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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

“We’re here to connect.”

 

 Will Smith’s character, Howard Intlet, makes this declaration during the movie Collateral Beauty. After experiencing a great tragedy, his character seeks answers from the universe. And just like Howard, many of us are seeking answers and trying to understand the importance of connecting to one another.

 

For those of us who are battling an addiction and working towards recovery, we are often told to “stay connected.” We hear it in our recovery circles. The speaker likely means to return to a meeting and to stay in contact with people who will support us.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

I want to start out by saying, “You can get sober.” Period. Whether it is through 12-step programs, psychotherapy, coaching, psychiatry, exercise, nutrition, Reiki, whatever, I’ve heard it all. And while I once was a proud, Big Book-thumping alcoholic, I’ve heard enough stories of recovery to prove that there is no one-way to beat addiction. For me, a spiritual path has been vital to long-lasting recovery from alcohol and other substances, but I recognize some prefer a more rational approach. What I tell clients now is that as long as you’re honest about what is working and what is not, then there is a great amount of freedom available in recovery.

What is most up for me right now around my recovery is the question of selfishness and self-centeredness as it pertains to addiction. When I first got sober and was participating heavily in 12-step work, it was clear to me that my actions were hurtful to others. I acted selfishly and irresponsibly in nearly every aspect of my life as I pursued substance abuse by any means necessary. There was no debate when I was told that I needed to acknowledge my selfish behavior if I was to find a relationship to a Higher Power—one necessary to heal my obsession around substances.

But now I’ve been sober for about as long as I was drinking. My life is much different than it once was. And while I trust I can never drink moderately, I do wonder, is this tendency toward self-centeredness really something I need to buy into anymore? Upon contemplation, my answer today is no. I honestly and humbly do not believe myself to be any more selfish or self-centered than my fellows, and I honor this truth as a testament to the power of recovery, not some denial of my condition. I can get frustrated at times when I’m in meetings and hear others talk about the steps as a way of dealing with a stagnant, permanent condition. Just because we are addicts, doesn’t mean we need to struggle with life the same way we did when we initially got sober.

I guess what I’m saying is, let some space come into your experience. You don’t have to stay stuck. Allow a orientation to manifest in your thoughts and actions. You don’t have to be the same selfish person that got sober. You’re not obligated to tirelessly and repetitively slave over step work in order to overcome moral failings. You can be transformed. The twelfth step states that we have had a spiritual awakening. Renewal through the twelve steps is possible—mind, body, and soul. You are not the addict or alcoholic you once were, and you don’t have to ever be again. From this viewpoint, while we may always be alcoholics, we no longer have to identify with our selfish, self-centered actions of old. We can embrace an entirely new life, free of guilt and shame, open to fresh ways of being in the world.

Chris Cole is the best-selling author of The Body of Chris: A Memoir of Obsession, Addiction, and Madness. He works as a life coach for people in recovery. Follow Chris and his work at thebodyofchris.com

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

How to Create a Postive Transformation in Your Own Life in Four Easy Steps, by Daniel D. Maurer

 

Generally, I have an allergy to any online article using the words "Easy" and "Steps." It seems, more often than not, that anything I can read under five minutes isn't going to effect a significant change in my life. (Yes, writers and editors, I used "effect" as a verb in that sentence.) However, here are four simple things I learned in recovery that anyone can learn to do. And guess what? They really work! For now, the title of this little essay stands, as is. - DTSM (Daniel Maurer)

It's very likely that some readers will recall nightmares with this picture.

It's very likely that some readers will recall nightmares with this picture.

Ever play the game Tetris? Yeah, you know the one. The object of the game is to fit in differently-shaped blocks into slots with other blocks to create a complete row. When you do that, the row disappears.

Whether you've played the game on your old Nintendo Entertainment System or on an online site today, you know the sadistic power that game has on your brain after you've played it for a while — after you're done playing, you close your eyes AND YOU KEEP SEEING TETRIS BLOCKS!

