Addicted to AA

Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Bill W.

Bill W.

When we first got sober we set foot in the AA meeting and asked, begged, for help.  They told us to sit down and shut up, to go to meetings, find a sponsor, read the book, and be of service.  We were instructed to go to 90 meetings in 90 days.  The Big Book became our bible, and the fellowship became our family.  We became born-again sobriety enthusiasts; we lived off coffee and cake, spoke highly of our newfound philosophy.  Friends of Bill W were our friends, and we became disciples of Dr. Bob.  If AA bumper stickers wouldn’t betray our anonymity, they would surely be plastered across our bumpers.

Soon we were attending meetings morning noon and night.  In fact, we were at meetings more than we were home and at work combined.  Our sponsors came before our mothers on our speed dial; an evening without fellowship was a bad evening.  Program became what we lived for.  We had become hopelessly addicted to AA.

What do we do when we find that our passion for AA fills the hole that our addictions left behind?  When recovery becomes our drug of choice, where do we turn?  It is not uncommon for us to become overzealous with our sobriety.  Drugs and alcohol were the axis of evil, and AA became our saving grace.  It was only natural for us to cling to what made us feel so good.

But addiction takes many forms.  When we were out using, we were estranged from our families and ourselves.  Recovery shouldn’t function in the same way.  We go to meetings to heal, and heal those we have affected, not remain distant from them.  We practice the principles because we yearn to change our reckless behavior, not to make us even more separate from our loved ones.  The fellowship is meant to be a group to rely on, and not be dependent.  AA is a tool for equalization, and not division. We use it to enhance life, and not to replace it.

It is crucial to remember that as much as Dr. Bob was recklessly practicing medicine while under the influence, he didn’t give up his medical profession when he got sober.  Living life to the fullest is the message of AA.  AA provides a fellowship, as well as tools for healthy decision-making, so that we can take in all that life has to offer with those we care about.  You may be the secretary of your meeting, but don’t forget you are the CEO of your life.

Lessons Beyond Self-Destruction

Friday, January 15th, 2010
A New Begining

A New Begining

Tonight I listened to the meaningful words spoken by a renowned lecturer on the topic of self-destruction – an especially poignant and timely subject, one I’ve been pondering much about these days.  So many push on every day, driving themselves away from past afflictions and breaking through the challenges that rouse them from their former lives.

Recovery might symbolize a defining, lucid moment-when one wakes up to beautiful ambition — the ambition to pursue what’s fulfilling – and that which makes one honor their full potential.  After all, we’re all blessed with so much more to strive for than mediocrity.  And our bodies – which desire to be treated with due accord while present in this world as we know it, need the best tender love and care.

So what can we do?  How can we maintain our health – emotionally, spiritually and physically – as we shake our former habits and consider making changes and finding support?  Welcoming change – with all the emotional tumult it might stir – is the hardest thing of all… to come by… and to do.  Freeing ourselves from the reins of our self-destructive habits — addiction, pettiness, jealousy, or comparing our lives to those of others is possible.

Consider your goals. What you can do to stay on track? We might reframe our views with a simple change in belief, pushing through the inner opposition we feel – so that we can find depth and meaning… and let go of things that vex us – and our formerly destructive dialogues…

It is when we embrace these challenges and exert ourselves continuously and vigorously, in the face of setbacks, and see our efforts as paths to mastery, that we learn these important lessons.  They’re lessons that get us to think beyond our former realities, and develop ourselves fully.  Consider your curiosities and inspirations.  Listen to the stories by those who wish to tell them. If you choose to learn, I’m certain you’ll find your life changing quickly.

The next time you feel low, put yourself in a growth mindset and confront your self-destructive ways. Learn about addiction, and use it as a basis for growth and the change that follows. Remember disharmony brings the greatest of motivations, if you will for it to.

Free yourself with respect and initiative, and empower yourself with the basic elements of change: self-awareness, taking responsibility, authentic expression, group support and accountability. Stay centered with love and integrity and start with the good. Express appreciation and gratitude when asking yourself, “How much of me have I become?”

