Monday, November 06, 2006

Day Thirteen - Back to the Drawing Board

It was a bad weekend. In my last post I mentioned weigh-in day. It was a huge disappointment and I didn't handle it well. I didn't eat like crazy or anything. It was just emotionally difficult. Much of the weekend was spent in a major wrestling match with my addictive personality. The temptation to give up was very strong. Some of my other addictive behaviors came after me with a vengeance. Overall, it was a very big battle. The good news is that when my alarm went off at 5 a.m. this morning I didn't roll over and give up. I'm still here! Although I did not lose a single pound this past week, my clothes are getting a bit looser, and my physical condition is improving. My food journal resumes today. Each battle is hard, but the war is not over. I refuse to stop recovering life.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Day Eleven - Anticipation

This has been a very good week. Halloween came and went without ruining my discipline. Last night there was this quarterly get together with a bunch of guys. We call it Guys Movie Night and it includes dinner and watching a movie then talking about it. These kinds of meals out always present an opportunity to get carried away. Last night I went in knowing I didn't want to blow a week of good behavior...and I didn't. That is very satisfying. I allowed myself a little indulgence but was totally aware the whole time of the risk of losing control. By the end of the night, I was very happy with how things went. Later this morning is my weekly weigh-in. Last week I hadn't lost any weight but my fat percentage had dropped by one point. This week I think I'll be really, really disappointed if I haven't lost weight. It feels like I've stepped things up and made some adjustments in order to make that happen. I have to remind myself that the scale is just a measuring device. If the measurement isn't what I expect, I simply need to make further adjustments. In my addictive past I've abandoned all hope when the measurement wasn't what I wanted. That's the self-destructive choice and I hope I'm healthy enough to avoid that, even if my weigh-in doesn't go as planned. Here's yesterday, and remember last night was a bit more than normal...

32 oz. water
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
12 oz. raw milk

64 oz. water
1 medium apple

4 slices frozen pizza (leftovers)
1/2 cup homemade granola
12 oz. raw milk

32 oz. water
2 chocolate chip cookies

1 bowl pasta e fagioli soup
1 slice french bread with butter
squash & pear salad
16 oz. Lipton Brisk Ice Tea with lemon and sugar
1/3 cup M&M candy
1 doughnut

Friday, November 03, 2006

Day Ten - Double Digits

One day at a time adds up. As I've shared here, it's a struggle for me to live one day at a time. My mind races ahead to the next day, the next big event, a time when I'll be 80 pounds lighter. The irony is, by racing ahead my ability to actually achieve my goals is damaged. In a recovery meeting this week I likened it to learning to write with your opposite hand. Even writing my name that way takes much thought and concentration. To write with my dominate hand is automatic. I don't even think about it. Learning to live in, and enjoy, the moment is an exercise in focused concentration that takes a fair amount of mental energy. The good thing about the process, however, is that the day will come where the new thinking will become automatic. If I were to practice writing my name with my opposite hand every day, eventually that would become effortless, too. I'm excited about right now and thankful that I've come this far. I'm learning how to let that be enough. Here's yesterday...

32 oz. water
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
12 oz. raw milk

1 small pear
64 oz. water

6 oz. tuna with Tbsp. Miracle Whip
2 slices whole wheat bread
1/2 cup organic yogurt
1/2 cup homemade granola

64 oz. water
1 Tbsp. homemade granola
1 medium apple
15 pretzel twists

6 oz. chicken breast
vermicelli/rice mix
12 oz. milk

12 oz. peach cider

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day Nine - The Morning After

An interesting part of recovery is the increased awareness. When I'm not masking my emotions or blindly reacting there are suddenly little nuances in life that become apparent. Halloween wasn't a disaster by any stretch in terms of my eating, but it wasn't as disciplined as I'd hoped. It was great to be past that day and to gain some learning for the holidays that are fast approaching. One thing that surprised me is the residual effect it had the day after. I struggled more yesterday with urges to eat inappropriately than I have since starting this discipline. The good news is that I was aware of it and chose healthy alternatives. It won't be a surprise if there are still some lingering effects today. Knowing that it's a possibility makes it better going in. That's one of the great things about recovery. I'm expanding my knowledge and experience of it every day and learning how to apply it to the next day. It's true what they say, if you fail to learn from your mistakes, you're doomed to repeat them. Here's how November started...

32 oz. water
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
12 oz. raw milk

1 small pear
64 oz. water

1 can Campbell's clam chowder with goldfish crackers
4 oz. peach cider

1 medium apple
32 oz. water
1/2 cup chicken fried rice (leftovers)

4 slices Tombstone frozen pizza
1 cup homemade granola
1 tsp. Nutella spread
12 oz. raw milk

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Day Eight - Grace on All Hallow's Eve

There always food at work. There's a guy whose wife bakes cookies each month when we celebrate birthdays in our department. They come fresh out of the oven and still warm. There are places you can go and get a mini candy bar from little bowls that are spread around the building and open to everyone. There are random platters of treats that show up at the coffee island in our area. I know about all this and, as part of this plan, prepared myself mentally to avoid those traps. It's only been a week, but so far, so good. At Halloween everyone in the company dresses up and every department decorates according to a theme. In our department there is a big potluck meal and tons of candy. There are some days when I need to exercise a little grace with myself and this is one of them.

Grace is a difficult lesson for an addict to learn. Part of what has created and fed my addict through the years is a lack of grace. My stepfather wasn't a gracious man. That and other things contributed to insecurity and a very harsh, self-critical spirit. Standards I could never meet became ones I embraced. To comfort myself when I failed (and when you set impossibly high standards failure happens regularly) I chose food, among other things. It's an interesting dynamic now that I've identified my eating habits as a problem and I've set a very high standard for myself. My addictive personality wants to beat me up when I eat too much, thereby missing the mark I've set. Missing the mark is failure, which triggers my addictive urge to eat for comfort. You can see how this can become a downward spiral very quickly. The best way out of this is the application of a little grace.

I'm not going to list what I ate on Halloween. It wasn't excessive, but it was more than I had hoped I might eat. It's not going to derail my overall goal. I'm back at it this morning and, as soon as I post this I'm headed over to workout. I've recorded almost everything I ate, but it feels like I would be overly harsh on myself if I were to post it. Grace is the order of the day and a chance for me to learn how to live with not being perfect. And I don't care that my addict doesn't like that!

