Thoughts on My Mind

After writing here yesterday, a few things happened which are on my mind and even more things are stuck in my head. The purpose of this blog is two fold. First, this blog is for myself to write things down. In effect(?) putting them on paper so I can deal with them – using Step 4 or Step 10, if need be. Secondly, showing how my program of recovery works to others. It really falls back to the AA Preamble and Step 12.

Oh goodness where do I start . . .? First, if anyone has comments, suggestions, concerns or thoughts, I am always open to ANY. I don’t take things personally. I’m learning in my own sobriety through other people’s experience how things works, so “suggestions” are always welcome. With that, here we go.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG POST

Now I think about it, perhaps I should put each of these as one post each instead of a GIANT POST. Thoughts?

Sponsorship

First, I will never disclose what I talk about with those I sponsor, as it should be. However, I don’t think I’m crossing a line when I write about what is going on with me. Here is such a case.

As mentioned, I have someone I sponsor. While I have experience in my past, I don’t want to repeat it. To make necessary changes so it does’t happen again, I apply the “honesty, open-mindedness and willingness” principles.

As I look at those past experiences today, I can say I was NOT a good sponsor. Not because they didn’t stay sober. Instead, I really didn’t do what a good sponsor is suppose to do when you take on this responsibility. Instead of thinking, “I got this . . .” This time I’m going to be working closely with my Sponsor taking his suggestions. Lastly, I’m willing to listen to those suggestions and try new things. Only through this process, in my own experience does this process work.

Typically a new sponsor guides this new “protege” as he/she was taught by their sponsor. I am willing to do the same. When I met with my sponsor, I shared where I have been, then he did the same. It was only after that, when we have a common connection, did we move forward with reading the Big Book line by line starting with the Preface.

In the meantime, the person I sponsor has been speaking to me daily. We all have issues at the beginning. I didn’t know how to live a sober life. That is what a sponsor is for – to help another alcoholic guide you and point you in the right direction.

Codependency

As this process continues, I noticed some codependency issues starting to emerge. Codependency to me is like the role of a care-taker. Instead of focusing on myself, in my past I went to any length to ensure those I sponsored had a needed everything no matter what the cost to me. It was a relapse just waiting to happen, which it did in the end. But I had to go through that experience. I’m grateful I did because today I’m more aware of those destructive codependency behaviors.

I’m involved with a local Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) which meets weekly. Again, I was grateful for the meeting later in the evening. Another point to be made – if I’m willing to receive messages from my Higher Power, I just have to listen. In the meeting, I discussed my concerns, we did the readings and BAM – there is was in print, yet again. My solution – let go of my past! When necessary talk to other codependents about your past and ask your Higher Power to relieve you of your past mistakes. Simply, let it go!

Al-Anon

Right after my CoDA meeting is another AA Big Book Study meeting. Last night we read “To The Wives” from the Big Book. I didn’t plan on speaking because I don’t have an experience. But someone brought up how this chapter was the starting point for Al-Anon. Oh – I have experience with them!

When I had four to five years of sobriety in my past I was enrolled in a chemical dependency degree program at a local community college. The chairperson and professor of the core class – Chemical Dependency I (first year) we were required to attend various “fellowship” meetings. One term paper at the end of the semester was all about what we learned.

The professor is a member of AA, I knew well. She knew me and my experience in AA. She brought me aside after class one day saying:

“Michael, for the final project paper, I want you to do something different. I know you have knowledge of AA and NA. I don’t want that because you won’t learn anything. I would like you to seek other fellowships, whether its Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous, Over-eaters Anonymous, SMART recovery meetings, etc.”

I told her I would seek Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous and SMART Recovery. She warned me certain groups and/or members of Al-Anon are NOT receptive to recovering alcoholics in their meetings. Learning from my sponsor, I didn’t set expectations.