Thanks, For Nothing

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Thank You

Thank You

When we were young our elders insisted we adopt and practice a series of social graces.  We were told to wash our hands before meals and to not put our elbows on the table.  We were told to put on a sweater when we left the house, and to wipe our feet when we came back in.  And lastly, we were told to speak when we were spoken to, and say please and thank you. Thank you, two simple words that can transform the atmosphere of any exchange.  They are often the lingering pleasantries, which suggest that you considered our interaction to be substantially worthwhile. It didn’t matter if I gave you the hope diamond or just a warm smile; the moment we shared was more than a commercial in the TiVo of your recollection.  Thank you can become a conversational silver lining, the icing on a mundane gesture.  Thank you turns days around, and even saves lives. So why do we forget to say thank you?  Have we embraced a culture so fast paced that gratitude has become cordiality something that has become assumed, where we generally gather that everyone is pleasant and has the best intentions?  And if not, what does that say about the current state of our society? Though this is not a widespread war cry to fight the great fight against an indifferent and unappreciative social dynamic, please consider the ramifications of two simple words.

In sobriety, we talk about being grateful for a new chance, for those that pulled us out of the mud, and for those that gave us a place to sleep.  But how often do we tell them?  Often we become so consumed in the wonder of the miracles of sobriety, the “pink cloud” of recovery, that we forget to say thanks to those that gave us the support to reach this plateau.  In our group sharing we say, “we are so entirely grateful to AA for helping us get sober”, but never turn around to shake the hand of the man sitting behind us.  We say, “thank you to these rooms”, but brush past the man sweeping the floors as we push our way to the coffee pot.  We say, “thank you for all the warm meals”, as we stuff ourselves with donuts and cake.  Sure, we clap for those who take commitments, but how many of those names do we remember two steps outside the room?

This holiday season, lets strive to give thanks, personally and practically, to those that both deserve, but probably never hear it, to those that depend on it, because kind words give them meaning to live another day.  Give a pat on the back to the newcomer, for they remind us of our origins and give us avenues to be of service.
Look into the eyes of the welcome people as you enter the meeting, literally opening the doors to a new lifestyle.  Smile at the man sitting next to you, because he has taken the time to show up, and be counted amongst those that care about recovery and care about community.  And stop and say thank you to the man sweeping the floor, because he maintains order amongst the chaos.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing.  Nothing has been done to deserve gratitude.  The only thing notable is that they’ve shown up.  And sometimes that’s all it takes.  When we were in our darkest hour, in our pits of despair, we didn’t have the courage to show up.  And in the same turn, no one wanted to show up for us.  We weren’t worthy
for anything but miserable solitude.  And now that we have found a new path, for some of us, showing up, being present is all we have.  All we can offer is a willing body to sit next to.  Even though it seems like nothing, that nothing too deserves a thank you.  Thank you for showing up and being there.

Doing Well by Doing Good

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Happy New Year

Happy New Year

There are steps that cast our journeys from one experience to the next – not linearly or dramatically per se, but along a continuum of progress. Sometimes we feel like life fails us or as if we fail ourselves when we’re caught in a world unfamiliar and broken. Words and actions feel inappropriate – we are strangers in our own lives.

As the New Year approaches I’m reminded of the rich life I have known. I’m reacquainted with the familiar appreciation of my connections, shaped and confirmed by synchronicity. Once again transition appears with guided purpose and structure as I meet a whole new circle of caring friends, at a place called CAST.

Today I reflect on my roles, and the natural expectations that come with them. I am a social worker, a writer, and a sister: in all these roles I am committed to being present, receptive and trusting. At times I get caught up in the symbiotic moments I share with my clients, my audience, my brother… and I catapult myself into “doing good,” without taking the time to reacquaint myself with my own connection – with myself.

So just before another year passes, I am committed to examining myself – my inner walls- my different philosophies and ways of life. I’m hopeful and feel more authenticity – more presence – and more trust in the choices I make.

