Substitute Addictions

There are two kinds of addictions. Substance Addictions create pleasure through the use of products that are taken into the body. and include all mood-altering drugs (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, etc.), food-related disorders such as overeating, and so forth.

Process Addictions, in contrast, consist of behavior that leads to mood-altering events that provide pleasure and distraction from our core issues, to which we can also become addicted.

imagesWhen we get right down to it, recovery from addiction is about learning to deal with the stresses of life in a healthy way, “living life on life’s terms,” as they say in the 12-Step rooms. Early in recovery these stresses include the process of learning to do without our drugs of choice, whether chemical or external. This is withdrawal, and it creates a very real chance that we may look for and find other addictions to take their place.

Some of the activities that frequently become substitute addictions are listed below. Continue reading


downloadWe talk about “triggers” a lot, but do we really understand what they are?  We say things like, “I walked into Joe’s Bar, and the sounds and smell triggered me!”  Is that what happened?

Dr. Pavlov taught us about stimulus and response.  He conditioned dogs to salivate when they heard a bell by ringing the bell and then immediately giving them food.  The bell was the stimulus, and the salivation was the response.  Simple.

We’re a little more complicated, but we too have our conditioned responses.  Some of these may be wanting to act out in our addictions when we’re exposed to certain sounds, smells, places, people — even things.  We may respond to certain situations, but we have to ask ourselves how we got into those situations. Continue reading

Recognizing Progress In Our Programs

In recovery, I believe, we tend to talk more about the things that can go wrong with our programs than about the things that indicate growth.  I hear a dozen conversations or shares about how to spot relapse for every one about progress; about spotting things that are going right instead of wrong.

So I thought I’d write a couple of posts about ways we can take an inventory of our changes, new behaviors and general progress toward sobriety.  Most of us know what alcoholic/addict behavior is, but how often do we think about signs of recovery?  So here goes…
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Thoughts On Approaching 26 Years Of “Sobriety”

I had my last drink on September 14th, 1989, at about noon.  At the end of the month, I’ll go to an anniversary meeting and pick up a coin stamped XXVI to denote my 26 years of “sobriety.”  I’m not braggin’, I’m just sayin’.

IMG_20150925_102611Don’t get me wrong: if I hadn’t become abstinent from alcohol and drugs, I’d be dead now instead of approaching my 71st birthday.  There is absolutely no question about that, and I am extremely grateful for the 12-step fellowships that supported me during those years and that continue to support me today.  I owe the past 26 years of life to the people and the institutions that blazed the trail to abstinence.  I take nothing away from that.

On the face of it, twenty-six years of abstinence is pretty impressive; but was I really sober?  Continue reading

Where’s Your Stash?


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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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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