Message or Mess?

I was to a meeting the other day and I heard one of the old-timers speak. Among what she said was “what will a newcomer hear: a message or a mess?” I don’t remember now where she was going with that, but that one line was very wise and I kept thinking of it.

Each time a new person comes to the rooms of a Twelve Step meeting he/she is welcomed as the most important person in the room. Why?

1) Because this person seeks help. Otherwise would they come into the room full of strangers? So we should be helpful to them as someone was helpful to us. Pass on the good thing

2) Also because this person reminds us of ourselves, what we used to be like when we came in first. The things this person will say is a good note, giving us flashback of what drinking did to us. It is important thing to remember the past even if we are way better off now. This is what the newcomer brings.

So we should treat them well. And it doesn’t mean we have to hug them and lead them to the best seat in the room. We just have to welcome them and let them know they are in the right place. When I came to AA I had no idea where else I would go. I was reminded of it again at a meeting a month ago when we talked about the AA Traditions, that we should be self-supporting. At the times I was still very sick from alcoholism I needed a place to go to deal with my problem. But I had no money to go to a house rehab. I had a job and a place to keep. AA turned out to be the perfect place. These folks seemed to have it together. But will they be friendly? Will they try to shove their wisdom down my throat? All these questions made me wonder and each time I went to an AA meeting, the less doubt I had. I was shown that it was the right place and right people and I will be OK if I just come and listen and speak.

This is how a newcomer should be treated. Any new comer really, Twelve Step meeting or any other social gathering. There are folks who feel very comfortable in any situations. They are like fish in the water in any setting. Then there are those who aren’t. They are shy and they feel awkward. They are afraid to say a word out of fear they’d confuse something or make themselves look stupid. They are the kids that sit at the back of the classroom and rarely speak or raise their hands and when they are asked, they speak quietly and their voice tremble. I’ve been one of those kids. I would never be where I am at if didn’t try to change that, but I had to have someone’s friendly hand and a smile to make the step toward that change.

Another thing about welcoming newcomers is the verbal message. In the beginning of the meeting there is a part when the chair person asks someone to speak to the newcomer. It usually goes well. Yet sometimes crap happens. When we have the good stuff working for us, we want to share it all with others. And yet we can be so full of ourselves, and of knowledge of our importance and wisdom, that we can’t hold it all inside and start talking for hours in a loud voice. And guess what? People don’t like that very much. You might be giving the most important message, so positive in the hindsight, but it’s coming out as loud and too bright for the person who is not used to it. You are trying to say too many things at the same time so anyone not prepared to it (and even the veterans) would suffer and informational overload. Often you keep using AA jargon many people outside of the circle have no idea of. And often you wouldn’t know that because you are not looking at what you’re doing. It is natural to you.

Along with that, we should remember that our sharing should never be judgemental. And not just when we talk to the newcomers, because they are always there and they always listen. Every once in a while I’d hear people share about how they were treated negatively, especially women. They were given hell when they should’ve been cared for. Many men out there still don’t know how to do things right with women, so I won’t go there. Find and read a book from a professional counselor instead. But it is true that we often don’t know how to say the right things without pointing a finger at the person we’re addressing. There’ve been a couple times I’ve heard such talk and I felt like leaving the room. That’s me with a couple of sober years under my belt. Guess what the unprepared, fresh out-of-the-bottle newcomer would think?

They are us. They should be treated with patience and respect just like we would like that. Never forget that!

After Vacation

So I just came back from a five day vacation in Jasper National Park. We were living in a campsite, cooking food on the grill, living in a tent, hiking a lot. We saw plenty of green, and wildlife, and mountains, and water. Everything was great, but people still surprised me – they were flying by in their cars, or impatiently crawling up ours from behind, as if they were in a hurry to catch a sunrise or something. “You are on vacation too, no?” I kept thinking. My girlfriend who drove kept vocalizing her anger toward the drivers, and I felt like I was back in a city, just with a different view. Anyway, we had a really good time. We saw a lot, took 200 pictures, I kept a diary, writing by the campfire at night. Then we were back to the city on Tuesday late afternoon and got right into the peak hour. The way people drove here was nuts, obviously. No surprises, but for a little while it felt like the serenity I’ve acquired on vacation was getting out the window, seeping out slowly. I managed to get a hold of it. After all I didn’t drive. Just tried to stay positive and support the driver.

