Perhaps if I wasn't such an introspective person, the prospect of sobriety wouldn't tax my brain so much. I could look at it in a neat cost/benefit analysis, and the equation would provide me with a blunt and simple answer. Look here buddy: no more money down the drain, no more hangovers, no more fried brain cells, no more poor decisions, and so on. However quitting drugs isn't like quitting biting your fingernails. If you allow me to generalize for a second, the most obvious and critical thing separating man from animal is the capacity for extensive thought; man is a cerebral creature therefore it seems a natural partnership, man and mind altering drugs. To this very day scientists still work tirelessly to understand the mechanics of the brain. Yes - we understand exponentially more than we use to, yet many mysteries still remain. In the same way, some of the effects of certain chemicals (say psychedelics) have taken a larger philosophical, spiritual significance to certain people. It would be impossible for someone to discount these conclusions without perfectly understanding the relationship between two incredibly complex variables. So what am I getting at here -sobriety need be more than a decision for one's physical health but spiritual health as well?

To bring you up to speed on where I am at today, I would be left writing for.. *insert shameful sigh*. And well, I don't know if that sounds fun or not. If I had a perfect memory, I could recount to you each and every experience I've had indulging, and we might be able to plug said stories into a super computer so that we could pose the age long question: was it all worth it? Instead we'll just play catch up by making that clever philosophical leap we take so often--you taking my word. And the first thing you'll have to take my word for is, I am no super computer. Nowhere in my mind did I have the capacity to look into the future of my life like it was some chess board awaiting the perfect move. Shit, even in chess sometimes there's not a perfect move--you'll have to get over it. I can remember being in class as a young whipper snapper and having a man come talk to us about his life of drug abuse. The guy had some awful stories, some funny ones, but this is what stood out: he didn't tell us to abstain. To this day, this still boggles my mind. Here's someone who has come to the very edge of ruining his life from drugs, yet he still couldn't tell us not to try smoking the infamous gateway drug. Why? Well, he might tell you better in his own words, but essentially it was because he was not me. I am not you. Different people take different paths. He knew for his own personality, drugs were no longer an option. But to jam abstinence down a kid's throat, he must have felt this could have caused more harm than good. Repression can be a dangerous force too. Interestingly enough, his current "high" he got from riding his motorcycle, something possibly way more life threatening.

To loop back around, my point here is that there are no easy answers. People can be sober for years of their lives, and in the flick of a switch, they can return (relapse) to their former selves. Similar to the story of the individual above, I have come to a place in my life where I've begun to believe that there is something innate in my own personality that does not allow for me to continue to use drugs. Right away, I'll have to stop there and break things down. "I've begun to believe." This statement implies once again, I'm not a super computer, I have no perfect conclusions. "There is something innate in my own personality." Waiiiiit, what the hell does that mean? Good question but let's think again of the motorcycle--some people want on of their free will, some people couldn't be paid to ride one. We are all different. "Does not allow for me to continue to use drugs." This is probably the most tricky. I'm making the connection between my personality and a personal plan in which I no longer use "drugs," another danger word with endless connotations. I didn't want this to turn into the philosophy of language, but perhaps this needs to be included in more recovery plans. How can one form their best intentions if they don't know what those intentions even mean?

Same as with any person, the sober individual must constantly tread murky philosophical waters. Let's say you've admitted your powerlessness over drugs but every one of your friends still drinks, some even more destructively than you previously did. What if it's not just your friends--what if the very fabric of your society is in bed with drugs such as pharmaceutical companies or a corporate office's happy hour. The odds are starting to look stacked for the other side.. What if you don't believe in continuing to live in the first place, so why not go out on party barge? Here, we've reached the ouroboros. Someone's who committed to stepping off of a 1000 ft ledge clearly can't be convinced to not have a Bud Light. This person requires immense additional psychological and spiritual counseling on top of the close guidance that will be required afterwards. What someone who's more closer to my stage of life might need is something more akin to a toolkit. Now where's my hammer?

*John goes off rummaging*

The first thing to remember is that your body is not your enemy. Yes, you may die of your addiction this year, one in a hundred do. But you’re five times more likely to get over it over this same year, and you have a 50% chance, overall, of getting over it in the next ten years, no matter what you do. You don’t have any “beast” or “demon” or “addictive personality” or “self will run riot” that will inevitably kill you if you don’t suppress it. You are a human being, who was born, who lives now, and will someday die. You are in a bad place now, and probably have been in a bad place for a long time. But your body is not your enemy. It is your friend.

Every time you had to fight the circumstances that said “Yes!” when you knew the answer was “No!” wasn’t a Higher Power. It was a lower one. Addiction is a complex thing: we don’t see it much in literature and history much before the Industrial Revolution. Opium, for example, was known in the West since the Neolithic. Alcohol is pretty much universal. Coca is everywhere in equatorial South America, ditto Ayahuasca. Nicotine is a symbolic smoke for the First Nation, an everyday problem here in New Haven. All religions have their sacramental drugs, even if they cloak the psychoactive components under heavy euphemisms, or even use other means, such as chanting and fasting. Mostly, you can amend your state of consciousness, briefly, until your body’s set-point regains itself, and you’re “straight” again. Your body wants to be straight. None of these worthies, above, ever had any addiction problems until lately: addiction is a modern construct. No matter how much they like to talk about Recovery as being in tune with Christianity, I find no passages in the Bible that say "Be kind to the drunkard, for he is ailing." You're just having to deal with an unnatural condition with unnatural chemistry. Everything that says "Stop!" is natural. Everything that says "Keep it up!" is not.

