Failure to Understand Addiction = Failure to Understand the Solution

 

Comment:

Your blog has helped me dramatically as a daughter of an alcoholic. So many people say it’s a disease & that confuses me! That takes the accountability off the person & they are only the victim….hmmm? It is extremely painful to watch the one you love be so destructive & you are powerless to help them…except to walk away & let go & let God, then you have helped them. Because ultimately God is the way to recovery. He sent his son in the world to save us from sin. And that’s what addiction is- sin! Jesus is the way the truth and the life!

I wanted to share this link about alcoholism & the Biblical view~

 
Response: 
 
     Thank you for your words and for sharing this article. I thank the Lord there are some left in this wasteland of insane, anti-freedom, globalist propaganda who can see things for what they are and the world for it is. Any Rand astutely said, “You can ignore reality but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”  
 
 
     I live in Massachusetts where our criminal lunatic governor, drunk with power, is about to lockdown and raise taxes again, thereby crushing any existing small businesses, jobs, savings, spirit, families, friends, childhoods, traditions, fun, everything. Behold, the brain of a collectivist liberal who is aroused by anything which limits the freedom of others. Truly, there are no words to describe their utter stupidity and ignorance, let alone overt Godlessness. Needless to say, we are suffering an abundance of tyranny, fraud and mass hysteria, as sadly, the media brainwashing program has worked very well here in Mass. I am surrounded by feeble-minded, self-loathing, masked sheep, all acting completely nuts… so much that they are endorsing and engaging in what will go down as one of the greatest crimes against humanity… and especially against children. May God hold accountable all those complicit in ending freedom. Mark my words, compliance is complicity. And any smug, delusional citizens who have the audacity to police, judge, bully, attack and smear those who choose freedom will rest in hell. Any presstitutes who have peddled lies and hysteria will rest in hell. Any politicians, governors, officials, doctors and tech CEOs who have engaged in tyranny and assisted this pre-planned ‘great [communist] reset’ will rot in hell. 
 
     
     The above article by Mark Shaw breaks down the fallacy by modern-day, progressive secularists who seem to delight in excusing themselves of all responsibility. They also delight in becoming intolerant of, or even violent towards any person, idea or fact which contradicts, challenges or dissents from their view, regardless of how false or deranged their view may be. This is very similar to the way a child behaves. The unhinged and narcissistic nature of such people suggests that this indeed an acute mental illness. I reckon this lunatic ideology will be added to the DSM one day in the future as we look back at this dark and satanic period of liberal-marxist collectivism. Welcome to communism 3.0. All of you idiot millenials and social justice thugs who got brainwashed in college have no idea what you have been clamoring for… but you will know soon and you well deserve what you will get – totalitarian slavery.
 
     
     Anyhow, Shaw correctly defines addiction as a spiritual problem, but as an internal spiritual problem. That is, it debunks the false notion that addiction is some sort of blameless disease that people catch or are born with and thus excuses them of any responsibility. It also debunks the notion of addiction as a quasi-demon, that is, an evil external force or entity that infects the individual and robs them of all voluntary choice and decisions. This also excuses the addict or alcoholic of total responsibility.
 
     
     Leave it to the progressive cultural fascists of today to victimize addicts and alcoholics. Go talk to any spouse, parent, son or daughter of a non-recovered alcoholic and addict and they will speak of the utter hell they have endured at the hands of the addict. They will speak to the objective selfishness and thoughtlessness of the alcoholic and addict. They will speak of the utter lack of remorse and moral compass of the alcoholic or addict. They will speak of the abuse they have suffered mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically. They will speak of all the things the addict has stolen from them – time, love, energy, happiness, vitality, spirit, money and on and on and on…
 
     
     “Blaming a disease or a demon not only removes responsibility but also hinders the solution from ever being talked about.”
 
     
      The above quote by Mark Shaw sums up one of my primary goals of truth on this blog – the spiritual and moral truth about addiction and alcoholism. When we blame anyone or anything outside of ourselves for who and what we have become, we simultaneously blind ourselves from the solution. If the problem comes from without, then our only solution rationalizes and beckons us to try to change or control the world around us… and we will fail every time. Worse yet, we will ply ourselves with substitution drugs and other nonsense such as naltrexone to try to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal or change the way drugs and alcohol affect us.
 
     
     To note, withdrawal and suffering are GOOD for the clinically selfish addict who has indulged in 24/7 comfort at the expense of his very soul and more importantly, of everyone around him. Only when we can honestly define the problem, which is ourselves, can we understand and apply the solution. Only when we understand that our addiction is a spiritual malady that is self-created can we begin to truly change ourselves, grow spiritually/morally, and rid ourselves of the obsession to use drugs and drink alcohol.
 
     
      The disease model prevents any addict from true and lasting recovery and change. We are caste with a lifelong, terminal disease, and in the mind of an addict, who wrongly views himself as a victim, he will accept the notion of relapse, thus giving him an excuse to use when he wants. As well, he will also rule out the idea that he can change fundamentally and rid himself of his drug problem.
 
     
      The disease model and the idea of addiction as some external force justifies the very delinquent mindset of an addict. This has also spawned hollow treatment models such as avoiding triggers so forth. Triggers do not exist. All that exists is the addict. His or her mind is broken. We are insane and we are spiritually ill. We can choose to get better, that is, to change completely and establish a relationship with God, or we can remain ill. Trust me, it is indeed a choice. If it wasn’t, nobody would ever recover… like me.
 
     
      If we want addicts and alcoholics to truly recover, we must stop subscribing to the fake nanny state and all of its lies and excuses.
 
     
     Please pray for this country and for the world. Today it seems as though the devil is winning, but we cannot let that happen. We must keep and cherish God and freedom for the future of our children and grandchildren.
 
     “Let’s make Orwell fiction again.” 

Excerpt from ACTS Chapter 12


…The 12th Step, like 10 and 11, goes on forever. We never stop helping people and working with others. Why? One, because it helps us to maintain our mental and emotional health and stability. Two, when we sit down with another person, we are bringing God into the room and perhaps into the other person, and anything that expands the presence of God within heals us and keeps us sane. Three, because it also lifts us up emotionally, which is perfect for those of us who are somewhat preoccupied with feeling good. And four, because it sets in motion the law of cause and effect, so any selfless action all but guarantees a good return.

     The opening quote of this book by Neale Donald Walsh asserts that “life begins at the end of our comfort zone.” This is perhaps the single most important thing for us addicts and alcoholics to understand if we truly want to recover and conquer ALL of our demons. It was by doing the very things I didn’t want to do that fixed me and made me stronger. Doing what scared me or 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 speaking publicly 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 this 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. 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 inner peace, relief and freedom.

     More importantly, helping others to change changes the world. Since we are all inter-connected and made of energy, when someone is altered, the world is altered. In fact, the entire universe is altered, and this shift in the energy of the person you are working with will also have a positive effect on you. And that’s not fluff, that’s science. So try some service. It is like injecting spiritual medicine.

     Taking Steps is just one of many spiritual traditions and programs of action that help to clean us out with honesty and humility so we may see things clearly, move forward and find some purpose. What’s most important is that we simply take right, positive action and grow along spiritual lines, Steps or not. If you find another method or program of action that works for you, that is wonderful. The point is to understand that if we are to walk away from the darkness and into the light, action will be required, not simply talking, studying, believing, or even praying for it. We cannot will ourselves better. We must act our way better.

