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The Pros and Cons of Addiction

There really are not any pros of addiction.  If, one can call feeling spectacular during the first couple of uses, and then chasing that “amazing” high for the rest of their lives a pro, then my mistake, there you have it.

The cons of addiction? Well, that is a completely different story, and one that I could spend many months, if not years writing.

Addiction destroys you.

It takes away every thing you have.

It takes away everyone and everything that you have ever loved, or has ever loved you.  Addiction takes away your sense of humor, your good looks, your friends, family, and ultimately, if you get there before it kills you, your freedom.

Roughly 10 years ago, my nieces and nephew, and I had a very deep conversation.  I told them that drugs were “from hell”, and that they (who were 10,8, and 6 at the time) should NEVER, ever even think about trying a drug.

Why?

Well for several reasons really:

  • You never know what will happen with that first hit that you take.
  • You could die from your first hit.
  • You could immediately become an addict.
  • You could be caught, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and be hauled off to jail; guilty until proven innocent for having done nothing at all. And wind up spending an awfully long time there.

Did they hear what I said to them, and have repeated a few times since? Do they remember that I missed their childhoods, and how badly it rips my heart apart every time it even crosses my mind?

Do they know how bad I feel when I realize that, for all intents and purposes; I don’t even have 2 nieces and a nephew, because I virtually know nothing about them?

I hope to G-d not!

You know, come to think of it, there are pros to addiction, and there are many. Please allow me to tell you about a few of them.

  • As an addict, you learn how not to be so selfish.
  • As an addict you learn to love, and not only yourself.
  • As an addict, you learn how to say that you are sorry; to your mother, your father, your friends, and the Lord knows how many other people you have hurt in you life.
  • You learn remorse.
  • You learn to feel.
  • You learn to take the cotton out of your ears, and place it in your mouth.
  • You learn to cry and mean it.
  • You learn to be a successful husband, father, and son.
  • And if you’re lucky, you will get a chance to make up for the problems that you have caused.

So, are there both pros and cons to being addicted, apparently there are.

There are several methods that one can utilize to make it into the light.  If you are honest, if you find a G-d, even one of your very own understanding, and learn to put NOTHING else in front of your recovery, then you just might have a chance of success.

However, should you find getting and staying sober, just too much work for you to handle?

Then G-d willing you will find the strength one day, and until then;

We’ll be waiting 🙂

Building up Your Sobriety Tool Chest

A sobriety tool chest is the place where all of the tools that an addict learns to stay sober, at meetings, in sessions, etc.

The more active work that an addict does during their sobriety process, the more tools they gather in their sobriety chests.  Sobriety chests are vital in times of weakness or temptation.

It is all engrained of course, almost sub-consciously, but when things begin to go wrong, the addict digs down into their chest, gabs whichever tool will be most effective, uses it, G-d willing survives, and moves on.

A sobriety tool chest can be one of two things. A. It can be a self-replenishing chest, if the addict goes, on a regular basis to meetings, sessions, etc.  Depending upon what type of treatment they are taking part in.  B. The tool chest can lose more and more of their content each time they are used.

Depending upon how well you use whichever program it is that you do use, the more full your tool chest remains.  When the tool chest begins to get depleted, that is when the problems begin.

The way we build our sobriety tool chests is by learning new techniques for handling situations. If we learn to handle stress more efficiently, we build up our chest.  If we learn to cope with our families we build the chest.  Every new tool we learn, the more full the chest becomes, until we build up a strong bank of skills for handling capable of helping us through virtually any situation that our addiction might throw our way.

As these each situations comes our way, we use up a tool.  It’s quite a lot like a video game where you have the sword of blah blah for this, and the dagger of blah blah for this, etc.  Once you use them up, you then have to follow through on some other action to regain the tools.

Get it?

Good!

So addicts go to meetings, or groups, work with sponsors, therapists, etc.