Practical matters: unless you need to be tapered off in a hospital, do your best to taper off on your own. if you wish to set a "quit date", don't fall into the addict's ruin of thinking you're going to have a "Bon Voyage" party: it'll just be that much harder when you do quit. In my own case, my various substance habits just sort of drifted off: I had to use the money for something else, I moved to a different place, and so on and so forth. About the closest I ever got to having to "beat a habit" was with antidepressants, but I have had to cut down drastically on drinking in a very short time, so YMMV. Allow yourself to be ornery and weak and emotional for week or two, to have bad breath and feel generally like crap. On the other hand, sigh, it's just hard to describe it: it's painful, but in a way it's "sweet pain". After X many weeks and months of dull and numb routine, it feels great to have something to fight against, a reason to get up knowing that today will be different from yesterday and tomorrow will be even better! (On the down side, you'll also have to deal with the problem that wherever you go, there you are, and even if you aren't spending your time and money on oblivion, your life is still, you know, your life. Just saying.)On the other side of the looking-glass, staying that way is just a trick. Once you know how, it's easy. Whatever you hear about "triggers" and "relapses" are actually fairly rare, unless (here's the kicker) you believe in them. Otherwise, just remember that your old life is always there, if you want to go back...just sayin'.

The second thing I would stress is that you are, under A.A., in dangerous company. I know, they are the Last House on the Block. (Not that there are many others, these days.) But they’re still Not Cool. Basically, they’re not interested in your addiction, per se: they’re interested in you as an exemplar of the Human Condition.

Yes, according to A.A., you have a disease, and they’ll eagerly point out that one of the two founders of the Recovery Movement was a doctor (a proctologist, if that makes any difference. Any jokes involving cranio-rectal inversion are not of my doing). Any number of researchers will show you a picture of a brain, or throw around a few chemical names, or talk about “genetics”, So, what exactly is the chemical relationship between alcohol and cocaine, which are utterly different in effects and chemical make-up? And what is the chemical relationship between alcohol and being a compulsive gambler, or a schizophrenic, or the dozens of other problems for which the Recovery Movement has claimed to be a solution? All they can show is that some stimuli are pleasurable, and some are not. If they were to show that the same neurochemicals, the same brain centers, were stimulated by thoughts of playing with puppies, or being near your spouse, would they leap to tell us that dog ownership and marriage are sick and addictive, too?

If you keep coming back, you will find out that the true origin of your troubles is not a brain disease, but a spiritual one. You “thirst for the Spirit”. You have “defects of character”, you lack “humility”, “serenity” and “gratitude”. In short, you suffer from Original Sin. Only by “working the Steps”, daily, can you ward off “dry drunks” which inevitably lead to “relapses” which will, of course, be much worse than what you’ve known before, since addiction is a progressive illness, which gets worse whether you are “dry” or not. You’ll find yourself picking your brain as to how and why you’ve offended every single person you’ve ever known (do you know that, according to A.A., being a difficult baby is an early sign of alcoholism?) and how to make amends to them, writing self-abnegating reams of paper telling everyone how you were the worst of all human beings while you were drinking, and how you want to be as the very lowest of the “sober”. None of which will actually help as you find yourself in a state of “relapse”, feeling as if you're holding to a cobweb over a fire, a sinner in the hands of an angry God. You'll lash yourself that you "aren't really working the Steps" or tell yourself that you're in a state of "dry drunk" when all this moral inventory, prayer, meetings, sponsorship and life in a sober house don't, as is promised in the Big Book, instantly solve all the problems in your life.

The next stage occurs when you find you're going to have to adjust to becoming background noise while people turn their attention to people fresher and newer to the Program. You'll be told you're "always dragging the mood of the meeting down" with your "Pity Pot", "Drama Queen", "mouse-dropping" problems. (Interesting how anal their vocabulary gets, the longer you deal with them.) You'll learn to recast every one of the awful things that happened while drinking as a joke, along with the word "think" (alcoholics cannot think on their own). Feelings are also taboo, since you're supposed to be feeling nothing but "serenity" while on the program: anything less is a sign of self-pity or anger. As a speaker, you'll be carefully coached to never talk in terms of "I" and "you", but always in terms of "us", "we" and "alcoholics", even if the subject is not particularly general or peculiar to addicts.

Sobriety remains elusive. Every day without a meeting gapes like the Hellmouth. Once you may have wondered why people took "sobriety cruises" or "sober vacations" with A.A. meetings a feature, often several times during a day. Now you can't imagine having any other kind. It's hard to talk to your birth family: on one hand, you feel an overwhelming wave of guilt towards them, on the other, you feel sorry for them, as non-addicted people. Grasping at straws, you attribute any favorable happenstance to your Higher Power, but anything wrong will turn you back onto your bed of guilt.

Congratulations! You're an Old Timer! And it only took...about two years? One? Anyway...You're a bitter, cynical potty-mouth, who calls everyone who's not in the Program "normies" and new members "pigeons". You thought that you might go back to school for business administration once, now you're going to get a degree in "peer counseling", a job that pays only a little more than flipping burgers, and has a high rate of burnout. Great! You sold your soul for a handful of lottery tickets, and all you had to do was Keep Coming Back.

Dear friend. You are not a victim of your brain chemistry, you’re a victim of circumstance. Drinking is but one response to a really crappy state of affairs that affects you. There are, probably, things you like better than drinking. If you like getting together with people, look at Meetup, and see whether you might find a SIG about board games, dancing, or whatever else that floats your boat. Otherwise, there are some other things you can do: keep your apartment neat as a pin, volunteer at a local charity, or write greeting cards to prisoners. Talk it out, to a clergyman or a friend. Write out great letters to everyone you hate, and throw them on a bonfire! Buy yourself flowers, cook yourself a dinner to remember. And remember, always, your body wants you well. As do I.

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