Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Earth Is Still Flat!!

For Many Recovering Addicts, The Earth Is Flat!

In ancient times, the church leaders of the day believed the earth was flat. Most people accepted the church’s views without question and it was common belief that if anyone were foolhardy enough to sail too close to the edge of the world, they would surely fall off into the great abyss and perish. (sounds a little like hell, doesn’t it?) To make a long Inquisition short, a scientist named Galileo invented the telescope, which proved that planets are actually round in shape. Religious leaders of the day were outraged to learn Galileo had dared to challenge their teachings and branded him as a heretic. When Galileo set his telescope up on the roof of Cardinal Bellarmine’s Holy Office and asked him to look for himself, the Cardinal refused. Instead, the church held a trial and declared Galileo guilty of heresy. He was placed under house arrest until his death, in 1642. The Cardinal and his organization weren’t interested in any truth, but their own.

Based on this little snippet of history, it’s clear to see how the views of a few authority figures can be used to control the majority of the population. Today’s view of addiction recovery is a good example. In recent decades, authority figures working in the addiction field have convinced most alcoholics and addicts that they suffer from an incurable disease. It’s no more truthful than preaching that the world is flat, of course, but most addicts have swallowed this fallacy hook, line, and sinker. I have no problem with addiction being labeled as a disease. Dis-ease describes addiction perfectly. But, please don’t tell me that addiction is an “incurable” disease. Defining addiction as a disease with no cure not only paints every addict with the same broad brush, it’s also arrogant, insulting and condescending. Even worse, most of the so-called “experts” on the topic have never been addicted to any substance themselves. Most have not walked in the addict's shoes.

There are many of us, myself included, that have been cured of addiction. AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, was one. For those 12 Steppers reading this, please stop wringing your hands and shaking your head in shock and disbelief. Instead, get out your Big Book, 4th Edition, turn to page 191, and read Bill’s words for yourself. You might be in for a surprise.

It’s ironic that AA’s original message of addiction as a CURABLE disease is largely ignored by its members and the addiction treatment profession. It’s no accident, however. Everyone involved in addiction recovery stands to gain, in some form or fashion. Many addicts enjoy the attention their incurable disease offers them – there is a lot of sympathy and attention to be gained, not to mention the convenience of not having to be held accountable in working on their own cure. Seeking a cure is a lot of work, after all. Plus, it’s fun to belong to support groups, where people can all agree they are victims-in-arms. Some people enjoy it so much they spend the rest of their lives talking about it in support groups, and little more.

Treatment professionals and rehab clinics love the incurable disease label because it earns them oodles of money… especially when rehab becomes a revolving door for the hopelessly incurable patient. And where would A.A. be if everyone became cured of addiction? Who would “keep coming back” to shout “it works if you work it” week after week? If most people actually worked the program, a lot of people would be out of a job.

Much like Galileo, I expect some will label my view of an addiction cure as heresy. But, like Galileo and countless others, I’ll continue to stand behind my beliefs, even at the risk of ex-communication and solitary confinement. Five hundred years after Galileo’s death, many still believe what others tell us, without question. Fear is a great motivator. Those that think outside the box might sail off the edge and perish, after all… unless we dare to step aboard our own recovery vessel and set sail for ourselves.

Read AA’s original message and decide for yourself - Big Book, 4th Edition, page 191.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Role Of Spirituality In Addiction Recovery

Spirituality fascinates me. I guess that’s because of all the years spent living in the darkness of my own addiction. For more than twenty years, the only spirit I ever felt came out of a bottle with the word “fine spirits” printed on the label. I emptied thousands of bottles looking for the spirit inside, but never was able to find it. All I ever got out of any bottle the next morning were feelings of sorrow, emptiness and pain. Ironically, those were the same feelings that caused me to drink in the first place. I wasn’t alone in my little black hole, though. Countless addicts before me have felt the same way, and there are millions more feeling the same silent desperation today.