Day Seven - A Night Out

Part of this whole process is to be able to live in the real world and have a real life. On Monday nights during the football season a friend of mine and I get together and head to a local sports bar to watch football and play this interactive game where you guess the plays on the field. I always plan on this night in my schedule. And I anticipate that it will include some level of food and drink. Just to clarify, alcohol is not one of my addictions and it's not something I struggle with. For those who do, this post is not meant to offend. I'm committed to listing all the things I've eaten. I'm also planning ahead for Halloween. Here's how Monday went:

32oz. water
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
12 raw milk

64 oz. water
1 med. pear

6 oz. tuna with 1 Tbsp. Miracle Whip
10 pretzel twists
1/2 cup organic yogurt with 2 Tbsp. homemade granola
4 oz. peach cider

32 oz. water
1 medium apple

6 oz. pork chop
1 small red potato diced and fried
1 cup green peas
12 oz. raw milk

16 oz. beer
basket of onion rings
3 mini corn dogs
32 oz. water

Monday, October 30, 2006

Day Six - A New Week

As planned, Sunday was my "off" day. I had a big breakfast but not much else through the day. I find that I don't drink as much water on the weekends. It's good to be starting another week. It supposed to take nearly a month to move an activity from routine to habit. So every day that passes where I journal my eating behavior and workout is one day closer to making this more lifestyle than anomaly. Not much else to say today except that the Chicago Bears dominated San Francisco and remain undefeated. That's very exciting! Here's what I ate yesterday:

2egg cheese omelet
12 oz. raw milk
2 slices buttered whole wheat toast (blackberry fruit spread on one)
3 slices bacon
4 oz. peach cider

32 oz. water
46 small red seedless grapes

4 slices frozen pizza
12 oz. raw milk

1 medium pear
32 oz. water

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Day Five - Disappointment

Yesterday was my weekly weigh-in and I won't pretend that I wasn't disappointed. After several days of an increased workout and very disciplined eating the scale had not changed over last week. However, it's not total disappointment because I have a scale that is also a body fat analyzer and according to that I dropped one percentage point of body fat. I've been steady at 37% forever and yesterday it read 36%. That's a drop of 2.56 pounds of fat that's been replaced by muscle. I'll take that, but I still want to lose overall weight. I'm not discouraged, just disappointed. The difference is that, being discouraged has often led me, in the past, to giving up completely. Disappointment will drive me to look for other changes I can make. It's important to stick with something longer than I have before deciding it's not working. If there is no change after next week's weigh-in and I've followed the regimen for the whole week, then I'll need to readjust something in my plan. I did relax a little in the eating yesterday in that I had a little treat at the end of the day. You'll see it on the list. It is the weekend.

Weekly weigh-in results:
Weight - 268.5
Body Fat - 36%

Day Four Food Journal:
12 oz. raw milk
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
bowl of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar

32 oz. water

1 cup bbq baked beans
bbq potato chips

bbq potato chips
23 small seedless red grapes
32 oz. water

4 slices frozen pizza (Red Baron Supreme)
chocolate milkshake

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Day Four - The Weekend

Keeping routines on the weekend is a bit more of a challenge. I don't have to go to work and I get to sleep in a little. I usually find plenty to keep me busy. Today I'm spending time with my sponsor doing some fourth step work. Overall I'm pleased with my start on this new plan, but aware that the weekend can serve as a disruption if I'm not careful. I've come to realize that disruptions to my schedule are a challenge to my recovery. It's important to work on my attitude toward the weekend because it's not really a true disruption since weekends typically happen on a weekly basis! So, I'm going to keep my food journal straight through. I am going to take a one day break from my workout because I believe that's healthy. As for eating, here's how yesterday went:

32 oz. water
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast
12 oz. raw milk

35 small red seedless grapes
64 oz. water

3/4 cup of bbq baked beans
4 oz. peach cider

32 oz. water

chicken fried rice
12 small red seedless grapes
12 oz. raw milk

popcorn (1/4 cup unpopped) with butter and salt
32 oz. water

I should share my awareness that Halloween is fast approaching. That means there will be tons of candy and a potluck luncheon at work. I'm planning ahead so as not to be caught off guard that day.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day Three - The Power of the Pad

It's amazing what a little notepad in my pocket can do. Yesterday I got up, blogged, did my workout and got ready for work. As soon as I walked in the door at work there was a plate of fresh baked cookies someone had brought in for the office. Just a few days ago I would have taken one (more likely two or three) even though it was eight in the morning and I'm determined to stick to a diet. Yesterday I didn't take a cookie. There are also places around the building where people keep little baskets of candy and other food shows up on regular occasions. I confess I've gotten into the habit of grazing during the day when I'm bored at my desk. But for the past two days I haven't done any of that and I chalk it up to the power of the pad in my pocket. Since I've determined to keep a food journal and promised to report it here, I'm forced to think about every single thing I put in my mouth. Just knowing I'll have to pull out the little pad of paper and write "cookie" or "candy bar" has been enough of a deterrent that I've lost any interest in eating those things. I don't know how long this will last, but I'm enjoying the discipline of recording my food. Here's yesterday's list:

32 oz. water
12 oz. raw milk
1 slice buttered whole wheat toast

64 oz. water
29 small red seedless grapes
3 oz. portion of chicken breast

6 oz. can of tuna in water with 1 Tbsp. of Miracle Whip
14 corn tortilla chips with 2 Tbsp. of salsa
4 oz. of peach cider

32 oz. of water

1 cup cooked broccoli
12 oz. raw milk

32 oz. water

I'll be back again tomorrow for the update. Right now it's off to my workout.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day Two

One day at a time is one of the most famous cliches in recovery. And it's a good one. This is day two of my sobriety when it comes to eating and exercise. It's funny how easy it is to say "one day at a time" but how incredibly difficult it is to actually do it. Walking home from my workout yesterday morning my addict wanted to think about how hard it would be to get up tomorrow and how boring this routine will be by next week. My brain starts anticipating the weight loss, setting me up for disappointment if I fall short of the unrealistic goal that starts to get planted in my head by my addictive need for instant gratification. It's remarkable what a struggle it is to simply enjoy the moment. Celebrating the fact that I did workout, I did eat reasonably, I did get up on time again this morning is yet another discipline to work on. One day at a time is a huge key to succeeding at this process of getting a handle on my eating and exercise disciplines.

Here's the report. I've adjusted my workout to get in some weight training and a full 30 minutes of aerobic exercise with my heart rate about 160 for at least 20 minutes of that. As for food, this is what I recorded yesterday:

32 oz. water
2 seedless red grapes
14 oz. raw milk

45 small seedless red grapes
64 oz. water (throughout the course of the morning)

6 oz. chunk light tuna in water with 1 tbsp. Miracle Whip
13 corn tortilla chips with 2 tbsp. salsa
4 oz. peach cider

1 medium granny smith apple
32 oz. water

1 cup bbq baked beans
tuna noodle casserole with peas
12 oz. raw milk

32 oz. water (later in the evening)

Here's to Day Two and the hope that I can enjoy the moment.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Let's try this (Day One)

By far my biggest struggle, in terms of addictive behavior, is my battle with food as a source of comfort, congratulation, consolation and companionship. In 1991 I signed-up for the NutriSystem program. This was back when you visited a center on a weekly basis, got some coaching, went to support groups and ate only their food. I lost 65 pounds from June to October that year. I looked great, felt great and was very happy about my physical appearance. Over the next few years I (you know what's coming) gained it all back plus a little more. Now, fifteen years later, I'm trying to lose 80 pounds but I'm doing it on my own. Not successfully. I'm working to establish a regular workout routine with a goal of getting up early and doing some weight training and aerobics six days a week. Five days one week is the best I've accomplished over the last four weeks. It's like I have this embedded roadblock when it comes to succeeding in this area. Last night I talked about it again in my support group. The men in my group all want me to succeed, but they aren't going to do this for me. After the group I came home and promptly popped a big bowl of popcorn, added lots of butter and salt and ate almost the whole thing. It was 8:30 at night. It's 5:30 in the morning now and I awoke this morning with a plan...another one.

