Adversity

There are instances in life that punch us in the gut and we lose something we’ve only thought we had earned. It could be acknowledgement, recognition, reward, a home, job, car, or boat. It could be self respect. But I’ve learned thru surrender that there are some things not worth fighting for anyway. It is best when I cut my losses. Come to think of it, I can’t lose something that’s not mine to begin with. I have to check my motives, and learning that I am powerless over people and things has been a long hard road. Instead of allowing these instances to make me, if left unchecked, they actually have the power to break me. I had to be broken at the cracked places in my soul in order to change. I then had to call on something outside of myself to help me. When faced with a self imposed crises like addiction, I have to remember that in recovery, adversity comes and goes to strengthen my resolve. Here is the dilemma. Needs are created when my character flaws spin so out of control that only a Power greater than me can fix them. And that’s my point. I don’t have the power to delete them like a backspaced word. Only God can do that for me. It’s taken me lots of energy and effort to try and prove I could, but in the end, my own resources like self will and knowledge failed me. I have to have help each waking day to stay humble and remind myself it’s just a day at a time deal. One breath, one step, one minute, one day. That’s all I have. Along with watching others go thru adversity and make it to the other side…good day!…b

Pain

Everyone experiences pain, but not everyone processes it in the same way. It is what makes us relational and human. Death and dying, illness, legal troubles, unemployment, physical pain, disease, poverty, separation, and addiction can cause physical and/or emotional pain. I am amazed when a pitcher undergoes Tommy John surgery and is back to throwing 95 mph fastballs in months. Several years ago, that surgery was career ending.  I am sure there are insufferable pains to get back to that major league level….. An 86 year old friend of my father took his life yesterday after struggling with the death of his son years back, the recent death of his wife, loneliness, and physical pains of arthritis. He left a note that stated, ” I’ve had enough.” There are stories to remind me daily that I must stay in tune with my body, mind, and emotions and seek help when something goes wrong. Nobody else can do it for me because I know me now better than ever. The same is true for my recovery. I can slip back into old behaviors and thoughts when I feel pain.  Most alcoholics are sensitive people, and I am no exception. Feelings can be uncomfortable and cause me to run, or I can accept them, be truthful and honest, and allow them to renew the spirit within and teach me a lesson. For years, I would succumb to the idea that I had control of my actions, thoughts, and emotions, but I was reeling faster than a shrimp boat deckhand. A disease that tells me I won’t feel any pain. It has lied to me all my life, I know the consequences, and yet I can’t let the pains of the past define the joy I can have today. Every man wants hope for a better tomorrow. How I deal with the pains that come are directly proportional to my willingness to change…..good day…b

Connectivity

For all that man has ever needed, take away connectivity with another kindred spirit, and over time he will die. We all long for it. People die of overdoses everyday, lost in the space trying to find a connectivity that will work. They die of heartbreak, loneliness, and sadness, too. My experience has been that the way to reach the pinnacle is with help. No man can do this alone. I need people to help teach me how to be a neighbor, friend, mentor, coworker, father, son, brother, lover, and uncle. It starts with God. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne, and he was a castaway. I have found thru working the steps a spiritual connectivity that works for me. I find that my relationships with people get better when connected with my program.  Connectivity really does work, but others have to become willing, too. I met a man several years ago who inspired me in recovery. The same man that could be me. I received a call that he was in the hospital parking lot having been discharged and was looking for shelter. It’s been a long hard fall for him.  After having located him a place on 3rd Ave. N., I placed the call and he told me that he vowed he would continue to sleep on the street before he went there. Maybe he will make it for the night. He has lost that connectivity I lose when I use. I get him, after all, I’ve been there.  Give me drinks, and I become disgustingly anti social; withdrawn within a cocoon of my own twisted thoughts.  We can lose our connectivity with God and man. It takes courage and faith to ask for help….and sometimes, in my case, just pure desperation….good day!…b

