Tag Archives: The Fix

Once an Addict, Not Always an Addict

11 Dec

10:38 am

Hey, guys, here’s another Sober Living essay I wrote for The Fix magazine–they just relaunched and are now based in LA (instead of NYC).

If there is ONE thing I’ll take away from my sober journey, it’s: listen to your heart, and let your intuition guide your choices. Everyone is different in their addiction, and everyone is different in their getting sober. Addicition is NOT a one-size-fits-all model.

Anger, Buddhism, and the 12 steps, oh my!

6 Jul

1:11 pm

As I posted yesterday, The Fix published a piece I wrote about blogging myself sober. Obviously, it’s not the ONLY thing I’ve done to “get and stay sober,” but that’s beside the point. I think connecting with others who share your problem, and who can help you DEFINE its gray areas, is the key. So, thanks to all of you out there who continue to help me stay the course.

There were some negative comments posted in response to the piece, which I found, for the most part, to be instructive (thankfully!).

Why are some people so angry about a seemingly-successful recovery that either does not involve meetings or the 12 steps, or does not involve “as much work as someone else” or “the way that they did the work?”

What can I glean from the 12 steps, and why do I keep coming back to them, feeling like I’ve got some unfinished business? Maybe I AM a dry drunk?

If it wasn’t the personalities in AA, or the sharing, or the group therapy aspect that bothered me all that much, it must have been the steps, right? What am I afraid of? What about the steps hangs me up?

It’s those words: powerlessness, God, higher power. To me, the 12 steps are not rocket science; in fact, in order to get sober, EVERYONE has to do some version of these “steps,” I’ve come to believe. You might not KNOW you’re doing the steps, but you are. We admit we can’t drink anymore; we accept this fact. We feel remorse and say we’re sorry. We work on our relationships, we question our sense of purpose–why are we using booze to avoid or hide from what we know, deep down, we should and could be doing? I used wine for YEARS to avoid writing; yet, it’s the one thing I knew that if I just fucking DID it, I’d be free. Free of both the urge to drink away my fear and sensitivities surrounding “putting it out there” and possibly failing, and free from the self-loathing brought on by not doing it!

I wondered, how do atheists approach the steps? Do Muslims go to AA? What do people who come from non-Judeo-Christian backgrounds and worldviews think of AA? I mean, people all over the world have drinking problems–how do they approach the steps if they don’t, actually, believe in “God,” per se? What–or who–IS God? A quick Google search made me realize that the concept of God is extremely broad, and can range from an overlord or all-knowing being to, well, “being” or “existence” itself. Huh. As a scientist, I am not a theist, but neither am I convinced that “being” or “existence” does not hold a higher order. The whole is, most of the time in the biological sciences anyway, greater than the sum of its parts. Systems biology takes advantage of the FACT that studying systems of genes, or proteins, or cells can lead to surprising insights into how things actually work when we’re not reducing them to their parts.

At the beach yesterday, I felt the need (and this is usually accompanied by a lot of gesturing and loud talking to myself, so my apologies to the boyfriend–LOL) to tease out my “official” definition of these words. And, here’s what I came up with:

Powerlessness: To me, this is simply my desire (key word) to drink more than just one. I can never drink one. Why? Because I don’t WANT to. And this, I think, is where the neurochemistry of addiction comes in: my brain is wired–at the moment, at least, because I’ve abused wine for so long–to want more than one. It’s an urge that is VERY strong. And, already after one, my “rational brain” is starting to become overpowered by my “irrational brain.”

This is actually the opposite of the general idea that most people, including myself, have of powerlessness. I have a choice, yes I do; and that choice is to drink a second. Whether or not that choice is a good choice, well, morals aside, the powerlessness lies in my reward system being fucked up.

God: Well, since I do not believe in a deity or any sort of omniscient creator being, I would say that “God” is the order of the universe, being, life itself.

Higher power: I’ve always thought that this is simply my higher self, a literal higher consciousness. In fact, I now believe that when we “bottom out,” or hit our lows, we’re actually becoming our most self-aware. Our wake-up calls are just that: we snap out of it, we awaken, we’re fully conscious of just how bad it is. We’re at the top of our game then, not the bottom. This higher consciousness is our most aware selves–the self that knows better, wants the best for us, sees our potential, follows that “order” of the universe, or at least, of being human, which is to protect our bodies and minds from harm, to sleep when it’s dark, to wake when it’s light.

Defects of character: This was a hard one, but I figured it out on the ride home, with the help of my boyfriend. My biggest problem in this whole nightmare has been learning how to forgive myself. I realized that IF, in fact, I viewed my higher power as myself–the best version of myself, the mindful, awakened version–then, couldn’t asking myself for forgiveness be the same thing as asking “God” to remove my “defects of character?” YES, it really could.