There was a certain lightness within me for the whole next day, even though I had to work already. I still felt the excitement of the experience of previous several days in Jasper. The work day was not a very busy, but things had to be done, people met with, and I was planning to go to a AA meeting with a friend who needed it more than me, perhaps, and he cancelled. So I went anyway. Did I think of drinking because I had such a short vacation and my friend was being frustrating? Absolutely not. Did I feel like going drinking anyway? No, definitely out of the question. So why did I?

In this program of recovery which AA is it’s not all about how not to drink. Sure, my first 300 meetings I went to, that probably was all about how not to drink, because for me not to touch a drink for two days was a miracle. But there is life that should be looked after beyond drinking as well. Drinking, as the AA book says, is only a symptom of our life being out of whack. Yes, we alcoholics have a certain disposition of body and mind that makes us react to alcohol in much stranger way and desire it more than others, but that is not the only thing. We have/had our lives running weirdly out of control, so drinking was a perfect escape. Now that the booze is out of the picture, we still have plenty of things to look after. We have to rebuild our lives after the years of havoc. That’s what the Steps are for. Then the life doesn’t become completely perfect either (which is why we keep doing the Steps throughout our lifetime). It still runs on its own rules and we have to keep it sane and tolerable.

That’s why I have to keep going to meetings. Even if I had a great day, I still get angry, vengeful, very impatient, and sometimes I tend to isolate and procrastinate. I need to keep going to meetings to listen to the stories of others, talk to them. I still have to write about these experiences like I do now. Some days life is still not going the way I always want it to. Some other days life makes absolutely no sense. I have to come up with that sense. I have to keep it sane for me. Even after a successful vacation with plenty to see and plenty of relaxing and taking the mind off work. Granted, it was a better experience, compared to my last year summer vacation which in some sense was a disaster (you can read about it here, if you wish). And yet life is still weird and I still have to make an effort to not go completely bonkers. I have the skills for dealing with that. I just have to remember to apply them and take action. Not think about taking action, but actually taking it. Do the right things.

Drug of Choice?

I keep hearing it, “What’s your drug of choice?” or “My drug of choice is…”

First of all, what is choice? I had a conversation earlier this week with one of our chaplains at work about how many graduates of our recovery program isolate and then relapse. We looked into how we could be more helpful to them. He said that anything he’d do, he chooses to do. There is just a choice that separates him from falling into a disaster. I agree. I have a choice to go home to my girlfriend and have supper together and be a good partner or to go to a bar and drink my face off. Once I’d followed up on that drinking path, all else is gone. I have to follow the road of self-destruction, because this is how I drink – all or nothing.

Going back to the original question, I’d rather not have a drug of any kind. One of my all-time favorite writer Pelevin wrote: “You certainly didn’t need to eat that [acid crap]. A human doesn’t need to take any drugs. Especially psychedelics… When you take a high dosage of LSD, or take panther mushrooms, you risk a lot. You walk out of the human world, and if you could see how many invisible eyes are looking down at you at that moment, you’d never do it again. And if you could catch just a glimpse of those who look at you then, you’d die from terror. With this action of taking drugs you express that being a human is not enough for you; you want to be someone else. First of all, to stop being a human you need to die. Do you want to die?” Viktor Pelevin, Generation P (pp. 167-168)

Any drugs I take, unless to ease the physical pain, are no good for me, period. I wrote about pain before. Now of course there is also mental and spiritual suffering. That’s what was making me drink booze. I wasn’t happy with my life and I wasn’t happy with what I had. Booze was an easy and always available drug in which I could drown my unhappiness. Just as Pelevin wrote, I was trying to find something else, maybe find a different kind of me, just not the one I was . When I drank, I’d lose some part of my identity in that flame of burning sensations, chewed up by fear and memories of broken promises, that maelstrom of emotions. Some were fun, but with time the amounts of booze I’ve consumed were larger and the fun was gone. Only sense of oblivion remained. I felt it each time and each time I thought, “OK, that’s enough. I need to stop.” Each time I’d wake up next day and look around I’d say to myself, “I can’t do this anymore. The wreckage is too crazy. This was the last time I did this stupid thing.”

And yet I couldn’t just stop by wishing the insanity away. Here’s the next part. I didn’t choose my drug or my addiction. I chose to take the very first drink, yes. I could walk away or give in. But nobody explains it to the kids that drinking is not just bad for you. Nobody says that some of us are going for a trip to an asylum once we pick up a first one. Once I am in, I am done and gone, drawn and quartered. So when I’ve followed on my curiosity with trying alcohol, I couldn’t stay away from it. No choice to continue or stop – go all the way! You can say it chose me. And because of that I call it drug of doom.