I went to a local Al-Anon meeting which was in an office next to an the auditorium which we held our local AA meetings. Struggling with myself – do I want to really do this, should I do this, I have other options – I reluctantly sat down and introduced myself. But I lied.

The first thing out of the chairperson’s mouth to start the meeting was, “We are family members who either had or live with an active addict in our homes. Therefore, if you are in recovery yourself, we ask that you leave as this meeting is not meant for you.” I was shocked – what discrimination, right? Do not judge, I thought. So I kept my mouth shut and listened.

Halfway through the meeting I started to cry. I cry openly these days. When there was a pause between people sharing, the chairperson asked, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes. But I lied to everyone here. I’m a recovering alcoholic.” There weren’t moans or groans, no eyes rolled, no huffs and puffs. I was asked to continue sharing, thus I did.

My experience at that meeting was one of the most humbling experiences in my sobriety. I know what I did to those around me (or as I know refer to it as ‘what I thought I did’). In all honesty, I didn’t realize the magnitude of destruction I may have caused to others in my own active addiction. This experience brought me a better understanding of the pain and suffering those around me went through when dealing with me in my active addiction.

Crossing a Line

I’ve brought up before I’m really working on my codependent issues. In my past, I watched people fall and I was there with a shovel to scoop them off their ass back on their feet. Not today. I can’t force sobriety on someone else. At the same time, if I know someone is struggling, I have to let them live their life, yet be supportive when and where I can. I can’t save them.

I live with two other guys who have problems of their own. I have been there to support them but I have not gotten involved – period. Right now, the roommate who wants to move in with me after our completion of this residential program ( now at the first of next year) is in a really bad place. Not only myself see it, our other roomate is concerned (who is very codependent himself – again, I stay completely out of it) and many of our friends in recovery ask about his welfare, “Where is X? I haven’t seen him in meetings? Is X okay?” I can only say, “I saw him walk to the bathroom today, so I now he is alive and breathing. That is all I can say.” I leave it there.

But it’s been three days. He has not gone to a meeting. All of his time has was spent in his room with his door closed. He usually cooks at night which he didn’t do either. His anger is increasing as things crash here and there with “F******K”. The very few times we have spoken, we speak very little if anything at all. Everyone knows the issue he is going through – a failed relationship.

Update quickly 10:30 am:
Actually there is a bit of a change because he’s sitting right next fixing his bike. He went somewhere (an appointment) came back, started to joke with me about where I’m going this afternoon (another post for sure). But when we ask, “Are you okay?” Grunt – complete shutdown. UGH!

He and I share the same sponsor. I’m been asked by others in the community to speak to our sponsor because they are concerned. But I’m conflicted as to where or not I should. Part of me feels like a scapegoat for the others who don’t have the balls to talk to our sponsor themselves. Even though I can tell them, “Tell him yourself.” I doubt anyone has done it. Yet, part of me feels an obligation because my roommate at this point has completely shut down. My sponsor may already know this. The question is, do I even cross the line? Really I don’t have an answer, so I’m going to ask my Sponsor anyway.

Update 4:30 pm:
My roommate came out, made a smart remark to me, out of no where, which I ignored. My other roommate just came home is hungry so I asked this one, “Are you doing to make dinner or do you want X to make dinner?” Response, “I don’t care.” Another question from me, “Do you want to eat now or later?” Response, “I don’t care”. Now I’m disappointed because I thought he was better than this? **head to desk**

18 Years Sober Living in a Halfway House

Perhaps I shouldn’t write this but I’m making the choice to do so. No I’m not taking this guy’s inventory. What this gentleman is doing is not only harmful to himself but to others. Mr. XYZ recently arrived at the halfway house from rehab. Honestly, I don’t even think he’s been here a month or just over a month. He’s really testing my tolerance, pity and patience.