Let's try this. I'm going to post on this blog every day. What I'm going to post is my food journal, a list of every single thing I eat. I'm also going to post an exercise journal. If I don't post one day it means either I didn't eat properly or I didn't get up and workout that day. Sunday is my off day as a weekly break is important to keeping up with this routine. I'm going to post it here to give anyone who reads this a chance to encourage me and hold me accountable. This is one area I've consistently struggled with and that's keeping me from truly recovering life. One reason for this blog is to help me in my recovery. Let's see how it really works as a tool to keep me honest in this, my biggest challenge. If you read this and want to be part of my support team (that just means commenting when you have something to say) I'd appreciate it if you'd post a comment here. Thanks! Here goes day one...

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Theory Tested

Yesterday after church a couple invited my wife and me out to brunch. My wife invited another couple making six of us around the table. The couple my wife invited are working with her to bring a recovery support group to the church. The couple that invited us initially aren't involved in the effort and, as far as I know, don't know anything about it or our involvement in recovery. I've had this theory for a while now that church should be like a recovery group. It should be the place where people can freely share their stuff without fear of judgment. At the same time, having worked in the church for many years, I know the reality is that church isn't a safe place and doesn't operate like a recovery group very often.

During our brunch with a couple we'd really just met my wife started talking about recovery. For all the theory and over two years into my recovery I must admit I suddenly became very uncomfortable. She just casually launched into this conversation about addiction and recovery with relative strangers as if it was common meal conversation. After I got over the shock of it I found that I was angry. I think my anger was over being "outed" in public. She never divulged my particular addiction. But it was clear that I was in a recovery group along with her. The couple she invited joined right in on the conversation with the husband admitting his addiction and recovery. My emotions were flying around inside but on the outside I looked as calm as anything. I worked through my internal dialogue and eventually joined in on the conversation.

The couple we just met seemed genuinely interested in the whole process of recovery. We quickly went to a level of conversation that was much deeper than I expected. At some point the wife of the new couple shared something very personal from her life experience. It was something she said she has avoided sharing in other conversations with people from church because she feared judgment and rejection. By the end of our time together the six of us had actually shared in meaningful human interaction. We had been vulnerable and real with each other in ways that, in theory, I wish would happen more often. My theory was tested and my initial reaction was not good. In the end, though, it became clearer that everyone has stuff in their life. Stuff they need to share for their own health. Stuff that binds us together as human beings who can care for each other if only we'll let others in. My addict still fights letting anyone know the real me. It's a skill honed over a lifetime and one that I need to unlearn if I'm to continue getting healthy.

One final caution. I still believe it's important to use discretion when it comes to sharing my addiction and recovery. I need to discern who can deal with that level of sharing and when it's not safe for me or them to do so. I think my wife errs on the side of being too open too quickly with too many people. Admittedly, I err on the opposite side of the line. Maybe together we can find a healthy balance and engage in deeper, more meaningful relationships with others.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Decided Not To

It's been nearly four months since I last posted a blog! The good news is, it's not because I had a lapse in my recovery. I've been going to meetings and working my program. The summer was hard because of a lot of travel and an erratic schedule. I'm returning to something more "normal" and working on going deeper into my recovery. I may finally have a new sponsor. I'm looking for ways to measure how healthy I am. I think I found one this morning.

There's a men's group that meets at our church every Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. A couple of different guys have asked me to join. One asked because he was at the recruitment table one Sunday morning. He doesn't really know me, he was just doing his job. The other is someone who's becoming a friend and really would like to see me there...I think. I was planning to go this morning but, as I went to bed last night, it occurred to me that I'm really not interested. The only reason I was even considering it was to please other people. That's not a healthy reason to do something. One very important aspect of recovery is learning how to do the next right thing. The next right thing for me was to not join the Thursday morning men's group at church.

Even though it's definitely the right thing to do, I'm sitting here (right at the time the group is starting) feeling a little guilty about not going. That's a sign there's still lots of work to be done. Even now my addict is making up excuses to tell my friend when he says he missed me this morning. But I won't make excuses. I'll tell him the truth. Maybe in a future post I'll let you know if I was successful doing that! For now I'm celebrating that, for what appear to be healthy reasons, I decided not to.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Behave yourself

I went to my first twelve step meeting for the same reason a lot of people go. I had identified a behavior that I wanted to eliminate. In the interest of total honesty, what I really wanted was to control the behavior. This, in my opinion, is the goal of every person when they first attend a meeting. If I could only reign in my addictive behavior everything would get better. Not eliminate the behavior altogether because I couldn't imagine life without the occasional indulgence.

I quickly learned that my behavior wasn't my problem. The addictive behavior had served to keep me from dealing with my problems. In fact, it was relatively easy to sit in a circle of fellow addicts and say my name and what I had done. It was...and still is...much harder to express my true problem. Hi, I'm Tim and I'm terrified of being rejected. I doubt my value as a person and, at age 47, am still trying to recover from the pain inflicted by my parents in childhood. My fear and self doubt has fed addictive behaviors for most of my life that have guaranteed isolation and the lack of any deep meaningful relationships. Ironically, my deep seated fear of being left alone has left me alone!

As children we're told to behave ourselves or apologize to our sisters or sit up straight and act nice. These instructions are well meant. For the addict they are instructive. You don't really need to feel sorry, just say you are. If I behave according to the standards set by those in charge I don't really have to deal with any underlying issues that caused the misbehavior. If I look like I'm doing okay then I must be doing okay. Jesus once said that it isn't what goes into your mouth that reveals who you are but what comes out of your mouth. What comes out of your mouth is a reflection of what's in your heart. A pastor friend of mine (who I suspect was also an addict) once said that people are like toothpaste tubes. You find out what's really inside when squeezed.