They learn new principles, new tools for dealing with issues, etc.  Each of the new “tools” that they learn, go right into the box. The goal is to keep the box so full, so plump and overflowing with back up, that no matter what were to happen, it could not de-rail your sobriety.

And, of course, the larger the issue, problem, or disaster, the more tools are drained.

Let us say, that G-d forbid, and I mean a huge G-d forbid here, both of your parents were suddenly killed in an automobile accident.  Your toolbox would be utterly depleted within moments, perhaps, an hour.  So what to do?

Refill it as quickly as humanly possible.

Hit the groups, the meetings, the sessions, and the one on ones. Go, go, and go. Because the theory is, that until that box is thoroughly refilled, the addict will not be safe, or prepared for the next, life event that occurs.

Ultimately we learn that life is life, “it is what it is”, and that well basically, stuff just happens.

This is the whole philosophy behind maintaining a solid spiritual program.

We learn to handle sorrows, joys (births, weddings, etc.) and that unfortunately, even the good stuff passes. But, if we learn that the good stuff goes, so must we learn that that bad stuff does as well, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel, MUCH more quickly.

The way I look at it is this.

One can either go to school, get an education, and learn to do and handle things that others can not, or they can go on living from pay check to pay check.

The toolbox is the paycheck.

Definitely need one, but there are ways to need one less.

Accept Yourself – Good, Bad, and Ugly

One of the hardest things for anyone to do in their life is to accept themselves.

We all have flaws.

We all have strengths, and we all have skeletons in our closets, which even if they are not major ones, we would just as well not have them laid out in the open for the general world to know about.

Now take the good things and, the bad things multiplied by about 50, the skeletons by 500, and there you have your typical addict.

You see, there just are not that many good things about being an addict.  And aside from the beginning days, where it actually has it’s fun moments, it is mostly bad, and filled with shame, guilt, and if one is really lucky, at least a touch of remorse.

Accepting oneself is the key to everything in life.  But we were all ruined from a very young age.  Walt Disney introduced the concept of prince charming.  Obviously no such person exists, and is only a stereotype.

However, when faced with a choice between reality and the handsome strapping archetype prince, which would you choose?

Men have been duped in pretty much the same way, young starlets, super-models, Abercrombie and Fitch girls, etc.

This, my friends, is not reality.

This is masochism.

I have a philosophy that we live many lives in one lifetime.

We are presented many chances, to make many different decisions in our lives.  We live, we learn, we laugh, we lose, we gain, and we reap the glory of many moments!

Learning to accept ourselves for who we are: good, bad, and ugly, is the key to living a happy and fulfilled life.

Sure we make mistakes, but we are supposed to.

Here is an example. If someone were to set a jet engine in front of you and ask you to fix it, your gut response would probably be something to the effect of letting out a hearty laugh, gathering you things together, and getting on your way. But how come? The only reason that this task seems impossible is because nobody has ever taught you to fix a jet engine.

If you knew how, it would be easy. Or easier, depending on how many times you had performed the exercise before.

By Nature, we are not perfect. We are flawed, and we are meant to be.

We make attempts; we make mistakes, we learn from them, hopefully, carry on, and try not to make the same mistakes again.

Our noses are too big, our belly’s too fat, our I.Q.s too low, our wife’s too bitchy, our husbands too late, too lazy, and not capable of making nearly enough money to keep us living the lives that we have become accustomed to living.

So when do we get a chance at being happy. When do we get a chance to be content, and begin moving in the right direction? When we learn to accept ourselves for who we are, good, bad, and ugly.

We have skills, skills that no one else has, and, we lack as well.  We have fat butts, double chins, 6 fingers on our fight hands, bad breath, good breath, no senses of humor, great senses or humor, and myriad other positives and negatives.

Once we learn to accept ourselves, good, bad, and ugly, then we have learned to fix that jet engine once and for all 🙂

And the best part is, that we NEVER have to learn the skill again.

We are human.

We are strong.

We are weak.

We are lost and found, sane and not, redeemed, and flawed beyond words.

