Amends

image.jpgI do not  aimlessly set out to hurt people today. If I do, I set the matter straight as quickly as I can. That’s what a 10th step daily inventory should do. It’s not the wrong’s others have done to me, I have learned, but my responsibility to take ownership of my part. That’s what keeps me in the solution rather than staying stuck in the problem. It’s not always easy to say, “how can I make this right?” There are those who have suffered abuse and trauma at the hands of others who have no part  and that’s not what I’m writing about here. When I willfully and intentionally set out to harm others, then it’s a heart problem. I’ve spent countless hours blitzed out of my mind, telling myself that I wasn’t hurting anybody but me and that is bull hockey. That is coming from a man who can be so self centered that I still can believe the lie that it is all about me. Or worse, I will recognize the faults in you, cast judgement, and believe I am the only one right. Again, I have a part to play and it’s my responsibility to take ownership. Blaming others for the harms I’ve perceived they have done to me does me no good. It certainly doesn’t catapult my recovery. The goal is freedom from the bondage of having to carry all that baggage. I was advised in early sobriety to work the steps in order up to the 9th Step. 10, 11, and 12 can be done synergistically early on. But going to others to make restitution for harms done before doing a thorough 4th step never had worked before. Nothing sometimes heals like love and time.  Today, I can’t take on other people’s feelings, but I certainly don’t have the right to hurt them whether I feel I’m being honest or not.  Amends can be tricky, so it helped me to take my fourth step resentment list and clump various groups. Some I owed time, others money, and some I owed my peace of mind of knowing I tried even after the bridge I’d crossed had already burned. Thru it all, I’ve learned a valuable lesson, and that is saying “I’m sorry” and actually changing are not the same. One takes words, and the other: action. What separates my life today from my past one is the willingness to make living amends by changing behaviors toward people who I have wronged, whether perceived or real……good day!…b

Decisions, Decisions

unnamed-1The hardest part of my day once revolved around decisions. I’d get all caught up in my head, drink a six pack for starters, and  I was lost in a time warp. By nightfall, I’d be 18 deep and still hadn’t made a decision about much of anything to do with the day’s events. I’d drunk dial old friends and talk about nonsensical and otherwise past meanderings for days upon years expecting somehow I’d wake up one morning, quit the booze and drugs, and live happily ever after. I’d make promises, but never a decision. That’s because my day had already been planned whether I liked it or not. I’d drink against my will knowing that the outcome would be unpredictable. That lifestyle produces lies that only a drunk man knows. I wasn’t drinking to escape, I was drinking to curb the cravings that were beyond my mental control. Once I start, there isn’t a predictor or gauge that says I’ll quit anytime soon. I have a progressively fatal illness that shows no mercy, and even knowing this, I still have to write, discuss, and acknowledge my feelings whether I want to or not if I want to remain free. The decision to throw in the towel was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Everyday, I decide to hit my knees and ask God for the willingness to stay sober and help another man. I’m not a slave anymore all because I stopped making promises, and finally made a decision to do what was necessary to get and remain sober. I can’t “rest on my laurels” or save people. I’ve learned it the hard way. The only requirement for membership in an anonymous organization where millions have learned how to remain bone dry is a desire to quit. Next, comes a decision. Do I decide to follow a few simple suggestions or not?  Thankfully,  it’s a decision that I don’t regret….good day!…b

Change

 

imageThere are days in recovery where life just doesn’t suit me. It could be false fears appearing real, but it’s a perception problem for sure. It’s been like that since I can ever remember time. I never felt complete or that I measured up to standard. The problem had been that I was measuring me by looking at you. My parents were older, my religion of origin was for show, and my shoes were always a size too big I felt, and the problem  was that I hated to feel anything. So I drowned myself and my feelings in bottles strewn all over the place. I loved how it changed me and numbed my feelings. It gave me the confidence to talk to girls and took away my inhibitions. It became the great persuader, took over my life, and eventually made every decision for me. That’s the big lie, that somehow, someday, a guy like me will grow out of it and change, but I kept waiting for the day that never happened. I made promises but I couldn’t hold my line. I swore off, I changed brands, I changed drinks, I changed friends, but none of that could release me of addiction’s insatiable grip, and I began feeling hopeless and miserable. I asked God for strength but only when life got unbearable. The kids would cry, the former wife would scream, the bills would pile up, but somehow thru it all I finally surrendered to the idea that I had to learn how to feel, how to cope, and how to live life free. Change requires effort and I have to put forth the work: first on myself, now on myself and with others. I had to be shown how to work the steps and how to open the windows and pour out my soul. It’s still the only road to freedom, and that was the acceptance that I had to change everything:  my old routines, habits, and thoughts had to go. I didn’t go to concerts or involve myself in “trigger activities” in early recovery. I stayed alone and worked on me for a change,  and lo and behold, it’s the best time I’ve ever spent getting to know and love me. That’s progress, and somewhere in all that, God took the obsession away for me to kill my pain and drown my demons….good day!…b