Changing my external behavior is not enough for me. I don't want all my meetings, therapy and accountability partners to simply be a hedge around me to keep me from acting out. I want deep, meaningful, genuine healing. I want to better understand and deal with my problems. Change my heart and along the way I'll experience recovering life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I've been thinking

Lately I've been thinking...and that's not necessarily a good thing. One of the things that sets human beings apart from all other creatures is our ability to think about how we think. I may have shared this in an earlier blog. Once I got into recovery I discovered that my thought processes have been corrupted by my addiction. I've always valued my thoughts and opinions more highly than most anyone else's. It's been a real struggle for me to understand and admit just how messed up my thoughts are. One of the most troublesome things is how much of my thought life revolves around me. This is a sure sign of addictive behavior. Addiction, for me, is a manifestation of self-protection. It's a lack of faith or trust in anyone or anything. I hate to admit it, but this includes God. I love God and consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it's very easy to get caught up in thinking about how to take care of and protect myself. This at the exclusion of all others thereby destroying my ability to be in relationships. This further isolates me increasing my felt need for self protection. It's a vicious cycle that will eventually plummet me back into full blown addictive behaviors. This damaged thinking that urges self protection is, in reality, the speediest path to self destruction.

So lately I've been thinking. This morning I realized that more and more of that thinking has been about myself. A very old thought process resurfaced and suddenly I realized just how dangerously close I've come to disaster. My thoughts turned to how much I'm getting paid. It began to unfold in an all too familiar pattern. Am I getting paid enough? Am I doing more work than others who are getting paid more than me? Am I as high up the ladder as I should be? Is there someone above me who is not as gifted as I am? This self destructive thought process has to stop immediately if I'm to keep my sanity and sobriety. It's only one indicator that the addiction is surging. It's important to look for other indicators now that this one has been uncovered. See, if this thought stream is allowed to continue I'll become dissatisfied with the best job I've ever had. Then I'll begin to resent the people I work with. Next, I'll begin to seek the spotlight for myself to gain recognition and reward for how great I am. Then I'll become frustrated because no one could possibly value me at the level I'm truly worth. Eventually I'll alienate good people and avoid any meaningful relationships with them. All the while, as the addiction grows in strength, I'll be blinded to the fact that I've created all these problems in my own head with my rotten thinking.

This is a path I don't ever want to go down again. Addiction is a sneaky, powerful, cunning and deadly force. It truly never rests and is always looking for a break in my resolve. For today it's been caught sneaking in. For today I'll do the next right thing to shut it down. For today I'll continue recovering life.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On the road...really

I'm traveling this week. This blog is coming from a hotel room in Port Jervis, New York. Road trips used to be really dangerous for me. Especially trips like this one where I'm solo. Alone in a strange town a thousand miles away from anyone who knows me, it's the perfect scenario for the addict to rise up and wreak a little havoc. This is when all the work in recovery starts to pay off. The healthy tools I've been developing can be pulled out of the bag and used to pound the addict down. It's sort of like the "Whack-A-Mole" game at Chuck E. Cheese. The addict pops up and I use my recovery tools to smack him back down. But, just like the game, there are lots of other holes he can pop out of so I have to keep on whacking.

This blog is one tool to help me. I brought my Bible and journal so I can keep up with that, too. I have my phone and friends have promised to call. If they don't, I can call them. I have plenty of work to do that's interesting and exciting so that's another tool I'll be using. It would be nice if, someday, I could leave my tools in the bag and the addict never came around again. Based on some of my friends in recovery who've been sober 20+ years and are still going to meetings, I'm guessing I should always keep the tool bag handy. Maybe the biggest tool of all, prayer.

The guys in my 12 step group have promised to pray for me while I'm on the road. That means a lot. That's a tool being used on my behalf. It's also a reminder that no one succeeds in recovery alone. This is a team effort and I love my team. People just like me who've been dragged into the darkness by their obsessions and addictions. People who've found the light of recovery and the genuine support of a fellowship. People who've given everything up to God because we know that, left to our own devices, we'd be lost. We know that because we've been lost. And I, for one, don't ever want to be lost like that again. So, even though I'm on the road, by God's strength I'll also stay on the road...recovering life.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In jail

Last night I was reminded what the earliest days of recovery are like. After the realization of what addiction had done to my life there was the abject fear of losing everything. Life as I knew it needed to change but I had no idea what the changes would look like. Beyond that, the motivation for change seemed connected to a lot of outside influences. I didn't want to lose my marriage. I didn't want to ruin my relationship with my kids. I didn't want to be disgraced publicly by being found to have this awful weakness. Initially, getting into recovery was a way to stop these things from happening. The urge was to solve the immediate problem and stop the immediate pain. There's nothing wrong with that. When an arm gets severed you stop the bleeding first you don't think about what prosthetic you'd like to have fitted on your stump!

This morning I woke up thinking about Glen. Years ago, as a struggling teen, he found himself in jail on Christmas Day. I don't remember the offense, but I do remember my visit with him. He kept asking, "What do I need to do to get out of here?" I kept telling him that was the wrong question, but he just didn't get it. When you're in jail you just want to be out. But, to stay out, you have to understand what got you there in the first place. The question Glen should have been asking was, "What changes have to happen in my life so I never end up here again?"

Once I realized the jail my addiction had put me in my very first reaction was to want out. If that meant attending meetings, so be it. If it meant therapy...okay. If there were books to read, I'd read them. Over time it became clear that just stopping the immediate pain of my situation was insufficient motivation for a lifetime of recovery. Slowly, the realization came that addiction wasn't just about acting out. In fact, that was just the very tip of a very large iceberg. It might sound odd, but I'm thankful for the pain that forced me into recovery. It's not something I'd ever want to repeat, but it was necessary to put me on the right road. But once the intensity of that initial pain subsided the iceberg that needed to be dealt with started to become clear.

Today the struggles are still there. I have much better tools to deal wih the struggles and my motivation is different. I love my wife and children but I'm not doing this for them. I appreciate the respect of the community, but pretending I'm okay when I'm not just to keep it isn't worth it anymore. I'm enjoying a much healthier life from the perspective of someone who has lived a very unhealthy one. I thank God for each new day. I'm learning to ask, "What are the best choices I can make today so that I never end up in jail again?"

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A little appreciation

My recovery is going really well. So I have to be extremely careful. It's times like this, when everything is humming along, I'm going to meetings, my prayer and journaling time is strong, that I'm most at risk. My sponsor once said that while I'm in a meeting my addict is out in the parking lot doing push-ups! That's so true. My addiction has grown up with me. Its roots go deep into my personality and my history. I've been in recovery now for over two years. That means I've been working on living a healthy life for only a small fraction of the time I lived an unhealthy life.

A friend of mine went through a divorce. It was painful and bitter. There were days when, I'm sure, he didn't think he'd survive it. During that time he changed his life. He worked out like a mad man. He ate healthy and dropped an amazing amount of weight. He saw a therapist, sometimes twice a week. He did a lot of really good healthy things. Then he fell in love. Before his new habits could take hold in his life he had remarried and, pretty quickly, fell back into old habits. Long hours at work, eating too much, too often and too fast. Working out fell out of his routine. He's gained back all his weight, plus some. He's working late nights and weekends again. He's still married and I think this one will make it, but his patterns don't bode well for success.