There is a way to climb out of the darkness, though, using a spiritual approach. What, exactly, is spirituality? Simply stated, spirit and soul are said to be separate entities, yet connected. The soul is the essence of our inner being - it is the place inside us where inner peace and happiness are meant to reside. Spirit is the flow of energy that connects our soul with a universal energy. Some call this energy God, while others think of it as universal knowledge, higher self, or even an invisible, yet very real form of energy called love. Spirit is the high voltage power line that carries light (and love) to the soul. Many people, alcoholics and teetotalers alike, are often only vaguely aware that spirit exists, if at all. As a practicing alcoholic, I was completely in the dark. That’s because alcohol and drugs deaden one’s perceptions and block the ability to feel normal emotions like joy, peace and a connection with others. Emotions are a form of energy. If spirit connects us to the Great White Light in the Sky, then someone must have turned the light switch off inside me. Someone did, and it was my old pal, Budweiser.

On the other hand, addicts also use alcohol and drugs to block painful memories that have harmed our souls in the past. It’s a way to hide from the pain of emotional, physical, or other types of trauma we carry within us. It’s a band-aid approach, of course – a quick fix to escape reality, rather than face it. It’s only when the pain of addiction becomes greater than the pain we’ve been trying to escape that we’re forced to do something about it – or not, as the case might be. Some choose to continue on a downward spiral until there’s nothing left to save, including their own life. Others do choose to save themselves, on a physical and mental level, but stop at that point. While that approach does help us learn to control the urge to drink or get high, it doesn’t address the underlying issues that drive addiction. More effort is required to restore the inner peace, joy of living, and serenity that result through a spiritual connection.

This is where spirituality separates the men from the boys… or recovering addict vs. cured addict, in this case. A spiritual connection is a leap of faith. You’re simply putting your trust in the belief that a power greater than your own can, and will, help you to overcome addiction. It’s a very simple thing to do, but sincerity counts, and you have to mean every word of it.

But you also have to be willing to face yourself in the mirror, which is not easy. It requires courage. Fear is the biggest reason many of us are hesitant to make the leap. We’re afraid to face the pain, shame, guilt and other weaknesses within ourselves – and we’re afraid to bare our deepest secrets to an invisible power greater than our own. We fear we might be judged for it, rather than forgiven. For the first time, we must admit we can no longer handle our problems. And we must become willing to hand them over to something we can't see. It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.

However, as anyone who has had a spiritual awakening can tell you, fear is the first thing to disappear. Fear, guilt, pain and other issues that drive addiction can be erased in an instant and replaced with a sense of calmness and faith that never leaves your side again. Once the negative emotions that fuel our addiction have gone, the addiction is also gone… permanently. Our spiritual disease disappears along with it. We are no longer fragile, recovering addicts, always just one drink or one puff away from relapse, ruination and death.

We become former addicts, cured of addiction – the same cure AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, spoke of on page 191 of AA’S Big Book, which was AA’s original message.      

Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 Steps To Recovery Book

3 Steps To Recovery explained… some of you have seen the occasional link I’ve posted to my latest book, which is called 3 Steps To Recovery. It’s partly a memoir of addiction and partly a guide to help fellow addicts learn how to overcome their own addiction.

So why is it called 3 Steps To Recovery, and not 12 Steps, as outlined in AA’s Big Book? The answer is simple. The book is based on AA’s 12 Steps, but simply focuses on 3 of the 12 Steps that address the heart of addiction and teaches others to overcome addiction using 3 simple steps. The same steps that Bill W. and Dr. Bob used to cure their addictions. That’s right. AA’s original message was that there is a CURE for addiction.

While all 12 Steps are wonderful principles to follow, 9 of the 12 steps were written to help recovering addicts AFTER we stop drinking. The 3 Steps discussed in the book are designed to help people stop NOW. Once they’ve learned how to stop, they can later decide whether or not to pursue the remaining 9 steps. Some will, some won’t. But the most important message of AA’s 12 Steps is learning how to beat the addiction before moving on to the next step, and that is the main message of 3 Steps To Recovery.

3 Steps To Recovery was written with those people in mind and brings AA’s message to them. If you can’t take Mohammed to the mountain, then bring the mountain to Mohammed, as they say.