Conflict

imageI’m going to encounter conflict; within myself and with others. The difference today is I just have to trust and believe life will work itself out whether it’s in my favor or not. I don’t have to twist people’s arms, argue my views, or yell about what’s all wrong with the world. I upset people when I do that, but as a free man, I walk before my Creator. Others get upset with me no doubt, and I have to accept that it takes courage, time, and energy to wrestle my internal demons as well. It zaps my energy to fight with others. I don’t believe God got me sober to do my own thing. Therein lies the problem for me. I live in a pervasive cultural saturated with fighting, and it gets harder to weed thru the madness at times. So what happens when there is conflict, and I’m wanting my way? The book suggests I should get rid of this selfishness. So, what must I do when I’m sideways or riddled with self doubt? I must pick up my phone, call another alcoholic, and ask them how they are doing. But something that simple can be difficult when it’s more comfortable to stew, talk, and rally the troops to get others to see my point. On most occasions, my point is valid, but that doesn’t make me right. I can’t afford to stay there. Those conflicts create anger, frustration, and despair. I get miserable, and I’d just assume be drunk because then I don’t feel. That’s alcoholic thinking, my friends, and anyone who has drank past the point of denial can easily see how that perception makes for rough going. It puts me at odds with others and naturally makes me defensive. I retaliate and create a downward spiral. Finding the solution is what works best for me now. Pausing and giving the conflict a break helps. Calling my sponsor helps, and service work helps. The goal is to get rid of self. Does that mean others will not make me mad or fuel my anger? No! It reminds me that irregardless of the situation, I have a solution and that is finding out my part. Once I’m willing to acknowledge it, then I open my mind to the Spirit who gives me the capabilities and coping skills necessary to handle life on its terms….good day!..b

Excuses

imageWhen I was 18 years old, I made an attempt to out run a cop. By law, that is a felony. Once I got spun in loose gravel is all telling. I knew better, was raised better, but I still remember the adrenaline and thrill of the chase. I can make excuses for my ill advised youthful shenanigans and chalk it up as boyful meanderings,  but that doesn’t hold water on the side of a country road nor in front of a judge. Arrested on four charges, it’s the one and only time my father ever got me out of jail. The telling part was that I went to jail three more times in my adult life, but I never called him. I never called on God, either. And I wouldn’t admit that I was the problem. I blamed others, stayed resentful, and made excuses. The master of my own universe, I began riding the  roads of debauchery until at 41 years of age, the wheels finally fell off. That’s how long it took me to surrender. No explanation can suffice; neither can excuses.  120 hours of community service got the charges dropped, and hungover, I’d show up to wash cars, cut grass, and pick up trash. But for what it’s worth, I can’t explain why I just didn’t get all those years that I can’t drink like normal people.  I’ve been ruled by my emotional nature as far back as I can remember, so I drank to calm myself and my racing thoughts. The difference now is that I admit my powerlessness and call on God; the source of my strength. I also realize much quicker now when I’m at odds with my fellow man. There is something inside of me at the time that is amiss. It shames me to think it took me so long to learn my lesson. I finally admitted that I am an alcoholic and addict. It’s become almost mainstream now to do what I did 28 years ago. Out of the 15 of us in the men’s BB study Monday night, the youngest was a mere 18. I hope he gets it quicker than I did. Sometimes our blunders have a message, but I had to work the steps, and still do, in order to see the madness  and set the matters straight without excuses. The book tells me that I won’t stay sober if I keep outrunning my leash. Sometimes, God yanks it hard enough to get my attention. The question is, ” am I going to make excuses, or accept responsibility?” I’m grateful I learned that excuses delay the slow progressive life of getting better in recovery. Without fail, when I refuse to learn the lesson and make excuses for my irresponsible behaviors, it invariably will not end well. I don’t have to be right, but I want to be free……good day!…b