     The choice between the expansive, colorful world of growth versus the narrow, miserable world of stagnancy and selfishness should be easy. We can ingest emotional poison or we can ingest the magic of loving service. We can evolve and expand spiritually or we can remain shackled, narrow and mundane. We can work hard, do the right thing and make a difference or we can remain preoccupied with our selves and our concerns. We can walk backward or we can run forward. The choice is yours. Really, it is. Thank you for reading…


Excerpts from ACTS Chapter 9

*

STEP 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

 

     In many ways, Step 9 may very well be the most intense of the Steps, for we are now going to face those we have harmed, which is bound to bring up some tough feelings for both us as well as the object of our amends. Some people may choose not to face us at all. Some might want to retaliate verbally, perhaps even physically. Institutions we have stolen from such as stores or banks may want to arrest us. In this Step, we are asked to be truly vulnerable. We are to come with total honesty and total humility. When we approach those we have harmed with this frame of mind, often people cannot help but react positively or be somewhat moved by our approach. There are no guarantees, but the more contrite and sincere we are, the better the odds.

     When I sought out those on my amends list, despite having extreme feelings of fear and self-consciousness in anticipation of approaching certain people and institutions, they went surprisingly well. However, it was fallacy to think that success in my amends was defined by people patting me on the back, which became clear to me the day I went to see an old friend who refused to even come to the door and look at me. That’s when I realized it was no longer about me and walking through my petty feelings of self-consciousness. Now it was real and palpable, and this is what the amends are really about – them, not us. The best amends are not the ones where people let us off the hook and pat us on the back, but rather those that truly humble us.

     I left my old friend’s house dejected, and as I drove away it hit me. I was smothered by tremendous sadness as I began to feel the deep pain I had caused my friend, but this experience of true empathy was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It may have been the first time in my life that I felt truly humbled, and it was then that I finally understood the power behind everything we say, think and do. There is no acting in a vacuum. My personal lens of self-absorption and narcissism shattered right then and there. The effects of what we do can be profound and long-lasting. How careful we must be so that we don’t leave emotional scars inside those we supposedly care about, scars that may continue to haunt or reopen year after year.

     This is not a joke. This is serious stuff, and if we have committed ourselves to this process, we must make these amends and put things right… or else. Let me assure you that bad things will happen if we ignore the messes we’ve made. On the flip side, courageously making our amends can literally alter the course of our fate. This is a mystical and spiritual process because actions such as the amends give us the opportunity and the power to heal people, which is pretty cool if you ask me.

     The recovered staff where I went to treatment were quite serious about this Step, partially because guests often went home before beginning the amends process. We were taken through the first 7 Steps and then sent home to complete 8 and 9, and to continue 10, 11 and 12 for the rest of our lives. They told us that having the guts to make our amends is what separates the men from boys and the women from the girls. Why? Because this is precisely what it means to grow up and become an adult. It is the epitome of being accountable and taking responsibility for ourselves. I was a boy going into the amends and a man coming out, feeling materially different as a person after each one, so pray, gather your strength and go to it.

     Many of us will want to meet up with our sponsor before embarking on this Step. Some like to review each amends to discuss when, where and how to best approach the person or institution. I personally don’t find this to be necessary. I was given a sponsor when I left treatment, and while he was a decent enough guy, I met up with him once for recovery related stuff and that was that.

     Remember, we don’t have sponsors to tell us what to do but to simply guide us from their own experience. Our sponsor only exists to answer Step-related questions or to use as a sounding board in moments of confusion, but not to hold our hands. The truth is that we have all the answers we need inside. If need be, step back and pray repeatedly. When we have access to the ultimate source of wisdom, God, who needs a sponsor? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a solid, supportive guide throughout this process, but it is crucial to take ownership of our recovery by grabbing the reigns, making our own decisions and trying to figure things out on our own. We should be on autopilot at this point, propelled by a new spiritual fire within. If not, there is probably something wrong with our program or with the work we’ve done. Did we leave something out intentionally? Have we not been entirely honest or willing to go to any lengths?

     One thing you can take to the bank is that ALL of your amends must be made. There is no sense in repeatedly organizing them to figure out which ones are more important. They are all equally important so don’t procrastinate. Get out there and start crossing names off of your list. And if you coincidentally see someone on your list while grocery shopping, trust me, it’s no coincidence. God has put you in their path and handed you an opportunity to get better, so jump on it. The only amends we do not make are ones that would cause more harm than good, although we must not use that as an excuse to avoid ones that must be made. Nobody else knows what’s in our hearts, so it is we alone who bear the responsibility of being honest with ourselves about this. We must be true to ourselves or we will ultimately fail. What is the sense in embarking on this process if we are not going to be open, pure, and do the best we can? At the same time, there is no need to beat yourself up about how honest you are being, for becoming honest itself is a process. Each action helps to peel away more rot and more bullshit, so it’s not like we’re either 100% honest or 100% not honest. As we move forward, we will reach new degrees and new depths of honesty.

     When we pray, listen and think a little bit (or stop thinking), our gut will speak to us and we will know if an amends will cause more harm then good. The trick is to think only of the other person and not of our own needs, desires or ambitions to grow spiritually. This Step is about giving back. We do not make these amends to clear our conscience; we make them for the object of our amends, to return what we have taken. If as a byproduct of our amends, we find peace or relief or growth, that’s wonderful, but that shouldn’t be our intention…


*

 

    …We must now distinguish between the different kinds of amends: contractual amends and living amends. The need for a contractual amends implies we have violated some contract, whether personal, financial, legal, social or moral. These are usually isolated events, and even though there may be some repeated violations, they generally necessitate a one-time sincere amends. Contrast these to our living amends, which go on forever. An example of a contractual amends could be something you may have done to a friend, boss or colleague, a store you may have stolen from, or creditors you may have screwed.

     Bear in mind, if you owe someone money, don’t go empty-handed. I once had a sponsee who went to make a financial amends with no money to pay the person back. You don’t want to do that. Wait until you have it all, or at least a good portion of it. Think about it. Sure the person you owe will be glad you showed up to admit your wrong, but I’m pretty sure what they really want is their money back. Same goes for a store or creditor. Greater than the satisfaction of witnessing our moral turnaround is the closure of getting paid back. So do not go make amends to a creditor unless you are 100% willing and able to pay them back or commit to a payment plan.

     Contractual amends are the easy ones, if there is such a thing, but our living amends is where the real work takes place, for these are the people we have stolen from the most. Our parents, wives, husbands, children, siblings and friends have been keelhauled through the hellish sea of addiction, and they deserve what they have given in return. At the same time, they have their own flaws. They most likely resent us and know how to push our buttons. Despite the emotional challenges, we must gather our strength, rise above it all and make our amends stoically. But what do our amends to loved ones look like? How do they differ?

     Our parents, siblings, spouses and children have little interest in being sat down to endure some rehearsed soliloquy of remorse. They have all heard it a million times and in a million different ways, only to be stabbed in the back, or more appropriately, stabbed in the heart. They deserve a good, loving, responsive, helpful person who is committed to taking care of themselves and those around him or her. They don’t want someone who has simply achieved physical sobriety. They want us to stop behaving and thinking like a selfish addict. They want someone who is aware of the damage and heartache they caused and who has now begun to genuinely care. They simply want us to change and show through repeated action that we are better people and that we care. They want the person they deserved all these years but who we stole from them.

     A one-time amends is not really appropriate for our close loved ones. As well, they may not be in any sort of condition to say the things they want to say when we approach them. Perhaps the wound is still too raw and painful for our loved ones to talk about the living hell we put them through, and if that be the case, we step back, work on ourselves, continue to get better, and then if and when they want to let it out, we give them the freedom to do so on their terms. They may want to express their feelings months or even years from now, and who are we to dictate when they get their time on stage? It is our duty to listen to them when they want to be heard, not when it’s convenient for us to listen. Let me tell you from direct experience that my wife and my mom definitely did not want to hear it. Why would they? They are sick of the incessant talking and having to endure all of the nonsense that came out of my mouth, as they should be. All they want is for me to love them properly, remain steadfast in my growth, and be the son and the husband they expect and deserve.

