t afford it. We will whine and shout and even begin to hurt ourselves until we get it.

     Getting better is really quite simple. It is just doing that which we fear. We do all of those things that addicts hate doing – admitting when we are wrong, being accountable and responsible for ourselves and our addiction, thinking about others once in a while, taking care of our families, and going to work even when we are tired and don’t want to, just like every other human being. Guess what? Other people actually get up and go to work even when they’re having bad days. They don’t need to get jammed out of their skull just to get in the shower in the morning or get plastered as soon as they punch out.

     We get better by walking through our fears. We face the embarrassing character defects that we have amassed. We admit them and discover the healthier way. We become accountable for our harmful behavior towards others. We come to understand that we are not the most amazing things in the world, that we alone cannot fix ourselves. We consider humility, and get underneath something for the first time ever. We accept help from others… and most importantly, from God.

     Growing simply requires we do that which all other humans have to do, and we don’t complain about it. By acting like adults, we will magically find that we don’t need to shoot heroin, sniff a pile of coke, smoke meth, or drink like a pig just to get in or out of bed. By walking through fear we melt away cowardice… and we become free men and women.

God, please rid me of the poison of cowardice…

Dry Drunks

     Just because we are sober does not mean that we aren’t still a rather large group of selfish assholes. In fact, if we have not yet chosen to live by spiritual principles, that’s what we are. And choosing to live by spiritual principles means, of course, actually practicing them in our lives… or at least making a sincere attempt. The reason I was able to get sober so many times yet fail so miserably is simply because I remained the same self-absorbed idiot after putting down the substance.

     I once heard a veteran AA “old timer” at a Manchester, MA meeting say that AA and recovery was not about being a good person, it was just about staying sober. His exact words were, “I’m still an asshole, just a sober asshole!” He said it didn’t matter if you still lied, cheated, or abused others verbally and physically. Here was the featured speaker of the night and he was telling everybody that AA wasn’t about morals. For this guy, it was totally fine to be a shithead.
     If you are an alcoholic or an addict and you hear that sort of insanity at a meeting, you are not in the presence of recovery. You are in the presence of poison. Why? First of all, we, as alcoholics and addicts, have been going around like a bunch of children, always wanting this, always needing that, lying and manipulating those who love us, burning bridges and throwing away any opportunity that we’ve somehow been given. We have not only given up the right to drink and use, but we’ve also given up the right to be a damaged, depressed, abusive, angry, self-centered and socially/emotionally retarded individual. 
     Bottom line: If you are an addict and you think that you have a chance in hell of staying sober without becoming a better person and living by moral/spiritual principles, think again. Unless you aren’t really an addict, you will fail. Miserably. The only chance we have is to rid ourselves of our lies, our grandiosity, our fear and our pathological immaturity. Otherwise, we might as well keep drinking and using, because an active addict is NO DIFFERENT than a sober addict who hasn’t adopted spiritual principles. 
     To note, I’ve never seen anyone accomplish this without humbling themselves by getting underneath something Greater. We can’t change who we are by thinking we are superheroes who can do anything. We need spiritual help. We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it without the help of God.

God, always remind me that physical sobriety means nothing if I don’t change and grow and live by spiritual principles…