Trust

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Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, ” who can I trust?” I know I have. Experiences rooted in  untrustworthiness and dishonesty breed lack of trust, and I’ve been both at times. Addiction and warped perceptions do that to me, but taking trustworthy action can cover a multitude of misdeeds and bridge the gap. It’s insane to expect others to trust me when I really won’t trust them. Some days, I haven’t trusted myself. The two game changers have been trusting God and thanking Him for everything; even the not-so-good stuff. Today I know that the harder stuff in life is there for a reason. I never could see past myself to really know why or just didn’t care before I got sober. Self centeredness, the book says, is the root of my troubles. I understand now that those tough, “down on my luck” times that remind me to trust the process of life as it unfolds is a reminder that I have to put my faith and trust in God. The reason is that we all let each other down. “Even thru the disasters, tragedies, and calamities,” I ask myself? Yes, even those. I have to trust Him when I have money and when I’m broke. I have to trust Him when life is good, and when it gets twisted. Yes, trust Him and trust that life is being worked out on my behalf for the good. Trust Him thru pain, fears, sickness, and health. It’s not a novel idea, but I’ve often felt I hadn’t worked hard enough for God to trust me. I don’t believe that lie anymore. I trust that He loves me unconditionally by His grace, not my good deeds. So, what is God’s will for my life? It’s to trust Him always and thank Him often. Life would be boring without ups and downs. A few events in my life could have turned out much differently. I’m glad I’ve stayed the course. I’m happier I remain sober now. I continue to have to make amends when I’ve wronged others. That builds trust. I continue to work on being more honest. That installs trust. People watch what I do, not what I say. That’s a testament to trust. As my life unfolds, I lean less on my own understanding. I’m mortal, flesh and blood, so I keep showing back up as more is being revealed….good day!..b

First Things First

20160923_122007-1I have learned to love the slogan First Things First, and I don’t even like cliches. In fact, when I first came into the program, I thought they were smug and pointed; crass and unnecessary. I’d like to think I’ve made some progress, but the truth is they were unsettling because I really didn’t understand them. ‘Live and Let Live’ makes more sense to me now. These slogans are quick hitters for me to learn to ‘Keep it Simple.’ I was angry and afraid when I came into the rooms of AA, and it negatively impacted all my relationships with others. I had to dig those skeletons back up in order to be reborn. It can be downright painful. Emotional courage is making mistakes but still trying anyway. For that matter, it takes any kind of courage to do the soul searching in order to change. If I’m willing to stop ignoring the pain,then there is hope, but recovery is not always easy. Some days, I want to throw up my hands and say forget it, but that’s not the answer. My experience is that I have to put recovery first and that means FIRST: as in, ‘First Things First.’ Kids, work, family and friends are all important, but if I don’t remember that slogan, I’m graveyard dead. What happens is I lose my serenity, I can’t deal with others in an adult way, and I fall off the wagon. It’s amazing how much the brain heals just after a few months sober. So much, that it seems almost normal to think drinking is ok again. I tried that and it was a dismal failure because I forgot the little stuff like  ‘One Day at a Time.’ Then I remember the one that says, ‘think, think, think.’ All of us have a story. Mine had been exclusive of sound advice well taken for many years. I think I’d better look around, and remember the slogans now. It never ends well when I forget them….good day!..b

