Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It Rhymes with Attitude

I am as grateful as the next guy, assuming the next guy is a selfish, manipulative, angry little man. 

I'm an addict. An addict in long-term recovery, but an addict nonetheless. During the active phase of my disease, I merrily rewired the receptors in my brain to bypass some of the functions that might blow my high. These included responsibility and conscience, and without them, comes entitlement. 

Entitlement and gratitude don't do well together. Entitlement is such a bully that it tosses poor old gratitude right out of the bus. Who feels grateful for what they deserve?

The Thanksgiving story we grew up with was a gratitude story. The Indians helped the Pilgrims and everyone had a big party and then they went hunting and got some more food to store for the winter. Everyone was grateful as all get out. Then came the revisionist story, where the Pilgrims ripped off the Indians, ate their grub and killed them.

Oh my God, I thought. The Pilgrims were addicts! They acted like crackheads ripping the Indians' bodega to cop some spicy chips! Entitled. No gratitude.

I like the old story better. I like it because it speaks to my best self. The second story speaks to the seriously damaged dude who still lurks in the shadows, ready to steal your wallet and then help you look for it. The old story may not be true, but I want to make it true. I want to be a grateful addict, not an entitled one.

Because, as the man said, a grateful addict will never use.

Now comes the part where I should list everything I am grateful for. But I won't. If I did, I would start padding it and thinking up stuff so you would think what a great guy I am. And if I did begin listing all that I am truly grateful for, it could bore you to death. 

So let's leave it at this: I'm grateful that I'm with the good Pilgrims. Being a crackhead Pilgrim sucks.

Happy Thanksgiving, you Pilgrims.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


teenager-drug addictsImage by kr4gin via Flickr
"Don't get me wrong, I love the Holidays. It's my family I hate." 

The speaker was 15 years old, and filled with adolescent angst.
"They're materialistic and stupid, and they don't want anyone to have a good time." He had a point. He had recently been caught smoking marijuana on school grounds, and the stupid, materialistic parents had spent a lot of money on fines and lawyers, had to kiss the school administration's ass during hours of meetings, and fun was not big on their minds.
I pointed out that good lawyers charge multiple hundreds of dollars per hours to keep you out of jail.
"So put me in jail! I feel like I'm there already!" Of course the closes to jail he had been was probably an episode of Prison Break. 
"Listen, " I said, "they're worried about you." He sniffed. I swear, actually sniffed. Like a character out of Remains of the Day. I was getting a little warm.Figured it was time to shift gears.
"Let me tell you a story," I said. 
"Can I smoke?"
He slumped.
"Once upon a time..."
He smirked.
"--there was a mom and dad who were very worried about their son. He was hanging with the wrong kids and getting high, and getting in more and more trouble at school."
He grinned at the word "trouble." If it was a badge he would have worn it.
"They had loved their kid and raised him and tried to instill some basic values. They weren't perfect. They made mistakes. When he became a teenager, they made some big mistakes because they had never raised a teenager before."
I checked. there was some eye-rolling, but also some minimal attention. Of course it was probably because I was doing all the work.
"He got in bigger and bigger trouble, and they worried more, and paid more lawyers, and had a hard time sleeping. They were desperate, and didn't know what to do. But I'm sure you know what happened next."
He nodded, sensing victory.
"Right. They moved. Cut their losses and ran. Threw him to the wolves."
"Pulled up stakes and changed their names. All of a sudden he was on his own, in court with no one who loved him in sight. Funny thing about love, when it's there it's easy to take it for granted, but when it's gone, it leaves a pretty cold and empty vacuum behind it.And suddenly, instead of dealing with people who love him, he's dealing with people who look at him as a social problem to be handled."
"Oh no, I've taken mommy and daddy for granted!"
"There, there, little fella" I said.
The vibe on my cell phone interrupted my reverie.

Okay, that's not exactly how it happened. It would be nice, though. Usually it takes two sessions, right?
Happy Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Tale Only Addicts In Recovery Will Understand

Excellent repost from Bill Urell's great blog: Addiction Recovery Basics:
A Tale Only Addicts In Recovery Will Understand
(although I know some non-addicts who can understand this just as well.)

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Talkin' bout my generation....