Recreational use and Addiction

imageAddicts are the world’s finest manipulators and creatively deceptive people. I know because I am one. First, the disease of addiction lies to me, I believe the lie, partake or imbibe, and almost instantly a switch flips and I become a con artist. And somehow, I believed, when all evidence proved contradictory, that I was the recreational pot smoking, pill popping, beer guzzling guy next door. Invariably, I’m the one who gets burned. Now that I have had time to process my past thru working a thorough fourth step in AA and CA, I see more clearly how my perceptions to life have been warped. There is one important ingredient to truth and that is the fact that it doesn’t lie. I don’t have the resources or the will power in me to stop when I start. That qualifies me as an addict. It doesn’t matter which mind altering chemical. What matters is what changes. I don’t understand how a man can drink two beers and walk off any better than he can understand how I can’t stop after two. And that is the difference in a recreational user and me. I know people who can take two puffs off a joint at a concert, and they may not smoke it again for two years, but my disease says “more, more, more.” My brain says, “Let’s amp this buzz on up,” and that’s where the lies start. I’d be hungover as Hades and I tell you that I’m fine. I’ve had 18, and I tell u 8. I’d be at the local bar, and I’ll say I’m in the drive thru at Chick Fil A. The crazier part is I would run outside to tell you for fear you will hear the background noise of the bar, just to keep you on the hook. It’s a sick, dishonest, and self serving way to live. Today, I know better, and I do better all because I submit to the honesty of knowing that one toke, one beer, or one pill is not going to do it for me. I have a mental obsession and physical allergy that takes over and no human power can relieve me of it when it kicks into gear. So I stay sober one breath at a time to keep that phenomena of craving from starting. There is no debate anymore when I tell you that I was never any good at getting “recreationally” high…..good day!…b

Frustration and Despair

imageGrowing up left handed in a right handed world isn’t easy, let me tell you. First, it was the “backwards” scissors and then it was having to color between the lines on a right handed desk. I never really wanted to do either, but I did it anyway g to please the teacher. I know these things about myself today because I had to dig deep, delve into my past, and find out the sources of my frustration. Rooted in perfectionism, if I wasn’t going to be the best, then why even try? And that lead me at an early age to seek the easier, softer way. Frustration has led many a man to his death bed, but despair is what kills him. We self will, self seek, and self propel ourselves into life, and then realize we are barely treading water. So, we get frustrated and in despair, we give up. Besides all the negativity these feelings bring, if a person like me is a people pleaser, then it gets doubly difficult. But even knowledge of a situation can’t turn sour kraut back into cabbage. It takes work. I may know all the right parts to make an automobile run, but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. It’s easier just to play the victim. We all know the routine, the pity party song and dance, but chances are, you leave not knowing the answer to the frustrating riddle of what causes the sources of the frustration.  I stayed stuck in a profession almost twenty years that changed me into hating to go to work, but I stayed in it for fear that I would let people down if I quit. Frustrated, I finally gained the courage to walk away, and today I’m more free than I’ve ever felt. Somewhere, with heart and guts, I began to love myself enough to find truth in all those lies. The facade game is over, it’s now time to work on myself. Early recovery was like that for me. I had to become willing by a series of unfortunate events to scare me into sobriety. After all,  we all want to quit on life now and again. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t, but desperation is created by doing the same thing for years while being unhappy, ungrateful, and unwilling. Then, we wake up and no one is around to listen to us whine and moan about how pitiful life has become.  It’s those God moments when I see a young girl being led across the road with her father, wearing sunglasses, and holding a cane that I realize that she is blind. I forget that tying shoes could be a frustrating task for a blind young girl, or perhaps growing up and never being able to see what her parents look like. It’s then I’m reminded how fortunate I am to “see” how frustrations are life lessons to teach me gratitude and patience when the gift of desperation presents itself ….good day!…b