Having Fun

imageMost of us at some point in our lives want to look cool, act cool, and have fun. Individuals who want to stand out from the crowd end up doing what the “cool” people do, I had always thought. Each one of us looking to something outside ourselves to validate and make us feel special. “I just got to be free,” I would think. Yet, drugs and alcohol enslaved me. I thought I had to party to have fun because that’s what the cool people did, but it lost it’s luster, and I was only getting high to feel normal. Nikki Sixx, founder of the rock band Motley Crüe and still its bass player, tells the story of how it all began for him. His mother left him at age 3, his father at age 6, and at the age of 13 he found himself homeless but still dreamed of being a rock star. His dream came true and in his own words, “woke up addicted to heroin, so be careful what you wish for.” Sober and clean, the single father of four is a photographer, musician, fashion designer, and a recovering addict today. He nails the epidemic plaguing our country as good as any I’ve heard. ” Whether you live in a million dollar mansion, or your homeless, if you’re addicted, we all say, I’ll quit tomorrow.” Oh the countless times I’ve said such. The crazier part is that I meant it. I can pick the poison, but an addict can’t ever get enough. The only way out is thru death or withdrawal. Here’s the question I ask myself now. Do I want to be the guy in the coffin, or the guy in recovery? There is no middle ground for me anymore. The most insane moments of my life were when I just thought I was having fun. It made music better, sex better, and killed the pain I thought. Just like Nikki, the most freeing moments have been forgiving the people that I thought had done me wrong, whether real or imagined. Working the 12 steps has taught me that. Sobriety is a good life, and I live in the solution rather than the problem now. I was given the gift of my life back and I owe mine by helping the next man because we all have a God size hole to fill. Today I have growing teenagers, a job, home, vehicle, clothes, and food in the pantry. Those are gifts given to me in sobriety that I had lost appreciation for along my disillusioned journey. I fish, ride my bike, jog on the beach, read, go to meetings, go out for dinner, and hang with my friends in recovery. We laugh, hug, and talk about our tragically comic blunders. A glum lot?…hardly….good day!…b

Open Letter to Colin Kaepernick

imageI can’t have a resentment, Colin. Resentments breed anger, and I have learned the hard way that anger kills; first the spirit, then a soul. I heard you are coming to the East Coast with your teammates to watch the game today at the luxurious Bank of America stadium. You can thank the Rothschild family for that one. You are entering the country’s most populated area for military bases and servicemen. You will see respect displayed all around you while you are holding that clipboard on the sideline. I scarcely doubt that you will have a team to play for next year because of your own selfish unraveling. You made all the owners mad, and those same rich white guys are the ones who write the checks. You bit the hand that feeds you, and dogs won’t even do that. Racial oppression, Colin? Oh, it must have been your white parents fault; the folks who raised you, sent you to football camps, and put a roof over your head. You wanted to start a conversation, so let’s talk. I could call you a biracial bigot, but that’s divisive. That’s exactly what you’ve done. Your actions have divided, not mended. What I can do is walk to the soup kitchen where hungry white, black, and Latinos wait for their next meal and serve them. We can all start with the person next to us. Hunger doesn’t see color,  but a gifted athlete, blessed beyond belief, just like you can. Instead of using your stature for peaceful dialogues and social changes, you chose the flag? Really, Colin? C,mon man. Those jets that fly over the stadium Sunday that remind us we still live in the greatest country on Earth must not invoke your memory of the Tuskegee Airmen. After all, they fought for our rights as well. Those jets will break the sound barrier while others, like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier long before you. I got a platform suggestion for you, Colin. Go to the Congo where Belgians, in the century before last, raped and pillaged its people and resources into obscurity and help them. Better yet, jump on a bus with the courage of Rosa Parks, and take a ride thru the Mississippi Delta, where 16,ooo dollars feeds a family of four for a year. Maybe offer them a handout, Colin. I’m quite certain they’d be more than grateful to take it. Therein lies the problem, tho. Money can’t fix a broken heart. As long as I blame others for my own misfortunes, I’ll never be free. While your on the bus ride home, stop off at the Navajo Nation and ask yourself, “how can I help these poor, uneducated people  live in this blazing hot desert?” After all, they are the most oppressed people in the history of our great country. A population riddled by addiction, I’d have to drink fermented cactus juice also to endure those deplorable conditions. This land was theirs long before the white man pushed them out, but I can’t afford to take that first drink now. I’m broke, too. Maybe remember my good friend on your ride. He was a three tour, US Special Forces platoon leader in Vietnam who’d have to wait three days because of flying bullets to identify his fellow soldiers; their faces already eaten by ants and maggots. He was spit on at the Seattle airport upon his return. That’s demoralizing and dehumanizing and he happens to be white. He has to ride to St. Mary’s twice a month now for social support and mental health care. And you want to use the flag to bring out the worst that divides America? There will always be social stratification and racial division as long as you keep riding that plane home, Colin. There will always be racial disharmony when people hate. How about standing up for change by grabbing a soup kitchen ladle in the barrios of East LA, or volunteer your time at a homeless shelter in San Francisco, and make a real difference. After all, there are hungry souls out here, Colin, but apparently you can’t see past yourself to notice us all.  I wouldn’t be able to write this essay in Russia, China, Somalia, or North Korea. I can because my brothers looked past color when all those bullets were flying to give me freedom of expression. The same right you get to disrespect your family, your team, and your country. After all, as our sister sang, ‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,’ and I can’t afford the luxury of losing my mind over a resentment…..b

