Who Looks Outside Dreams

“Who looks outside dreams;
Who looks inside awakes.”
~ Carl Jung

blankmap-world-1ceSometimes Professor Jung sounds like a Buddhist teacher.  When the Buddha spoke of awakening or enlightenment, he meant the ability to see the world as it really is, uncolored by our opinions, fears, history, desires, and ambitions.  Jung’s statement is rather less detailed but no less true.

No one should be aware of and remain more aware of this than recovering addicts.  We are, by definition, people who looked — and may still tend to look — outside ourselves for the resolution of problems that have their roots inside.   Continue reading

Probably the last book review you’ll ever read here

First of all, I need to assure my readers that I have absolutely no connection with the author of this book or his publisher.  I received no incentives to write this.  I purchased the book myself, and have been using it daily for several months.  This review is based solely on my admiration for an exceptional recovery resource that doesn’t get enough air time around the rooms.

I begin this review with trepidation because it is normally my policy not to do book reviews or promotional posts.  I had to adopt that position after years of requests to read books, bb-image22infographics and do reviews of websites, some of which were great, some of no interest and some of which were even toxic.  Nonetheless, I’m writing this one — with full knowledge that it will probably engender another s—storm of requests (which will, let me say in advance, be refused).

A year or so ago, I started looking for recovery resources that would be suitable for people who have a problem with the “God Thing” in AA, NA and most of the other 12-step fellowships.  As we all know, this is an issue for some, newcomers in particular.  While searching, I stumbled across “Joe C” and Beyond Belief — agnostic musings for 12-step life, his book of daily readings for folks in recovery.  After using it for the past eight months, I have come to the conclusion that it is the most valuable recovery resource I’ve used in more than a quarter of a century in 12-step recovery, excluding the basic texts of the individual fellowships, of course.  I learn something from it every morning, and I would be proud to have written it myself.  Unfortunately, I’m just not. . .that. . .good.

Don’t let the title fool you.  This isn’t a trash-the-believers book.  It’s respectful and inclusive: more a secular examination of the various addictions and programs than agnostic in the sense most people think of it.  No believer of any kind need be put off, and it would be a crying shame if any were because this book is a treasure chest of down-to-earth, triple-distilled recovery of the best kind.

I opened the book at random to the July 7th reading.  Consider the following:

First time Fourth Steppers are cautioned that this list is no magic pill; it is a step in the right direction to honest self-appraisal.  Many of us do Step Four more than once just as some businesses do a complete inventory every year or two.  Each new inventory isn’t an admission of failure of the previous stocktaking.  Rather, it is a new balance sheet on a new day to quantify progress and circumstances.

Some inventories look at the good and the bad: shameful acts vs. great accomplishments, healthy expressions of fear and anger vs. unhealthy expressions of fear and anger and our histories of deception and avoidance vs. examples of bravery and honesty.  Mismanaged feelings are addiction triggers.  Step Four uncovers the emotional triggers that set off the freeze, fight and flight reflexes. [Emphasis mine]  Like a blueprint, Step Four shows us how we’re wired, opening the door to change.

Like I said, I sure wish I’d written that!

Please, suspend your prejudices about the word “agnostic” (which, after all, only means “one who doesn’t know”), and get a copy of Beyond Belief.  I promise you that it will be one of the best recovery purchases you’ve ever made.  It will be part of my daily practice from now until I move on to find the definitive answers, and I’ll bet it will be for you, too.

Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life: finally, a daily reflection book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone Paperback – January 21, 2013

by Joe C.  (Author)

51 customer reviews (Amazon)

Random First Step Notes

First Step Notes


We – If we are all the same species, it makes sense that a disease would present with common symptoms for all of us. Listening to shares at meetings, talking to other addicts, reading and other experiences show us that the effects of our addiction are the same, or very similar, for everyone. We are all in the same boat.

Powerless – once we are under the influence of our drug (including the “hits” and intrigues that give us little thrills) we are out of control. We can’t always predict what we’ll do next.

Unmanageable – we can’t control anything but our attitudes toward people, places and things.  That includes significant others, business associates, people at meetings, acceptance or rejection of ideas, and anything else outside ourselves. …

Practical Karma – Karma is real, and occurs here and now, not in some other life. In one way or another, we reap what we sow, whether directly or in quality of life:

  • angry people repel nice folks and attract other angry ones;
  • cheaters and other thieves have to watch their backs;
  • stingy people find that others are unwilling to share;
  • those who withhold emotional connection fail to find happiness;
  • and so forth.

For every yin, there’s a yang.

Am I Really “In Recovery”?

frog-on-a-log-clipart-1At most meetings of anonymous fellowships we have “go arounds”, where attendees identify themselves and assure one another that they are qualified to be present.  We hear “My name is Eddie, and I’m an alcoholic,” or “My name is Freida, and I’m addicted to gambling,” or “I’m Bill, in recovery from sex addiction,” or “I’m Larry, and I’m qualified to be here.”

Only Bill claims to be in recovery, and yet on closer inspection it may turn out that he’s merely attending meetings, while Larry — whose only claim is that he’s qualified to be here — may, indeed, be truly “in” recovery.

What does it mean, to be in recovery?  Continue reading

Flashback: May 22, 2014 — Concerning A Higher Power

71I heard another newcomer at a meeting complaining about how she’d had God shoved down her throat by her parents, and she wasn’t having any part of this Higher Power stuff, blah, blah, blah.  I find this sort of thing tedious, to put it lightly, having listened to and read about it frequently over the years.  Even when I was claiming to be an atheist I thought it was shallow and ill-considered.  So, since it’s my blog, I thought I’d write about my take on the issue.  MORE>>>


The idea that limits exist only in the mind is as ridiculous as the assertion that proper positive thought will make you rich. Nonetheless, these concepts, promoted by self-help “gurus,” do attract money — to them.

500px-MONTANA-PRWithout exploring the magical thinking that underlies these sorts of ideas, it should be clear to any rational person that there are, in fact, all sorts of limits in the real world. Even in my prime, regardless of my determination, I was never going to bench press half a ton. People who don’t understand the basic concepts of government simply can’t discern what is possible and what is bullshit, and so forth.

Not only do physical and educational limits exist, there are also emotional and intellectual limits. Codependents are unable — at least initially — to discern boundaries between themselves and those to whom they are addicted. They can’t detach and let them find their own way, regardless of the price they are paying by attempting to sustain a failing relationship. Some folks will simply be unable to fathom mathematics beyond simple arithmetic. This has nothing to do with intelligence; some people’s brains work that way, and some don’t.

And there is such a thing as willful ignorance: purposely avoiding critical information because it would require us to exchange comfortable ideas for concepts that threaten our world view. People who do that are often more confirmed in their beliefs the more they are exposed to contrary evidence.

Finally, there are limits that we impose on ourselves,usually out of fear. Continue reading