Spiritual death that accompanies a return to active addiction

Okay, this week has been so busy that it seems there is  no time to post. But I’ll take a whack at it.  It’s been a busy and emotional week.  So this week I will share my most favorite Narcotics Anonymous Just for Today mediation, and why it is so important to me.

March 3 Relapse

“There will be times, however, when we really feel like using. We want
to run, and we feel lousy We need to be reminded of where we came from
and that it will be worse this time. This is when we need the program
the most”

Basic Text, p. 78

If we’re contemplating a relapse, we should think our using through to
the bitter ends. For many of us, those ends would include severe
medical problems, imprisonment, or even death. How many of us have known
people who relapsed after many years clean, only to die from their disease?

But there is a death that accompanies a return to active addiction that
may be worse than physical death. That is the spiritual death we
experience when we are separated from our Higher Power. If we use, the
spiritual relationship we have nurtured over the years will weaken and
perhaps disappear. We will feel truly alone.

There is no doubt that we have periods of darkness in our recovery.
There is only one way we can make it through those troubling times: with
faith. If we believe that our Higher Power is with us, then we know that
all will be well.

No matter how badly we may feel in our recovery, a relapse is never the
answer. Together, we find recovery. If we stay clean, the darkness will
lift and we will find a deeper connection to our Higher Power.

Just for today: I thank my Higher Power for the gift of NA. I know that
relapse is not the way out. Whatever challenges I face, I will face
them with the God of my understanding.

pg. 64

… And that spiritual death is why I quit using. I couldn’t have the relationship with the God I’d grown to know and love – and use drugs.  I was so very angry at God about my son’s death -but still, I knew I couldn’t live without God. And I was also angry at God because I’d tried to get right with Him – and it was as if he wasn’t listening.   Now I think I just wasn’t ready to do whatever it takes, and as soon as I was ready, God was there.

When God told me to stop, I said, but what about the headaches? the pain? What about when I’m too depressed to not use? And he told me, Let me worry about that. That’s not your problem.  You quit before when you weren’t even sure you believed in me, this time I am with you. And He was.  I was so happy to have that relationship back – but I also hurt so much. Eventually we worked it through.

And over time I finally learned that instead of being angry at God and blocking Him out, I should treat Him like a trusted friend – the kind that when something goes wrong, you talk it through.

By the way, if you liked the JFT mediation, subscribe by going to this URL: http://www.jftna.org/jft-subscription.htm . Of course, the quote is property of Narcotics Anonymous World services.

As always, stay clean – and think it through before you relapse!  Or – if you’re not clean – it’s totally worth it to get clean! Go for it!

Who are you following? What is your focus?

So many of us have this idea that we are independent, free… and that pursuing freedom is doing whatever we want, whenever we want, with whoever we want (remember people, places and things?), but all it got us was chaos.

You see, each and every one of us was made to follow something, to have our gaze fixed on something. Somehow, that gaze fixing leads us around. The gaze fixing can be drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, and any of a number of other things- there seems to be no limit on what we can get our gazed fixed on.

And then the thing we fix our gaze on- the thing we loved- started to become a bad lover, an enemy- and took on a life of its own.  And perhaps we realized we were addicted, or perhaps we blamed the struggles on other things. Things grew hellish, because we didn’t realize that the thing that we thought was our friend was slowly poisoning us.  We felt sick all the time, so we took more drugs to make us feel better – without realizing the drugs were making us sick to begin with.  We took drugs to help us relax – not realizing that God could teach us to be more relaxed without the drugs, and even happy.

Slowly it dawned on us that the problem might be the drugs. Or perhaps the courts forced it on us. Either way, quickly or slowly, we stopped. Perhaps it came to us in a flash of insight, as it did for me, when God told me himself because I wouldn’t listen to anyone else- or maybe it was a gradual process. Either way, we quit the drugs.

But it seemed as if the drugs still led us around, since we thought about drugs so much.  And slowly, we learned to turn our focus to God.  Perhaps we started to pray and meditate, even though we weren’t sure there was anything up there.  We realized that our life really was unmanageable, and that we had to rely on God. We really had no choice.  Slowly, we started to realize that God really had been caring and protecting us, and we began to give ourselves over to a loving God.  The gazing fixing began to move from drugs to God. And something incredible happened. We began to have some clean time, to collect chips and medallions, even  though we didn’t quite understand how it happened. And, quickly or slowly, we realized that we were happier than we’d ever known we could be (for some of us that took some time).