 

The Real Me

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Coca Cola, named after a mix of coca leaves and kola nuts, is a worldwide brand recognized by people of all nations as much as the swoosh on Nike tennis shoes. 1.9 billion global soda drinks are served daily,  and they still market themselves as the “real thing.” For a century and a quarter, only one small tweak has occurred in it’s recipe. Cocaine, albeit 1/400 of a grain, was dropped entirely from it’s syrupy concoction in 1929, and just like Cola, I’ve changed over time, too. The difference is that men like Asa Candler, original owner of the Coke brand, knew who they were. For years, I never did. I squandered away much of my existence for ‘a pocket full of mumbles such are promises,” in the words of Paul Simon. The goal for me in recovery today is to learn to just be me, and in that process be ok with my authentic self. The medallions we receive in our home group all say, ” to thine own self be true.” But four and a half years sober, I still have an occasional using dream and delusions of grandeur when I awake. The strange twist in my mind was that I thought when I got high that I was free, but nothing has ever enslaved me more. I’ve never cared much for authority figures, so to me, I WAS free. Nothing could be farther from the truth I now see. I was in sheer and utter bondage with a chemical solution to a spiritual problem so I had to learn to do what I saw others doing who were living a sober life. They were happy and REALLY free.  They laughed at themselves, made the coffee, greeted the newcomers, and generally had a sense of who they were and were not. That line was skewed for me since I could remember. I guess it’s rooted in self esteem and the desire to have others like me. Today, I get my validation from my core that tells me that I am at peace with myself, God, and others. Coke had it right all this time. My life today is the real thing.  I know  what happens to the man in the empty chair, and then I’m reminded to just be me because there ” ain’t nothing like the real thing” …..good day!…b

Tune Ups and Overhauls

imageDon’t take me wrong when I say that we all need “tune ups” from time to time. Not just in recovery, but in life. Some take vacations, or cruises, or buy new second homes in the mountains to fine tune what it is they are looking for in this life. By admission I certainly do not know it all or have it all together, but Cornelius Crane Chase’s  recent re entry into a rehab center could be a great opportunity for him to cast a bright light on the scourge of addiction. Instead, his publicist insists he’s just in for a “tune up.” Really? A “tune up”? As if addiction is a four cylinder two seater. Born into immense wealth, Chevy has had a well publicized stint in the Betty Ford Clinic, named after former POTUS Gerald Ford’s wife, who had her own struggles with alcoholism. May I suggest that based on my experiences of relapse, that it wasn’t a tune up I needed when I was hospitalized, it was a massive overhaul, like converting a gasoline engine into a diesel one. None of us start out by saying, ” when I grow up, I want to be a blue blood alcoholic.” It simply does not discriminate based on family trees or broken off branches. It’s object is to kill; first the spirit, then the soul. While I’m on a two step rant, let me also remind my fellows in recovery that AA is an anonymous program. I respect the third Tradition. It’s not the only way to sobriety or mental health, but it’s my story and I’ll make a 7 am meeting to remind myself who and what I need now, and also who I am. Each is a member if he or she has a desire to stop drinking. Even our finest comedic voices struggle. Remember the names Jim Belushi and Robin Williams? Both died at the mind numbing hands of the fatal grip of addiction and it’s after-wrath. So, kudos to you, Chevy Chase. Your cameo appearance in Vacation 2015 reminded us all that we’ve grown older thru the years laughing along at you. Some of us have even slipped a bit, but more of us crash and burn. The world hopes to see you get sober and stay sober, and somewhere along the way find the courage to use your stature as a platform for educating the public on what a cruel, twisted disease we have. Cheers, you are one funny guy…..good day!…b