Pretty soon, Tetris blocks are everywhere. You see them in grocery store aisles with the soup cans; in pet stores in the kitty litter aisle; on a Christmas tree with the lights; in rows on cars on a highway; even within people walking in a mall. Everything gets tetricized!!

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

man-on-bed sponsorship AASponsorship is an extremely important part of the Twelve Step programs, both for the newcomer and the sponsor. As the A.A. pamphlet, Questions and Answers on Sponsorship says about the newcomer, "Sponsorship gives the newcomer an understanding, sympathetic friend when one is needed the most. Sponsorship also provides the bridge enabling the new person to meet other alcoholics - in a home group and in other groups visited."

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous points out the importance of sponsorship for the sponsor on page 89, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much sure insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics." Sponsorship is an integral part of the program for both sponsors and sponsees.

Picking a Sponsor

When picking a sponsor, there are many things that people consider: time, involvement, gender, age, similarities and more.

The Pamphlet on sponsorship reminds us, "An old A.A. saying suggests, 'Stick with the winners.' It's only reasonable to seek a sharing of experience with a member who seems to be using the A.A. program successfully in everyday life." When picking a sponsor, this is a very important issue to consider. Is the person we would like to sponsor us using the program wisely? A most beneficial sponsor will work the program in all aspects of his or her life, and be able to offer experience on how the program can work for us.

Often, newcomers look for a sponsor that shares a similar story and have similar hobbies. Although finding a sponsor who you can relate to may be beneficial, it is absolutely not necessary. The aforementioned pamphlet points out, "Often, a newcomer feels most at ease with a sponsor of similar background and interests. However, many A.A.s say they were greatly helped by sponsors totally unlike themselves. Maybe that's because their attention was then focused on the most important things that any sponsor and newcomer have in common: alcoholics and recovery in A.A." Having a sponsor with a different background may force us to really look at the similarities.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests we "practice these principles in all our affairs." In prayer and meditation, our work with others, and meetings we are able to be present and work our spiritual program. However, the majority of our days are spent in the real world. It is much more difficult for us to work our programs in daily life, and we must remain vigilant.

Mindfulness

A fundamental tool we have for practicing the principles in our lives is to remain mindful. When we are truly present, focused on what we are doing in the moment, we are able to see more clearly our own actions and thoughts. With mindfulness, we are able to be conscious of our spiritual practice. Whether we are meditating, walking, or working, we always have the potential to be mindful. People hear the word meditation, and most commonly think of a formal sitting meditation. Meditation means, "To focus one's thoughts." Recognizing where we currently are physically, emotionally, and mentally is focusing one's thoughts.

Thoughts and Emotions

One of the first thing we often notice when practicing this mindfulness is the arising of thoughts and emotions. We begin to notice more frequently anxiety, fear, resentment, etc. This can be painful, but leads to great insight. As we recognize our emotions and thoughts, we take some of their power away. Sometimes we feel that we are suffering but not exactly sure why. This is because the emotions and thoughts are being pushed down and eventually build up. When we are mindful and recognize them, we are able to prevent them from controlling us so much. Simply recognizing to ourselves, "I feel anxious" has tremendous power. Speaking about it with somebody else is even more powerful.

The Quality of Our Actions

Our thoughts and emotions drive our actions. When we become aware of the feelings and thoughts, we see the actions that follow them. We must ask ourselves many times throughout the day where our actions are coming from. Are they coming from a place of love? Of fear? Of anger? Of compassion? When we recognize where our actions are coming from, we gain insight into our true nature. The principles we are working to practice become more visibile to us, and we gain judgement in our actions.

Right Speech

A big part of looking at the quality of our actions is how we speak. Speaking accounts for the majority of our communication with others, not just what we say, but how we say it. Remaining mindful of our speech, we often say things and are able to see where in the heart or mind they came from. With this knowledge, we are able to work on these thoughts and feelings, or at least on not acting (speaking) on them. We check if our words are helpful, true, and loving or if they are vengeful, jealous, or harsh.

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