     God can either be a distant concept or an actual experience, and it is through right action that we make that shift and close the gap. Many teens and adults alike have a problem with God because it has been reduced to a social construct – a detached belief system or simple academic concept. God has become intellectual. We are taught about the divine via sermon or in class on a chalkboard, but there is no real experience on the inside. So the idea behind enlarging our spiritual lives through action is to show people ways in which they can actually feel the power of God and expand His presence within. If spiritual power is harnessed through meditation, prayer, public speaking or service and we feel that glow of warmth inside, we will know how worth it this path really is, but if there is no detectable payoff from this journey, who is going to be interested?

     I remember working at a recovery high school years ago and taking a few kids outside during the after-school program to guide them through a short, structured meditation. When we finished, opened our eyes and came to, they looked at me and said, “Holy Shit, I feel, like, high right now.” No, I wasn’t trying to get them high, but I was trying to give them a real tool they could use to change the space they were in, to change their inner experience. Many of us don’t really feel or get close to God by reading about Him or having someone lecture us about Him. We draw closer to God by doing things that bring us closer. Make sense?

     How about making a living amends to oneself? Codependents and others alike may need to spend some time nourishing themselves. Addiction and alcoholism is the codependent’s bridge to insanity, and having been preoccupied for so long, it becomes quite easy to neglect oneself. I hate to say it, but some codependents come to depend on the illness of an addict in order to continue avoiding their own problems. With an active tornado circling you, it is not only easier to deny your own physical, mental and emotional sickness, but it is easier to avoid dealing with it. Addiction and the associated pain can give codependents a perfect reason to ignore what lies within and to blame their suffering on the idea that they are victims. I realize this may sound harsh, and by no means do we abscond the addict or alcoholic from their profoundly selfish and harmful behavior, but we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves. If anger, resentment, grief and other maladaptive behaviors have piled up inside, the addict or alcoholic getting better will not magically remove any of it. That you must do on your own by facing your demons and taking your own set of spiritual/emotional actions.

     The bottom line is that anybody can make an amends for harm they may have caused or mistakes they have made. It is a powerful act and one of humility, graciousness, faith and courage. It asks us to swallow our pride and walk through our fear, insecurity and self-consciousness. This is how we evolve spiritually, change as people and become free inside. If you are not some kind of psychopath, wronging others should leave us with an emotional wound. We carry that burden with us as it creates havoc both physically and emotionally. Righting our wrongs is an act of cleansing and ensures we do not leave behind some toxic stain. We also have the responsibility to remove any scars we may have left in others. What we do creates a psychic imprint, and left unattended, these imprints will cause negative ripple effects and come back to haunt self and others. Each and every one of us is responsible for the fabric of our existence, for the health and harmony of the energy that makes up our entire world. What we do matters, so don’t ever stop caring.

     In my memoir, I wrote about the remarkable effect these amends had on me. Just as the Big Book suggested, about halfway through my amends, I came home one night and as I sat down on my couch, a great relief came over me and once again that spiritual force rushed through my entire being. I felt fearless and confident, and from that point on, neither the future nor the past was to be a problem for me. I had not only begun the toughest part of this process, but I had sailed through the ups and downs of early recovery. I pushed through the loss of my initial pink cloud and had walked through the same suffering and depression that used to stop me dead in my tracks and get me to drink or use and cower from reality. I had evened out, and was now firmly planted on the ground. I was recovered.

     If you think your amends are petty and ridiculous because you haven’t done what we addicts have done, think again, because it is all relative. Remember, the more action we take, the better we will feel. The degree of inner relief is directly proportional to what we do and how often, so let’s push ourselves even when we don’t think it will do anything, and especially when we don’t feel like it or want to. So go out from here, and regardless of how old or petty or fleeting your harmful actions may have been, face them courageously and then let go and move on. Take your newfound strength and character and feel free to bask in the serenity it brings you.

     *When we have humbly and courageously gone out and made all of our contractual amends as well as begun our living amends to our loved ones, we have begun our 9th Step. Our living amends go on forever, and as such, this 9th Step goes on forever and is never really complete. For the purpose of moving on, when we have crossed out all the names on our list, we can move forward and begin to help guide others through this process, as suggested in the 12th Step.

Does Science Really Have Anything to Do with What Ails Us, Let Alone What Cures Us?


Comment:


Charlie- Your story is just that — your story. I am 2 1/2 years sober and I do not struggle, I do not live day-to-day. I have my story and my experience. When I look back, I have to agree with the person that commented on your blog. For people struggling, and there’s more during the pandemic and its effects, I don’t think they should reject the “disease model” and embrace their selfishness simply based on your experience. There is a lot of work behind the disease-based addiction model and I found it meshed remarkably well with my experiences. I felt compelled to reply, which I seldom if ever do, because I think you may be unintentionally doing others a disservice and may dissuade them from getting the help from a science-based, medically supervised rehabilitation program that they may need to be successful in their story of addiction. Dave


Response:
     
     I personally have never seen anyone become recovered by clinically addressing the so-called science of addiction with methods such as substitution drugs, relapse prevention or harm reduction, all while neglecting what lies underneath. Our problem is really not drugs and alcohol and whatever temporary bio-chemical changes that may ensue, as these elements are a mere side-show. Look deeply and you may discover that substances and substance use are byproducts or symptoms of an underlying soul sickness. They are a false solution to our true problem – Life. We don’t suffer from drug and alcohol use but from a spiritual/emotional malady that effects how we respond to nearly every aspect of life. Of course, part of this is simply the human condition, so we addicts are neither unique or special, nor do we deserve some sort of trophy or pat on the back for ceasing to do what we never should have done to begin with. All human beings suffer, but we are just a special kind of cowardice and obstinacy.

     I might also check with your parents, spouse, children and loved ones and ask them if they agree that you should be rejecting the cause/condition/presence of selfishness. I reckon you will benefit longer-term by what they might have to say. I would also read the Big Book, ‘We Agnostics,’ ‘How it Works’ and ‘Into Action’ etc. and if that does not resonate with your experience than you are most likely not an addict or an alcoholic to begin with. If you can stop and get better on a non-spiritual basis then addiction isn’t your problem. 


     To simply run one’s life on self-will is selfish. No one is saying that is necessarily evil, but for the addict or the alcoholic, it does not work. We will fail each and every time. When we do not stop and ask God to guide us before rushing out in the morning, the rest of the day is, generally speaking, a complete disaster. Why is that? Knowing the answer to that question and what to do about it is the most important thing in the life of an addict. It is the very crux of our problem – self-will. Why? Because we are not okay. We are maladaptive. There is no neutral position for us. We are are either moving forward and getting better or moving backwards and becoming sick again. We cannot simply float by. Floating is sinking.


     Try asking God to direct you throughout the day. “But Charlie, that’s nonsense, why would I do such a thing? God has nothing to do with it. I don’t even believe in God!” Because regardless of my story or your story, He knows better than me and He knows better than you. Do me a favor and write me back in another couple of years and let me know how it’s going with the medically-assisted program and the removal of personal responsibility via the disease model. I’m assuming by medically-assisted you mean Suboxone or perhaps other psychotropics under another false guise of  ‘dual-diagnosis,’ which, by the way, is also convenient propaganda for the pharmaceutical industry et al.  


     Regardless, Thanks for reaching out. I appreciate you reading and commenting.  

Comment/Response on Assertion That Addiction & Depression Are Not Caused by Selfishness, Self-Centeredness & Moral Failure


Comment: 

Alcohol use disorder/ substance use disorder/ severe depression are not caused by selfishness of self-centeredness. Those theories are rooted in old moralizing tales of how to treat addiction and illness in general. Unfortunately many of us are not only used to the stigma but we self stigmatize and start to believe things like that. It’s simply not true. Yea can working on humility help a person thrive/ live a more balanced life? Sure. Are we, as people who struggle with mental health problems and substance use issues, inherently selfish and immoral. Fuck no.

Response:

     Let’s just take it from the top…

“Alcohol use disorder/ substance use disorder/ severe depression are not caused by selfishness of self-centeredness.”

     There is actually no other cause EXCEPT selfishness and self-centeredness. 