Okay, I'm no kid. I was 58 at my last birthday, and I'm old enough to have learned a thing or two, or so I like to think.
But. And there's always a but.
We don't always know as much as e think we do, do we?
I got hit with a bronchial infection last week, actually probably before lastt week, but finally went to tthe doctor after a couple of days of my dear wife's gentle prodding.
She got tired of my constant hacking and spewing, and, how can I say it, she made me go to the doctor. And of course, once the Doc took a look at me, things got serious--at least more serious than I wanted to admit. You know all those cute little excuses and manipulations that we addicts like to engage in. People think we're deceptive, and we are--self-deceptive.
Anyway, I was sick. I needed X-rays, antibiotics, steroids, and inhaler, etc. I heard about the importance of the flu shots I didn't get. An appointment was made for the following week. Everyone was nice to me, except my wife. She smacked me in the arm and said I didn't listen to her.
We have a plate that hangs in the kitchen. It says, "Don't think of me as your wife. Think of me as your friend who's always right."
So, I went home with the intention of taking some antibiotics and going back to work. Wrong. I woke up the next morning feeling like a truck hit me. The next morning, too. The one after that was a little better, then a little worse. I began to fear that there was some other condition, deadly and undiagnosed lurking behind the symptoms of Bronchitis. I was right, there was.
The scourge of our time, the illness for which there is no cure.
The disease no one wants to be cured of.
The reason most people were so nice to me!
I was the sick old guy.
Now, I may be a little dense (may, my wife would say, skeptically) but I never realized that all of those little spots on tv where they said to check on your older relatives winter and summer, or to make sure they got their flu shots, they were talking about me!
I felt like I did when I found out who my sponsor meant when he would say that some were sicker than others.
And worse, all that "you're only as old as you feel" stuff? I hope not, I felt about 92. I was going to say 80, but remember how spry my mother-in-law was at that age, and I was no where near that good. 92, maybe older.
And, I didn't bounce back. I was always proud of my ability to be back on the job in a couple of days, but this time, I'd wake up each morning, think, "today." And ten minutes later, "not today."
So what does all this have to do with recovery?
I was 25 years old when I walked through the door. My early recovery was the recovery of a young man, with all of the arrogant, egocentric and horny reckless trimmings. My middle recovery was the recovery of a middle-aged man; an expert, a builder of programs, a doer, mover, shaker. Iconoclastic.
And now, another change. My recovery becomes the recovery of an old man.
What's that mean? I don't know yet. So far, at every milestone, my Higher Power has given me just what I needed. I don't often recognize it, frequently forget it, and need to be hit over the head with it, in my Higher Power's rather persuasive way. But I get it.
This time, I really don't know what it is, but I know that I will get it. Excuse me, it will be given to me. Hopefully I will get it. It's time for a change. The change needs to encompass me body and soul and mind, I will need to give myself to it. It will involve change for my family, especially for my wife and me, as we go forward together into some terra incognita. Unknown turf, as we say. We need to learn how to nurture. We need to learn how to practice recovery in ways new and ways familiar.
That's the beauty of Recovery.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Recovery: Joyous, Proud and Noisy

Anybody besides me remember the “Silent Majority”?

That was Spiro Agnew’s description of the “average American”, toiling in anonymity, voiceless and culturally disfranchised by a changing society.

Well, there’s a new bunch in town, and while they are anonymous, and may not yet constitute a majority, I can tell you this: they are not silent.

They are the Recovery Community. They are individuals and their families who have learned to live clean and sober in an addicted society. They are the alcoholics who now think instead of drink, the addicts who help each other stay clean, instead of dragging each other down to oblivion; the gamblers who invest in recovery instead of playing the tables, the horses or the market. They are the kids who are getting an education instead of getting in trouble, running the streets to flee the addiction-fueled dysfunction at home.

They are the people who have learned that change brings healing and that an incurable disease, addiction, can be stopped in its tracks with the right kind of help. Many belong to programs based on anonymity, but that doesn’t make them invisible nonentities. They are the family next door, the co-worker, the cop and the cafeteria lady. They represent every race, creed and color in the county.

And man, do they like to have fun! Recovery is about the joy of living.

So, in that spirit, a group of recovering people decided to throw a party. It’s called Rock 4 Recovery, and it’s a straight-up, kick out the jams, pedal to the medal Rock Concert, with a twist: no drugs, no booze. The bands and the audience will all be clean and sober.

What kind of concert is that? If last year’s show is an indication, it will be eclectic, with 10 bands in 10 hours, ranging from Classic Rock to Metal, with a little of World, Country, Alternative, Hip-Hop—even some Spoken Word. It will also be safe: in addition to the strict no drugs and alcohol policy, that last year it was a concert with no fights, no breakage, no ugliness of any kind. The kind of concert where you don’t have to worry about your kids if you bring them.

Does that mean it was tame? No Way. It’s Rock N’Roll —loud, raucous and rowdy. Lights, smoke, dancin’ in the streets—well, not the streets, the aisles, but you get the picture.

And did I mention the price? $10.00. All of it going to sponsor recovery-oriented young people.

If you’re a recovering person or family member and want to experience something different in the world of recovery, come on out.

If you are curious about life after drugs and booze, and wondering if you can socialize stone cold sober, come on out.

And if you just like a good rock show with people who won’t throw up on your shoes, we’re your destination.

Come on out and join the not-so-Silent Majority!

Rock 4 Recovery:

Saturday, November 14, 2009
1:00pm - 11:00pm
The Garden Church, Lansdowne & Stratford Aves., Lansdowne PA 19050