At our anniversary meeting, where medallions are handed out for milestones in recovery, he stands up to pick up his 18 year medallion. Usually there is clapping when someone picks up a medallion. Not for him. We were all shocked and many of us just shook our heads. That’s right “18 years alcohol free”, his words. He’s at the halfway house “because of drugs” which he categorizes as “x months free from [this drug] and I relapsed on pot that’s why I’m here.” He said that openly the other day at yet another meeting. I thought the chairperson of the meeting was going to lose it! When he’s at a meeting and the chair asks for “people willing to sponsor” he raises his hand. I just learned today that THREE people at the house, all brand new to recovery are under his wing. Seriously? Oh, I have major issues with his complete disrespect of how the program(s) should work. Again, practicing tolerance, pity and patience. Also, what do I do? I don’t know – I ask my Sponsor.

Two New People to Sponsor

So while writing this I went to a noon meeting. Two of the guys from the halfway house, both at the same time, asked if I would sponsor them. I said “Yes” because I believe my Higher Power would not have put these people in my life unless I was ready. However, in the future, I am going to have to decline because three on my plate is going to be enough to juggle.

Drug Court

Lastly, when I was sober before working in the chemical dependency field, I had heard so much about Adult Addiction Treatment Court (aka “Drug Court”). I found that these sessions where public so I ended up going to a few, out of curiosity, not to judge anyone. Another eye opener. How could I not judge when people were telling a judge one thing and I knew another. Wow, the balls these people have. Sad really. Ok, I am judging. Today I went to a local DC. Same experience. Despite what I think, they will get what they deserve in the end. It’s not my decision, it’s not the judge’s decision, they are only doing it to themselves. I pains me to see these people who are given a chance under the strict circumstances to change their lives, yet STILL they don’t take the opportunity they are given.

AA’s literature “How it Works” partially reads:

” . . .Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with
themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, Chapter 5 – How it Works, pg. 58

Conclusion – I Swear!

As I look back at the above, perhaps there are things I need to work on just a little better, perhaps not. Yet, right now I feel all these things are happening for a reason. Perhaps I’m meant to go through this to learn “how to” or “how to not” handle these situations in the future. Obviously I failed in the past, otherwise I would be where I am today. I feel better writing them all down here. They are out. Now I have to take action whatever that action might be.

Balance in Recovery

Based on my own experience in the past, I know immersing myself into recovery can be beneficial but it can also be dangerous. To much recovery one can become overwhelmed. So the point is to achieve a balance in recovery and our mundane lives. It’s called “me time”.

During my last recovery period, I dove into recovery with such a passion, I hardly made time for myself. Though the circumstances were different, as it was my first time in recovery, everything about my life became about recovery. In a sense, I lost a part of me.

As one comes back from a relapse one must ask themselves, “What is going to be different this time around?” With my codependent issues, I need to take time for self care. From time to time, we need to step back to ask ourselves, “Are we doing to much?” The real question is just how much is to much?

For instance, here is an example of a typical Monday:

  • 8:00 am – Wake up, get coffee, meditation music, pray, write in my journal
  • 9:00 am – Take care of myself (shower, shave, brush teeth, etc.)
  • 10:00 am – Meet with my case manager for a weekly one on one
  • 12:00 pm – Noon AA meeting
  • 3:00 pm – Outpatient treatment group
  • 8:00 pm – Evening AA meeting
  • 12:00 am – 2 am – Put the head to the pillow

In summary, five hours of my day is involved in recovery. But I’m also living in a supportive living program, so I’m always bumping to guys and talking recovery at other times, let’s say another two or three hours. In the end, my life in recovery is a full time job. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to concentrate on my sobriety in such a fashion.

But there are days, like yesterday, I have to step back and say, “Michael, enough is enough. Take a time out for yourself.” After treatment group, I walked with a guy from our program to the gym. The Dollar Store was next door, which is where I headed to pick up some things for my CoDA meeting tonight. It’s a little over a mile, approximately a 20-25 minute walk. I needed such a walk to decompress.