Alcohol, or pot, or tobacco or caffeine – don’t call it drug/addiction of choice. There is only a choice of picking up the first one. There is no choice in continuing picking up. If it is a drug, there is dependency. If there is a dependency, your will is broken. When your will is broken, there is no choice. It’s not called addiction for nothing.

Vision of Booze: Breaking Away from Alcohol Culture

July 5, 2014 2 comments

1.

For the first several weeks of my going to the AA meetings I almost had no money (because I spent all of it on drinking) and I had no transit pass. So I couldn’t take a bus to get to that one meeting place that I discovered and that my sponsor/recovery guide went to. So I had to take about half hour walk, which was not bad, except for all the bars and liquor stores of the world seemed to be built along the way. I had to turn my head away each they’d come into my view. I felt like the guy from that Les Fugitifs movie with Pierre Richards. He and his partner just happened to rob a bank and the partner told him not to look around when walking and to watch his feet, because otherwise he’d get spotted by cops. Richard’s character was an idiot so he walked literally watching his feet, running into light poles, and, naturally, attracting police attention. I felt the same way. I was running into light poles as I was pushing myself away from the bars and liquor stores and the vision of booze, and all the good things I thought it could give me. I was very young in sobriety, and I wanted to be stay sober quite a bit, but it seemed the whole world was against me, as I was breaking away from alcohol.

It wasn’t just alcohol substance I was breaking away from, though. That’s why it was harder for me, and perhaps for many others, before and after.

2.
Alcohol has been around us humans for a very long time. It’s one of those things that we’ve claimed through invention, like paper, wheel, and clock. The Egyptians made beer, the Greeks had wine, and the Russians and the Ukrainians had vodka. Alcohol streamed through human history from the early days and became an undeniable part of it. We have what we can call an alcohol culture. Different peoples all over the world make, serve, drink, and treat alcohol in different ways. Mediterranean families serve loads of wine at the table for a meal, and the Germans got a cult of beer. Christians use wine in their ceremonies, and Muslims don’t touch it, even forbid it.
With that, themes of alcohol made it into our sayings, jokes, stereotypes, songs, movies, and advertisements. These are wrapped around us as something we can’t easily separate. Hell, how do you cut out your legacy?!

For a person who’s addicted to alcohol and making a conscious decision to stay away from drinking because it has ruined his life in so many ways, it is extremely hard to accomplish such a thing if alcohol had been a big part of their lives, if they are born and raised within alcohol culture.

3.

Eventually I stopped recoiling from bars and liquor stores on my way to the meetings or anywhere else. I came upon realizing that if I prayed or even said thanks to my Higher Power for not drinking that day, my attraction toward booze a bar or a store offered would weaken considerably and I would be safe. So to a degree I dealt with that.

But what about everything else? In college folks after classes would invite others for drinks, or for a meal in a bar, and no one but me seemed to have dismay on their faces when alcohol was mentioned. For so many people alcohol is just as appropriate and normal to have as having a cup of coffee or tuna sandwich. That’s how tight alcohol became part of our daily lives. Sure, drinking and driving is still a crime. You can’t be drunk at work or drinking at work in most places. But everywhere else it is a norm to serve and drink booze. I’d got to a concert and there would be “beer gardens” or at least two bar stands, with lights shining bright around them, attracting customers. Sometimes there would be even free booze-tasting stands, and when did I ever say “no” to free booze?! Alcohol smell is all over the place in the venues, in the tribunes, in the hallways, especially when you know you can’t have any.

The achievements of the Western culture, especially in the sphere of entertainment can really mess with your mind. So many movies have alcohol drinking in them. Besides problem drinking in movies of which I wrote earlier, there is also usual habitual nonchalant drinking, because movies are so much a reflection of our culture. And in most of the movies drinkers do the silliest things and we laugh out loud and we love them for it, and then especially love them when they conquer something, be it a girl, or large sum of money, or save the world. Drinking, therefore, becomes glorified.

So when the AA book talks about “our old ways resulted us nil until we let go absolutely”, the older members might not remember, but the young ones sure do recall, and sometimes painfully, that the vision of booze still has a very strong grip on them. We could sit in an AA meeting full of grateful and helpful people in recovery and think about having a glass of wine all of a sudden because somebody mentioned having one in their sharing and the memory of fun wine drinking party came to our mind instantly. We might not even fully realize it when our thoughts are taking a walk to a bar to have an ice cold Corona on a beach in Mexico while we are in central Canada in December, it’s -20, everything is ice and there will be another four months of that.

4.

Advertisements are the worst. They promise us so much we know we most of the time don’t need, and yet it is so shiny and attractive. The advertisements are constructed in such a way that they seem to open a door to happy and bright life we wish we had. They show us joyous and relieved people that now know there is a simple way to deal with their problems, or they are overwhelmed with a new opportunity they never knew of that has just entered into their lives and planted its ass in their doorway, inviting them to use it freely and without looking back. So even when we know ads are crap, that there are always hidden messages and conditions that can get us in trouble if we don’t pay attention, and so on, we still often can’t resist the positive look, and light, and especially the promise that ads give. On some level ad messages, or even just their tone enter our mind and corrupt it, and we might start thinking “Whatever that is, it seems to be so nice and easy to have that!” Ad makers know that very well. That’s the means of communication for you. Just as Internet was originally established for the military to exchange information, and only later was given to the rest of the world to use for sharing information among regular folks, TV was brought to the masses with just one idea in mind: sell advertising. Movies, news, cartoons weren’t the priority, although they sure would attract people to the screens and then ads will storm in and captivate us. And even if you think this is just conspiracy rave that I unleash here (I sure did write a college term paper about ads, you can smell it) , think about how many ads you are exposed to daily, through TV alone. Why are TV ads breaks so long and often? Why do you always see at least five same ads while you are trying to watch your movie?

Anyway, what does this have to do with alcohol? If you consider the previous paragraph about ever-presence and power of advertisement, and then look at the way alcohol is advertised in news papers, Internet “balloon” ads hanging everywhere, and especially on TV, you could see where I am coming from, talking about booze culture. It is all here, it is all vivid and invigorating. In TV ads booze bottles gleam as they invite you to just hold them for a second, and the girls are always pretty and smiling, and guys are always muscular and irresistible, and life becomes shiny and glittered as soon as the seemingly mundane room in the picture is blessed by an appearance of his/her majesty the Beer (soft drink, vodka, wine, etc.) Everything changes for the better, life has a meaning again, and all the girls/boys of the neighborhood are guaranteed to be your friends and lovers.

We marvel at these moving pictures, especially if these are what we lack, when all we have is a boring life (sometimes only seemingly boring life), boring job, no friends, no romantic relationship (or relationship on which you have to work hard), no hobby and what we do have is a substance addiction, always by our side. With this mental and spiritual baggage the ads are destined to make our day, our hour, our five minutes, when we decide “hey, I need to go for a beer and things would get better again!” Only that things don’t change so fast. What you’d have is just another portion of intoxication, several hours of euphoria if you keep feeding it. The next day it is all the same, plus a hangover, a headache, vomit, less money and a ton of obligations and responsibilities to follow up with.

Ads promise us heaven, and alcohol ads promise us heaven that can be acquired immediately. Our lives are empty or wrecked and we believe the promises of miracles that shiny advertising (of alcohol or not) can give us. We won’t care to take action to change things because we believe that one day it all will be great. That’s why to us, alcoholics, advertising is the worst. Even now after being sober for quite a while I have a wave of excitement going through my limbs when I see the beer ads: bright colors, beautiful women, splashing liquids, muscles, swimming pools, hair waving in the breeze, rock music, – altogether it is a vital mix, a recipe for a good life.

4.

Most of the people want to live a good life. And those of us that suffer are jealous and resentful at some of the people we know and see around that can have it. Plenty of people born and raised in the same ads culture, TV culture, and alcohol culture made it well in life. They made it into an American (Canadian, etc.) dream, and we made it into an AA meeting. It seemed we believed in the same things, but we ended up so differently. There is plenty of learning to do to find out about this difference. If we are patient enough, we’ll get there soon. But the early days, months of sobriety are hard, because you are breaking way from the culture that seemed to nurture you, from the values you used to hold so dear. For me it felt like a collapse of the world, in a sense. When I came to AA and said “I can’t stop drinking, I need help!” I was leaving so much behind as I was stepping into the new territory. There was so much to gain in this new world, but there was so much to abandon.

Booze is still ever-present in my life. I guess it always will, because the world didn’t stop turning in its love for having a couple sips of wine at dinner or a whiskey on Friday night since I made a conscious decision to stop drinking for good. The worldwide production of alcohol beverages didn’t slow down, and their advertisement perhaps even intensified. My recovery from alcoholism, perhaps, didn’t affect anybody out there, drinkers or not, except for my close ones and friends I made in sobriety, so the alcohol culture stays strong. It is my attitude to its power, its legacy, its messages and promises that had to change and stay that way. I have to practice zero tolerance to all that glitter, no matter how much it once meant to me and in the depth of my mind still means, quite a lot. The people in recovery, no matter how young and doubtful, old and wise, have to remember that culture is something that we are constantly involved in, it’s like our DNA, something that lives within us and can influence us daily, sending memories and insights into our minds hourly. It is hard to keep it away, but we have to if we want to stay sane, healthy, and eventually happy. No geographical cure would help. We have to deal with it where we are, where we work and live. And the best way to do that is be aware of it and talk. Find out that we are not the only ones dealing with it. That we are not the only ones who have to sever ties with something that used to be such a large part of our lives, something we shared as family, as friends, classmates, workers, etc. We have to cut it out and replace it with something healthy, something real, something that will work for us and keep us strong and joyous, nevermind what the rest of the world thinks, wants, believes in, hopes to be.

Nine Years – A Letter to a Newcomer

I discovered alcohol at the age of ten or so, small sips of sparkling wine on the New Years Eve with family, larger sip of red wine for some other event. Little bits would do no harm, but even those small ones made me feel different, a bit light headed and quite happy. I loved it.

With time I’d be allowed more, for family reunion dinners and the likes. I started buying beer after school around 16. The amounts of alcohol were growing and so did my love for it. The mighty alcohol made me feel special when it felt like no one cared. I loved the illusion of the great times to come. I loved the escape within my mind. I knew I had to go back to reality once the spell was gone, but I preferred to forget about it.

Years went on. I changed three countries and three colleges. I had girls in my life and seeing them go made me hate life and order. I wrote a lot of vicious poetry about that. I could call myself a hard worker, but being absolutely hooked to alcohol and to the relief it seemed to grant would cross out almost everything I’ve accomplished. School seemed to be a never-ending curse. Reality with its responsibilities was inescapable burden. I tried to opt out of life a couple of times. I spent several days in a mental ward. Once I was thrown in a cop tank for public intoxication. Another time I slept in a homeless shelter for drunks. Depression was a constant state of mind, the body was poisoned, and the spirit was beaten.

After trying counsellors, I went to AA. First time I didn’t like what I heard, but I wasn’t really paying attention, or maybe I just wasn’t ready. I was enslaved by alcohol, clearly, but I couldn’t let go off of it yet, because I didn’t know how to handle life without it. If I let go, how would I look the reality in the face and tread on?! I left AA for another half a year of insanity for which I volunteered and I suffered enormously. When I was done I asked for help and came into the room of strangers that looked like they ran into a train coming from hell. Except for one of them. He talked and he laughed.

He took me under his wing and soon I was healthy enough to talk and to laugh. It seemed I was given a chance. It was a mystery to me still, though. I went to meetings to meet strangers and shared and listened to their stories and shared some more. I started taking small Steps and I walked with more assurance. I learned a formula I never knew, but I nailed it today: Attempt-Accomplishment-Perseverance. In the 20th and 21st century the good life is accomplished through hard work, but after a long day of grinding it, I wanted an immediate gratification. Alcohol was always close, no matter how far. Now, I had to change the formula: hard work and routine.

Here’s the trick: the newcomers come to AA rooms and hear people say the recovery is fun. It is hard work, yet it is fun. And once you come to these meetings for a while, you see that all you do here is a lot of the same. Go to meetings, get a sponsor, do the steps, do the service, do the steps, go to meetings, etc., ad infinitum. How could that be any fun?

The fun is in the change you can observe within days, change in your behavior, your mood, your appetite. First of all, you got to realise that you are a phoenix risen from a pile of shit you put yourself in. You learn that you are hospital patient and the name of your disease is alcoholism. It affects your body and mind and the way you overcome is by absolutely not drinking. The disease in incurable, but you can arrest the development of the disease by not drinking. Secondly, the way you strengthen yourself is by communicating with those who has the same disease you have. There are some procedures, Steps, to follow/take, but if that sounds intimidating, consider them life skills that you learn.