Outlook

Zig Ziglar wrote in his book, See You At the Top,that attitude determines altitude. I certainly agree that attitude can make or break a man. It’s a choice, and one I have to make consciously. I don’t wake up every day with a positive attitude, and some days it’s not even good. I have to check my motives, and ask myself, ” is it fear, worry, anxiety, stress, people, inconveniences, or problems that are driving my thinking?” If so, I need to shift gears to gratitude, trust, and faith. Then, my attitude can be a direct reflection of my thoughts, my feathers don’t get ruffled as easily,  and I have a calmer feeling inside. These are the difference makers in my recovery. Recognition is one thing, changing behaviors is a whole different ballgame in another league. It’s not how I feel that matters, it’s what I do.  I have to remember that my alcoholism centers in my mind and from it springs forth all forms of spiritual disease. It’s those character defects that I have to work on daily that pop up from one experience to the other. Looking for excuses or someone to blame certainly won’t fix them. I have to be willing. God does the removing. If life and my outlook were always easy, I would have never had a need to escape. People who are  content with themselves do not want to run away. We all know them, water can flow off  like it does on duck feathers. They are ok with themselves, accept life’s ups and downs, and their upbeat outlook is responsible for their successful day to day experiences. I long to be like that. I am much better, but it still takes work for me to have a positive outlook. It’s absolutely necessary if I want to continue to walk the sober path…good day!…b

Giving Up

 ‘stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it’- U2

Bono wrote that song for friend Micheal Hutchence, former lyricist and singer for INXS, who was tragically found dead of suicide in his motel in 1997. A guy who seemingly had it all….models, career, talent, money, and bravado. Yet, he took his own life after struggling with depression, drugs, and alcohol. For many of us, the struggle is real, but so is the surrender. We may never know how our lives can influence and touch others. Bill W. wrote that there are those who choose the supreme sacrifice rather than to fight. Life is for the living, but the shock and devastation of losing people to the insanity of addiction, mental illness, and suicide is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, some do get stuck and cannot or will not see this way of life. So, what does this have to do with recovery?….everything in my being. I understand better the fragility and frailty of my existence having experienced the challenge of raising my children who lost their mother to suicide. It can be devastating to the survivors…… just a few days ago, A startup founder jumped to her death from a rooftop bar in Manhattan. I’m sure her family and friends are asking that universal question, “why?” All in all, suicide affects about 5 million Americans every year directly or indirectly. Many, like myself, have dual diagnoses having self medicated most of my life to cover the painful tracks of depression. Thankfully, I sought medical help and received treatment. Many, however, do not get help because of the social stigma attached to mental illness and addiction, or they do not have the resources. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide….reach out, tell someone, and get the help we all deserve…..think hope!…..b

Bible Verse

Any lengths

One of the questions early on a sponsor might ask a sponsee is “are you willing to go to any lengths to stay sober?” At first, desperate and hopeless for change, we invariably say, “yes.” My brain was so frazzled at my dropping off place that I had no idea what that meant. Having continued to work the 12 steps, gained my self respect back, and trusted the process, I understand better what it means…..it simply means exactly what it says. Thru high and low feelings, good and bad times, life experiences, and personal crises, I have to ask myself this question daily. It may mean giving up something for awhile. I love college football, but for the first two years in sobriety, I watched games at home alone while the party roared in streets, on tailgates,  and cul de sacs in my head. Around and around, all I could think about was what I was missing by not being there. Just the smell of malt and whiskey at the game was more powerful than my ability to process the outcome. Ballgame or life? Sometimes, it gets that simple. Other triggers for me to get high could be an outdoor concert, cooking out, or pitching horseshoes. Invariably, my mind will tell me, ” you need a reward because you did so good.” Having been ruled by my emotional nature, I have to look where worry,fear, or excitement fester.  Now I watch my favorite team, and by the end of the game, I am completely worn out without having had drinks, and I sleep better win or lose. Today, I hit my knees  and ask God to help me do His will. A huge ordeal for a trigger happy guy like me.  I also have to lay down  the gun in order to go to any lengths….good day!…b

Entitlement

Some days,  I feel like I should be placed at the top of the pile or the front of the line. After all, why should I have to wait? Don’t these people know that time is money? Hopefully, you hear the prideful arrogance in that sense of entitlement……. I showed up to my daughter’s school to register her for classes without all proofs of residence required, but I thought I had enough to qualify me.  You see, my thinking gets skewed.  In the past, a man I knew in administration had helped me without me waiting in long lines. Unbeknown to me, he retired. Consequently, they would not complete my registration. So, here is my part in this whole entitlement scenario. The first is that I do not think I should have to wait in line, the second is I didn’t bring the proper proofs, and third is I think they should register her anyway because I received preferential treatment in the past that creates a sense of entitlement in my mind. I began to think I’m owed something for nothing, and invariably step on the toes of others and they retaliate. Seemingly, “without provocation,” the book says. I had already created the drama in my head that never ends well. The good news was that I was honest. The bad news is that it made me mad, which created a resentment, which will destroy me if left unchecked. In my past, I would have drank over it. Today, I must recognize it, claim it, and accept it. It’s entitlement and the thought that the world owes me something is an old idea that has to be smashed. I talked with my sponsor who recommended I write it out. It was the pause button I needed that saved my sobriety….good day!….b