The Mind

Screenshot_2016-08-17-08-55-26-1Years ago, there was a commercial on TV that said that the mind is a terrible thing to waste. Of all the brain cells I’ve willfully killed, I still couldn’t agree more. Sometimes a man can drink and drug himself into what is known as “wet brain” and you’ve  probably met someone who fits this profile on street corners, hospitals, or institutions. The brain is a powerful organ, and what I tell myself is that of which I come to believe. If you’ve watched the most decorated medalist in Olympic history win medal after medal in Rio, be reminded with that game face he wears, that he also tells himself before each race, “I will win.” His story is not unique but what separates he and other celebrated athletes is their willingness to admit defeat to personal demons, like drug use, and then become willing for God to mold them. The football player, Tyran Matheiu, also comes to mind. Both reformed pot smokers, they now tell the world how getting high led them both at points to give up on their dreams. Make no mistake, they both have overcome huge obstacles, but what they think is most important. What I think about myself is as well. I know I never could think my way into getting straight, I’ve had to live straight in order to get my thinking centered; yet, I still fall off the beam. That doesn’t make me unique, it makes me human, so I’m constantly exploring new thoughts and ideas and over time my brain has rewired itself. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Some days it wants to retire itself. And neither are all that bad. What I had to start doing in early recovery is affirm that I am worthy, I am loved, and I can’t will or think my way into getting sober. I can’t talk my way there either. I have to work at it and thru His help,  I don’t willingly kill any more brain cells. Lord knows, I need all that I have now…..good day!…b

Creature comforts

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.   FRANCIS CHAN

Faith invariably follows fear. At least that has been my experience. I don’t rant about politics, race, religion, or perhaps my own opinions, but I can share with you my experiences. Before I got sober, I lived in constant fear. Fear of what others thought, fear of change, and fear that I didn’t measure up to my own standards. And those are just a few. So what did I do? I drowned my fears in that easy, comfortable, numbing stage of a buzz. What my experiences have shown is that I appeared like I wasn’t scared of anything, so I acted on my own impulses to drown those fears out, and eventually even that quit working. Perhaps your reading this for the first time and thinking, ” but Im not the one with the problem.” Take heart because I, too, once thought I could quit on my own if life would just treat me right. As it turns out, I was the problem. It takes courage and willingness to admit and accept myself for who I am. But my only other option was to die in my own misery trying to get comfortable. I had enough “creature comforts”, but I had no real faith in God until I finally surrendered on May 10, 2012 to the idea that I really had no control over my drinking nor belief that I could quit on my own. God either is, or He isn’t, and today I am sober thru experiences that William James calls the “educational variety” found in the Appendix in the AA textbook simply called “Spiritual Experiences.” I had to learn the hard way, and nothing would stop me until I admitted how powerless I was over that first drink, pill, line, rock, or joint. Addiction is like that, but sometimes I think that one is better for me than the other. I have to discard those old ideas because they no longer work. I have to practice fearless honesty with my disease, and today my approach and views in life have so radically changed that I scarcely remember that old man. I need never forget him, lest I go back to those same fears that drove me straight back to the bottle. Today, I know that God comes thru because I see how He has worked in the lives of others, and I’ve experienced freedom from the bondage that once enslaved me…..  after all, in the end, there was no comfort in the bottle after all….good day!….b