     Why do we drink or use? To ply ourselves with physical pleasure. The only thing that motivates drug and alcohol use is selfish desire, fed in part by self-pity, which is a form of selfishness resulting from self-centeredness. It is also fed by the desire to achieve greater comfort no matter what the cost. We are not victims, my friend. All people on Earth suffer and many do not indulge in pleasure that is self-destructive or other-destructive. But the very act of using or drinking is a selfish act and thus becoming an addict is literally caused by selfishness. Conversely, we only recover through unselfish action. 

     Sorry but there is no way you or anybody else can intellectualize your way around that. Feelings are not facts… nor is ideology or what you are spoon fed by the media. I understand that it is instinctive to become defensive of your drug and alcohol use, to rationalize and justify it somehow, but there is no justification, and it is nobody’s fault but your own. Quite sadly, it is especially prevalent in the progressive, depraved, morally relative culture of today not to hold oneself accountable for drug use, or anything else for that matter.

     The problem with us is not drugs and alcohol, it is who we are, who we have become. The solution, therefore, is to fundamentally change the person and to expel the darkness, the filth and the sin that lies within. Trust me, all of the addicts out there who believe themselves to be spiritual or fundamentally good/nice people are acutely damaged souls suffering from delusions of grandeur. There is nothing nice about what we do to ourselves and to others. That does not mean that we do not have certain abilities or talents or some inherent goodness, but underneath the addiction is a sick person, a selfish person, a person who is clinically preoccupied with his life, his feelings, his thoughts, his needs, his wants, his ambitions and on and on. If you look deep enough and are completely honest, you will see that the person who uses cares not of others. His or her primary focus is on protecting his comfort zone etc. It is all about us and our agenda, and herein lies the primary issue. The person who drinks and uses is a narcissist of sorts, regardless of any good. Trust me, this is the truth.

     Reasons are a side-show. Reasons are excuses and diversion and distraction and bullshit. There are no reasons. It has nothing to do with mom and dad and spouse and this and that and anything else outside of ourselves. Once again, we are not victims of anything. Victimhood is a state of mind and it is a rather juvenile and ignorant excuse to drink and use drugs.

    
 As for depression, sorry, but that is also a function of this pathological focus on self. The person who is obsessed with oneself – ones feelings, ones thoughts, ones life, ones relationships, ones worldly interactions and ambitions and successes and failures is the person who develops depression. Depression cannot exist without such an intense self-preoccupation to the point that we extract or leak vital energy from our beings. Self-obsession is agonizing and torturous, but it is self-induced. Self-consciousness and insecurity and other bitter and exhausting feelings are the direct result of excessive self-focus, self-seeking, dishonesty and fear. Just as addiction, it is a self-induced and self-maintained spiritual/emotional malady. Try God.

     It may be difficult to wrap your head around this and yes it may be painful and infuriating to hear, but underneath the labels, underneath the science and the chemistry and the symptoms and manifestation of it all, there is the truth. And the truth is that people who do not obsess over their selves, people who serve, work hard, have purpose and meaning do not become depressed. They are too busy living life. They also have enough maturity and intelligence to understand that even when life gets rough and feelings become strong and overwhelming, they do not resist (what you resist will persist). They understand that this is just human life. They understand that these are just thoughts and feelings and they are all part of us. They embrace them, befriend them, and continue walking through their negative, defeating thoughts and fears. They continue to work hard and do what needs to be done. In doing so, the feelings and thoughts move through them with haste instead of becoming stuck, swelling into a monster and eventually crippling them. Many people are simply too busy working to get depressed. 


     My advice to those who suffer from depression is to start working 80 hours a week and you won’t have time to feel depressed. You won’t have time to have enough thoughts to wallow about until you sink into a depression. Try getting busy enough and depression will not even be part of your vocabulary. It is generally a malady of the affluent, truth be told. Many working-class countries that are not Nanny States like America do not even have the term or malady of depression. Our deviant, Marxist culture of entitlement has produced an endless myriad of ridiculous mental and personality disorders. The entire DSM is the result of our cultural obsession with SELF. Sure I will get panned for this response, but I don’t care. My purpose is to call it like I see it based on my experience and the knowledge I have gained from my experience. Try Zen meditation for 2-3 hours a day for 1-2 years straight and you will alter your brain chemistry completely. Oh, and the rest of the time work hard and help others. Bye bye depression.


Those theories are rooted in old moralizing tales of how to treat addiction and illness in general.”

     Hunh? I’m not sure I follow. Let’s just present this one without comment. 


Unfortunately many of us are not only used to the stigma but we self stigmatize and start to believe things like that.”

     So actually, the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction is a good thing, not a bad thing. What are stigmas? They are behaviors etc that as a society we collectively abhor because of their qualities and effects on self, others and communities. What good does using drugs and drinking do? Is it not indulgent, distasteful and grotesque? Does it not cause harm and heartache to ourselves and our loved ones? Do we not engage in vile behaviors such as lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving, manipulating and abusing? Do we not rip out the hearts of our parents, spouses, children and friends? Do we not exhaust them and stress them and suck from them every ounce of energy and love and time and resources? What is not to stigmatize about that? And who wants to be that guy? Who wants to be the toothless, STD-ridden crackhead under a bridge somewhere? We SHOULD stigmatize drug addiction so that it is something that WE addicts also abhor! We should stigmatize it so that we addicts seek to literally run the other way, so that we seek to repel drugs and alcohol as spiritual and emotional poison. By not stigmatizing this sort of behavior, we are tacitly re-defining it as benign, as not unattractive, as some sort of normal response to the stress of human life. This new-age medical model is beginning to justify and rationalize our atrocious behavior and doing so is the absolute antithesis of self-honesty and true recovery and change. Ridiculous. 


It’s simply not true.”

    Um, yes, it simply IS true. And the sooner you begin to embrace the truth, the sooner you will begin to actually grow and get better. The problem centers in the mind, not the body. Ask any recovered person and they will confirm this for you. 


“Yea can working on humility help a person thrive/ live a more balanced life? Sure. Are we, as people who struggle with mental health problems and substance use issues, inherently selfish and immoral. Fuck no.”

     First of all, people who live in humility do not become addicts. It is a rare quality, to be sure. Second, the humbling of any drinker or drug user is literally the necessary foundation of any recovery. The act of growing and changing and recovering involves nothing BUT humility and the loss of selfishness and self-centeredness. Third, as far as addiction is concerned, I have never once written that we are “inherently” selfish and immoral. We make our choices after birth and become addicts due to the choices we make after birth. But if you want to have a philosophical discussion about our inherent nature, which I suspect you do not, the truth is, and I hate to disappoint you, but we human beings are indeed inherently selfish and immoral. Life is a spiritual journey to attempt to rise above our banal and primal instincts and to become more God-like. And whether we fail or succeed at this journey is our choice. Which choice will you make? 



Comment/Response on Carrying Self-Absorption Into Sobriety


Comment: 

I appreciate and respect your courage to put yourself out there the way you have and your view on things.
You have a good perspective on things and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me.
I am one of the few members of my family that isn’t an addict. I have dealt with addiction as a sister, daughter, care taker at a drug rehab facility and as a friend but now I also am dealing with it as a mom. Completely different ball game…
My daughter has been clean for 3 years and is doing very good as far as not using. However she is so self obsessed it is creating a lot of problems.
She was not self obsessed as a child or before the addiction. It was quite the other way around. She was always taking care of and thinking of everyone else and a very considerate and thoughtful person. So now when it has been hinted at that she is being selfish in some way she gets very upset and hurt. She hasn’t noticed or come to terms with the fact that she is so self absorbed. It is a VERY loaded subject and I am afraid it may be a trigger.
How do you tell a person that used to be the most caring and considerate person you know that their addiction made them self absorbed? She deserves all kinds of props for kicking the drug habit. I just don’t think she knows that there were other ‘habits’ that formed while addicted, that need to be addressed and that can be kicked as well. Also how does a person stop being self absorbed.
I really appreciate your time and hope you have some suggestions
~Julia


Response: 
     The very act of becoming an addict is selfish. Simply to ply the mind and body with a substance for an effect is selfish. People drink and use drugs to provide themselves with comfort, and thus you must begin using with a focus on the self. That said, years of alcohol or drug abuse will amplify selfishness and self-absorption to the point of pathological narcissism. So addiction and selfishness are synonymous. The pathological focus on self is one of the most devastating effects on those who surround the addict, most of all the parent or spouse. To have robbed our loved ones of their time, energy, love, tears and savings and then to continue to rob them and suck them dry once physically sober is atrocious. Trust me, I know this from experience as I am guilty of this myself. 