Mercy

imageThe game of baseball has what is known as the “mercy rule.” If a team has at least a 10 run lead after the losing team bats in the fifth inning, the umpires call the game. In UFC, it’s known as the tap-out. I’ve been a witness to both, and neither are really that merciful. But neither have I been at times. I judge, compare, and size people up by what they do and how they act.  There simply is no mercy in that. Sometimes I read a message or passage that triggers thoughts and inspires change. Paul Tripp writes, ” every moment of the foolishness and failure of our children should remind us why the Heavenly Father provided children with parents. Because of this, your primary calling as a parent is not first to represent God’s judgement, but rather to constantly deliver his mercy. ” You may be different, but mercy doesn’t come natural to me, especially to the ones that I’m closest too. I’ve noticed in my recovery, that I will forsake bestowing mercy to a family member;yet, I’ll grant it to a friend. In all my unravelings, I’m grateful others have shown me mercy. It is those mercies that are sufficient to sustain me when life gets sideways, or when I begin feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m also grateful that my family,including my recovery family,  have shown me mercy, but  most of all, thanks to God for giving me His love and mercy. It’s what keeps me going. It’s how I live. The AA book reminds me that when I drink,  I face three options: jails, institutions, and death. I’ve been to two and I’m just not ready to die yet. It’s a grim statistic, but very few alcoholics find a solution that works for long term sobriety: lots of 30, 60, and 90 day chips get handed out, a few with several years, then a big gap occurs I’ve noticed. My brain tells me that showing mercy is weak, and I begin to judge. Then, invariably, I pick a drink back up again. Thankfully, I recognize how spiritually stronger I am when I show others mercy without conditions. Addiction comes with an uneducated stigma. Other diseases do not. I must show mercy for my fellows with Substance Use Disorder. We didn’t choose this, I promise you…..Lord, have mercy!…b

Letting Go

Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny- Steve Maraboli

One of the greatest discoveries for me has been the understanding that trusting God and trying to control outcomes are the exact opposites, but so is holding on to something while trying to let go.  Trust and control are the hardest part of me living one day at a time, too, and somewhere in the middle is me giving my stuff to God. It’s a recovery tool that is spiritual in nature that reminds me of my need for humility. Letting go is easier when situations are going my way, but let someone or something change ,and I want to take charge and be the one calling the shots. It’s the ego trap of “bigshotism.” The good news is that I don’t have to be the big man on campus anymore. I no longer have to take what’s not mine, or get your schedule to fit mine. I can let it go and be ok with it today, but it may take a few days.Understanding the principles behind the steps are a crucial part of it. If you are new to sobriety, a former chronic relapser like me, or you’ve been in the rooms for a while, listen intently and you can hear the common themes of how difficult a time we alcoholics and addicts struggle with the powerlessness of thinking we have control, when in fact we have to come to depend entirely upon the Spirit to keep us sober. It is quite a simple paradox. If I continue to hold onto old relationships, jobs, people, places, ideas, and behaviors, then the chances of me staying sober decline rapidly.  I have to pray for the willingness to let go because insanity may return, and I’ll invariably drink again. Alcoholism is a mental twist of fate. It kills me while also convincing me that I somehow can control it while all evidence in the past is to the contrary. I may hold onto old ideas and know they don’t work, but I need my recovery friends to point it out. Letting go of the idea that I can do this all by myself is crucial to me learning how to cope with life without taking that first drink…..  good day!…b