I share this story as a cautionary tale for myself as much as anybody else. I can feel the tug of my old addictive self every once in a while. I catch myself thinking old thoughts and letting my eyes and my mind wander farther than is safe. More than anything I'm finding I allow myself little appreciations. By that I mean, I let myself linger over a look or a thought with a level of appreciation for it that isn't safe or healthy. These little appreciations can quickly turn into really big problems. I need to see them for what they are. My addict wants me to come out and play. Each day I give that up to God and seek his strength. This isn't something I can fight on my own, so I keep going to meetings, keep journaling, keep working the 12 steps and keep writing in this blog. I don't ever want to stop recovering life.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A bag of onions

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times. The onion analogy. People in recovery talk about how it's like peeling an onion. The reason this is said so much is because it's true! When I first went into recovery and attended my first meeting, I thought it was about stopping my one addictive behavior. After all, that's why you go to recovery, right? To stop drinking, drugging, gambling, fantasizing, overeating, etc., etc. That's what I thought. Stop the obviously bad behavior and all will be right with the world.

What I found out, though, is that recovery is much more complex than that. Then I discovered that life is much more complex than I ever imagined. There are layers to everything. As I began to "peel" the layers of my addiction there was a dizzying array of issues, traumas, mistakes and behaviors that were all knotted up in me. The way I'd dealt with these through my life were affected by and affected my addiction. What I've come to realize is that the roots of my addiction have woven themselves very deep into who I am. Finding those roots and pulling them out is a lot like delicate brain surgery. You want to remove all of the tumor, but you don't want to lose any vital functions in the process.

There are things about me that are really worth keeping. As I've traveled the road of recovery there are times I've been afraid that the "me" I've always known will be destroyed in this process. What if my charm or people skills or leadership ability are all just manifestations of my addiction. What if recovery fundamentally changes the person I always thought myself to be? These are not questions to be taken lightly. There are certainly things about me that have turned out to be much more driven by addictive need than anything else. Realizing this has been very hard for me. But, as I keep peeling it becomes more and more apparent that by letting go of those things, even the ones I really liked, I'm making the best choice.

Life seems to be a never ending process of getting to know myself and those around me better and better. There are great surprises and discoveries yet to be made inside and outside of me. When I was fully engaged in my addiction this awareness was dim at best. Addiction sees life as a fixed point on a map. Once I've arrived, I'm there. It's no more complex than that. I'm married, what else is there to do? I'm employed and that's the way it is. Don't dig down too deep or reveal too much of yourself because you'll just get into trouble. That's the protectionist mantra of the addicted mind.

Well life isn't a fixed point on a map. It's a continuous line stretching to infinity. Better yet, it's an onion. A whole bag full of onions. My marriage, my job, my thought life, my friendships, my relationship with God, my relationships with my children are all onions in the bag. Truly understanding that and being willing to dive in and start peeling is all part of recovering life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Squidoo Lens

Squidoo is something relatively new on the internet landscape. It's so new that the bugs are still being worked out a bit. But Squidoo is cool. You build what they call a "lens" because it allows you to share how you see the world on a variety of topics. You can create as many lenses as you want. I haven't said much about this on my blog because I haven't been able to edit my lens since I created it. But yesterday it was up and running. I'm very excited to invite you to go to my Squidoo lens on recovery. It has a lot of links and resources that I hope will be helpfu. While this blog is about my personal experience of recovery, the lens has a broader range of tools for everyone. If you see something you think I should tell others about, let me know and I'll add the information to the lens.

Monday, April 24, 2006


One of the ways my addiction has manifested is in extreme overconfidence. I've probably already written about this, but I'm working through the 12 steps with a men's group and some recent questions from the book brought this up again. I'm still not sure where it started, but I hated to be corrected or told anything. I'm pretty sure it started as a defense mechanism but grew into a complete obsession with presenting myself as knowing everything about everything. Here's a story...

In seventh grade I was on the basketball team. Not that I enjoyed basketball or was any good at it. I think I participated in sports mostly to impress my stepfather who couldn't have cared less anyway. But, I digress. You're not expected to be a pro ballplayer at age 12 and I wasn't anywhere close. I made some sort of mistake in practice one day and Coach Schwanke came over to correct my bad form. Before he could even get anything out of his mouth I said, "I know." To this he replied, "what do you know?" Since I didn't really know anything, I proceeded to make stuff up hoping to sound like I knew and avoid the embarrassment of not knowing everything. The coach called me on it and, to add insult to injury, made me dribble the ball 'round and 'round the court for all the remaining practice time.

It would have been good to pay attention to that lesson. No one knows everything and it's okay to accept the coaching and help of someone who can help me. Had that been learned in seventh grade I might have avoided some of the pain I've experienced in life. There would, of course, have been different pain. It's an unrealistic expectation that life will be pain, mistake and struggle free.

In the movie "Being There", a 1979 tour de force for Peter Sellers, Chance the Gardener is hailed as a genius. People make all sorts of claims about his abilities. At the end of the movie a group of powerful men are planning to make him the next President of the United States. The problem is, Chance is an imbecile who spent his entire life inside a wealthy man's house in Washington, D.C. All he knows is how to manage a garden because that's all he ever did. People see him as an expert on everything when, in reality, he's an expert in just one thing. The charming thing about Chance is that he doesn't buy the hype...he isn't even aware of the hype because he's such a simpleton. The lesson for me is that, people can say whatever they want about me, but it's dangerous when I start to believe the press releases. Worse is when I'm the one publishing the press releases. I'm no expert, I'm just a guy working one day at a time recovering life.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Come to think of it...

It's been a while since I last posted. I've been travelling and that's always dangerous. The travel itself isn't dangerous. I drove nice rental cars and stayed in decent hotels. The hard part about travel is that it breaks up routines. One of the biggest keys to my recovery is being careful not to spend too much time with my biggest Addiction thrives in isolation. When I'm by myself for too long a stretch of time my addiction addled brain starts to play tricks on me. The focus that comes with journaling, prayer and regular meetings is crucial to maintaining health in the most vital arena, my thought life.

Human beings are unique in all of God's creation for a lot of reasons. One is our ability to think about how we think. It's this ability that created an entire profession, psychiatry. Counselors and psychologists are successful only inasmuch as they are able to help us think about how we think. What is it I tell myself when I lose an account at work? I could tell myself that I'm a loser who lacks any real skill. I could tell myself that I don't deserve the job I have and if anyone finds out how imcompetent I am I won't be there for long. From that thought process would grow fear and paranoia about being "found out." On the other hand, I could tell myself that I'm amazing at the job I do and the lost account is just something that happens to someone who brings in as much business as I do. You're bound to lose every now and again. It's just the rhythm of life. Same event, two ways to think about it. My thought life is the key and for too many years I let the addict hold that key in his grubby, selfish little hands.