Once again doing well by speaking from my heart takes me to another point along my journey – as a daughter, a friend, a sober companion…

The underlying order of life resurfaces in its synchronicity. Just another New Year metaphor… a particular self-awareness from which it grows immeasurably richer as I continue to learn and cast away judgment.

My choices allow me to serve others – by doing what’s good. It feels good, practical, and meaningful – all at once. My life becomes sweeter and I’m reminded of the adage that we truly are only given what we can handle.

Written by: Erica MSW

The Gift of the Holidays

Friday, December 18th, 2009
Happy Holidays fro CAST

Happy Holidays from CAST

Last new years I found myself sitting in a pool-chair, on the deck of a luxury cruise to Mexico, in a state of great introspection and, regretfully, self pity. Poor me.  Amidst mountains of exotic savory and spicy delicacies, and countless high seas leisure activities, I was drowning in my own misery.  I was an alcoholic, and I was alone.  While I found a hint of fellowship at a “Friends of Dorothy” meeting, I sank even more swiftly into a routine of solitude.  And on New Years Eve, while everyone gathered to welcome in the night with champagne and festivities, I drifted away.  The once adventurist socialite became a brooding bitter bystander.  I became apart, and not a part of.

Looking back, I realize the many steps that I, and many others take, either consciously or subconsciously, that lead us to a feeling of dejection during the holiday season.  We all automatically accept the “meaning of Christmas” mentality where we are supposed to relish in the values of family, kindness, togetherness, giving, etc.  And yet somehow it all becomes about “me”.  What are MY gifts?  What are MY travel plans for the holidays? The concept of family vacation is supposed to be about building family unity by stepping out of the regular boundaries of home and homestead, and building a cohesive solidarity through activities and adventures, which lovingly pit our personalities against the odds of inevitable clashes and challenges.

More often than not, family vacation turns into the question of “how can I vacate from the presence of my family?”  Instead of focusing on the warmth in your heart and the welcoming openness in your eyes, I focused on the glass in your hand.  Instead of looking out at the opportunities my higher power had placed at my fingertips, I looked inward at the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.  True, I was new in sobriety and learning how to make connections with people that weren’t based on using, but what better place than a cruise where every interaction is a clean slate?  Instead of finding ways that we were alike, I judged and I knew that we were different and that we could never get along. Instead of letting my family know how I felt, I hid in the corner, and once again put on a mask to hide my fear.

This holiday season I, unfortunately, will be unable to vacation with my family.  Initially, on first glance, this appears to be a curse.  I have learned to trust the decisions of my higher power and search for the hidden blessings.  This holiday season, I will have the chance to build independence, and invest in moments of closeness with my community. This holiday season, I can discover how to celebrate and be festive, on my own terms, clean and sober.  This holiday season, I will sit and share with others what it means to make new starts, and reflect on the growth I have made in the past year. And this holiday season, I will give thanks for a fellowship, and a family, and the opportunity to be given, as well as give, a new year.

Goodbye Booze, Hello Shoes!

Friday, December 11th, 2009
Transferring Addictions

Transferring Addictions

In early recovery, we learn to let go of both our obsession of the mind, and allergy of the body. We assess our previous lifestyles and gratefully resign to a new mode of behavior. Often, in giving up our affliction, we rediscover that emptiness inside ourselves that we used to fill up with the bottle and the bong. There is a pit inside our stomachs, uneasiness with getting to know ourselves all over again. There is an anxiety about becoming an active participant about the here and now, and a reluctance to face the onslaught of new emotions.

In response to this wave of new thoughts and feelings, we seek to suppress this ambush of being present and accountable with something we are all too familiar with…addiction. We take one thing that makes us feel good like food and exercise and smoking and facebook, and we focus solely on it. We make it our “end all” and “be all”. We replace our urges to shoot and snort and smoke and stab with a new found drive to shop. We rationalize our obsession with “its not drugs, I’m not getting high, and hooray for being sober!”