And we are wonderful in every way.

Except the ways in which we are not.

Accept yourself.  Accept your friends, your parents.  Learn that you are just fine, exactly as you are, and you have no reason to change at all.

Unless, of course, you want to 🙂

10 Ways to Know You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom - You'll Know When You Get There

  1. You have no money.
  2. No one will lend you any money.
  3. You owe a lot of money.
  4. You have no place to live.
  5. You own parents won’t even look at you let alone talk to you.
  6. You have no friends.
  7. You have no job.
  8. You have no clothing, but those on your back.
  9. You have not showered in a month.

10. You are an outcast, everywhere.

This is a VERY, very “over-the-top” scenario, and there are, of course, many varying scenarios ranging from very-low to very-high in between.

You have had an example of an extremely “bottom-of-barrel” low, and now I will give you an example of a much less noticeable one.

  1. The bank is beginning to breathe down your neck.
  2. The only people that will still lend you money are your parents.
  3. The bills are starting to pile up.
  4. You have not paid your rent in months.
  5. Warnings are starting to come from loved ones, that, if things don’t straighten out soon, your life is about to change dramatically.
  6. Your friends are thinning out.
  7. Your boss says, one more time, one, and that’s it.
  8. Your clothes are running low.
  9. You are starting to care less and les about your appearance.

10. You re beginning to be less and less welcome wherever you go.

Whether you are attending a holistic program, or a 12 Step Based program, “your” goal, actually, is to hit a bottom.  It is – bottom line – the ONLY thing that gives you a real chance at staying sober for any real length of time.

When I first got into trouble with the law, I had still not yet hit rock bottom. I was one of the types that had to learn HARD to learn at all.

It took a huge amount of pain and suffering cause by me, to both others, and myself to finally realize that enough was enough.

I still pray daily, that I never feel the need to return to that place, and those places in my life.

I would have to say that realistically, I had to hit roughly 10 different bottoms, or what I thought at the time were bottoms, before it all made sense in my head, or at least I pray to G-d that it has.

Today I feel good, I feel centered, I feel grounded. I pray everyday, maintain a solid spiritual program, and am as rigorously honest as humanly possible.

And yet, sobriety is an extremely tentative thing.  Or at least it has been in the past for me, and many others I know.

I know that I have hit rock bottom, literally.

I know that my Higher Power has saved my life directly, and left me with, Him willing, all of both the physical and mental scars to prove it.

When one has such an accident as I did, and lives to tell the tale, with all the pain to back it up, they should be incredibly grateful. I could easily have died.

I did not.

I could easily have been partially or fully paralyzed, but was not.

And I most certainly have been maimed beyond recognition.

I was not.

You see, G-d has always known, or at least it appears He has, that if I am to be taught a lesson, that it must be in a big, loud, screamed out way.

I must never be allowed to forget, ever.

I must literally hit rock bottom!

Sobriety is an Everyday Choice

Temptation is EVERYWHERE!

The wine isle at the grocery, street signs, and magazine ads, tempt us everyday!

Staying sober is tough!

There is only one addiction that is harder to beat than alcohol or drug addiction, and that is food addiction.

An alcoholic can avoid the wine section. A drug addict can avoid movies that they have heard have a lot of drug use in them. Still an addict has to make a decision on a daily basis to not pick up.

I do not wake up every morning and say, “I am absolutely not going to use today.  However, there are dozens of decisions each day that need to be made. There are feelings that need to be kept in check.

Should I take an extra Valium because I feel a bit anxious?  Sure I have a cough, but does that mean that I need to take an extra 20 mg. of Diazapam twice a day, instead of just 10?

I will tell you one thing, there is definitely not a guardian angel on my right shoulder, smacking my hand, or flicking me in the middle of my forehead every time I think of reaching for something, or thinking a thought that I should not.

I have to take it upon myself, sometimes every moment of every day to make the correct choices .  It is up to me to make a decision every moment of everyday as to whether I want to live my life, or eventually wind up as some brain dead junkie in a gutter somewhere.

It is my choice whether or not I decide to hold my head up high today.

It is my choice to decide whom I call on the phone, whether I enjoy spending time with my wife. My son.  Or whether I allow myself to become distracted and not pay attention to the things that really count.

Sometimes, I get a break, things are going well, my head is clear, and I hardly have to even think about sobriety.

I am one of the lucky ones, however, I have a blog, where I get to write everyday and remind myself of who I was, what happened, and who I am now.  And that?

That is a really big deal!

And I truly feel sorry for those who haven’t got a choice.

Who have to go to 12 Step Meetings, who either white knuckle it, or get it, or those who get the chance to go to a holistic program, and perhaps, REALLY make it!

To say that sobriety is a choice and not a guarantee is like saying that you are about to cross a four-lane highway, with your eyes closed at a very slow pace.

Nothing in life is a guarantee, but some choices are far more stupid than others.

Stop, think, consider (hard) the pros and the cons, and then, and only then make a decision.

If I have a bad day, which fortunately I have far fewer of today, then I talk about it with either my wife, or a good friend that is intimately familiar with my history.

If I am having a good day, I do the same.

Allowing Others Into Your Life

Abuse and Rape are two of the most common reasons that people begin to use drugs.

They can no longer handle the pain, and eventually look for a way to numb it. Trust.

Depending upon what kind of life they have had can be one of the hardest things to ever do again.

Sure they have intimacy issues but who could blame them? Right?

I have friends that were raped the first time they ever had sex, or abused by family members all their lives.

They had no idea what was going on, or what they were supposed to do. All they knew was that it was uncomfortable, and just felt wrong somehow.

Some people have tremendous courage, and immediately go to the police or to a counselor to report the person, for exactly what he or she has done to them.

Unfortunately, there are far more people who are scared into silence, and wind up carrying guilt, for something that they consider to be their fault, for years, and sometimes for a lifetime!

Years go by, and these individuals simply CANNOT take the shame and guilt any longer.  They need some kind of way to vent the pain, confusion, and frustration and they wind up turning to drugs.

One of the favorite drugs for rape or abuse victims is alcohol, because it totally removes their inhibitions, allowing them to speak feely with a friend about what really happened.

It numbs them, allowing them to feel nothing, and third, if they keep it up long enough they pass-out, and they do not remember a thing, and this, is blissful oblivion for them, by which for a few hours they can totally leave all reality behind.

Research has shown, that many rape victims become lesbians, never wanting to touch, smell, or even know that a man exists ever again.

And personally, I for one cannot blame them in the slightest. Most abuse victims wind up becoming abusers themselves. Most women who have been raped usually have one very good girlfriend, usually from childhood whom they can still trust.

They KNOW that this person would NEVER do anything to hurt them. Letting in new people, however, is an entirely different thing all together.

This is where either a 12 Step, or holistic program of some kind can be extremely helpful. They can get to know others slowly, in a very controlled, very slow-paced environment.

They can get a sponsor, preferably another woman who has been nearly through or even exactly through what they themselves have been through.  Unfortunately, there are WAY too many women who know exactly how it feels.

Now, of course, this does not deal with only rape or molestation situations. Abusive parents, sexually, verbally, to either their male or female children.  Traumas; houses burning down, family murder situations, and even simply the betrayal of a close friend with trusted information, or even being with an unfaithful partner, can lead to adult trust issues.

It is extremely difficult to allow someone to enter your inner circle after that area has been violated or betrayed.  Learning to trust again can be an extremely difficult thing.  Learning to allow people back into the “inner sanctum” of your life, can be nearly impossible.

Time heals, true, how long it takes to heal, well, that is another question all together. Still, we all need others to rely upon.  We need friends; we need people to talk to, to confide in, and to trust.

But first, we need to seek help to learn to forgive ourselves.  Once we learn to forgive, then, and only then, can we learn to forget.

