Where’s Your Stash?

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I remember when I was a kid how I’d have a full box of .22 ammo, or a brand-new pack of cigarettes, or a new package of notebook paper, and just having it would give me a safe, secure feeling.  We were poor, and it was rare for me to have more than one of anything at a time.  Hell, around our house, it was pretty unusual for anyone to have more than one thing at a time.  For me, having fifty cartridges, or twenty smokes or — OMG! — a hundred sheets of notebook paper created an unusual sense of everything being right in my tiny world — at least for that moment.  Even an unopened or relatively new pack of playing cards could do that to me.  To feel secure, I needed my stash.
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Guts

It was a hot and humid day.  I think that may be the tropical equivalent of “It was a dark and stormy night,” but perhaps “It was a hot and humid night” fits better.  No matter.

The weather has been miserable.  Yesterday the temp was 96 degrees F. with a heat index of 105 and humidity in the high 80’s. We’re not expecting much different today.  Pity the poor guys who have to work out in this stuff, keeping up spoiled rich folks’ landscaping, but on the other hand it’s good that they have jobs so that they can eat and send money back to their families in whatever country they came from.

Americans today simply don’t “get,” for the most part, that we were all immigrants at some point in our family history.  My family came to French Canada in the mid-17th Century.  Thank God for that!  (Or maybe not; if they were still in Brittany we’d have free health care!)  No matter.  They wanted to make their own way, and were willing to work at whatever it took to realize their dreams.

Your family was probably the same: hard workers busting their asses so that we, their descendants could enjoy the necessities of life: TV, mobile phones, cars at 10% below dealer cost, and the best politicians money can buy.  Everyone took their turn at the bottom, and that’s the way it goes today.

Today’s reading in Answers in the Heart included this phrase, “It is a moment of wonder when we have something in our lives that requires the best we have to give.”  Our forefathers gave that kind of effort for us, and so that those who came after them would enjoy the same opportunities. 

I try to imagine the feelings of those Frenchmen who first set foot on the shores of the St. Lawrence: relief because they were on dry land at last, fear of the unknown, uncertain futures, but an absolute conviction that they were going to do the best they could.  How brave they were!

I wonder if I have that kind of conviction, or that willingness to set off into the unknown without even the certainty of getting to my destination?  What faith must have driven them?  What circumstances back in Europe must have given them the push to make a home in the New World?  Do I have that kind of guts?

Yes.  I’m in recovery.  I’ve forsaken the known for the unknown, the misery of addiction for the scary but hopeful future promised by those who went before me.  First I had faith, and then I came to believe. Now I know.

I came to recovery a stranger in a strange land.  I remained because I saw the promise.  I left the comfort zone (finally) and did the work — something that I can be proud of.  I try to pass that on to others, so that they can experience the benefits too; the way our forefathers did, back before we got spoiled by the fruits of their toil.

I wonder if they’d be proud of me?

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People Need People

By Bill

Path-300x241One of the fellowships that I attend is focused, in the early stages, on the process of overcoming obsessions.  Obsession of one kind or another is a big component of most addictions, but some more than others.

The interesting thing about obsession is that it is a vice best practiced while alone.  Our brains go ’round and ’round, and we are unable to shake the undesirable thought pattern no matter how hard we try.  Our minds keep coming back to it, him, her, that, those, and it can seem as though ridding ourselves of the thoughts is like trying to push toothpaste back into the tube.  But put us in the presence of another human being with whom we have to interact, and things are different.
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Blaming Has No Place In Recovery

By Bill

There is much debate about the causes of addiction: environment, genetics, moral failing, physical changes, emotional trauma and so on.  While interesting intellectually, these things have nothing to do with quitting.  If I’m acting out, the reasons for my alcoholism and other addictions don’t really matter; what matters is stopping.
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Laughing At Ourselves

To itself, a small child is the center of the universe.  It cannot differentiate among itself, its surroundings and its caregivers for some months, and can’t detach completely for years.  Since, to begin with, it’s consciousness is the only one it is able to recognize, it naturally believes that it is the center of everything, and that other people are there to tend to its needs.

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As we become older and wiser, we usually gain a sense of perspective and proportion regarding our place in the scheme of things.  However, for those of us whose emotional development was stymied by trauma, abuse, using alcohol or other drugs, or losses of other kinds, it may be difficult to move out of the “me-me-me” stage and through the various passages that lead to maturity and adulthood.  That is almost universally true of alcoholics and other addicts.

That being the case, most of us addicts have problems adjusting to the world by understanding and adopting a sense of ethics, discipline, and other such attributes — most definitely including a sense of humor that allows us to laugh at ourselves.  Like the small child, we take ourselves far too seriously to find humor in our fumbles through life.

One of the first signs of healthy recovery is the ability to find ourselves and our foibles amusing.  The ability to find humor in our mistakes and gaffes gives us a sense of proportion and our place in the world.  Instead of constantly grading our dignity, which leaves us rigid, vulnerable and fragile, we gradually develop a sense of our true importance as human beings — to ourselves and to those around us.

One of our greatest needs as social creatures is to be well-regarded by others.  As addicts, we largely blocked others out of our lives for fear of being thought unworthy. (We call that shame.) Now that we are are beginning to believe that we have self-worth, we can let down our guard and see the ways the amusing human condition shows up in our own lives, instead of merely laughing meanly at others.

By keeping our self-importance in perspective, we learn to grow up in ways that we were previously denied

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James Taylor: ‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction’ – Telegraph

“One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11679104/James-Taylor-A-big-part-of-my-story-is-recovery-from-addiction.html

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True Believers

Let me say at the outset that I am a firm believer in AA, NA and the other 12-step fellowships (just in case you hadn’t noticed). They saved my life, the life of my wife, and that of my best friend, his wife, my son-in-law and many of the other people who are most important to me.  One of the other fellowships is helping me work on some other issues that have plagued me since childhood.  For me, it works.

However…

imagesIt worried me early on, and continues to worry me two and a half decades later, how some people in the rooms seem afraid to allow their knowledge of alcoholism to progress beyond the middle of the last century. It’s as though if they admit that the founders of AA didn’t know every possible thing there was to know, that it somehow calls the entire recovery issue into question.

Now I’ve gotta tell you: if I had a deadly disease (which I do), and if my continued good health and well-being were contingent upon my knowing as much about it as I could find out (which I believe they are), and if I were constantly giving guidance to people with less experience who suffer from the same disease (which I am), I would feel morally obliged (which I do) to find out every single thing that I thought might be useful in educating people about our little problem.

There is no question but that the 12-step model works for a lot of people. Not all, for whatever reasons, but a bunch. I know way too many people who have been helped by it to doubt the point. But let’s get to that word “believers” for a moment.

That’s what I get from a lot of folks in the rooms: that they are True Believers, and that anyone who suggests that the first 164 pages of the Big Book aren’t the be-all and end-all of knowledge about recovery should be treated about the same as an evolutionist at a camp meeting.

As stated above, I’m a believer. But I no more ignore the 80 years that have passed since the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous than I am likely to ignore the little nuances that the medical community have developed since Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. I have a theory about the folks I’m discussing — the same one I have about creationists. They’re afraid to learn anything new, because then they might have to get out of their rut and accept a new world view.

I gotta tell you, I hope none of those folks ever need a liver transplant. We’ll just have to give ‘em a shot of penicillin and leave them to recover on their own.