In my research last in night, I came across Kevin Griffin, who founded the Buddhist Recovery Network, who has written some excellent pieces for HuffPo on the Buddhist approach to recovery, and whose work I can’t wait to read more of. It sort of helped to confirm some of my new ideas, which, apparently, I’m not the first person to have. 😉

I guess maybe a step meeting could’ve helped me wade through the murky semantics of the steps, or a Google search earlier in my recovery, but so it goes. If I look at the steps with my new definitions in mind, they might read as such:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
(I am powerless to not want that second drink…and then, it’s all downhill because my rational brain turns off the warning and my irrational brain turns on the “It’ll be different this time, it won’t hurt you, you can drink as much as you want, forget about last time, there is no last time…”)

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
(That power is myself–my aware, awakened, mindful self; the one who’s looking at me when I’m jogging in the hot sun thinking, Good job, and, You deserve to be awesome.)

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
(Wonderfully explained by Kevin here.)

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
(Among a lot of other things, this would include shit I did that I still haven’t forgiven myself for…because I have offended others and hurt myself.)

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
(Admitting to ourselves, really, the things that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for having done. I have a few select people who know EVERYTHING, and I’m grateful that it’s been easy, in a way, to “unburden” myself to these friends.)

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
(Ready to forgive ourselves, to stop caring if others have or will forgive us, to really let it all go, and to start moving forward in our emotional lives. Self-actualizing?)

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
(Asked ourselves for forgiveness, and the power to let it go.)

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
(Being aware of our thoughts and feelings, of our actions and especially, REACTIONS, to these thoughts and feelings. To live in the world without taking anything personally.)

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
(Staying aware, practicing mindfulness.)

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
(This one, I’m not sure about. Maybe just helping others see their problem is not necessarily about moral flaws, it’s about fear of living and fear of self-discovery–and, the truth (your personal truth) will set you free…?)

What do you think?

Published at ‘The Fix’ magazine!

5 Jul

10:27 am

I’ve been thinking so much about the power of blogging–and how unicorn-parade and glitter-balls awesome you all are to be a part of my world–that I wrote a story (well, essay) about you!

It’s been published today at The Fix, an online magazine for addiction and recovery. My piece, Blogging Myself Sober, is about how helpful online forums can be for sobriety.

Otherwise, we’ve just been hanging out. Beach, dogs, some reading, and thinking a LOT lately about the passing of time, how I miss the 90s (I even went so far as to create both a ‘The Cure’ and ‘James’ Pandora stations the other night=Who’s James?), and well, how sobriety fits into all this. Am I sad because I am sad about the fact that it was, yes, 20 years ago that I had the “whole world” ahead of me? Please, even I can see through that. What I’m sad about is that I had such a clear head back then, an unblemished slate–not state–of mind. Sure, I had the “whole world,” but I have more of that world now. What I had then that I don’t have now is…a lack of experience? A lack of cynicism? A lack of knowledge of what I know now about how bad things would get?

A friend of mine posted an interesting status update to his Facebook page yesterday: If you could call yourself from 5 years ago–and had 30 seconds to talk–what would you say? Hmm. Probably, ‘Quit drinking NOW’? Yet, would I have never learned what I was “supposed to” have learned, “needed” to learn, if I had quit before it got really bad?

Anyway, I wanted to keep it short, so more for later. Hope everyone is having a liberating Fourth of July weekend!

(Yes, there were pangs yesterday, but even I’m getting bored writing about them. Needless to say, I pouted, told my boyfriend to “pick me up a bottle of red at the store on his way out,” (to which he replied his usual, “uh huh”) and then, waited to forget why I wanted to drink in the first place. Wash, rinse, repeat, every six hours or so yesterday–not a great day for cravings, but I managed and they’re over and now we’re moving on to an entirely NEW day. SEE ya, wolife-boy, voice of cravings! Your tricks are so old, so TIRED. Yawns.)

I love me some Intervention!

9 Jul

2:18 am

And, cuz my best friend, insomnia, just showed up, here’s a short and sweet post to lull at least YOU to sleep.

When the chips are down, I like to turn to my go-to shows and web sites that make me feel less like a loser:

A&E’s Intervention — The granddaddy of addiction documentary shows! Granted, it’s pretty old school and the shows have become really formulaic, but I can get sucked in, watching six or seven episodes in a row. (Talk about an addict!) Candy Finnigan ROCKS.

TLC’s My Strange Addiction — Bizarre and quirky addictions that are so…bizarre and quirky that you totally forget to crave what you’re addicted to. At least while the show is on…

The Fix magazine — Wish I had thought of this and had the resources to publish it!  One day… Lots of great articles and first-person accounts of everything addiction-related.

PubMed — Yes, I’m a science geek.  Seriously, I look to PubMed not only for genetics-based research (when I’m actually working, which hasn’t happened for a while), but also when I get a story idea.  Generally speaking, there are so many studies YET TO DO re: addiction research (especially co-morbid addiction, like alcoholism and an eating disorder at the same time), it astounds me!  Time to get that MPH and start cookin’!

Two of my favorite consumer science magazines that highlight addiction are:
Pyschology Today — They have a “Get Help” section, which is how I found my counselor!
Scientific American Mind — Just good stuff, and answers some questions tangential, perhaps, to addiction, but always related. Shit, it’s the brain, it’s the source of our addiction problem!

And here are a few shows that I’m looking forward to checking out:

HBO’s The Addiction Project — Never seen, but looks worth a shot…

A&E’s Hoarders — Not sure I’m into caring about this addiction, but people rave about this show…

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