Addiction is driven, in part, by fear and self-loathing. My thought life was poisoned by a need to be accepted and acceptable. I set standards impossible for any human being to keep then judged myself by those standards. This caused me to hide and erect elaborate false fronts to protect myself from being found out. Behind the facade I was acting out addictively to smother the pain of not being real with people, convinced that the real me would repulse "normal" folks.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery was to sit in a meeting and find out that everyone was just as messed-up as I am. In fact, some even more than me and some less. Bottom line I wasn't going to be ostracized from society for being normal. All these years I'd been suffering from a corrupted thought life. I had adopted an unrealistic view of how I was supposed to behave and didn't allow myself to be human. I rejected my natural emotional range labeling some emotions as unacceptable. Instead of learning how to deal with being human, I immersed myself in addictive behavior that numbed the pain and crippled me.

I'm much healthier now but the damage done by years of polluted thought still makes relying on my own thinking dangerous. I need to be sharing my thoughts on a regular basis with other people. With my counselor, in my 12 step group, with a sponsor and as opportunities present themselves. I used to bristle at the idea of talking to anyone about what I was thinking...good or bad. Another sign of addiction, I've found, is the utter arrogance of thinking that I always know best in every situation. I didn't even realize how bad it was until recently. Through recovery I've become very comfortable with saying, "I don't know." It can be about anything, big or small. A while ago I happened to say that in answer to a question my wife asked. She laughed joyously and thanked me for that simple answer. Apparently, in my active addiction I'd never claimed not to know things. I needed to be the expert on everything and in so doing had become tiresome to my wife and probably a lot of other people, too. I don't want to be tiresome anymore but I'm okay if I am now and then! I want a thought life that is whole and healthy. That means sharing and truly valuing the thoughts of others who are pursuing the recovered life.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Slaying the Enemy

I mentioned in the last post about holding grudges and how the addiction wants me to blame others for the struggles in my life. My therapist told me about an exercise called "Slaying the Enemy" this week. Apparently it involves getting together with a few men and going into a Native American sweat lodge. Once inside you name your enemy. Then each person in turn says something glowing and complimentary about that enemy. You repeat this process several times and, by the time its over, your enemy is slain. How can you hold a grudge against someone when you shift focus from how terrible they are and begin to think about them in a positive light?

I've been thinking about this since our session. It occurs to me that this sort of approach has been advocated by someone else. As a Christian I've wrestled with Jesus' instruction to "love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you." Just like the exercise in the sweat lodge, when I include those who have hurt me in my prayer time something changes in me. And, no, my prayers are not for them to suffer some tragedy or contract some terminal disease. Enlisting God as my personal hammer of justice is a manifestation of addiction not health. I pray good things for them.

Early in my recovery I would share in meetings how angry I was at someone whose actions had really wounded me. I don't remember being fixated on this person, but I certainly gave her a lot of credit for the pain I was suffering. My sponsor at the time gave me a real shock. He said I should pray for her. Wanting to become healthier I told him I could probably do that. He pushed the point. "Pray that she would be blessed and get all the desires of her heart," he told me. I remember being shocked. Why in the world would I go so far as to pray blessings on a person who had made my life so miserable?

Come to find out, that's the point. If my life is miserable I need to deal with what I've done to make it so. As long as I assign responsibility to others for my condition I will never find peace. Pointing fingers and laying blame are not healthy for me. It's okay to recognize the behaviors of other people that have caused me pain, I think. But I need uncover why those actions caused the pain. It's important for me to understand my role in receiving their actions as painful. This is hard work because it requires me to think about how I think about myself, about others and about the world. As I get down to that level it's amazing how deeply my addiction and addictive thought patterns are woven into my brain.

Whether I pray, "slay" or bless those who have hurt me the healing that results is ultimately mine. I must let go of the pain I've held so long if I'm to continue recovering life.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A tricky thing

Addiction is like a ravenous animal. It needs to be fed. When I was a kid we lived on a farm for a stretch of time. One of my jobs was to raise a few pigs. I fed them "pig chow" but I also fed them our "wet" garbage. Things like watermelon rinds and banana peels, etc. They ate everything. Addiction is like that. It's not just the surface behavior (drinking, drugs, sex, eating...) that is addictive. For me, addiction ate compliments, applause and recognition. It fed on self-loathing, fear and anxiety. I've come to believe that one of the major supports propping up addiction is unforgiveness, an inability to forgive myself or others. I raised carrying a grudge to near professional levels. And if I was hard on others, I was twice as hard on myself.

Once, while out on the road, a church sign caught my eye. It had these words, "Forgiveness: Giving up all hope of a better past." I'll never forget it. That simple quote nailed it. My addiction wants me to believe that I can somehow undo the things I've done and that have been done to me. In making me believe this the addiction keeps me focused on the past and filled with grief, remorse, self-pity and self-loathing. Not to mention revenge fantasies, bitterness and anger. Always looking back makes looking ahead impossible. Always trying to excuse, explain or cover-up my past makes it almost certain that I won't engage with people in the present. Becoming preoccupied with some real or imagined hurt has me always looking for compensation, even from those who had nothing to do with the original offense. A famous cliche for those in recovery is "One day at a time." It means that, for true health, today is all I can deal with. As soon as I become preoccupied with what happened yesterday or last week or twenty years ago the addiction has an open door to resume control of my life.

Giving up all hope of a better past is vital to my success. I must deal with my past realistically. I can't candy coat the life I've lived. Stuff happens, and it happens to everybody. Pretending like it doesn't is not only unhealthy, it's dangerous. Being honest with myself first, then with others, about who I really am is scary. It's also necessary if I truly want to live the recovered life.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Going AND doing

There's an old saying among church people, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car." I would like to offer a modification of that. "Going to meetings doesn't mean you're in recovery any more than going to a bar means your an alcoholic."

To say it more clearly, going to a bar doesn't mean you're an alcoholic and going to 12 step meetings doesn't mean you're in recovery. Addiction is a disease that resides in me regardless of where I go with it. I've been to 12 step meetings and met people who thought being there was enough. They didn't want to share or, if they did, it was all theory, esoteric bull**** or a diatribe against all those people who made their life miserable. In order for me to recover I have to be dead honest about my addiction. It is crucial to my sobriety that I confront my behavior and the consequences of it from the position that I am solely responsible for the place I'm in. I'm sad for people who come to meetings and spend their valuable time pointing fingers at other people or hiding behind theories. Recovery is about looking at yourself and no one else. For me it's about identifying all the ways my disease has messed up my life and then dealing, in a healthy way, with how my disease caused pain in other people's lives.