     To carry our narcissism into sobriety implies that she has only achieved physical sobriety, and unfortunately, achieving physical sobriety alone is not a tremendous accomplishment. It is just the very beginning. It is just a clinical event to expel the body of poison. To rid the addict of the spiritual and emotional filth which lies underneath the addiction is an entirely different undertaking. Drugs and alcohol are just a side-show, a byproduct of a much deeper and significant problem. The problem with the addict is not drugs, it is who they are and who they have become. We are very sick people spiritually and emotionally. Thus, all of the work begins AFTER achieving sobriety. 

     Therefore, she must engage in rigorous and lifelong spiritual and moral action. Since the problem with addiction is selfishness, the logical cure is to be unselfish, to get out of ourselves, to serve others and to give back. I would strongly recommend she engage in the Step process, but it must be done wholeheartedly, thoroughly and fearlessly. 99% = 0. The actions laid out in the Big Book will change the life of anyone. The 4th Step alone serves to expel and become accountable for an entire lifetime of resentment, fear and other spiritual and emotional poison. Furthermore, making amends to those we have hurt serves to humble us. Working with others and being deferent to God are other actions that induce a more humble attitude and frame of mind. The Steps are no joke. They involve tremendous ‘other-centered’ work and action. This will rid her of her self-absorption. 

     As far as telling her she is self-absorbed, just tell her. Her hostile reaction is pure proof that it is the truth. And if the sober addict still hates the truth, they are no better at all. 

     Thank you so much for the kind words and for reaching out. God bless you.

Comment/Response on Selfishness as Lethal Spiritual Poison Regardless of Drugs/Alcohol/Sobriety

Comment – Anonymous:

     THE ROOT TO OUR PROBLEM IS SELFISHNESS – this statement here sums things up perfectly, if only my recovering family member could see this. We have just endured watching and living through 8 years of his selfish meth addiction hell and now in his recovery he has decided to have a selfish affair with a married woman (replace one addiction with another) he is running around like a god dam teenager again & is in the process of stealing another mans family, for his own selfish benefit. When confronted about his behavior, he tells us “He doesn’t give a shit about the little kid or this ladies husband – Its good for him, what he wants, what he needs for his new life, so he’ll take it!!! He can’t understand why his family can barely look at him, the drug use has stopped but the selfishness is still running wild. His affair partner is now pregnant and has filed for divorce (much to his manipulating delight) he has succeed in breaking up a family. My question to you Charlie is “can his new life succeed when its based on so much selfishness? Or will his selfishness eventually destroy him?? After watching 8 years of selfish drug addiction and now another three years of selfish affair addiction, I am at the point of cutting him out of our lives forever and he can’t understand why! “I’m clean, why do you want me out of your life now he says” – Its simple “his selfishness disgusts me” & I have lost all respect for him as a person because of it.

Response:

     Yes, one can certainly achieve ‘physical’ sobriety and be destroyed by his or her selfishness, and in fact, it happens frequently. Getting sober and hitting a few meetings amounts to nothing and is perhaps less than 1% of the work required to recover from the spiritual malady of addiction. Selfishness is a primary form of spiritual poison and one that can take someone down as quickly as drugs and alcohol themselves. The conduct which you describe is certainly as destructive and vile as meth use, if not more, as it harms so many others and creates vicious karmic triangles.

I’ve written before that drugs and alcohol are merely a sideshow. If we fail to change and grow along moral and spiritual lines, we have no chance to recover, to right our wrongs, and to become worthy once again. Believe me, I’m no example of this, but I try, and it is the truth.

We can simply refer to the Big Book for answers…

“Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.62

Or the Bible…

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:16

“But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Romans 2:8

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” 2 Timothy 3:2-4

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The 4th Step Is Not Reading the Poster at the Meeting – Excerpt from ACTS, Chp. 4

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STEP 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
     Why keep such a miraculous elixir in the dark, hidden from the rest of the world? Written moral inventory is a mind-opening and potentially life-changing tool that should not be exclusive to alcoholics and drugs addicts. The 4th Step has the power and wisdom to entirely shift our perception of self and others. As we reach new depths of honesty and clarity, the 4th Step combined with the 5th, 6th and 7th may even restore or dramatically alter our brain chemistry. How could it be? Because we are about to rid ourselves of a lifetime of resentment, fear, self-deception and the emotional turmoil that has fueled and maintained our patterns of thinking and behaving. Imagine exorcising years of baggage you’ve been lugging around and the effect that would have. Sure we can become ‘hard wired’ by our habits and our ways, but our brain chemistry is by no means static and can change at any time, especially when such an enormous amount of internal filth falls from you instantly. The potentially euphoric emptying out and shower of relief is something you do not want to miss.

     In our 4th Step, we sit down and write resentment inventory, fear inventory and sex inventory to expel the emotional and psychological garbage that has piled up inside of us. We are human. Nobody is immune or exempt from anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration, judgment, projection, false assumptions, anxiety, fear, dishonesty, self-seeking and selfishness. Emotional or spiritual poison left unchecked can turn into a volcano just waiting to erupt… yet once dissolved, there is room to allow for something much greater and more powerful to come in and fill the void. The idea for addicts and alcoholics is to replace our addiction with something at least as powerful as the addiction itself, and the same goes for any other demon. Soft, fluffy, hollow remedies won’t work when we are powerless over something. We are going to need an engine with some real horsepower.

     The problem with harboring resentment, fear and sexual misconduct is that they slowly rot us from within, eating away at our physical, mental and spiritual health. Resentment is like a psychic acid, slowly burning the soul and eventually destroying us with jade, cynicism and self-delusion until we wind up depressed and full of self-pity. It will convince us that we are somehow victims and that something outside of us is to blame for our woes, but despite the problems we may have, whether real or imagined, to blame anything but ourselves is false. The French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, once asserted that our “existence precedes our essence”. While we are certainly born with certain proclivities, traits and personalities, the idea is that we ultimately make ourselves into who we become, regardless of external circumstances. If I become a hero, I have made myself a hero. Conversely, if I become a failure, I have made myself a failure. Inventory teaches us this truth, but only if we are willing to find it and then accept it once we do.

     The Big Book notes that resentment is the “#1 offender for alcoholics”, but one of the purposes of this book is to point out that resentment will crush anybody, addict or not. The secret is to realize that resentments are born within and therefore can be vaporized without anything outside of us needing to change. People tend to think the only way to dissolve resentment is for external circumstances to change, but that is not correct. Once a resentment grows within, its energy is there to stay until we ourselves change.

     We cause ourselves to resent because it is often easier to blame others than to swallow our pride and feel the discomfort of personal responsibility. By nature, we tend to be selfish, ashamed, emotionally immature and ignorant, and it is up to us to rise above our more banal, lower selves. If we loathe or dislike some part of who we are, we often project that quality onto others, seeing it in them instead of ourselves. In doing so, we develop a false perception of events, thus clearing the path to resentment. We see events as acting upon us as opposed to creating or attracting the events to ourselves.

     Even if we are wronged terribly by someone, the resentment that burns inside is still birthed and fueled by our reaction and response to the event as opposed to the event itself. No person or thing outside of us actually turns a switch and makes us feel, say or do anything, as we alone are responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions. Not to realize this is one of the great human illusions, next to fear. It is therefore our responsibility to rid ourselves of the resentment, and the truth is that only we can do this, with the help of God. The beauty of this process is that when we see the light and gain the ability to let go of our resentments, we can forgive. Once we can forgive ourselves, we can forgive anybody, and that, my friends, is a recipe for freedom.

     Close relationships cause most of our resentments, especially those with our parents and spouses or x-spouses. Mom and Dad are in almost every case the first two people on our list. It’s easy to resent our parents because we care so much about what they think of us. We care about how they see us and we seek their approval. When Mom or Dad disapproved of who I am or what I was doing, or if they criticized or ridiculed some part of me, you can probably guess what my natural response used to be: defensive anger, underneath of which was sadness and shame. To avoid the discomfort of my feelings, I threw it right back at them, accusing them of the very same things. Perhaps I was aware on some level that what I did was wrong. Perhaps I didn’t do anything wrong but simply felt unheard and misunderstood.

     Whatever the case, as the resentment grows, it began to warp my perception. I failed to see that I wanted something I didn’t get, that I wanted to be seen a certain way, that I was trying to cover something up and got exposed, or that some fear or shame of mine was triggered. Perhaps I was ignoring something I previously did to antagonize them, or perhaps I failed to see that Mom or Dad were just trying to protect me or teach me something and it came out the wrong way. Let’s say they did actually say or do something hurtful. Maybe I failed to see that they themselves were suffering and it wasn’t about me at all. Sure you can’t expect a kid to understand everything a parent might be going through, but we can go back and reassess what really happened. We can get honest about our own feelings and actions to see if our assumptions may have been off. Not everything is about us!

     One time my dad was on the phone with his sister, joking sarcastically that I did nothing with my life and happily leeched off of him. I fumed. It infuriated me… but it was TRUE. I was weak, depressed, insecure, and intentionally avoided my discomfort and responsibility by isolating and avoiding the world. Part of the ensuing resentment towards Dad was fueled by the deeper truth that I was a coward. Another part of it is that my dad was quite sarcastic on the phone, which I interpreted as him using my shame and low self-worth for his amusement. He wasn’t consciously doing any such thing, but because everything was somehow about ME, it solidified an enormous grudge I had towards him for years – that he never really heard, understood, knew or accepted who I was, and that he didn’t really care about me or how I felt inside.

     By writing inventory, I discovered that Dad wasn’t trying to hurt me. For one, he was having a private conversation and I was eavesdropping on the other line, and whose fault is that? Two, I failed to see how HE might be feeling. Perhaps he was worried about me or about his own finances and our future. Perhaps he was expressing that fear indirectly and I chose to construe it as offensive. In fact, years later I discovered that my father was unemployed at the time and hiding it from us. As well, he was developing early-onset dementia and was anxious about money and our future. It is so easy to make false assumptions about others, assumptions that mold our point of view – the way we see others and the way we react. The point is that we have to see where other people are coming from. What might they be going through? What are their true intentions?

     My sensitivity was also characteristic of my life-sucking depression, the conditions of which led to a very unhealthy sort of narcissism. We who are depressed are pathologically or hyper-focused on self and it becomes a self-fulfilling loop. The depression feeds the narcissism and the narcissism feeds the depression. Inventory helps us to expand our view of the world around us so we do not see ourselves as a victim, as the only one suffering out there. It prevents us from thinking that the world owes us something because of the way we feel. The world owes us nothing.

     People generally have some very old and well-cemented patterns of thinking and behaving. If we have been ridiculed as a child or had no stability growing up, we may develop a guilt complex or a pattern of self-doubt. We may even resent others for being annoyed by the doubt in our tone of voice, as the guilt practically creeps out of our pores. The truth is that we are only mad at ourselves for not being able to communicate confidently or straightforwardly with others. We are unable to say what we mean. We are passive and indirect. We beat around the bush, expecting people to read our minds. We do this because we fear being rejected for who we are. We are afraid to be honest. Imagine that.

     This sort of scenario is typical with both addicts and codependents, and unless we know why others are responding to us negatively, we will constantly be frustrated and hurt. Ironically, we usually have no idea how we come across, and sadly, this lack of self-awareness leads us to project our flaws onto others. Feeling misunderstood by nearly everybody, we become bitter and cynical and even begin to judge or criticize others in much the same way mom or dad ridiculed us. That is how we become our parents, which happens so frequently that it has become a cliché.

     My parents weren’t perfect, and I doubt if anybody’s were. I was shamed and misunderstood at times. I was also made fun of horribly all through elementary school, but should I blame any of that as the reason I became an alcoholic? Sorry, nope. To state the obvious, the booze didn’t crawl its way up my throat and pour itself down my throat. I chose to drink and use drugs because I wanted to drink and use drugs. In fact, I loved drinking and using drugs. That was my solution for life. I wanted to feel comfortable 24/7, even if it came at the expense of others, let alone my own well-being and sanity.

     So long as we continue to blame our parents, we won’t get better. Even if we don’t believe we mold ourselves into who we are voluntarily, what’s the point of blaming our parents when nothing they do can fix us or change the way we perceive things? Even if they begin to love us in the exact way we’ve always wanted to be loved, the skewed frame of mind and worldview we have developed over time can only be undone by us and us alone. I know it doesn’t sound fair, but when push comes to shove, it is our own responsibility to heal the damage that has already occurred, regardless of who or what is to blame. 

     Next to Mom and/or Dad, spouses usually come next on our list, and why not? Intimate relationships can be a hot, sticky mess, especially down the road when we have children and are left with little or no time at all to nourish ourselves or pursue our hobbies and passions. As we temporarily lose ourselves, our most challenging parts begin to surface and when the going gets rough, we are faced with the question of whether we truly accept these parts in each other and if we truly love the person we are with. Matters of the heart are complicated and confusing, and the dynamics are easily misunderstood. We often resent our spouses because 1) we know them so well, as they do us, and 2) we have expectations of them. When we cannot reconcile their respective flaws or quirks with what we want from them, we cop resentments at will…

Comment/Response on Selfishness, Morality & "Stigma"

Comment: 

     Alcohol use disorder/ substance use disorder/ severe depression are not caused by selfishness of self-centeredness. Those theories are rooted in old moralizing tales of how to treat addiction and illness in general. Unfortunately many of us are not only used to the stigma but we self stigmatize and start to believe things like that. It’s simply not true. Yea can working on humility help a person thrive/ live a more balanced life? Sure. Are we, as people who struggle with mental health problems and substance use issues, inherently selfish and immoral. Fuck no.


Response:

     First, I love the official DSM phraseology – “Alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder.” It’s okay to just say alcoholic or drug addict, bud. Or junkbox. Better yet, how about we just say… pig. 
     Second, um, yeah, it simply is true. When any person drinks or uses any drug for its effect, that is selfish. And continuing to drink and use drugs until you cop a habit is the sole result of multiple acts of selfishness. Moreover, the passionate concern and preoccupation with one’s feelings is indeed self-centered. What does self-centered mean then if not this? And how does an individual habitually get jammed out of his skull or completely sloshed without being selfish and self-centered? Of course it is selfish and self-centered. 
     You are also ignoring the fact that there are endless consequences of our drinking and using. The ripple effect is beyond the pale. Every time I drink and use, I cause pain to anyone who loves me or gives a shit about me. I lie, deceive, manipulate, exhaust, bankrupt. I tear the heart out of my parents, my spouse, my children. I effect those around me, my colleagues, my performance, my reputation, the reputation of my business, the company I work for, and on and on. I put the safety of others at risk. I make others uncomfortable. I walk into a room and ruin everything. All of that is selfish. All of that is born of self-centeredness. We are emotional vampires. 
     AND uh, yes, all of that is immoral. Knowing that drugs and alcohol are destructive and harmful and choosing to use them anyway is a moral failure. Going to treatment and learning of the pain we have caused others and then picking up again is a moral failure. It does not matter to what degree you have lost control or willpower – using drugs or drinking alcohol is a moral failure. That is just a fact, so feel free to rationalize it and justify it all you want to the mirror, but that does not change the fact that you are destroying yourself, hurting others and failing morally. Sorry. 
     Your point about the post asserting that we are inherently selfish and immoral is inaccurate. The moral failure and the painfully extreme condition of selfishness is committed/acquired after birth. Existence precedes essence, as Sartre put it. That is, we make ourselves, whether hero or junkie. That said, beyond voluntarily mutating ourselves into drug addicts, we are all inherently selfish and immoral. This is the human condition, and we are all called by God to rise above our more banal instincts. That is what separates the boys from the men. That is what separates thoughtful, mature, other-centered adults from infantile, selfish assholes. 
     Finally, the “stigma” as you say, is GOOD. We attach stigmas to things that we commonly consider to be abhorrent, negative, harmful, ugly, etc. etc. Why should drug and alcohol addiction, one of the most inappropriate, painful, selfish and destructive set of behaviors in the world, not be stigmatized? Furthermore, thank God the stigma exists as an appropriate way to dress drug addiction and alcoholism to further help us repel it.   
     I honestly can’t make sense of this comment. What does “old moralizing tales of how to treat addiction” even mean? Can someone help this guy out?  

Anybody Can Take Steps – Chapter Two


*
STEP 2
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
     Many who contemplate this process or embark on the Twelve Steps take issue with this particular Step. One, they don’t believe in God or Divine Intelligence. Two, even if they do believe in something greater than themselves, how do they know it will restore them when they don’t yet feelrestored? Admittedly, it’s difficult for us to believe something unless it has already happened. People collectively believed that man would never fly and the next day Orville Wright flew over the beach at Kitty Hawk. To make matters worse, we don’t like believing things that we can’t see, hear or touch right in front of us. Show me it works, and thenI’ll believe. Third, we’re not so sure that we really need to be restored to sanity. Just because we are powerless, does that mean we are actually insane? Isn’t insane someone in a nightgown and hospital slippers, locked up in an asylum getting shock treatments twice a week?

