Addiction, recovery and growth

Growth

Most of the time, I refer to myself as being “In Recovery.” This is an easy way to communicate that I used to be all screwed up on drugs and alcohol, and now, I’m doing better. It’s also a handy little hashtag to use on Twitter when I’m hoping to reach fellow traveler’s who spend time online. Almost all my little online gems contain #Addiction, #Recovery, # Sobriety. Its the secret code we use to find one another, and hopefully, interact and support each other’s efforts to live a fuller life without drugs and alcohol.
But, lately, I’ve been thinking about the language we use. Words have meaning. Behind these buzz words are actual people. Really complicated people. Sometimes really anxious, depressed, confused and addicted people. People like me.
The word “Recovery” implies that we are trying to return to a former state of being. It implies that we were once in a good place, we lost our way, and now we are back on track. We’ve recovered our sense of life’s direction.
But – who of us has honestly lived such a fairy-tale? How many of us really want to reclaim, or recover the life we were living before our addictions got the best of us? In my case, my life was so depressing and painful, that I used drugs and alcohol to escape that reality. When I got high, I went to a warm, safe place. I shut out the noise and the pain. It worked for a while. Until it didn’t, and I found myself addicted to cocaine and alcohol. I never want to recover the life that led me there.
Instead of recovery – we might consider “Growth.” #Growth. I’m not trying to recover the life I once had, I’m learning to grow into my new life – a life with endless potential, love, and purpose.

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Podcast Episode #52 Staying sober in a crazy world

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Podcast Ep. 51: Starting over in addiction recovery

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Step 6: Please remove my defects. G-O-D.

Step 6

Let’s face it. No matter how we feel about them, many of us were first introduced to sobriety in 12 Step recovery programs. It is rare to find a therapist or treatment center that isn’t 12 step centric. Although I’ve grown and changed my outlook over the course of the past 27 years in recovery, I could not have gotten and remained sober without working the 12 Steps.
That said – we will continue our step study today with Step 6:

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Yep, there’s that G-O-D thing again. In steps 4 and 5, we took a good hard, truthful look at ourselves, and it wasn’t always a pretty picture. Then, we shared that intimate inventory with a trusted person. Here, in step 6, we look ahead – ahead to a life where we have left our past behind and begin to build a new, sober, successful life. But – as in several of the 12 Steps, we are advised to look to our Higher Power to give us a little push.

In my case, the little push was more like a kick in the butt from my sponsor. I never missed an opportunity to debate with my sponsor the overwhelming presence of the Judeo-Christian God n Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy. But, the fact that he spent three years at a catholic seminary, preparing to become a priest, usually gave him the upper hand in such discussions. And, in step 6, we are advised to simply ready ourselves, with God’s help for our new lives. My sponsor, who by the time I knew him was more agnostic than catholic, just reminded me once again, that G-O-D can simply be interpreted as Good Orderly Direction. He reminded me that, no matter what level of deification or spirituality I chose to read into the 6th step – getting my past behind me, and preparing, through good orderly direction for my future was where I needed to spend my time and energy – not in theosophical debates about the 12 Steps.

And, that’s where I left it. And that’s where I decided, with God’s help or not – to stop living in the past. In my recovery, I could live in the present and the future, and I’ve never looked back.

You too, can look forward to a fulfilling life, happy, successful and content in your recovery!

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Podcast Episode #50! Who knew we’d last this long?

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Real Sobriety Addiction Recovery Podcast: Episode 48 – Step 5

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Podcast Ep. 47: Step 4 – We look at ourselves honestly in addiction recovery

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Podcast Ep. 45: Step 3; Good Orderly Direction for Addiction Recovery

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Back to the 12 Step basics: Step one

Back to Basics The 12 Steps – Step One

As much as I rail against the religiosity and cult-like aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps, one would think that I dismissed them in my recovery. Actually, the opposite is true. Like a lot of you who came into recovery via a twelve step program, I have just been around long enough to question some of the details, as they apply to my own life experience. But, in spite of my occasional skepticism –

Let’s face it – the twelve steps work. They are not perfect, but they help give addicts and alcoholics some guidance and structure, especially in the early days of recovery.

I’ve always been a seeker and a critic. I’ve always questioned authority and dogma. When I was about 13 years old, as a Catholic school boy, I would point out to the nuns the inconsistencies of the New Testament. Eventually, the good sisters encouraged my parents to place me in a secular school, and, because we were of modest means and Catholic school tuition was rising every year, my dad agreed. He proudly labeled me an agnostic, and I found myself in the Philadelphia Public School system – which is not unrelated to my drug use and alcoholism.

So, the 12 steps…

The next 12 podcasts are going to be something of a one-man step study. Based on the wisdom of many people who are smarter and more tolerant and understanding than me, I’ll take each step and try to share some insight and experience as it applies to my life as a sober person.

So…Step One

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, (or narcotics, or food, or gambling, or cocaine, and so on), and that our lives had become unmanageable.

The first step is usually not a difficult one for most people. I was easy for me to see that my drinking and cocaine use had made my life into a complete mess. The unmanageability was evident for anyone to see. My life was quickly turning into a series of events that resembled a multi car pileup on an interstate highway. Did you ever see the videos on Youtube of car after car smashing into one another during an icy snow storm? As much as the drivers try to control their vehicles, they are helpless and the cars and trucks just smash into one another in a slow motion parade of carnage. Well, that was me. Unlike the cars on the highway, my situation wasn’t really an accident. My addiction was the cause. The effect was broken promises, destroyed relationships, financial hardship, lost jobs, lost loves, lack of self esteem, lying, cheating, and stealing to maintain my addiction. I only had to look in the mirror to see the cause of my unmanageability. Alcohol and drugs were my priorities. No matter what negative effects they had on my life – I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. I pretended to be in charge. I lived the lie that I was going to cut back, slow down, and eventually get a grip on myself. But, the addiction was all powerful and insidious. My powerlessness was plain to see – to everyone but myself.

My young life looked like a trailer park after a raging tornado passed through.

The first counseling session I had in treatment, the therapist asked me “Robert, do you consider yourself and alcoholic?”

I hesitated. I squirmed shook in my seat. Then I said “Yes.” For the first time I was 100% honest with myself.

That moment in time is etched forever in my soul. That moment, it seemed there was a huge weight lifted from me. That moment of truth was my first step towards recovery. That was the first step.

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Podcast Ep. 45: Step 2 Power and Truth

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