Having the Strength to Accept the Things That I Cannot Change, the Courage to Change the Things That I Can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference

I married a woman; she is extremely bull-headed, has very intense emotions, and is 12 years my junior.

She has moments where she is extremely out of touch with reality, I can sit with her, I can try to explain to her what it means to be an adult, and we can go back and forth in her on a. what it means to be an adult, b. discussing, VERY delicately, why she feels that she is 100% sane, and swill not hear otherwise, period.

My wife is not insane, she is roughly 75% crazy, but she is definitely not insane.

No matter what I do or say, I CANNOT change my wife! And yet, just as an addict does, I constantly try to talk sense into her.

A lot happens in 12 years, and the fact that I have been alive, and had that much more experience then she has, seems to make absolutely zero difference when it comes to trying to explain to her, even a little, about how life works.

So I keep trying, failing, trying, failing, and so on, and so on, and so on.

I would give a tremendous about, to be able to have the strength that it would take to accept that fact that I cannot change her, even an ounce, even an iota.

I have learned in my life, that there are certain things that I can, and cannot change.  My wife, obviously I cannot.  On a good day, a VERY good day, maybe, I have control of the space in-between my ears.

I make mistakes; I don’t listen to my wife fairly.  I don’t let her express her thoughts and ideas fully, hardly ever. Why, most likely, because I am insecure, and afraid that perhaps she is brighter than I am in many areas, and has many more earnable skills than I have.

I would literally give nearly everything that I have.  To be able to change myself, to have the courage to dig down deep reach past all my issues, and change to become the man that she wants, the husband that she needs, and the man that she deserves.

The wisdom to know the difference is the hardest part.

Clearly, if I, had the ability to know the difference, between these behaviors, my life would be a much happier and more complete one. By Far!

It is my fault, because I am an addict, albeit a sober one, that my relationship, and in fact most of my relationships are pretty dysfunctional. The title of this post comes from the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is also one of the only concepts that I personally consider being of any much value, where that particular program is concerned. Again, this is simply my personal opinion.

I have been and G-d willing will continue to be one of the lucky ones where recovery is concerned.  I have made great strides towards being able to fulfill the concept, which is again, the title of this post.

The problem with being an addict is that we repeat the same things over and over again, expecting different results. I dearly love my wife, I dearly love my son, and I dearly love my life.

I would rather die, than lose them.

What I must clearly do, is to teach myself in whatever way it takes, to: Have the strength to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!

How To Handle a Good Day

For quite a long time, an addict does not have a good day. In fact, the addict may indeed, have forgotten what a good day even feels like.  Their life has become a desperate back and forth of “gotta-get-it, got-it, gotta-get-it, got-it”, and time, has become one giant blended mess, of using and seeking to use.

The addict, will NEVER know a good “sober” day until they are both clean, and cleaned out, over an extended period of time.  Holistic programs are in my opinion, the best and fastest way to empty out the garbage and replace the addict’s cup, with the clean person’s chalice.

Now, once an addict is clean, sober, sane, and sensible either again or for the first time, the days begin to separate, time begins to take on a form, and slowly, very slowly, the life of the addict begins to make sense, and eventually, they can begin to distinguish one day from the next.

Finally, we have come to the point, where the addict can have a good day. However, in this early, or really in any stage of recovery, a good day can turn into the WORST day of all! An addict is so familiar with being a screw-up, so used to people expecting him or her to fail, that their having a good day can quite nearly cause them (and certain of their family members) to go into anaphylactic shock on the spot.

“Hey mom, you will never guess what happened to me.  I actually had a good day today…mom?”

Seriously, active addict and good day are NOT synonymous! Once, however the addict is under control then good days may begin to flow freely.

I have been sober for quite some time. And with complete honesty I can say, that the vast majority or my days are happy ones. Today, I do not even need to consider how to handle a good day, because most of them are, however when I was in my early sobriety, even the thought of having a good day was enough to scare the life out of me.  And believe me, it did not matter, at all, what people said, how much they assured me of success, my anxiety shot right through the roof, and 98% guaranteed, by the end of the day, my sobriety had someway, somehow made it out the window!