The “fun” is looking at people on the street that seemed to have beaten themselves in a face with a sledgehammer and realize that this is what you’ve escaped or were saved from. And you feel for these people, because they are no longer total strangers – they carry the virus you once had. You still carry it too, but it is no longer growing. And you want to help these folks, and you know how. They might not listen, because they hurt too much, and shame, and stigma that they carry is so large it’s scary to look at. But you keep trying and maybe one day you can help them to find the path to the light you once found. And doing it is so much joy!

The “fun” is waking up in the morning knowing you can do another day. You know you can because these troubles you are about to face today are nothing compared to the mornings when you rolled out of the bed like a log, holding your head that seemed to be burning on coals. You still remember the mornings you crawled and slithered toward the washroom where you puked your guts out. You still might remember hiding liquor around the place, saving beer for mornings, asking neighbors for a loan to buy more, calling your boss telling him you are sick, again. You remember all these and many more, ugly and slimy instances of the long history of being enslaved by booze. So your mornings today are grand, even if they still suck sometimes.

Nine years in, there are still days when I have to growl: “Warrrr!” to make it through the day. People around me are still crazy. Sometimes I am not sure what the hell I am doing here, for the world is still not perfect. And yet, when I pay attention to where I am walking and remember where I come from, I am doing fine. For I am alive. I am free. I don’t feel like I am feeding myself with shit anymore, lying to myself that this misery I used to live in is exactly what I need and believe it full-heartedly, just to have another couple of sips of liquid fairytale.

Starting new things sucks. You can be excited, alright, but it is still a bit freaky. When you throw away the crutch like an addiction that was with you for years, starting new things is scary, sweaty, and mind-fucking. But without making the first step forward you are not going to get anywhere. So go forward but don’t go too fast. You need time to get used to this path and this pace. You walk slow in the winter time so that you don’t slip on the ice, right? It’s similar here. Old ideas and false beliefs of the past can make you fall. You need to pay attention. Every day. It’s all you got – one day. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Focus on today. You can do this one, can you?

There is fun, but there is action to take to make life worthwhile and fun. Never forget the action. Never forget the routine. Keep going to meetings. Keep talking. Keep listening. And keep remembering where you came from. Always remember. And then say thank you. Every day.

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Keeping the Connection

connectionBreaking often is easier than building, and destroying relationships most of the time takes much less effort than putting one together. There is a certain excitement in getting rid of something we believe doesn’t work. There is a satisfaction in the burning righteousness of yelling “I had it with you!” or “This has to end and it ends here and now!” And yet with all the joy in anticipation of the new and frustration with the old, while basking in the light of the correct and exemplary, there is also a feeling that the suffering from breaking away is on the horizon. Perhaps it won’t hit right away, but it will surely come. Maybe on your front things will be OK, but for another person it might mean the end of everything. And no matter how much we’d think that “it will do them better” and that “they need to sort their shit out”, we might destroy a life and hope when what we need to do is take a break, let the steam out, and then try to connect again.

I am writing this out of sadness of being on the verge of losing a friend. Substance abuse is not doing him any good and isolation seems to be insanely difficult for him to overcome. No matter how much I try to reach out – inviting him to a meeting, to watch a movie, for a coffee, for my birthday, – it all comes to no fruition. With each attempt it seems the natural thing to do is let him go and hide in his corner and conduct his self-will run riot. But it’s bugging me because with an experience of working in the substance addiction recovery field I’d be a decent help for him. I also realize that one of the main rules of recovery is we can’t help those who don’t want (or can’t) help themselves.

It used to start with smaller gaps when I wondered what the hell he was doing. I knew he was a busy hard working guy, but I also knew he didn’t have a lot going on. That’s the worst, when you have a lot of time and you spend it on watching TV series and munch on snack food every day after work. And that is a life of so many of us who works hard for their money. And we hold on to this deserved rest as to something sacred, and letting it go and answering a phone or making a call is blasphemy, even when life hurts.