Recovery and therapy are similar in this regard. I have to be ready to be stripped bare in the process. I go willing to expose all my hurts, habits and hang-ups that make a healthy life impossible. I drag all the stuff my addict hid in the dark out into the harsh light of meetings and therapy sessions. This diffuses the power of it all and gives me a fighting chance at living a recovered life. But, like I said, I'm sad for those who think going to meetings is enough without doing any of the hard work at the meeting that will actually help. Truth is, you may be able to make an addict go to meetings but no one can make another person healthy.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Close cousins

I'm overweight by about seventy pounds. This might lead you to guess that one of the ways my addictive behaviors play out is compulsive overeating. And you would be right. But, as you might be learning, I have to dig under the obvious behavior to ask myself what the addict has nurtured in order to allow the behavior to flourish. In the process of recovering life I've discovered a close cousin to accountability is equally weak when addiction is in full bloom. Discipline.

Most genuine experts in the weight loss world will tell you there is a very simple formula for losing weight. It goes something like this: Diet + Exercise = Weight Loss. When you dig a little deeper what they say is that diet doesn't mean a harsh denial of food, that's not healthy, or intense hours in the gym. With diet it means counting calories and actually knowing what you're putting in your body. With exercise it could mean adding as little as a thirty minute walk to your daily routine (ah, there's a word the addict hates). There are ways to do this that include keeping a food journal and keeping an exercise journal. As you may have guessed, keeping a journal is a form of accounting and you can check out my previous post on that.

One of the most helpful tools in my recovery has been establishing some routines and sticking to them with disciplined consistency. Discipline is hard for most people and especially hard for addicts. We love the commercials touting a pill that will "melt away the fat" or a diet that allows you to eat whatever you want. It's the siren song telling us that we don't really have to change our undisciplined behavior and we can still avoid the consequences of our recklessness. We don't even have to buy any of those products. Just knowing there is a quick fix (which doesn't really exist) is enough to keep the addict happy. Addicts like quick fixes, in part because they don't require discipline. I'll do a full post on my discoveries about immediate gratification and the addictive lifestyle sometime soon.

This blog is part of the discipline of my recovery. It's another discipline I've added to my routine. Here are some of the ways I'm addressing the lack of discipline piece of my recovery. I rise at 5 a.m. and spend an hour posting to my two blogs. Then it's time to stretch and go for a half-hour run/walk followed by some more stretching. After a shower I make my bed, fix a simple breakfast, spend some time reading the Bible and writing in my prayer journal and then I head to work. Another important piece of the puzzle is meetings. I attend meetings related to my addictive struggles at least three times a week. This is a combination of discipline and accountability.

Accountability is engaging other people in my recovery. Discipline is engaging myself in my recovery. These two pieces independently have some great benefit but together they are life-changing. Discipline is being true to my real self and accountability is being true to others. This all leads to recovering life.

If one of your issues is compulsive eating leading to weight problems I highly recommend the work of Tom Venuto. He's honest and won't sell you any quick fixes or shortcuts. You might also look for a local Overeaters Anonymous meeting. In the end, these are just tools for you to use as you pursue your own disciplines.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No account

One of the biggest enemies of addiction, I've found, is accountability. When I was deep in my addiction I hated to account for anything. Interestingly, this didn't seem to affect my job. It seems my chosen profession was a magnet for addicts and addictive personalities. You might think I worked in the entertainment industry there were so many unhealthy people. But I actually spent most of my adult life in the Christian church. There are so many addicts in the church. It's really the perfect incubator for addiction. In my experience there is very little real accountability. There is a veneer of accountability, but those who hold you accountable are volunteers and they aren't around on a daily basis. That means you get to make your own schedule, determine your own priorities and do your own thing. If you're talented at getting a lot done in a little time, like I was, it can appear like you're doing an excellent job (an maybe you are), but you're doing it on your own terms. Those few times when someone with authority over me asked for greater accountability I became indignant. I claimed they didn't understand the intricacies of the job. There was no way to truly account for all the things I was doing.

Now, in my case, part of my addictive need was to please and impress people so I could feel good about myself. This lack of accountability allowed me to get involved in many projects not related to my work. I joined task forces, committees, teams and anything I could to demonstrate how talented and capable I was. In my profession I was highly respected and often people commented about how many things I could do so well. This fed my addict and kept me from realizing how sick I really was. It also nearly destroyed my marriage.

At home my lack of accountability didn't promote successful relationships. It hurts to remember how many times I bristled, and even lashed out, when my wife would ask a simple question like "when will you be home?" Internally my addict would sense this was a request to be accountable and would fight that. Not wanting to be accountable went so deep. I destroyed our family's financial stability convincing myself that I needed more than I could afford and using credit to get there. I could run numbers in my head well enough, or so my addiction adled brain thought, that there was no need to keep anything on paper. I would get credit cards and remortgage the house and play the "rob Peter to pay Paul" games it took to keep up appearances. My wife, on the other hand, thrives on accountability and order. She's not an addict. Confronted with my strong-willed confidence, seeming success in the outside world and lacking the ability to outlast me in debates she suffered incredibly in the wake of my addictive behavior. Part of my recovery process is beginning to realize just how deeply I've hurt the ones I love. All these years I thought we struggled over finances, but now I'm coming to realize that my addiction was destroying me and any chance for relational happiness.

I wonder if many of the marriages out there that are collapsing because of financial pressure aren't really succumbing to an addicts inability to be accountable. If an addict never has to tell you where they've been, what they're doing or how they're spending money the addiction has a wide open playground. My recovery has included getting a job where there are weekly, quarterly and annual goals that are reviewed every week with my supervisor. We now have a strict budget that, although I push against it sometimes, is incredibly freeing (who knew). Every day I have disciplines and routines. All of this creates a hostile environment for addiction. For those who really want to recover, I recommend you aggressively seek accountability in every area of your life.

Monday, March 27, 2006

In control

Step one in any recovery program is to "admit that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life has become unmanageable." Seems simple enough. I've hit bottom and am obviously out of control. Anyone can see I lack the power to manage my own life. Simple enough...if you're not addicted! But addicts don't see clearly. A friend once told me that the problem with addicts is that we think we know how to think! I'm finding that a huge part of addiction is the aching need to be in control. My need to control every situation was maddening. To me and, I would imagine, to everyone around me. I say "imagine" because an addict is never truly aware of how others perceive them. I was aware of how I percieved others perception of me. That was enough because I could then proceed to behave according to my perception of their perception of me which created the illusion of being in control. Addiction is like David Copperfield, fabulous at creating illusion. The greatest illusion addiction created for me was that of being in control.

In the best ways it made me a "take charge" kind of guy. In business "take charge" people are often seen as the ones who get things done. They can cut through the clutter, put a project on track or launch a whole new venture. But, in my case, my need to take charge of every situation (and I do mean every one) came out of my crippling insecurities. The funny thing is, I really thought I was taking charge for the good of everyone else. Hence, the illusion. It was only when I entered recovery that my true needs and intentions began to be revealed. Not that people didn't appreciate me taking charge. Some did and there were some great projects that got launched along the way and some great things got done. What I'm finding out as I recover my life is that it's not always about results, it's about motivation. Good results driven by fear, insecurity, doubt and addiction might help others but it would eventually destroy me.

