Broken Mind

     “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p.23

     So true, it hurts. Perhaps what hurts even more is that our brilliant, saintly, heroic, divinely ordained, perhaps even angelic doctors and psychiatrists (forget about social workers and addiction specialists) don’t believe this or understand it in the slightest. They believe addiction to be a purely physiological condition, a bio-chemical imbalance. Needless to say, that is absolutely correct, in that the brain of an addict is a changed brain neuro-chemically. But what they aren’t telling you, or rather, what they can’t tell you is why an addict who has been sober for months or even years, whose brain chemistry has returned to normal, suddenly relapses? They cannot tell you this because it somehow desecrates their belief system, that things we cannot see or prove do not exist.

     But how naive and obtuse it is not to understand that wrong and immoral behavior can also produce changes to the brain, or rather to the mind. In fact, the disgustingly selfish and destructive behaviors of addicts do just that, warp his or her brain to the point of insanity. When you have a brain that is insane, or that is subject to go insane at any moment, no amount of physical sobriety or freedom from the physical condition of substance dependency is going to do or prevent anything.

     If we didn’t have broken minds, we could simply get sober and remain that way. But unfortunately for us and for all of you, that’s just not the case. The mind of an addict is a cauldron of lunacy. Here is a mind that may very well react normally to many parts of life, yet when it comes to drugs or alcohol, suddenly you are no longer dealing with something that responds to ration or reason. So until we fix our broken minds, there is no hope whatsoever that any true alcoholic or addict can stay sober.

     And this is why it is so crucial to actually WORK on ourselves morally and spiritually. Only through such work, through such expulsion of various forms of internal poison, may we bring ourselves back to sanity. To be accurate, the work we do isn’t actually what restores us to sanity, but rather, it allows us to be cleaned out enough to make contact with GOD and He is the One who restores our brains, sometimes instantly, back to sanity. God can and will fix our bio-chemical imbalances, so long as we get off our lazy asses, walk through some pain, and do some work (i.e take some right action).

12 & 12 – Step Four – Analysis/Insight
12 & 12 – Step Eight – Analysis/Insight 😉

God, please give me the power and the willingness to always keep my mind in tact…

Take the Garbage Out

     I don’t know who coined the phrase, Take The Garbage Out, but this is exactly what we need to do when it comes to our minds and all of our petty, worldly problems. The late Suzuki Roshi said that if we practice zazen everyday, problems will cease to exist. It’d be nice if psychotherapists told us to just go meditate and save us the 20 years and the $200,000, but I suppose 8 years of student loans wouldn’t exactly be worthwhile if they didn’t keep us eating out of their hands.

     If I hadn’t meditated everyday after I got home from treatment, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have altered my bio-chemistry back to normal. I wouldn’t have conquered my fear or the mind-blowing depression. I wouldn’t have freed myself from the prison of psychological diagnoses such as major depression and bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t have freed myself from the brainwashing I got from doctors who told me that I would forever need to be medicated. 8 years of prayer, meditation, inventory and service and I am as free and successful as anybody I know… and 100% unmedicated.

     So do we addicts need to be medicated or do we simply need to meditate?

     One of the meditations I learned while up North, I still do today. Our friend called it Progressive Tensioning & Relaxation and Controlled Breathing.

Sit Comfortably.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Gradually tense every muscle in your body from your toes to your head.
Gradually relax every muscle, again working from your toes to your head.
Take a few more deep breaths.
Breathe in through the nose to the count of 4.
Hold for the count of 4.
Breathe out through the mouth to the count of 4.
Hold for the count of 4.
Do this until you have forgotten that you are meditating, or at least until you have stopped thinking so much and calmed down a bit.

     Or you can just sit or stand, close your eyes, and follow your breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try not to move to scratch an itch or something. The itch will eventually go away if you have the discipline to ignore it. It’s just energy moving through your body – a good sign. And if you find it difficult to stop thinking, say ‘in, out, in, out…’ (in your mind, not out loud) as you breathe in and out.

God, teach me how to meditate…

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind