Category Archives: reality

It’s None Of My Business

A somewhat different version of this post was published previously.

King Baby

I used to get calls from a sort of friend of mine. I call him a “sort of” friend because he only called when he wanted to complain about how terribly the world was treating him — or, as my friend Todd says, to “vomit on me.” Always problems; never solutions, and this had been going on for years. We all know folks like this, in and out of the program. Continue reading

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

The “Religion Thing”

The issue of religion arises at least once a month at any 12-step meeting that includes people. It’s amazing how it causes confusion. Some folks claim that you have to believe in God, while others say all you have to do is admit you aren’t Him. Others, myself among them, maintain that the spirituality aspect of the program has nothing to do with God unless we choose to make it so. Only one thing’s for sure: put two alcoholics or other addicts in the same room and it will soon be overflowing with opinions. Continue reading

Re-post, with some editing: Don’t Wait ‘Til No Fat Ladies Sing!

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Close to thirty years ago I checked into treatment for my alcoholism and addiction to other drugs. It was a terrific relief.

I’d known for a long time that I was an alcoholic. I was essentially unaware of AA and its purpose, or that there were effective treatments for addictive disease. I wasn’t entirely unaware, because I’d been dealing with drunks and addicts for years as a police officer. It had simply managed to escape me that AA and other programs were anything other than a place to dump problems that turned up back on the street later.

By the time my boss more-or-less forced me into treatment, I’d had most of the jackpots: divorce, foreclosures, evictions, loss of other people’s money as well as tons of my own, estrangement from relatives — all the fun things that we addicts collect along the way to perdition. My denial about my surface problems was pretty weak, and it didn’t take much for me to become accepting about treatment, then hopeful, and then enthusiastic. I ended up damned grateful to the Chief of Police and whoever advised him about how he should deal with his relatively high-ranking and increasingly visible problem.

So I got sober and became a credit to my mother, my school, my family, my country and all that good stuff. I worked in the recovery field. I talked recovery. I even became a bit of a recovery guru, writing about addiction on my own and for treatment facilities that needed a down-to-earth approach to some of their material. But to a great degree I was a fraud, and I didn’t even know it.

Continue reading

Thinking For Ourselves

Truth is a pathless land….We have built in our images a sense of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these dominates thinking, relationships and daily life.

These are the causes of our problems, for they divide us from each other in every relationship.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)


We are self-determining. We make up our own minds. We think for ourselves. We cut through other people’s b. s. and discern the way things really are. Right?

Wrong. In fact, these concepts are almost completely bogus.

Our attitudes toward life and self are built on our life’s experiences. We are influenced in our thinking and reactions to events by other things that we may not even recall. We did not paint our own picture of the world and reality. In large part, it was shaped by things out of our control: other people’s ideas that they passed on to us verbally and by example, trauma (physical and psychological pain or harm), and the experiences that we have viewed through those questionable filters throughout our lives.

 

Shooting From The Hip

Like it or not, to a huge degree our thought processes are based on experiences that probably have little or no actual relationship to what’s happening in our lives now. These are the “images” that Sri Krisnamurti spoke of: the unconscious acceptance of the “symbols, ideas, beliefs” that were shaped by our perception of them, which were in turn shaped by things mostly outside of our control.

 

In short, unless we have learned to discern the difference between these ideas that have been colored by our beliefs, prejudices, and fears and the reality of what is happening, and unless we make a concerted effort to apply reason to our observation of the world, we aren’t really thinking for ourselves at all.

The Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck taught of a man who decided to take his little boat out on the lake one foggy morning. He really loved his little boat and took great care of it. Having just finished a careful paint job, he was quite proud of his work.

As he rowed through the mist, he suddenly felt a bump. Looking around at the bow, he saw that he had collided with another boat. He was immediately enraged: his new paint job had probably been marred, there might have been other damage, and who was that careless jerk who was paddling around on the foggy lake? [I know – but that’s the way we think, isn’t it?]

On closer inspection, he saw that the boat was empty, a line dangling into the water from the front.

Oh, gosh! Someone’s boat got untied and drifted out into the lake. I’d better tow it to the marina for safekeeping until the owner can be located. Nice little boat; I’m sure the owner would hate to lose it!” In a few heartbeats, he realized that the facts were nothing like he’d thought and his perception of reality shifted.

How often do we fly off the handle when confronted with things that fail to conform to actual reality? How often do we react to our perceptions of fact, instead of considering other possibilities? How often do we disregard out part in something and seek immediately to shift the blame?

Obviously we can’t take the time to analyze every little thing that happens and causes fear or confusion (and aren’t they really the same thing?); but when we do have time, why not move out of the comfort of our pre-judged ideas, our fears, and the things we take for granted and look at life from a different angle? Are we afraid that we might find that we were actually wrong? Is it easier to float along in other people’s mental rut, or is it better to work at really thinking for ourselves?