Looking Down

Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you.
~ Satchel Paige

In her wonderful book The Long Steep Path, Catherine Ryan Hyde writes of a three-day trek to Machu Picchu, during which the trail tops out on two mountain passes approaching 14,000 feet above sea level.  She comments on the difficulty of simply breathing at that altitude, and the daunting sight of still more climb ahead.  Than she writes: Continue reading

Trashing Celebs

3_paparazzi-17by Bill

We’ve all seen it.  A celebrity falls victim to the effects of addiction and gets trashed in the press.  Is there any empathy?  Noooo…  Are there any attempts to use this as an introduction into the dangers of alcohol and drugs?  Noooo…  Because such things don’t sell, and they don’t get clicks — and clicks, as we all know, are money in the bank.

Another thing that bothers me when people start trashing celebrity alcoholics and addicts is that it indicates, half a century after alcoholism and addiction were recognized officially as diseases, that as a society we still view them as an issue of morals.  And it seems that most of us enjoy seeing icons brought down, speaking more to our character than that of the icons.

In my opinion, this is because nearly all of us have had our lives touched by addiction, and have experienced the chaos that addicts carry and leave behind them the way a tornado carries dust and debris.   Continue reading

The Two Steps

The Two Steps:

1. We admitted we powerless over our addictions — that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. We tried to carry this message to addicts (alcoholics, overeaters, gamblers…whatever).

All of us who have been around the rooms for awhile have seen the Two-Steppers, and some of us (myself included) even survived the experience ourselves.  These folks are easily recognized by two traits: Their zeal for fixing others, and their lack of (or lack of use of) sponsors and the other encumberances of newcomers.  Rather than collecting phone numbers, talking to old-timers, getting sponsors and becoming involved in their program of recovery, they jump from the first step to the 12th and set out to save the world — with or without its consent.  As I mentioned, I’ve been there and I have the ratty old t-shirt to prove it.
Continue reading

What If There Really Was A Magic Pill?

fukidol1smSomeone at a meeting last night mentioned the “magic pill”  that every addict has contemplated at some time,  and it got me thinking.   What if there really was a pill that could make our cravings go away instantly, never to return?

At first grin,  that seems like a great thing — and, rest assured, there are a lot of people in labs all over the world who are looking for a way to do just that.   What a wonderful thing for addicts that would be: a pill that takes our addiction away instantly,  just as our addiction took away all our cares,  worries,  feelings and “stuff”!

But wait,  there’s more!   Just what would we do with all those “cares, worries, feelings and stuff’ then?  We wouldn’t be able to cope with them any better than we could before we found our various ways to turn our brains off!   The low self-esteem, lack of healthy coping skills, social anxiety, uncomfortable feelings and all the other stuff would, in time —  most likely a very short time — totally overwhelm us.  Our Magic Pill might be able to take away our cravings,  but it wouldn’t make us any more able to deal with life.   Life would suddenly reappear full force, and we’d be the same people who weren’t equipped to handle it, hauling along a PhD in Messed Up from our years of addiction.

As an old sponsor of mine used to say,  “When I got sober, things didn’t get better right away,  but they got real damn clear!”

Where would we be if all that repressed anger, fear, sorrow, abandonment, hate and the other feelings we deadened by our acting out came out of the closet and from under the bed without our having any way to deal with them?  It’s not like coping skills appear out of nowhere when we get clean and sober; we have to learn them.  They are what we develop in treatment, therapy and the first 9 Steps, and then “practice in all our affairs” with the help of our sponsors and other supports.  Our busy monkey minds hate a vacuum.  If we don’t have what we need to get past those old stumbling blocks, we’ll trip and fall.  In order to lose the habits and behavior of addiction, we have to replace them with the habits and behavior of sobriety.

The problem with the pill would be the basic problems of addiction: (1.) we don’t like to work on all those uncomfortable things; and (2.) we want fast results.   If we had a pill, we’d just take the pill. To hell with AA, NA and all the other A’s!  We’d opt for  the quick fix, and it wouldn’t fix us!  Addiction is much more than physical craving for a drug or mood-altering behavior: it’s an unmarked path wandering through a maladjusted life.

The  Magic Pill would be a help in the beginning, but it couldn’t be the whole answer.  Unfortunately, many addicts and their physicians would likely assume that it was — with disastrous results.  We need the tools and skills of recovery in addition to any other help.  They’re finishing school.  They get us ready to face “life on life’s terms.”  

Without them…well, let’s just say it isn’t all that magical.


Getting Our Real Needs Met

When we were acting out in our addictions,  we put our real needs for social,  physical,  emotional,  intellectual and spiritual fulfillment on the back burner.   Depending on our history,  we may have denied one or more of them completely.   We may simply have treated them as annoyances that needed to be gotten out of the way, quickly and efficiently, so we could get back to the important business of burying them beneath our addictions.

When we get into recovery we begin to discover a scary truth: that these needs are really as important to human beings as water, food and air.  Continue reading

Triggers – – Part 2

Note: If you haven’t yet read Part 1, you might want to scroll down and catch it first.  Or not…

Recovery isn’t hard,  but it requires attention to detail,  something at which we addicts aren’t generally skilled.  Acting out in our addictions is a learned habit, developed  with powerful motivation.  Like any habit – – drumming our fingers,  biting our nails,  etc.  – –  it can be broken with practice.  Likewise,  like any other powerful habit,  our acting out can be triggered by a range of stimuli that we associate with using.

The best way to break a habit is to replace it with a different,  more desirable habit.  Sometimes this is relatively easy,  but acting out is surrounded by a morass of subconscious associations and powerful urges.   As such,  it requires our constant attention and a dedicated,  sincere effort to change.  Over the 75 years of organized recovery programs,  the community has found that certain precautions have worked for many. Continue reading

Triggers – – Part 1

Every addiction, without exception,  has “triggers,”  situations,  people,  places and/or things that have the potential to make us want to use. Well,  there’s an old saying in the rooms: “Just because the gun has a trigger,  it doesn’t mean you have to pull it.”

I hear folks in meetings say things like,  I went to such-and-such (did such-and-such,  saw such-and-such)  and it triggered me and I relapsed.  Let me digress here and tell you a little story. Continue reading