     The 2ndStep also means that we have to talk about God and spiritual concepts, which can easily rub people the wrong way, but it doesn’t have to. For our purpose of personal growth and healing, there is no need for it to get too rigid or fundamental. It doesn’t have to be so hard and absolute. It also doesn’t have to be someone else’s conception or belief system. It is personal, and each of us is left to establish our own understanding and relationship with God and the greater powers that be. Truth be told, I really don’t believe our limited and largely untapped human minds can even fathom the totality of God. I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot fully understand this mind-bending power, nor do I especially care to try to bottle it up neatly in my own man-made conception. Who are we to know the secrets of the Universe? So I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
     In my personal memoir about addiction, I wrote that anybody who has taken a 1st Step has already taken a 2nd Step by extension. By taking a 1stStep, we acknowledge there are forces more powerful than ourselves – the compulsion to drink, the temptation of sex, the lure of money, the need to control… anger, depression, grief, food, violence… and the list goes on and on. If we’ve already admitted that certain things have power over us, why is it so hard to believe there is also something more powerful but that can get us better?
     Let’s face it, many things exist that are more powerful than we are. Anyone who denies this is surely suffering from some sort of delusion of grandeur, but we can simply call it denial. Many of us who want to ignore the fact that we’ve lost control will instead fill the gap with self-worship and grandiosity, with the false belief that we can do anything, that we know everything, that we are all-powerful. That’s interesting. I would simply question this frame of mind and beg of us to answer but one simple question I had to ask myself years ago: Why, if we have the power to do anything, are we currently powerless?
     It reminds me of a relative who called me while he was in detox to ask me why he needed treatment afterwards. He said it wasn’t necessary because he had power over drugs and alcohol. So I asked him, “Then what are you doing in detox if you have power over drugs and alcohol? Chances are you don’t you drink and use normally if you find yourself locked up at an inpatient facility, wouldn’t you say?” My relative was so convinced he knew the truth about himself and then a single question turned his entire world upside down. In a moment of clarity, he responded, “Yeah, that’s a good point. I guess I don’t use in a normal way, especially considering I’m here in detox. Okay, I’ll go to treatment.” The question helped him to step back, open his eyes and see things from a higher perch. In doing so, he saw the greater reality of life. This process is asking us peel back the layers of a lifetime of preconceived beliefs, notions and attitudes. Sure we may have always thought of life and the world in a certain way, but does that mean it is always so? Are we open to the idea that we may have been wrong all of these years? Are we even willing to be wrong? These are important questions to ask ourselves from time to time.
     The fact is there are many things far greater and more powerful than we humans. Exhibit A = Mother Nature. No one can deny we stand at the mercy of the forces of nature. Our very existence lies in the delicate balance of our solar system and atmospheric conditions. We think and believe we are safe because we have always been, but nobody really knows what might happen. Are not our very lives at the mercy of nature and her powerful storms, tornados, tsunamis, wildfires or sudden lightening strikes? Or how about the simple yet inescapable cycles of nature, such as night and day, life and death, or the fluctuating output of the sun’s energy? The point is that it is really not so hard to admit a host of forces and phenomena that are more powerful than we are, so why is God so difficult?
     One reason is because science has been able to explain the workings or dynamics of many such physical forces, but not so much with God. But are there not several tangible things that we cannot fully explain as well? I know, for instance, that our Universe exists but certainly cannot explain why it exists, how it came to be, what existed before, what lies beyond, or how dark matter can literally bend time and space. People say that nothing existed before the Universe but what is nothing and what are nothing’s boundaries? I also know that cells divide and that our physical bodies involuntarily heal themselves upon injury, just as nature rebuilds itself, but I can’t explain how or why that happens, at least not without Divine Intelligence. I know that we humans are more than the sum of our parts but who can explain or even describe with any justice this intangible part of ourselves that makes us who we are, that drives us to create, and that allows us to glow with love and spirit. Think for a moment about the miracle of life and the sheer beauty of the natural world, let alone the mind-blowing immensity of the Universe. Sure science has been able to explain some of this, but isn’t science really just explaining an endless pile of miracles? Doesn’t science only prove the existence of God by showing us how amazing it all is?
     One of the simplest ways we can challenge our human conceit and the illusion of power is by asking ourselves but one simple question, and I take this right from the Big Book, page 56. “Who are you to say there is no God?” Fine, I may not be able to prove God exists but you cannot prove that He doesn’t. Why do we humans presume to know the secrets of life and the mystery of all existence? Seems like we might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves, does it not?
     Finally, let’s say we have had some abusive or insane experience with organized religion growing up and simply refuse to let go of our stubbornness or obstinacy. No one can deny the number of deviants and sociopaths that infect certain traditions, but don’t worry because there is also a way for those who bristle towards organized religion. For one, we can simply try suspending our disbelief temporarily. Take all of your opinions, beliefs and prejudice and just put them up on the shelf for a while. In the meantime, jump in and begin doing the work involved in these upcoming Steps and just see what happens. Something may hit you on the way. You may be surprised to experience things that are mystical, things you cannot quite explain scientifically. Having real, actual results or even miraculous things occur both within and without can instantly restore our faith in the Great Unknown. If our spiritual experience becomes palpable, perhaps you will reconsider the existence of a power much greater than all of us that runs through everything – a divine thread, if you will.
     Another way around atheism or agnosticism is to assess your own condition. How badly are you suffering? How bad is the pain? How miserable are you? What is your degree of agony? If you are hopeless or seemingly beyond repair, you may not have much of a choice. You might eventually reach the point where you have to ask yourself, Hey, why not? What the heck? I’ve tried all of these other things and have failed repeatedly, so I might as well give this spiritual solution a shot, despite my protestations. What have I really got to lose? My pride? Exactly. Is swallowing our pride and trying something new really going to kill us? The worst-case scenario is it might CHANGE us, and for the better. Perhaps change is what we are afraid of after all, but the irony is that what might in fact destroy us is nottrying it, not believing, not trusting and not having faith that a Greater Power can restore us.
     Isn’t the idea of something other than ourselves helping us and guiding us in fact a tremendous relief? We have been trying to manage life and the world all on our own. We have been relying on self-will (self-exertion or force) and our limited human power to try to direct and control everything. What a relief to know that we don’t have to go it alone anymore. We don’t have to worry about everything, fix everything or try to control each and every outcome. We don’t have to rely on our messed up heads to direct us through life. Let’s admit it, we get confused. Sometimes life throws us challenges and curve balls that seem insurmountable and impossible to decode, so why pull your hair out trying? Just to protect and nourish our pride or to feed our ego? Haven’t we already suffered enough? So let us try letting go instead. Try believing and trusting and see what happens. You never know until you give it a shot.
     To be honest, I personally used to think praying and having faith was a cop out, but then I realized it had nothing to do with a conscious failure to take responsibility and do the tough work for ourselves. It simply meant that we ask for help, wisdom and divine guidance along the way. It means that we ask for some extra power to do all of those things we have been unable to do for ourselves. It did, however, take me a quite a while to understand this.
     I actually used to accost born-again Christians in the subway stations of Boston as they stood on the platforms with a couple of ply-boards hanging from their necks, passing out cartoons about the end of the world. I’d also roll down my window sometimes and scream “Save Yourself!” to people as they poured out of church on Sunday. I once stared down my great uncle with one of my famous ‘death glares’ as he lovingly delivered the sermon at my grandmother’s funeral. Why the fuming lunacy, you may ask?
     For one, I was infuriated these people were refusing to take responsibility for saving themselves, despite the almost comical hypocrisy of me doing absolutely nothing with my own life except getting jammed out of my skull all day long. Second, I was convinced that I was easily the smartest guy on earth and I burned inside to convince them how brainwashed, stupid and misguided they were, and again, all this coming from an arrogant, do-nothing drug addict who was living off of Daddy and whining about everything one could possibly think to whine about. The truth is that I was the ignorant one, completely misunderstanding what it meant to pray and rely on God, which I eventually learned has nothing whatsoever to do with absconding oneself from personal responsibility.
     I was delusional to judge these people, people who actually got out of bed in the morning and took care of themselves and their families as they courageously trod off to work and confronted life, people who could engage, listen and give of themselves without first requiring a bag of dope or a bottle of booze. I thought going to work in the morning was a tremendous feat, one deserving of a trophy, and one that most certainly necessitated peeling the time-release coating off of a few OxyContins, crushing them up and sniffing them in my car as I sped down the highway. I felt similarly about coming home at night to a wife who selfishly requested a five-minute conversation about her day. With such enormous and out of the ordinary pressures following a brutal day of work, a near fifth of vodka had to enter my bloodstream before the insufferable task of talking over dinner could take place. Kidding aside, the point is that I was judging people who also have bad days and feel awful sometimes, yet walk through it stoically and soberly. I was bashing people who simply had some humility, some deference to God, and who didn’t take credit for every single accomplishment or blessing in their lives, let alone taking them all for granted.
     At the same time, I felt as though I was the only one on Earth who really knew God, who understood the mysteries of life. Religious doctrine and symbols like church, temples, crosses and pipe organs evoked a profound sense of skepticism. I was convinced these were simply instruments and concepts of the world, of deception and manipulation. I never felt the presence of God sitting in church. I couldn’t identify with the language and the history of our tradition, given how long ago it all occurred.
     Instead, I felt the presence of God out in the woods, on top of a mountain, sailing on the ocean, watching a sunset or taking in the golden hue of the afternoon sun as it splashed off the leaves. I had moments of rapture or the euphoria of an empty mind while in the flow of playing music or camping alone in the mountains. But even these brief moments of the Divine, as real as they might have been, were fleeting and soon vaporized as the world crept back in and infected my serene mind. I became depressed after realizing that belief alone was not enough. I knew deep inside that no symbol, text, building, belief system or even the healing power of nature could truly fix me or fundamentally change who I was, nor could it alter my primary mission in life of making myself feel better and achieving maximum comfort.
     If you come to find, as I did, that belief alone is insufficient, that it doesn’t contain or is not able to harness the needed power to change you from deep within, it may be time to add some action to the mix. Remember that over time, our minds can become quite damaged, if not altogether re-wired. Thus, a few rituals, a belief system and a once-a-week trip to church or the monastery may not cut it.
     However, we do need to believe in a power greater than ourselves because we need to understand where the power we have lost is going to come from. We are missing a chip, a key ingredient to our recovery, and yet cannot seem to procure it organically on our own. So the idea behind this 2nd Step is to help us understand that power must come from outside of ourselves. It must come from a source far beyond the scope of human faculty. When we suddenly gather the strength and courage that we’ve been unable to gather for our entire lives and then go out and accomplish things we’ve been unable to accomplish, what is that other than divine intervention and grace? What is that other than divine power?
     Faith gets a bad rap. Just the word, God, makes some of us red with anger and judgment, but what is faith? Isn’t faith just trust? And don’t we have to trust in the unknown all throughout life? What’s so bad about that? In fact, it is quite necessary to take a blind leap of faith, to embark on this work without truly knowing the result. Sure we’d all like to know exactly how everything works and what the precise outcome will be. We want to know with certainty if these Steps will work before making the effort, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.  
     The beautiful irony is that it won’t work UNTIL we let go. Why? Because taking a leap of faith and trusting in the unknown is an act of courage. Stepping into the darkness unsure of where we will land is a spiritual act, and when we walk through our fear, that is when God reaches out and touches us. Faith, you see, is the name of the game. Think of a trust fall, where you close your eyes and fall backwards. You must let go and trust that the people behind you will extend their arms to catch you. And that’s just a trust fall. Shouldn’t we trust when it comes to our recovery as well, when it comes to freeing ourselves from our deepest form of pain and suffering? So when it comes to your growth and healing, do a trust fall! Take a leap into the unknown. Trust, in no uncertain terms, and you may come to witness great things.
     Some of the most obstinate fellows I know have some of the strongest faith and firmest resolve in God after consummating this process. I know others who took Steps out of spite or atheistic pride just to prove the Steps wouldn’t work, and guess what? They gave themselves to this program and bang! Lit up and restored, they now have a living, breathing fire inside of them. They will stop at nothing to continue growing, serving and helping others to recover just the same.
     This is powerful stuff, so beware. If you don’t want to enter mystical territory or have a spiritual experience that may change your life forever, the Steps may not be for you. However, if you suffer from anything at all, the potential relief is something you might not want to miss. During my own experience, I was often lifted up by a comfort and contentment I’d never known before. The feeling was intense and the power behind it was unmistakable, and I believe that this reservoir of peace is available to anyone, regardless of circumstances.
     As we continue through this process, we learn how to pray. At first, prayer may not mean much to us. It may sound like meaningless words that have no real ability to effect change. Believe me, I completely understand why you might be discouraged, especially when nothing is happening. It’s difficult to convince with words on a page something we really must experience for ourselves, but the fact remains, when we let go and earnestly ask for help, things will start to happen. The power of prayer is indeed REAL. So jump in with both feet and don’t be afraid. There is no place for fear when we embark on our new life of spiritual evolution.
     And yes, our fears may naturally continue to haunt us, but don’t worry. We will get to that in our 4th Step and onward. All will be addressed in due time. We do one Step at a time, not all Twelve, so remember to stay where your feet are and just do what’s right in front of you.
     *When we become at least willing to believe that there exists a power greater than ourselves that can heal us and restore our willpower, our power of choice, we have taken a 2ndStep.