Coping Skills

Screenshot_2016-08-12-10-44-01-1I don’t want to leave this place knowing that I haven’t given life a try. We can all agree that circumstances can get tough at times, and in all my blunders, I would invariably go back to default mode when life got tough. I have surmised that unfortunately I never developed good coping skills; rather, I developed survival skills. They are not the same. Coping skills are positive, healthy, and interdependent skills related to handling stressors. Survival skills are doing whatever is necessary to survive a circumstance and live thru it. It may mean using drugs and alcohol if necessary.  It may mean pawning your car stereo to get the money to buy them. I have read that when drug use begins the wires in the brain called neurotransmitters that are necessary for carrying mood stabilizing chemicals begin the process of breaking down functionally, flooding the brain at times with dopamine that produces the feel good high. Stop the use, and the levels drop off producing anxiety and depression before mood stabilization. It has been so debilitating, that I’d considered suicide. Now, sober and in recovery, it has taken several years to learn new coping skills to handle situations outside my control. I never started out intending to lose control. The problem had been that I had none to begin with. And that’s where the puzzle got put into place. The missing piece was accepting that I’m mentally different than others, at least, when it comes to mind altering chemicals. The book says in Ch. 3, More About Alcoholism, that over any considerable period we get worse, never better. I tried every remedy on my own to cope with life, and there were instances of brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. That is my experience I share. Today I cope differently. Those situations still arise, but I work thru them with God’s help. After all, it’s a relationship with Him I seek that has allowed me to survive sober another day…good day!…b

Recovery Questions

Screenshot_2016-08-10-13-50-46-1When I place the material world ahead of the spiritual, or anyone ahead of my own recovery, it screws with my head every time. I don’t want to die with regrets, or watch others around me do so without at least offering a solution. There is a way of escape from fear, frustration, confusion, and chaos, and its to place my idea of control inside the gates of the Maker, and remember its His world, and not mine. Recently, I have been doing all the good “stuff” for my recovery, but I haven’t felt at ease. Others  have become more and more intolerable to me, especially friends and loved ones who haven’t hit bottom just yet. It’s a perplexing and puzzling riddle.  I don’t have it all together, but at least now I understand that boundaries have to be set; and yet, doing so can be uncomfortable. Staying sober is about my recovery and if others disturb me, then I have to look within. But what about those times when others tread on my territory?  The ones who tell me how dirty my doorsteps are when the glass on their home needs windex? I can’t solve their problems, but going foward in my recovery, I am qualified to see and handle potentially dangerous situations  before they arise. Will I take the car keys and drive someone impaired home? How do I practice patience and tolerance with others who are in obvious denial? Do I intervene, or just say to myself, “if they want to change, they will do what I do?” That is spiritually arrogant and no good for anyone. Substance abuse kills, but what becomes of the man who others tip toe around for fear of losing face? Would you help a man pull his car from the ditch? Will I help a man pull his life from the ditch?  Maybe he wants a better life, but doesn’t know how to find it. The responsibility of sharing my faith and belief in God as well as my experiences in how I stay sober day by day is paramount to my own recovery. I need help for sure.  I don’t have a monopoly on finding God, or even how the process unfolds over time. Each of us have to seek and find for ourselves. Materials will come and go, but experiences will stick with me, and my experience is that I’ve never met a man yet who is staying sober say, ” I did this all on my own.”  ….good day!…b

monster inside

imageOh, the lengths that I would go to feed my monster; the one inside of me. He’s still there, but I don’t feed him booze and pills anymore. If I fed him, he’d come out in ways that would confuse you. You would become puzzled within a few hours or days how aloof the monster makes me. Then, I start to tell lies to cover more lies, and then to cover them even more. That monster I just fed starts calling all the shots for my daily activities. And just like that, I lie and say I don’t have a problem even when I know my life is spiraling out of control. The monster of denial is a hard bridge to cross. I’ve watched it take poor men to prison and rich men to their graves. I would’ve looked in the mirror a few years ago, but what I saw wasn’t what I wanted you to see: the monster inside of me. And so it goes with that endless cycle of going to any lengths to get stoned and drunk or ‘stoned drunk,’ for what it’s worth. Today,  my mind no longer races, I make appointments on time, I do what I say I’ll do, and I no longer put mind altering chemicals in my body. How can I do these things now as opposed to yesteryears? It’s all because I ask for Divine help daily, and reach out thru meetings, sharing, and service to give back what was freely given to me. A native Cherokee tells the story of having two wolves inside us.  “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to his son. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”The  boy thought about it for a minute and then asked his father, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”……..good day!…b