In the worst of ways my need to control made me angry, judgmental and bitter. I spent years disappointed in my income level. I always felt I deserved more than I was getting and complained that I wasn't really in control of my salary. On the road I was your classic road rage driver. I would cut people off and slow down if I thought they were going too fast because, you see, I was in control of the road! I treated others with disregard because my approach was always the best and what I wanted was always the right thing.

One of the painful parts of recovering life is having your eyes opened to how you've really been for so long. I'm starting to see through different eyes and I don't like what I'm seeing. There are peoople I've hurt along the way and the deeper into recovery I get the more I realize the extent of the pain I've caused. That's no easy thing to deal with. But if I want to live a recovered life, I'll have to deal with it. The addict (yes, get used to me talking about my addiction as a whole separate person) wants to retreat from this. The addict fed off the need to control and by facing the reality that I'm really not in control I'm starving the addict.

There is one area where I truly do have control. It is completely my choice how to react to what life throws at me. I can attend recovery meetings or not. I can get angry at the guy who just sped past me or not. I can choose to accept that someone else is in control or not. There are healthy choices and there are unhealthy ones and both types are mine to make. My life quickly becomes unmanageable when I start trying to control anything more than that.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I know what you're thinking

Okay, upon re-reading my last post I realize that some may think I'm just one more whining baby who can't take responsibility for his own failures so I blame society. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't blame society for my problems. And neither should you! I'm the only one who can confront my addictions and reach out for whatever help there is out there. I just wanted to make it clear the battlefield upon which this war is being fought and encourage you to fight the good fight. No one will make it easy for you and you should expect that, plan for it, if you want to claim a recovered life.

Throw me a brick!

Melanie has a lens that claims Alcoholics Anonymous has only a 5% retention rate. I don't doubt her research and she's offering an alternative to the traditional A.A. style 12 step recovery. But the five percent rate doesn't surprise me. I was pretty active in network marketing for a couple of years and quite successful by MLM standards (I know it seems like I just changed gears here, but stick with me). In that industry there's about a 5% retention rate and among the few who do hang in there are some who are fabulously wealthy. I once held one such successful person's bonus check for one month and stared at an amount in excess of $103,000. What does this have to do with addiction and recovery? It illustrates that succeeding at anything that requires really hard work, discipline, tenacity and patience is beyond the reach of many people in western culture. We've grown out of hearty pioneer, trailblazing stock into a nation of whining, litigious, self-serving babies who care first and foremost for self and consider others only if it suits us. That's a harsh assessment and I'm sure plenty of you will argue that we're a charitable, kind, industrious folk that lead the world in all the really important categories. That's a nice sentiment, but I fear we are watching that society fade into the sunset. Have you ever wondered what might happen to our charitable spirit if tomorrow all tax deductions were eliminated? How many hospitals would get built if no one could have their name (or that of their sainted wife, husband, mother, etc.) emblazoned across it?

Why do only 5% of addicts successfully navigate sobriety? Maybe it's because there are a whole lot of people standing on the ship of our culture chucking bricks at those of us who are drowning in the sea of self-doubt, fear, and addiction. Mary Pipher's amazing book, Reviving Ophelia uncovers the impact of our culture just on adolescent girls. Multiply that by nearly every people group and I'm amazed that even five percent find recovery. Alcohol, sex, drugs, litigation and personal irresponsibility are relentlessly sold to us. Our addictive natures absorb all this and give us permission to stay locked in the prison created to protect us from real life. At the same time, real life is what we are dying to experience.

I thank God for recovery and the strength to stay in it. I give him all the credit because, as the first step tells me, I am powerless over my addictions and my life had become unmanageable when I was the one in charge.

Here We Go

So, here's the story. I've had a fabulously successful career in my chosen field. I've been driven and resourceful. I'm well respected and trusted by many people. At the same time I've lived a secret life of fear and separation. Fear that the real me might some day be "found out" and everyone would shun me. I have this image of being left alone on an island if ever people really knew who I was on the inside. Fear and the trauma of childhood can play ridiculous tricks and completely screw up your adult life. Consequently, I've built incredible self-protection mechanisms that have made it almost impossible for me to genuinely care about anyone or anything. My skill at looking like I care is practically unmatched. To fill the void between the life everyone thought I was living and the life that was trapped inside my wounded heart some very powerful addictions grew. These addictions were probably useful at some point. They kept me safe by making everything about me. In ancient times addiction was called sin. We're too sophisticated nowadays to use such an archaic term as that. The truth is, one definition of sin comes from the Latin incurvatus in se, or turned in on self. Addiction is a turning in on self. It started out as the guard at the gate of my heart that became the monster that nearly consumed and destroyed my life.

Two years ago I began the journey of recovery. Along the way I've discovered so many things about myself and about the insidious nature of addiction. One thing I've learned is that addiction thrives in the dark. Kept secret it will grow like a malignant tumor until it has consumed all the healthy flesh of your life and leaves you a broken, empty shell, lost and alone. It's not a pretty picture, but anyone who's struggled with addiction knows what I'm talking about. By the way, I'm pretty sure that everyone has some form of addiction they fight (remember that archaic word for addiction). So, where can one go to shed the most light on addiction so that it screams, shrivels, fades and dies? Meetings are great. They gave me the courage to say out loud the things I thought would get me banished to that island I mentioned earlier. But, once I'd said those things in front of a few people and they didn't run screaming from the building something dawned on me. Everyone has something...or lots of things...that they keep in the dark with that same conviction I had. Namely, if anyone finds this out, I will be shunned. Well, I figured, if sharing the truth about me in a small room with a few people with similar experiences has brought as much healing as it has, what might happen if I share my story with several billion? I could write a book, but that wouldn't reach as big an audience as something like, say, the internet might reach. I've also created a lens on Squidoo that has more help.

Before you freak out, let me make a promise about this blog. This is not going to be some graphic public confessional. That's not a healthy way to go about recovery and it's not helpful for me or anyone who might read it. It is my deepest desire to be helpful because I'm convinced there are millions of people out there suffering with a monster keeping the real them locked up tighter than a suspected terrorist in Gitmo. I'm hoping that, as I pursue my own recovery and discovery I can share insights here as an encouragement to others. I won't be sharing how my addiction manifested itself. If I did it would give people an excuse not to apply the insights I share to their own struggle. You see, addiction is very adept at finding ways to convince you it doesn't live in you all the while running and ruining more of your life than you can imagine.

That's it, for now. Stay with me as I work on recovering life and, when you're ready, join me. Here we go!