I didn’t go to a physical meeting at all. Unfortunately I missed the noon meeting because my case manager was on vacation, so another individual did my one on one but I had to wait for a bit (which I understand). In the evening after the long walk, I was simply done going anywhere. It’s rare I go to the Monday evening meeting if I’ve gone to the noon meeting. Last night, I put personalities before principles (my bad, I know).

Instead, I found a online CoDA meeting at 9pm. It was an interesting experience. The person who ran the group did a really good job of driving the meeting, keeping people on topic and avoiding cross talk. Since we only have one meeting a week here, I might put one or two in my schedule.

I had a few things to do such as getting paperwork ready for the CoDA meeting. I volunteered to print up the “readings” since we don’t have formal ones and we’re still reading out from a brochure. I also bought sheet protectors and a binder. All courtesy of the Dollar Tree, something I can work with on my budget. I also pumped out two short letters to previous employers about my address change for my W-2’s.

A friend of mine, I’m sure I’ve spoken about him here, who I have codependent issues in the past, is at the tail end of a prison sentence. He is scheduled to be release in March 2019. Throughout the years, he’s been to quite a few facilities. I double checked to find where he was only to see he was at a prison that is 30 minutes from me. Honestly, I got excited. But, recognizing my feelings, I had to step back and ask, “Mike, do you really want to open this door?” It’s been suggested by many I shouldn’t. But I wrote a letter anyway. It was just a short note of what happened, where I am and to see where he’s at. I will only write to him depending on how he responds, if he responds.

Lastly, I’ve gotten back involved in a game called Achaea . It’s a role playing, text-character based MUD (Multi-player User Dungeon). Here’s a screen shot:

I’ve been playing a variety of characters since late 1997 when it was new to the then “gaming industry”. The company, Iron Realm Entertainment, has done a good job of keeping the material fresh. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes. Some good, some bad. The producers (as they like to call themselves), do listen to their players. We, the players, have some input on how the game is run! This is my life away from the mundane world and at times it can be stressful, so all in moderation too!

Oh goodie (squeal)! A friend just let me know she won’t need my help for something today. This means, besides two AA meetings, I have a completely open day all to myself. But I have a few must-do’s, so I’m going to take care of them right now. I’ve been up since 6:30 am too, so a nice nap after the noon meeting may be in order too! ** rubs hands greedily**

Let’s get this day rolling . . .


Meditation & Prayer

Meditation and prayer are an important practice in recovery (Step 11). In the past, when I lived alone, it was easy for to meditate. I had another room, a room set up for my spiritual practices, where I would meditate at some point during the day. However, now my living arrangements don’t allow me to have such comforts, as I live with eight other gentleman in the same house. Therefore, I must find another way that works.

At first I thought about using the basement. Even if I had to find a nice corner where I would be able to plug in my laptop, put on some relaxing music for some quiet time. But living in Upstate New York the weather is starting to get nippy and basements typically don’t keep heat well. Or am I just making an excuse?

Another option was going to a park just up the street, putting down a blanket and allowing Nature to infuse me with its own serene music. I honestly don’t think there would be interruptions. Yet, the weather is going to be an issue in the future.

I do have an abundance of churches that surround me. Perhaps I could find a church which has an open door and find a quiet room. Something just doesn’t feel right using a Christian church to talk to Pagan Gods.

Whatever avenue I choose, I need to develop a discipline (which is another topic I’ll talk about tomorrow). Also I need to work on my laziness and procrastination (defects of character and shortcomings). So the whole process will be good for me.

Any comments, questions or suggestions would greatly be appreciated . . . always!

A 12 Step Series

For the last couple of years, I have thought about publishing my own experiences through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Why would I publish the most intimate details of my life to the public? The primary goal of this blog is to give the reader, “An inside look into the world of a recovering addict”.

