Choices

by Bill

My friend Rodney died a year ago today.   He wasn’t defeated by his addictions, because he had plenty of experience in dealing with them both inside and outside of treatment.  He was killed by his choices.

Rodney and I were roommates in treatment.  I was there — after 23+ years “sober” in the beverage and pharmaceutical programs — to deal at last with my sex addiction issues.  Rodney was an equal opportunity addict like myself.  He had varying lengths of time abstinent in AA and NA (several years, this time), but had never dealt with the feelings surrounding his sexual issues, including early abuse.   He knew his triggers, too: he’d pick up the wrong guy, have a little liquid courage to facilitate the relationship, and eventually they’d end up doing drugs together.  That had led to HIV and acute pancreatitis, among other things.  He could not afford to drink again.

I don’t know what demons of his remained to be exorcised, but a few weeks after leaving residential treatment but while still in Intensive Outpatient, he made the choice to work on his chemical addictions while “taking a break” from his sex addiction program.  A couple of weeks after that, he began avoiding my phone calls, and within a few more weeks I heard at a meeting that he was dead.  He’d been found in his apartment, surrounded by empty beverage containers.

My friend knew that a relapse would kill him.  He had trouble managing his physical issues when he wasn’t drinking.  He also knew, from many previous relapses, that his Achilles’ heel was relationships.  He sponsored people in AA.  He was active in his fellowships.  But for whatever reason, he failed to heed the multiple warnings of his experience, his therapist, his medical team and his friends in the program.  He made the wrong choices, despite knowing better.

I’ll never know why, but I can make a pretty good guess.  As a gay male, he had faced harassment all his life, including both sexual and emotional abuse from childhood.  He had sought solace and to silence his demons through drugs and sexual acting out, but whatever those demons were, he ultimately made the choice to do the very things that he knew would probably kill him — and I know he knew, because he said so to me on several occasions.

We are powerless over our addictions, but we are not powerless over our choices.  Relapses occur before we act out, and there is always a point where we can head in another direction, choosing our recovery over our fear of discovering more about who we are.  Rodney taught me that, and a lot more.  I miss him every day.

Rest in peace, my friend.  You were a powerful support for lots of folks, including me.  I sure wish you hadn’t chosen to be an example as well.

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Do You Want To Be Right, Or Would You Rather Be Happy?

Resentments are the poison that we drink, and then wait for the other person to die.
– Anonymous

Some of the truest words you’ll ever read.

Think about it.  Think about that terrible thing that (insert name here) did to you back in the long-ago.  Think about how bad it made you feel.  Think about how you’d like to get back at (**),  how you’d like to tell them off in words that would make them shrivel and leave them with nothing at all to say.

How often do those thoughts come into your head?  Once a week?  Once a day? Continue reading

Thought, Feelings and Behavior

By Bill

As an addict in early recovery I never quite got the idea of emotions. I’d been living in my head for so long – bending my thinking to support my addictions and fears – that I’d managed to stifle my feelings so that I didn’t have to be concerned about them (I thought). In fact, I probably couldn’t have identified more than one or two if I’d had to, and would most likely have denied having those.  I thought love was when I was feeling good about a relationship. Anger was beneath me — the cool intellectual.  I just didn’t have time for that other psychological fol-de-rol. It was okay for all you “still-suffering addicts,” but hey — I was in recovery!.

I carried that denial with me for a long time. I was unable to identify many of the issues in the people I tried to help, because I didn’t understand them in myself. As a result, I was far less effective than I probably could have been, and far more importantly it allowed me to completely ignore some critical, basic issues for a long time – like 24 years. If you can’t identify your feelings, you don’t have to worry about where they’re coming from. Until you do.

After a good chunk of therapy and work in and outside of treatment, I’ve gotten a little bit better about not only identifying feelings, but also understanding how they affected my life for nearly seven decades. Actually, that’s a misstatement. They affect my life today, all the time. They affect yours, too, whether you think so or not, so I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned in the hope that someone might find it useful. If you already know about this stuff, fine. If I’d known more about it oh, say, 20-odd years ago, I’d be a much more sober guy today. If you don’t, I’d suggest giving it some…

Thought Continue reading