Things did, however get better, and not even so slowly. The more meetings I went to (because those were my A.A. days) the better I felt, and I went to A LOT of meetings.  Often, I made two meetings a day.  The more quickly I emptied out the bad, the more quickly the good could come in, and so good days began rolling in rather quickly.  Perhaps too quickly, in retrospect.

In the beginning, I had not had very many good days, and therefore, had barely the slightest idea how to handle them.  Also, the beginning of anyone’s recovery is dangerous, because very quickly, they discover, much to their great relief, of course, that that actually know everything!!! Ah, sure.  And yet this is unfortunately haw most of the, feel.  So, combining good days rolling in quickly, mixed with a very early recovering addict who just happens to suddenly realize that they know everything, leaves you with an extremely (potentially) explosive situation.  This type of situation is clearly not a good one.  And if one happens to have chosen to deal with A.A. philosophy for the time being: Enter the wise and knowing Sponsor.

A good day is very scary for the newly recovering addict. However, it does get easier the longer one is sober. As I said today MOST of my days are good, and for this, I am very thankful indeed!

How to Explain Your Addiction to Your Kids

First of all, G-d willing, by the time you have children, you are far beyond your addiction.  Most people, I suppose, have children sometime in their early to mid 20’s, have or will soon graduate university, and have realized that their partying years have come and gone and it is finally time to grow up and accept the responsibilities of life.  These individuals will, hopefully only get the standard questions, around the time that their kids hit late high school, or college age about whether or not, and perhaps how their parents partied during those same years.

This would be a relatively simple answer to a relatively simple question if the parents had stayed within acceptable limits and partied like normal late teens, early 20 some things during those years. If the parents were addicts during those years, the answer becomes a bit more complicated, but can most likely still be explained via the answer of fairly normal college stupidity.

If the parent is a still an addict by the time their kids are old enough to ask, well that, that is a different story all together.  Depending on what stage the addicted parent is at, the harder it is to explain.  If the parent is at the stage during which they still require rehab occasionally, then convincing the kids that dad/mom are at some ski resort/spa, in Colorado for 28 days, may get a little tough after awhile you know?  If the parent needs in-house treatment, well then, good luck, I suppose.  “Hey, didn’t I have a dad?” “Sure honey, but he’s in Japan for the next 3 years working as an advisor to the Prime Minister.”

Obviously keeping these types of excuses up for very long would prove extremely difficult if not impossible.  So what then, would appear to be the best way to handle discussing your addiction with your children?  To not have to explain it at all!  Namely, ending your addiction either before you have children, or, before your children reach an age where who have to explain.

Listen, everyone understands that one should be at a stable point in life before they have children.

Unfortunately life does not always work out as we plan. There are literally a dozen ways to get off of drugs.  There are 12 Step programs, Eastern medicine programs, and especially holistic programs, which I prefer by far.  Many of these other programs work quite well and if they work for you, in your time frame then by all means use them!!! In my opinion, holistic is the best because it takes into account, the entire person at once.  The “whole” addict as it were.  The holistic approach deals with mind, body, and spirit.

It also deals with the family immediately, so that there are no more secrets, no more lies.  There can be no addiction, if every channel that the addict can possibly use to get their drugs is cut off.  The family is made aware, all of the friends are made aware, doctors and therapists are all made aware, and once everyone knows, it is extremely difficult to sneak around or “Doctor Shop” to get drugs or “medications”.

My advice?  Find a good holistic doctor, and discuss everything with them.  Tell them your entire life story.  The more you tell them the better, because the more they will have to work with.

Believe me, you DO NOT want to get the point when you will need to sit down with your children and explain to them why you are (still) an active addict.  It would be one of the most difficult and most painful experiences of your live.

FAR more painful than the withdrawal of quiting!

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