The goal is to publish the Twelve Steps as a series in the next year. Each month will concentrate on a particular Step. What I haven’t thought through is what I should include or what the structure should be. For instance, I would start with the Step itself, quoting the Chapter and page of the Big Book for reference. Perhaps highlights from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. My background as it applied to the Step. Then a description of what I exactly did – written, oral, prayer, meditation, etc. Lastly, the ending results. The goal is to provide a complete picture “from the eyes of a recovering addict” of my experiences when I went through the Steps.

Now that I really begin to think of this process, perhaps this will take on two parts: My Story and The 12 Steps, I’m not going to actually publish my whole story right now. However, the process may help this future endeavor.

This whole process will be beneficial (I hope) to new readers but myself too. Honestly, I’ve only gone through the Steps once. But I practice them to the best of my ability every day to “apply those principles in all out affairs”. I might even surprise myself with something new or perhaps something I’ve held on.

This may be too much for me right now.  I just started something very important in my own spiritual practice which may take a lot of my time. It’s a THOUGHT I’m taking into consideration. I hope I made my intentions clear enough.

For those who have read this far: Discussion!

I would like any comments, questions or concerns regarding this post. For instance, what were you thinking when you read this? What are any of your thoughts about doing this? We talk about honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, so GIVE IT TO ME. The honest, blunt, to the point TRUTH.

Ready . . . Set . . . Go . . . Let’s Begin . . .

 

Let’s Talk Religion in Recovery

religion_kindness
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” 
— Dalai Lama

The discussion of religion tends to be a taboo subject; religions are beliefs and practices of a very personal matter. People avoid the topic at all costs unless surrounded by like-minded individuals. Figuratively, people start to bring out their pitchforks and stakes at even the hint of such a discussion. For those in recovery, it is the pink elephant in the room rearing its ugly head. Can you imagine my thoughts, in early sobriety, when the topic of Christianity was discussed when I knew I was gay and a practicing pagan?

Recovery programs were founded with the principles of Christian beliefs in mind. However, the founding members recognized the diversity of those seeking recovery, insisting recovery should be a spiritual program. And yet, people tend to forget those of us who are just beginning our journeys in recovery either: lost faith in our religion (whatever that may be); tried a religion as a solution finding that we drank again; didn’t have a set of religious beliefs to begin with; or, like myself, having a strong belief system and/or a strong self-identity, were shunned because those beliefs don’t conform to those who set down the guiding principles of the program.

When I began my journey in recovery I was a broken human being: physically, mentally and spiritually. I didn’t know who I was, where I was going nor a sense of purpose in life. My addiction took all that away. The concept of spirituality was foreign to me. Like most, when the topic of religion was thrown into the mix, I was more confused on how a program of recovery was going to help me.

Spirituality is the cornerstone of a recovery program. A recovery program is not simply going through the 12 Steps with a Sponsor and “applying those principles in all our affairs”. Recovery is a process of finding yourself and your purpose in life, no matter what your religious beliefs, if any.

“The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” – Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 60.

I am NOT saying a religion should not be part of a person’s recovery program. (Nor am I suggesting that “God” be removed or renamed for any reason.) For some, a religion provides more inclusion and strength. However, in early sobriety, it is suggested, “[We] Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This understanding doesn’t happen overnight. Spirituality, a belief system of a religion, and continuous sobriety are life-long practices.

We should remind the newcomer to build their foundation of spirituality (not an understanding of a religion) in Steps 1, Step 2 and Step 3. The first three Steps are essential to continuous sobriety. Even after, we cross the bridge to much harder work within ourselves with the help of their Higher Power and their Sponsor. Lastly, we start to resolve issues within ourselves. Perhaps, only after all Steps are completed and they have begun “practicing these principles in all our affairs” it would be appropriate to breach the subject of religion.

What are your thoughts about discussing religion with newcomers to the program? Should the discussion of religion take place in early sobriety?

Reveal or Not Reveal

Another follower at Guitars and Life raised an interesting question to a recovery minded podcast, BUZZKILL Pod. The question posed is “Reveal or Not Reveal?”. The discussion revolves around views whether recovering addicts should or should not reveal themselves as such, a person in recovery? Those of us in recovery have different views on the subject. For those interested, this is my view on the topic.

