Addiction 101

     “There is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, p.31

     Translation: Physically, we are screwed. Oh, and science still hasn’t done so… but even if it did someday, I would refuse such a procedure with a resolve as strong as gold. I think I’ll take the incredible and mystical life that I have now as opposed to muddling through as a mundane zombie, locked inside my small, narrow, 3-dimensional world.

     You can turn a non-addict into an addict, but there is no turning an addict back into a non-addict. We have an ‘allergy’ to drugs and alcohol that we will die with. It doesn’t matter if we are sober for half a century. Give us a drink and we will react physically as does any chronic alcoholic. It won’t be long until we are falling down drunk 24/7 and back in detox. This is what both addicts and families MUST understand. Our bodies NEVER recover. We will never drink normally once we break our bodies. And there is nothing on this earth that can change us back into a normal drinker. Nothing. No person, no pill, no book, not even a profound spiritual experience. Bottom line: We will die with the body of an addict.

     What we can do away with is the insanity that makes us drink despite knowing that we respond abnormally. We can recover from the mental obsession – thoughts to drink or use that do not respond to ration or reason. Knowing that we are abnormal and yet continuing to drink is surely a form of insanity. We somehow think that it won’t be the same this time around. We have a very special form of lunacy where we somehow forget who we are and how we react once the thought to drink saturates our minds. Our entire history of chaos and disaster just disappears from our consciousness. And even if our history is not lost on us, it certainly doesn’t have much weight when compared to our new idea to start drinking again, because this time we can control it! Like when I told myself that I didn’t really have a problem with OxyContin because I bought a few 80s and cut them up into little pieces for each day of the week to be controlled and moderate… um, until three o’clock in the morning when I had plucked them all from their hiding spaces, crushed ’em up and inhaled them like a pig.

     So an active addict is broken both physically and mentally. He will NEVER recover physically and thus can never drink or use again. If he does, he will have an allergic reaction and will break out into more and more. His only choice is lifelong abstinence. However, if we have an entire psychic change, then we will never have to worry about drinking or using ever again because any thought to do so will have ZERO power over us. We will always be free from drugs and alcohol so long as we maintain our spiritual health through right action. Small price to pay, if you ask me.

     To note, that doesn’t mean we need to beat ourselves up 24/7. On the contrary, we need to rid ourselves of guilt and self-pity, as that is selfish and prevents us from being useful to others. Achieving recovery and health is about balance – sometimes we help ourselves, sometimes we help others, sometimes we focus on our families, sometimes we focus on our jobs, and sometimes we just relax and go have some fun.

God, teach me what I can do and what I can’t do…

There Is No Worse Than

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

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

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

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

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

Alcoholic = Addict

     I was just barely getting through a local meeting one night when I heard roughly this from the speaker:

     “By the way, if you’re a pothead hippie or some shit, then go to another meeting for like potheads anonymous. This is alcoholics anonymous. AA is for alcoholics, not drug addicts. If you smoke pot, you don’t even need to come here ’cause you’re still sober.”

     The guy was excruciating but I ended up laughing, as this sort of attitude is so common in my region. Clearly the speaker wasn’t an alcoholic. In fact, thousands of AA members around here aren’t even in the vicinity of alcoholism. What we’ve got is a slew of heavy drinkers who procured a few DUIs and were court-ordered to attend AA. Having no prior social skills and therefore no social life, they grab onto it like the bottle, come religiously, and saunter around the halls like Holier Than Thou ‘old timers’.

     Yes I know that is a generalization but you can trust me when I say I’ve been to just about every meeting on the north shore and there is virtually NO distinction. AA meetings around here are a shining example of untreated alcoholism.

   
     So regarding the difference between addicts and alcoholics, let’s just say that the notion itself is an oxymoron. There is no difference. The body of an addict is no physiologically different than the body of an alcoholic. Plus, if any of our so-called old timers picked up the Big Book, they could learn about how our allergic reaction to alcohol crosses all lines. If we experience the phenomenon of craving when we take a drink, then we will experience the phenomenon of craving when we take any mood-altering substance.

     Try it, if you want.

     If you’re a north shore drunk, go dump a pile of cocaine in front of you and call me at 6am when you’re practically seizing out but need another bag. Or why don’t you throw down a couple OC 40s every day for a week and then talk to me about how you need to get your hands on the OC 80s instead. Or perhaps you should start taking your wife’s anxiety medication and try not to rack up another DUI after passing out behind the wheel. But sure, of course you’re not also a drug addict… just an alcoholic, right?

     It doesn’t matter what your poison is. It doesn’t even matter if you hate coke or weed or benzos or dope. If you have the allergy, you are 100% screwed and therefore any substance will deliver you straight back to detox. But until then, have fun at the semi-annual sober dances.

God, teach us that the allergy crosses all lines and therefore we are not safe from any mood-altering substance…

Allergy

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

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

Crossing Lines

     There is no, “I’m an alcoholic but not a drug addict.” There is no, “I have a problem with heroin but not cocaine.” Or the best is, “I’m addicted to everything (or nothing) except weed.” That one even tops, “Prescription drugs aren’t really drugs. I mean, it’s not like I’m some dirty, toothless crackhead rotting away under a bridge.”

     No, you’re not… not yet.

     If you think you’re different from the drug addict because all you do is chug wine every night and play solitaire, think again. There is no difference.

     If I am an addict, then I have an allergy to alcohol and drugs that crosses all lines. If I am an alcoholic, then I’m also a heroin addict, a cocaine addict, a benzodiazepine addict, and a pothead. Once you have the body of an addict, NOTHING is safe. Not even Tylenol PM. Why? Because any mood-altering substance will trigger the same physiological response. Any drug will trigger an allergic reaction, characterized by a physical craving for more and more and more. Craving is a physical event, not that urge you feel when you’re sober. We don’t crave things. We obsess over things.

     Sure addicts have their preferences. But when the booze dries up and your grandma has some Valium in her cabinet, it’s a done deal. Sure I don’t really care for benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, but if I (just by accident, of course) stumble across them in your medicine cabinet, don’t expect to see them next time you need one. I wasn’t really a cocaine guy, but if you put a pile of it in front of me, it’s goodbye to your cocaine, and then it’s suddenly sunrise and let’s call the dealer for some more even though my jaw could really use a break.

     Addiction is addiction. Alcoholics have the same broken body as crackheads do, though they might have an air about them in their respective AA meetings. One of the first local meetings I ever went to, the speaker preempted his ‘look at all the things that I did’ speech with something like, “By the way, this is AA – that’s Alcoholics Anonymous – not druggie anonymous or pot anonymous. If you’re in here ’cause you smoke pot, you’re no alcoholic, so get out! AA is for alcoholics only!”

     That guy may have killed some heroin addict who got up, left, and then overdosed in his car in the church parking lot. That dumbass speaker didn’t realize he’s distinguishing between the SAME illness, just different symptoms. You drink, I sniff OxyContin. You blow cocaine, I like Xanax. You eat Ritalin all day, I smoke weed all day. Same thing. By the way, I became an opiate addict, and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (and the program for alcoholics contained within) saved my life.

God, teach me and others that our allergy crosses all lines…