I recall that when I moved to the U.S., the folks that I went to the university with back in Russia gave me their email addresses and asked “not to forget them.” And out of ten of them only two stayed in touch. I felt such hunger for communication in the new country and new traditions that I kept writing regardless of the replies. Then I concentrated on those two who were interested. I had quite a resentment towards those who never wrote back. I sure knew they were busy. I sure knew they had lots happening in their lives. And yet, I kept wondering “how much time it will take you to read an email of half a page and write a reply of quarter of a page? What is it that you have on your plate that keeps you from spending ten minutes of your precious time to let me know you still care about me?” I had to come to an understanding that people who don’t reply deserve being let go just as much as the trolls and those who you know to get on your nerves constantly. So 99% of Facebook “friends” are doomed. Some connections deserve (and require) to be severed. But for those who we know well and wish well…

I am hoping that one day my friend will witness the reality; that what he tries to do on his own just doesn’t last and he needs to find something different to keep him happy, healthy, and sane. Shutting the door on eight year long relationship will hurt much more than I could think right now, but it might damage him more than me, while I am trying to be all reasonable about it. Severing the connection and staying out of touch, dwelling in moralistic goodness, I will be doing him much more harm than by an occasional phone call or text, even if I have to force myself to do it. Even though I know that most of the texts go nowhere, and the replies are more of “leave me alone” nature, still, this way I can let him know he is not alone. I let him know that he has someone to talk to about embarrassing and confusing things when it seems like no one listens or everyone will laugh. If I call him twice a week, it will only take two hours at max out of my week time. Can I do that? Yes, I can. I just have to overcome my ego and be present for when it’s the right time for him to start the transformation towards healthy life.

[the picture was copied from 'ere. thank you!]

In the Presence of Pain

pain1I doubt there are people who really like to feel pain. Granted, we’ve heard of masochists who get sexual pleasure out of receiving physical pain. But for the most part there aren’t many true lovers of suffering. Pain is something that we usually see as negative and try to avoid at all costs.

Nevertheless, except for cases of cancer patients , broken limbs, backstabbing, and war injuries and wounds, when people’ suffering is constant and requires painkillers or makes them wish for death, pain can be a positive thing. Positive in a sense that it can teach us something. For example, stop doing what you are doing and take a break (like lifting weight in the gym).

Sometimes pain has to be invoked, or at least for a while I felt I needed it. I remember for several years my arms and hands felt almost no pain from pins ran into them or when put into hot water. Maybe that’s why I started running razors and bottle caps into my skin from time to time – to feel the pain, to “feel alive”, to know where the limit was.

In recovery from substance abuse, besides physical pain from drinking too much and screwing up liver, or from running needles into veins and causing abscess and other fun stuff, or smoking and destroying lungs, there is also non-physical pain. What I am talking about is loss, frustration. Then of course there are DTs, cramps, withdrawals, etc. And then there is loneliness which many people describe as real pain, something they would willingly substitute with physical pain.

We feel miserable when pushed away by those who we think we belong to, who we want to be with. There is suffering from not fitting in. The world we live in is quite opposite to the world of spirit. There is nothing I can do about living in the world of people, but I know the world of spirit is healthier. So I can only be a human, but I can be opposite to what world sees as a treasure to possess. Therefore I dwell in something I am opposed to. That is some pain, I tell ya.

Yet at the same time I know life is not easy and never was meant to be. Peace is with me when I struggle. Kind are the days when I go and don’t watch too far, and when I can help someone else and when I have a hard time I pray and things get better. Realization of pain presence steps away to the background and serenity comes forward.
I look for other people who think like me, see things like me, notice things that no one else notices. Write in the way others don’t. There are people out there that I shouldn’t be with. People who don’t want to help themselves. People who want to help themselves and trying, but build high fences around themselves.

pain2I achieve serenity by walking through the fog of pain. Without pain things would be too easy.

We shouldn’t forget that if we never were addicts, didn’t seek help, and didn’t achieve sobriety, didn’t recover, we would never know true serenity. We wouldn’t know that people that seemed to be marching straight into jail or being dragged into a mad house had a chance to re-establish their lives in the positive manner. If we weren’t sick, we wouldn’t work hard to recover and we would never come to contact with our Higher Power and find balance in life. We would never see what our lives were and are, and we would never see the true nature of things and how we should act toward life in general in the new light of day. Our drinking/using/gambling days and years were painful, but we’ve had them for a reason – so that we’d learn from that experience and try to make our future life better for ourselves and others.

I certainly do not encourage everybody to become addicts and alcoholics to find the true meaning of life. Yet if we turned out to be who we are and will remain that way forever, we should consider that there is a certain positive thing about it and we should follow the tradition of sobriety and serenity to live lighter, finding certain benefits and joys even in the presence of pain.

[front pictures were copied from 'ere and 'ere. thank you!]

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