Originality

Originality and sincerity both are worthy goals. I borrow the ideas and thoughts from people who are far wiser and more experienced. Recently, my son and I stopped to put oil in his truck when I realized we had no funnel. So, I showed him how to cut the bottom out of a 20 oz. water bottle and make a homemade one. And I had to remind him that it was not an original idea. Some man, years back, taught me that. That man was my father. That’s how original ideas become unoriginal in case you ever wondered. Experience has taught me that I have two options: I learn from my past or I keep repeating the same pattern. Drinking was like that. The sick part is no amount of negative consequences can get a man sober. Only a Higher Power can do it.  I call Him God the Father. He works on my behalf, intercedes, and empowers me. It’s the original plan I believe today. The plan that uses a man like Bill W. to write a book so profound that a simple guy like me can understand. The ‘language of the heart’ he called it. There is something magical that happens when the light comes on.  The magic I see in the beam of others’ eyes. My Creator working on my behalf…… renewed my spirit, and set me on my feet again. From brokenness, darkness, and bondage to freedom and light. Now, that’s originality. And for a man like me, who had to prove to himself that nothing else would work, I’m grateful for the plan that ‘works when you work it’…..good day!…b

Finding What Works

There are many cliches in recovery jargon. When I first came to meetings, I thought all I was hearing was ‘psychobabble.’ I found out later that I was the sick one. These folks sharing their stories were getting better and I was dying in my cups. Today, the phrase ‘do what works’ has begun to make more sense after the fog lifted, my senses became clearer, and my recovery more solid. Recovery is not a cookie cutter machine that works in the same way for everybody. Some find meetings helpful, others find working the steps and sharing with others more helpful. Some find God in public places. Others, like myself, find Him in solitude, prayer, study, or meditation and quiet contemplation. Doing what works means taking the action necessary to maintain a balance between recovery and whatever else I have going on in my life. But I know today, it’s priority number one. Without it, I lose everything. Most of all, I lose my peace of mind and spiritual connectivity. That equilibrium between the harsh and finer things. Just one man’s waltz to the beat of the drummer I hear. Eustace Conway, the Blue Ridge Mountain Man on the History Channel series said it best, “I live for a living, ” when asked what he does. Simple yet profound. Just like my life changing experience thru surrender and working the steps daily. So what do I do?… by in large,  I stay outdoors. I’m hard wired that way. It’s where I find the greatest satisfaction in expending my energy.  I do the stuff necessary to work thru the challenges by stepping out. I’ve learned it’s not how I feel….it’s what I do.  Hiking, biking, kayaking, and running help me regain the energy I need to sustain me. The challenges will come, opportunities will knock, and the only way for me to be ready is by “doing what works”…good day!…b

Bible Verse

Instincts

Those basic instincts for money, sex, prestige and power sometimes can be so alluring that they can be a good man’s downfall when overused. If I buy into the lie and play God, they can take over every decision I make. They become my master, and I am the slave. I then make decisions that put me in a position to be harmed the book says, and I get sensitive and my feelings get hurt because life doesn’t  go my way. Self pity plays into it and somewhere in the struggle, control will take over. Hear the downward spiral? All because of those instincts. God given instincts to survive and prosper;  to plant and harvest, to reap bountifully. And yet, I will let mine totally rule me. Why? Because I have no filter in my brain that says, “stop, that’s enough.” So if it appeals to my senses then I want more. Mice do it in laboratories. Scientists give them ‘uppers’ and food and within days they stop eating. Their pleasure zones in the brain get flooded, wiring gets crossed, and they die. It’s just that simple. Instincts can be a good thing when used properly, but give me 10 minutes with mine and I turn them into an all inclusive Carnival Cruise.  So how do I get out of myself long enough to see the struggle and back to the solution? I have to remember that it’s spiritual in nature. Alcohol and drugs are symptoms of a deeper need. For me, it’s the need for God. I give my questions to Him, and sometimes the answer is no. Acceptance then must be my “go to” at that moment for me to get over myself so the good stuff can happen. Then, those basic instincts fall into their proper place, and I can be of service to my fellow man….good day!…b