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alcoholism

Truth in a Book

There are a lot of books out there, many written by authors of great inspiration. Although reading seems to go in and out of fashion, largely due to the fact that people seem to find great difficulty in holding onto a coherent thought for more than a minute or two at a time, books still have a great impact on tens of millions of lives around the globe. There are works of fiction and nonfiction, and there are historical texts. You can find how-to books, autobiographies, and entire wings of bookstores are dedicated to self-improvement. And then there are the books that tell you how to live your life. 

    Essentially, the author is trying to impose his version of the truth onto your life and your circumstances, through the form of the written word. Despite its apparent waning popularity, the written word still exerts an incredible amount of influence over the lives of the populace. This is largely due to the fact that an individual can pore over the manuscript repeatedly for hours or even days, dissecting and reevaluating passages, phrases, words, and even punctuation in order to coax the meaning from the text that will give him the answers he seeks. 

    I’m inclined to wonder what makes any particular author the authority of that which is true in my life. Or your life. Or anybody’s life, except his own. I understand there are some pretty powerful tomes out there. Weighty pieces of work that speak the word of God, in the many names that people use to reference Him (or Them). And there are guides like the Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous that endeavor to help escort people from the throes of addiction back to a healthy life. 

    What if the truth can't be found in the pages of a book after all? Perhaps the Truth - your “Truth” , as it specifically pertains to you, in your life, at this point in time, corresponding to and deriving from your thoughts, your actions, and your experiences - can only be found within yourself. No one can just hand you the Truth. You have to work for it. You have to earn it by actively seeking it. Meditate, devote time to self-introspection, climb a mountain, spend time in nature, commune with those who would help you look at things differently (not with absolutes and ultimatums, but with suggestions and new perspectives). There are as many paths to the Truth within yourself as there are books that would place it there for you, without any effort on your part. Truth doesn't come to the sheep. It comes to the hunter.

    Much can be gained by referencing as many external sources as possible in your pursuit of Truth. There is a great body of work dedicated to finding it and understanding it, and you can learn a lot from the efforts of those who have come before you. But because you are the only one who exists exactly in your time and space, it is only you who can ultimately decide just how exactly you fit in there. It is only you who can grasp Truth, as it defines you and how you define it. Trying to insert someone else’s Truth into your reality is like going shopping for a suit that fits. You see the styles that look good on other people, and there are many brands, shapes and sizes to choose from. But ultimately, there is always compromise to be made, because it was not custom-made for you. 

    The problem with shopping for a version of Truth that you find is an acceptable fit to your life - rather than building your own - is you end up with something that has been mass-produced. It has been watered down so as to accommodate as many lives as possible. By gratifying a few basic needs, such as security, acceptance, or the promise of a reward for prescribed behaviors, it attracts as large an audience as possible. There is strength in numbers. This breeds validation for followers and power for those who spout the rhetoric of their Truth.

    Beware those who would impose their Truth on you through fear of impending consequences for not heeding their call. They may have an agenda. And that agenda may be a lot worse than the imagined consequences they claim they can keep you safe from. There is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing and test-driving pieces of their prescribed lifestyle and behaviors. Study them with an open mind and see how they speak to your mind and heart when you enact them. This is how your truth evolves with you as you evolve with the passage of time. But don’t force ideas and ideals to fit you, nor force yourself to fit them. If they don’t speak to your soul, do not hesitate to throw them out and move on!

    Truth, as it pertains to you, is not a model or an object that exists outside of you that must be located, acquired, and operated, like a used car. It is created within your thoughts and inspiration. It is then manifested in your life through action. When there is discomfort in your life, ask yourself :
Have you actively sought your Truth, or did you follow the crowd and end up there? 
Did you reach for your Truth with open eyes, ears, mind, and heart, or was it thrust upon you?  
Has your Truth encouraged change and growth in your life, or has it limited you?
Have you stepped into your Truth with confidence and joy, or did you receive it with hesitation and fear? 

    You are more than the equation 2 + 2 = 4 . You are more than a mindless array of zeroes and ones. The energy that forms you, your reality, and the relationship among them needs constant monitoring. The ultimate authority to oversee this process is you. 

Recovery State University

Before I begin, let me assure you that I love AA and the 12-step program that it follows and that it has brought to millions of addicts and the world at large. AA saved my life. It showed me that I was not alone, that there were thousands of people who suffered from addiction and who lived in my area. I took great solace in the fact that I was not the only one who had issues with feelings of isolation, with fitting in, and with a past that was ravaged by antisocial behavior. 
I immersed myself in a community whose main focus, whose very reason for being, was the recovery from drugs and alcohol. 

    Sorry - I mean the recovery from alcohol. If you need to recover from drugs, you have to attend a different meeting, even though alcohol is a drug; the only differences are that it’s a liquid and that it’s legal. And that’s frequently a topic for much debate. Most people who suffer from alcoholism also have a history of drug abuse, stemming back to the stories you can read in the Big Book wherein the various authors mention drugs as part of their stories. Despite this, most AA meetings begin with a request for those who share to limit their comments to their struggles around alcohol. 

         Meetings, and the programs they support, need structure in order to be effective. With structure comes rules of conduct, and general streams of thought that are intended to produce a desired result. Add to this, the oft-present tendency for addicts to lie and manipulate, and you end up with a rock-solid list of expectations on the part of members for themselves as well as each other. 

    This is where 12-step begins to lose its ability to help every person who is struggling and who is looking for some outside assistance. Any program that has a set path intended to get you from point A to point B, without regard to your individual and unique gifts (and faults) will lose some people. There is no “one size fits all” with regards to recovery, nor should there be. And yet, when an addict suggests that perhaps 12-step recovery isn’t for him, the pervading assumption is that he has relapsed, is planning to relapse, or that he will relapse in the near future, despite yearning to stay clean. 

    The founders of AA never claimed the program was (or would be, in the future)  free from disagreement among its membership. I would go so far as to suggest that they deemed the presence of argument to be a crucial factor in recovery. Argument arises when new ideas are voiced, and the opposing sides need to think as they debate. New ideas and perspectives, and the controversy they provoke, all encourage introspection and growth. The ultimate result is change. Without change an addict will die. 

    Of course, it is change that 12-step tries to invoke in its members, but it is change under the strict guides of a structured program. Change directed by “accepted” literature and led by people who have followed those who preceded them. Do as you’re told, read the books, attend the meetings, “stick with the winners” , get active in service, come early to meetings and stay late, take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth...it all becomes a little like you’re being seduced by a cult. If you question any of it, it is assumed you are shying away from the hard work that must be done in order to affect successful change in your life. Aversion to structure and authority are a natural trait inherent to many addicts, so there is much time and energy devoted to dissuading them from succumbing to the desire to leave the program before they can see the results - “before the miracle happens” . 

    Again, let me assert that I love AA and the 12-step program. I can’t tell you exactly what my life would look like now, had I made different decisions in my past, but substance abuse was killing me. And AA helped me recover. But 12-step simply is not for everybody. The prevailing axiom that “12-step is not for those who need it. It’s for those who want it.” This is true, but that is not to say that those who do not follow a 12-step program will never attain lasting sobriety. The implication made by many who say say the axiom is “12-step is for those who are willing to do exactly as they are told (exactly as I have done), and the rest are doomed to suffer their addictions until they die” . This is NOT true. 

    Addiction, in its many manifestations, holds no prejudices as to who it will infect. 12-step is, for the most part, as open in its acceptance of those who would join one of its programs. Perhaps the members could be as open to those who choose NOT to join their ranks, in favor of alternative pursuits to sobriety. 

    Here at ArcoftheSpirit, and our corresponding programs that we run at Love&Addicts, we are always looking for new ways for the individual to get and stay sober. Our main message is one of love. Love of Self, of Man, of God, and of the Universe. We believe all of this is inextricably connected. We believe Man has lost sight of the importance of living in love in all aspects of his Being. Addicts in recovery are especially susceptible to losing sight of the omnipresence of love. It’s everywhere, but we have let it get lost among bad ideas, misdirected journeys, escape from the Self, and guilt over our pasts. 

    12-step programs are a wonderful way to break from active addiction and begin recovering. The brightest gifts they offer (besides sobriety!) is the introduction of the idea that the addict does not suffer alone, nor does he need ever suffer from active addiction again. But those in recovery who are interested in more than just being clean, those who yearn to live with inner peace, inner purpose, and INNER JOY will benefit from pursuing additional and alternative means to recovery. 

    Take the long, difficult, and rewarding journey within yourself. Take time for silence and meditation. Find and develop the love for who you are and why you’re here. You are not here to go to meetings and give rides to meetings for those who have no car. You’re not here to make coffee or to list every wrongdoing you committed in active addiction. You are here for a higher purpose that is yours to discover and share, thereby lifting your fellow man just a little higher than he was before you showed up on earth. 

    Addiction drew you down as far as it could. 12-step can help (or has already helped) you curtail your descent. To truly soar, you need only look within. 1

Life's Mysteries

We are a curious species. We want to know how everything works. We want to know how far the Universe stretches. We want to know what the future holds for ourselves and for those we love - and for those we don’t. We want to know if there really is a God(s) and what He/She/It/They want of us. We want to know when we are going to die and what happens next. 

    So many questions. 

    Mankind has made many advancements in the fields of science, medicine, and technology, as well as developments in more personal areas, such as open-mindedness towards, and tolerance for, one another. We no longer blame naturally-occurring events on the wrath of God.  We don’t burn witches. We have a vast array of knowledge about physical and mental health. We are more open to the concept of peaceful coexistence, and we do so more frequently and more successfully than ever before. I’m writing this on something that was barely a dream as little as 50 years ago, and you will read it via a system that was barely functioning as little as 25 years ago.  

    We have made great strides, solved many riddles, and settled many differences. In many cases, our lives have been made easier and fuller as a result of the efforts made by curious people who sought to improve situations or circumstances that were deemed to be intolerable or merely unappealing. Without a doubt, curiosity and discontentment have been monumental driving forces in the evolution of mankind. We have amassed an inconceivable store of knowledge, and we maintain the ability to gain almost instant access to most of it. 

    The result of this privilege is a sense of entitlement towards knowledge. All knowledge. If there’s a question, we damn sure expect to be able to answer it. And if we can’t, we’ll Google it. If the search avails no answers, we tend to quit searching, judging the issue unimportant. We shrug our shoulders and get on with our day. We try ignore that which we don’t understand. We don’t like mystery. It makes us uncomfortable, because it reminds us of our limitations and inherent frailty as mortal humans. 

    But it is the uncertain aspects of life, the indefinable nuances and the ever-present dilemmas that create a need to keep showing up, day after day. If you knew exactly where you were going, how you would get there, and when you would reach your destination, would you bother putting any effort into today? If the song had already been written and you knew the score all the way through, would you bother learning to play your part? Would you even purchase an instrument? If there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded and the home team down by one run, would you be on the edge of your seat if you already know the guy was going to strike out? Would you even go to the game?

    I have never been as comfortable with uncertainty as I would like to be, and I know there are aspects of my life that will remain uncertain until...well, until it is time for them to be revealed. Which is to say, they will remain unknown until they aren’t. I don’t always love that fact, but I know the only way to gain perspective on life’s biggest, scariest questions is to let life’s mysteries reveal themselves to me on their schedule and that some mysteries may never be revealed. I don’t like that fact either, but I didn’t write the rules for this life, nor do I understand many of them. I just try to learn and follow them. 

    On a daily basis, I try : to accept that which I cannot change (life’s uncertainties), to summon the courage, strength, and patience to find answers where appropriate (life’s uncertainties that will eventually reveal themselves), and to know the difference between the two. To put it another way, I make the effort to LIVE every day, learning that which is taught, appreciating or accepting all that is either given or withheld, and letting go of that which is out of my control. 

    As an alcoholic and addict, my list of questions is rather long : Why me? Why did I waste so much time acting out on addictive behaviors? What caused my addiction? Do I get “good points” for being sober? Do I deserve any happiness in the aftermath of all my shitty behaviors?  Have I made any significant positive changes? Am I closer to God than I was? Am I on the right track to making amends to God? Am I a better person now than I was, or is it just a matter of time and opportunity until I revert to the old habits? I’m not exactly sure how to answer most of these questions, and it is in the lack of a solid answer that these questions gain so much relevance.

    The most important question is the one that cannot be definitively answered, because it is this quality that encourages me to keep showing up for life, learning, improving, and healing a little bit each day. Any critical question - and its answers - have the tendency to make subtle changes in their shades of meaning from day to day and hour to hour. Every time I think I’m getting close to an answer or basic understanding, the rules and questions shift, and I need to take a step back to reevaluate or look from a different perspective. This keeps me from getting complacent or lazy. It keeps me involved, and it is through every-day involvement that I learn vital life lessons. 


    As you let life unfold itself to you, stay comfortable with the fact that today’s questions and answers are as impermanent as this moment in time. Keep asking questions as a way to stay present, but don’t worry about being “right” There will always be another point of view and a new idea that contradicts your findings. It is more important to participate than to figure out all the reasons why everything is as it is.  The Universe knows that if you knew how it all turns out, you might not stick around to experience it.


    On any given day, a good question is infinitely more valuable than its answer.

Chaos vs. Serenity

An addict lives in chaos. It comes in different degrees; the need to act out every weekend and make apologies on Monday, the need to sneak out of work for a few minutes/hours to satisfy the cravings, or the need to get up at 3:00 am and have a few drinks. It comes in various forms; “How am I going to keep all these lies that I’ve told straight?” , “Here’s ANOTHER number on my cell that I don’t recognize - who is it and what does HE want?” , “How am I going to explain (and pay for) the damages?” , or  “What day is it, and where the fuck am I?” Regardless of the particular circumstances, a life consumed by addiction is one that is permeated by chaos. 

    One of the biggest and most immediate perks of getting sober is that the individual no longer has to endure new consequences to addictive behaviors. No more hangovers. No more empty wallet in the morning. No new charges (from the police or the credit card companies). It is a powerful and exhilarating period of early sobriety, often referred to as the pink cloud. 

    The problem with the pink cloud is that it doesn’t last. There is a huge relief that comes from escaping the downward spiral that one’s life was turning into, but instead of segueing into a pervasive sense of ease, this relief frequently transitions into an overall sense of boredom. Chaos brings excitement and lots of activity that is sorely missed when it’s gone, although the addict may find it hard to admit that this is the case. Frequently, one finds it necessary to make a gratitude list. The list contains all the things life IS NOT, DOES NOT, and WILL NOT be, if one remains sober. It is examined and reexamined, hopefully on a daily basis, as a way to constantly remind oneself of how much better life is, now that the bad habits have been dropped. 

    But memory has a way of glorifying bad ideas and downplaying bad situations. The highs that were chased appear to be attainable and the consequences that were suffered appear to be avoidable. The possibility of successful reconnection with addictive behaviors dangles in an addict’s mind like the magic of Christmas morning to a six-year-old. And all the time that has been freed up by not participating in these behaviors gives the mind way too much time to ponder the pros and cons of caving into ever-present urges. 

    What an addict needs is a list of healthy habits that replace the old ones. He needs something to put time and effort into. Merely avoiding negative consequences does not create a fulfilling existence, nor does it provide healthy alternatives to the coping mechanisms that, up to now, are all he used. He needs to DO, to TRY, to EXERT, to SWEAT. The opposite to his previous life of avoidance is action. He needs to build a new life around ideas that drive him and ideals that inspire him. Even his response to the inevitable backlash from those who disagree with him gives the addict something to put his energy into and distract him from the old way of thinking. The negative energy that others may throw his way gives him something positive to work on. 

    If addiction’s agenda is to destroy everything it can get its claws into, the ultimate weapon an addict can yields against it is creation. And creation requires action on the part of the creator (and the Creator, but let’s not get off topic). It takes time. It demands mental and physical effort. By its very definition, the act of creating something entails work. And therein lies the huge benefit. When an addict immerses himself in work, he leaves little energy to fuel the urge to act out. 

    Conversely, when an addict focuses solely on everything his life DOES NOT HAVE or IS NOT ABOUT any longer (failed relationships, squandered potential, self-delusion, lies, manipulation, deceit) he is living a life based on lack. He lives in a void of discarded habits and lingering self-recrimination. He creates nothing, and how can you build on nothing? What is fulfilling in a void? The human psyche craves some sort of input, whether it be sensory, spiritual, or mental. An addict living in a bubble that provides none of these is far too susceptible to the call of old behaviors to fill it.

    As an alcoholic and addict, I have been in and out of recovery more times than I wish to admit. Every time I threw my hands up in frustration and returned to the rooms, I vowed to get a sponsor, a home group, a long list of numbers...everything they told me to do. I would follow suggestions for a few months, get bored and dissatisfied with the program of recovery I was exposed to, disconnect from the program, and eventually go out again. As much as I gained from 12 step recovery, I still felt there was something vital missing.

    When I went to prison for my fourth DUI, I began a long journey inward that continues to this day. Deep inside myself is where I connected with my higher power and began learning about myself, who I was, where I wanted to go, what I was meant to be and what I was meant to do in this life. It began a long process of gaining awareness through observation and sharing insights with others who were sick like me. The journey has been at times daunting, fraught with doubt and fear, confusing, enlightening, joyous, difficult, and a host of other emotionally-charged adjectives that change, at times, minute to minute. It has been almost all-consuming in its demands of my time and efforts. It has provided long-sought-after answers to many of my life’s questions. It has kept me sober, and it has provided great comfort in my sobriety.

    It has helped me create serenity in my life. 

    Your serenity depends on your ability to create something out of your deepest, brightest, highest self - not on your ability to avoid repeating the mistakes of your past. 

    Time to get to work.