Recovery programs were established in the early 1930’s. Since then people in need of recovery from around the world come together to discuss a new way of life as a recoverying addict. Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, these meetings are typically held in private. Anonymity is of upmost importance. A tradition was put in place, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” The tradition was placed as a means of protecting those in recovery from the stigma.

With the help of advanced sciences, the understanding of addiction has changed, yet the stigma still relatively remains the same. Ken Hensley, an English singer-songwriter, puts addiction in perspective, “It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it.” In other words, unless your an addict or a recovering addict, most likely you truly do not understand what we are going through. For instance, a large view of the population asks, “Why can’t you just stop?” We wish it was just that easy. Others still view addicts as helpless criminals who should be locked away. Another stigma, not all addicts are criminals. These views need to be changed, otherwise those in active addiction may never find recovery.

In recent years a movement to bring a better understanding of addiction through promotion of prevention and education by recovering addicts has become prevelant in the media. Thus, the controversy in the recovery community over disclosure. Some believe such disclosure violates the tradition, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion . . .” The key word here is “promotion”. In addition, “. . . we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” We now hear about addiction in all types of media. Where should people draw the line? Traditions tend to change over time. For instance, you have a Christmas tradition surviving in your family for generations. Do you follow the exact tradition from when it was started? Of course not. As time goes on, the tradition changes in some form or another due to circumstances.

In today’s society, circumstances have changed. One can find a host of information on the Internet about “trends in addiction” using Google. Historically, one type of addiction will be prevelant for years, while other wanes. For instance, at the time the tradition was written, alcoholism was the most prevelant addiction known. During other times, marijuana, cocaine, meth or another drug was prevelant. Today, we are currently experiencing an epidemic of herion addiction.

Finally, here are my thoughts on disclosure. Yes, I believe in upholding the tradition, while on the other hand it is my responsiblity to practice the 12th Step, as a recovering addict. Self-disclosure is a personal choice. Some disclose their recovery to no one, keeping to the tradition of self-protection. Others choose to disclose their recovery to others for various reasons. For instance, in a 12-Step program, the 12th Step states, ““Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics/addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

All active addicts become hopeless – we hit “rock bottom”. Our addiction takes us places we never through imaginable. We are shrouded in shame, guilt, anger, selfishness, etc. All those things made me feel alone; the only person on this Earth in a revolving cycle of destruction to myself and those around me. Recovery brought me hope; recovery is a way of living with my addiction.

Early in my recovery, I learned disclosure should only be done to those who were in recovery. I had to learn a different way of living. Therefore I only could learn through other recovering addicts. But there was a point in my recovery where I felt disclosure of my recovery was necessary to more than just recovering addicts. I was comfortable with who I was, where I was in my own recovery. It is my choice to open my life to others for two reasons.

Most importantly to another active addict. Doing so gives them an opportunity to learn what I’ve been through. Hopefully, they decide for themselves to learn more about recovery and a new way of life with addiction. Second, my disclosure to the general public is a hope to help them better understand of who we are as addicts (both recovering and active). By sharing my experiences both in active addiction and recovery giving them a chance to walk in my shoes. Perhaps this would give them an insight of feeling exactly where I’ve been and/or what I’m going through in my daily life.

For me, I won’t be here today, if I had not embraced sobriety. It was my personal choice to live another way because where I was and what I was doing wasn’t working. Enevitably, it would (and could) led to death if something didn’t change. Plain and simple. But I’m not one to force my beliefs or views on anyone. So I leave you with this,

I am Responsible. When Anyone, Anywhere
Reaches Out For Help,
I Want The Hand Of A.A. [or another program]
Always To Be There.
And For That,
I Am Responsible !

Help continue this discussion in the comments but please be civil. We all have different views.  Any and all comments are appreciated!