Category Archives: addiction education

Buddhism Could Help Depression

Previous studies have shown that adhering to the five precepts of Buddhism, which include not killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, telling lies, or using intoxicants, can improve the well-being and quality of life for both serious and non-serious followers. However, it was not clear until now if these precepts could also alleviate depressive symptoms for those at a higher risk.

How Buddhism Could Help Lower Depression Risk

Journaling In Recovery

I’ve been journaling for going on sixty years, off and on. During that time I’ve filled up ledgers, spiral notebooks, diaries, the back pages of pilot logbooks, and several megabytes of disk space. My current drug of choice is the pocket-sized Moleskine notebook with the graph paper pages, or a similar one sold by Target for about half the price. Over the past few years I’ve started putting everything in it: shopping lists, notes to self, jotted addresses and phone numbers, the better to create a true daily record.

I say “drug of choice” because journaling has become an ingrained habit with me, if not actually an addiction. (Writing, on the other hand, qualifies fully, including withdrawal symptoms.) I’ve lost most of the journals I kept in my youth and through the years of my addiction; a shame, really, since if I had those I could actually write a book, although I can’t help thinking that the embarrassment factor might be seriously off-putting. Anyway, that doesn’t matter.

I do have my jottings for virtually all of the years I’ve been in recovery, and it has been highly instructive to go back and check out the cringe factor in those. When I read something and find it makes me squirm, I become aware of one more way that I’ve changed — or not changed — and it shows me a lot about my successes and also the areas where I need more work.

I consider my journals an integral and essential part of my recovery. For a couple of years I tried keyboarding, and it just wasn’t the same. I have to put pen to paper and actually write things down. My-wife-the-shrink informs me that physically writing things engages different parts of the brain, and the inability to make changes easily causes us to think more deeply and carefully about what we’re recording. I agree with that. I find that my handwritten musings have far more gut-level effect when I re-read them, so I have to assume that I’m digging deeper to begin with.

I require those I sponsor to journal, as well — those who know how to read and write. (The others go to literacy classes.) I give them each a notebook, so they’ll have no excuse for procrastinating. I don’t demand to read them, but when we meet I expect them to show me that they have been writing. Those who have remained sober and in contact often mention that they have continued to do so, and remark how much they get out of looking back at who they were early on. Some have remarked how much it helped them when they got serious about a 4th Step.

Try it. You may not like it, but you’ll benefit. The rules are simple: use the same book, use ink (no erasing), and write something every day — even if it’s just the date. No one but you will be reading it, so you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

The Way Things Ought To Be

Every addict I’ve ever met has, in one way or another, had the same answer to his or her own happiness: If (he) (she) (they) (it) (the world) would just do things our way, that’s what would save the world and make us happy.

Those of us with fake self-esteem (the noisy ones) let everyone else know our solutions. If we’re the doormats — the ones who always seem to get hooked up with the noisy ones — we may not explain it to the world, but we still have our own ideas about what would “fix” our problems. All of these visions of The Way Things Ought To Be (TWTOTB) have one thing in common: they all depend on things outside ourselves, “the things we cannot change”.

The big problem is that things outside ourselves are often under the control of someone else, and some things, at least in theory, are under no one’s control — certainly not ours. Just as there can only be one boss in the workplace, whose ideas of TWTOTB most likely differ from ours and who may not want to listen to our counsel, so can there only be one, or at most a few, winners of the lottery. If we pray to win the lottery we are, in effect, praying for millions of othe people to lose. Many of those may need to win more than we do. Disregarding the likely failure of a millions-to-one gamble to provide a solid financial future, most folks of our kind who have won have failed to prosper regardless of the millions of $$, ¥¥, €€ or whatever, and such windfalls have been the downfall of many an addict. Continue reading