But what happens when we find ourselves losing control? We are in the gym more than we are with friends and family, and we spend more time on farmville, or world of warcraft, than outside taking walks or reading books or going to meetings. What happens when personal recovery becomes powerless to our passion for purses and shoes?

When the founders of the institution of AA suggested we take life “one day at a time”, they didn’t strictly refer to the visualization of the battle against our demons. “One day at a time” urges us to also look at our behavior, to slow down the re-building we do. We don’t need to work out to look skinny for tomorrow, and we don’t need to buy a new outfit for next week. Today is the only day that counts and we should make the most of it. Make a routine, eat healthy, spend time on yourself, and spend some time with others. Shop, and play, and exercise and eat, but do it for today. Sobriety isn’t about avoiding bottle and the blunt, but also being the best we can be each day.

Loss In Recovery

Friday, November 27th, 2009
Letting Go

Letting Go

This morning I am going to a funeral of a young man, a friend, whose struggle with addiction was too much for him , and he was overcome.  While his path of recovery was arduous, to say the least, he always remained lighthearted and jovial, in the face of his demons.  But as much as we try to remain strong, sometimes we falter and the darkness does us in.

So what is my obligation, my responsibility as a sober person, in the face of tragedy?  Is it cliche to feel a need to promise to draw close to my friends and family, and my community?  To vow to help the less fortunate and the newcomer? To pledge to reform my character flaws and shortcomings?  Why is it that in times of sadness, in the pinacle reminder of my own mortality, do I make the hardest, and often the most neglected decisions?

While it is important to learn and grow from these difficult moments in our lives, we must remind ourselves to use them as speed bumps and not necessarily launching platforms.  The founders of AA knew that changing lifestyles burdened by addiction was no easy feat.  Each step down the road of life is a challenge, and thus we are reminded that we cannot fix all our problems in single leaps and bounds; we are not sober supermen.

Instead, we must take away a strength to endure, to thrive in our sobriety, to fight the great fight.  We must reflect upon our journey, and accumulate the wealth of our experiences, and pass on that wisdom to those who have yet to taste the bittersweetness of this disease.  We are endebted to the newcomer, who constantly reminds us of our beginnings, and to the old timer as well, who points us to the promises of satisfaction and warm sentiments of being content.

And we are urged to look within ourselves and find the part of ourselves that we wish to bury with the deceased.  What part of ourselves are we ready to let go of, and what part to we wish to breathe new life into?  Our suffering is not unwarranted, and the pain of loss is not unfounded.  We cry over the poor soul that couldn’t hold on any longer, and in our tears we see our own reflection.  Perhaps, at the end of the AA meeting, when we take a moment to pause and reflect on the Alcoholic who still suffers, we are not just paying homage to the degenerate drunk in the alley.  Perhaps we take a moment of silence to say goodbye to the parts of ourselves that we bury each day, and to the path of recovery we trudge, onward towards the future.

Written by: Yonah, an Alumni of Beit T’Shuvah

What is Recovery?

Friday, November 20th, 2009
One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

What is recovery? Is it just avoiding doing drugs and drinking? Or is it something more than that? Recovery is so much more than abstinence. It is fundamentally the process by which we learn to be healthier and happier human beings, as well as productive members of society. For a long time I depended on other people’s hard work to sustain me. I simply took what I wanted with no regard for anyone. I became very comfortable with that type of reckless lifestyle, in spite of the fact that it was destroying me from the inside out. Once I was removed from that lifestyle I really did not know what to do with myself; my skill set was not at all useful in this new life. It was very uncomfortable. All my attitudes and beliefs had been conditioned to help me get loaded and stay loaded.   It was no wonder why many addicts find early sobriety so counter intuitive and disheartening.  This feeling of discomfort is an essential factor to early recovery. By walking through that initial discomfort is how we grow as people. It is  how we accept new ways of dealing with old situations. Recovery is developing new ways of thinking and new attitudes towards life. And you’ll  find that once you change your attitude towards the world , the world will change its attitude towards you.