All The Same

     I always remember that we addicts and alcoholics are all the same, but always forget that we humans are all the same. Why can I humble myself regarding my addiction yet remain so arrogant when it comes to the rest of the world? Why do I still think I know something? Why do I still think that some others know nothing? The truth is that nobody is better or worse than anybody else.

     But beyond that, why do I still think that our constructed human identities, our superficial problems and our meaningless opinions mean so much? Is it just me, or do we get sucked into a narrow little tunnel about our lives and the world?

     I still manage to forget everything I’ve learned on a daily basis. It’s like I suddenly go mad and start taking everything so seriously. The state of the world, the economy, what people know or don’t know, what people believe or don’t believe, who has power and who doesn’t, or better yet… the petty little ridiculous dramas that I pathetically lapse into with relatives or friends. As if it matters all so very much. Actually, it only matters to us if it matters to us… get it?

     The truth is that when I allow myself to get sucked into the nonsense of the world, or of identity, or of human drama… I have lost not only my mind but I have also lost my soul. I have lost the peace within, as I thrust myself out of the present (the only thing that exists) and into the past or the future.

     Lao Tzu said it himself, If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

God, teach me how to stay out of my head…

God Isn’t Santa Claus

     What is prayer? And why doesn’t selfish prayer work? I was taught that prayer is supposed to be an unselfish action of humility that grants us access to God, to something greater. It can open up a telephone line between me and Power. When I’m engaged in selfish thought, word or action, I am shut off from any connection to God. That is why selfish prayer doesn’t work. We cannot reach or connect to God when engaged in selfishness.

     Early in recovery, sure I prayed for myself. But it wasn’t for cars, money, or a promotion. It was for the willingness to walk through a fear I was having, or the patience to make an amends to someone difficult, or the power to walk through my exhaustion and get myself to work. I had to pray for these things to 1) get better, and 2) to become more useful to God and to others.

     But as we continue to grow up and get better, we learn to pray unselfishly. Generally, unselfish prayer isn’t directed toward self anymore. We start praying for others. We pray for others to have joy, peace, happiness, love, courage, strength, prosperity, and God in their lives. Sure I sometimes do this for selfish reasons. I pray for someone whom I resent to have everything I want for myself. I do this to relieve me of the resentment, and that of course, is selfish. But ridding ourselves of resentment is also unselfish in the sense that it cleans us and allows to us then be more useful.

     I still need to pray for myself at times. I pray for help being more honest, more tolerant, more willing to grow spiritually. I pray to become a better man. But you should be able to feel it in your gut if your prayer is purely selfish and therefore wrong. If we find ourselves praying for something to feed our ego or pride, we should feel that it is wrong. And we should feel shut off from Spirit. When we pray unselfishly, there is an immediate internal shift. Sure it may be subtle, but we should feel a quietness, a calmness, a humility, a connection. We have officially tapped in.

God, teach me how to pray unselfishly…

Neutral = Reverse

     Neutral is reverse for guys like me. I woke up this morning, forgot to take a moment to stop, be still, listen and pray, and instead just started rushing around. As years go by, I find myself getting up and without thinking or stopping, I go full speed ahead, diving into bills, work, this, that.

     Let me warn drug addicts NOT to do that.

     Don’t do what I do, at least not on those days. Why? Because guys like me naturally move backwards if we’re not moving forward. I naturally become sicker if I’m not actively working on myself. I can’t stop praying or meditating, I can’t stop thinking about others or helping others, I can’t stop emptying my mind of resentment or stop searching for other ways to heal and evolve… at least not without becoming spiritually sick again. I must grow. Hanging out is not an option. Floating is not an option. Neutral is not a gear addicts have in their transmission.

     To hide from what I need to do, I distract myself by using several coping methods. Exercise is probably the best and most effective distraction. Sure it’s healthy. Sure it’s good for me. It also alters my bio-chemistry by releasing endorphins that act on the dopaminergic reward system in my brain, thereby flushing my nervous system with natural pain relief. In English, exercising is like a mini drug, an anti-depressant. Should I stop exercising? No, but it’s still a distraction. Finding something to fix in my house is another wonderful distraction. I’ll wake up some days and decide to go scrape and paint my entire stairwell for no reason whatsoever. Hours and hours soar by without a single thought invading my mind. Pure peace. Cleaning and organizing are other decent distractions. TV and that movie theatre-style popcorn they sell now are some of the more unproductive distractions. And we quickly go down from there. Use your imagination. 
     What’s the point? Well, for one, these distractions are only necessary when I’m not okay, or when I’m not willing to do the real work on myself. It’s easier to just go exercise, or paint, or watch TV than it is to meditate, or write inventory, or go speak to a group of people about addiction and the Twelve Steps. Let me assure any addicts out there that the harder thing to do is without question the better thing. Easy is bad for alcoholics and junkies. Easy is what we do. Easy is like our personal code or creed. Easy is our religion. Just like selfish is. But hard is good for us. If I’m not challenging myself, it’s all over.
     That’s one reason why and how I got better. I’m such a stubborn bastard, that I made it a challenge. I wanted to prove to myself and to everybody else that I wasn’t a total loser and a complete fucking coward, so I put every ounce of energy and willingness that I had left in my mind, body and soul towards getting better. For the first several years of recovery, the only thing that went through my mind was how I can serve God. Then I remembered I also have a wife and family. And believe me, taking care of your family is probably the single best thing you can do with your life. The easy amends was the one to the clerk at Dunkin’ Donuts who I verbally abused because she charged me for an empty cup. But the living amends to my family that goes on and on everyday for the rest of my life. That’s the real work. Why? For one, I don’t wipe my hands after a quick ‘sorry’ and off I go. Nope. I owe it to them to become a better husband, son and brother every day until I die.

     It’s always good for addicts to remember that they really don’t deserve the people who stick it out with them. How lucky we truly are…

God, teach me to stop, listen, pray, and remember You before I start my day…