And even if sometimes it felt as if the rebel had become part of the establishment, life was something new altogether. We began to wish we had gotten clean or sober sooner, even if occasionally we missed the taste of drugs or alcohol.  We learned to enjoy the little things – the beach, the sound of the waves, birds tweeting – and realized how thankful we were that God even gave us so much to enjoy.  Suddenly we realized that even though getting clean and sober had changed everything, we loved it.

Advantages of being a clean addict

To continue on yesterday’s topic, I want to talk about the advantages of being a clean addict. No, I don’t mean, the “I’m not living on the street anymore” kind of advantages.  I mean, knowing that staying clean is so hard, that once you’ve done that, everything else is easy in comparison.

I’ve always been very spiritual, and even though the word “religious” has almost made me almost want to gag, many people have considered me that. Instead of “religious”, I’d say having a relationship with Jesus has always been very important to me. But somehow I couldn’t quite trust God with… you know, all that pain in my life, my finances, and so much more.  When I was close to Jesus, I was usually happy, no matter what was going on. But I couldn’t seem to stay close to Jesus. Now I have to stay there. Being an addict forces me to become what I’ve always wanted to be. I have to do what it takes to be to be close to Jesus, or I know I’ll go back into active addiction. And even if I didn’t go into active addiction, life would be sorta boring… humdrum… and I’d fall back into self hate.  Much as I don’t like most church hymnbooks, that old song, trust and obey, got it right…

And that means I’ve had to develop the discipline to do the spiritual practices that have usually made me happy and made me like myself. I’ve hated that word discipline, too. But, I’ve learned that hating something like discipline has often kept me from being the person I like and want to be. So a big advantage, for me, of being a clean addict is that I like myself and I am the person I want to be.

I’ve also discovered a number of new talents, like a love for art.  My art teacher says my art is all emotion, and boy is she right!  I don’t know how I lived without playing with color and seeing my moods in color.  My world was a whole lot more drab.

Finally, I know that with God’s help, I can do darn near anything, but only if it is what God wants me to do. I know it is the same for you as well.

Clean addicts have great lives!

Hello. Just came back from a meeting that was, you know, on the wrong side of the tracks.  I came a half an hour later to a 90 minute meeting I don’t usually go to. Then, I got invited to cross the parking lot and go to graduation! It was a bunch of addicts celebrating 4 people getting their associates degrees! I saw the glint in their eyes as they talked about could do something that didn’t think they could do and succeeding – college. And now they are on to four year schools.

And I realized just how important the otherwise neglected building that I’d seen before but never been in was – a center with clean parties every Saturday night. A recovery house. And that the building was far from neglected – it was immaculate on the inside, even though it fit in with the neighborhood on the outside. I’m going to donate my electric organ that I don’t really have space for to the center.

And I saw again the hope and the promise of freedom from active addiction.

In my other life, I’m a professor. And I remember, a semester ago, failing an addict who had more clean time that I did. I wanted to yell at her – HOW can you be clean so long and FAIL my class? Passing my class is teeny compared to getting clean! But she didn’t complete very many of the assignments at all. I couldn’t understand it. I think I believed in her more than she believed in herself.  And I believe in you too. Go for it.

I thank God for the miracle of recovery…

Hello everyone! It’s another good clean day here!  God truly is good! Sometimes, however,  we have to choose to believe that God is good.  Sometimes it seems that we get stuck in a rut. We are still clean (hopefully!), but nothing seems to be moving in the right direction. Or maybe everything is going in the right direction, but we just can’t see it.

You can see on my blog that I’ve had some of those days lately, days where I spent way too much emotional energy on the things that don’t matter that much (like my job), worried about my husband, who had an emergency medical procedure, and the work I had done on my house.

So on those days I re-orient myself to who I am, to the God who loves me, who has brought me through ever so much, and who has kept me from the things that would really hurt me.  I remind myself that I’m still in the palm of His hand, and that that’s not gonna change, no matter how I feel. And sometimes I got to an anniversary, or give out chips, or something, just because it feels so good.  And I realize that it all passes, and that if I was using drugs, things would be worse. I thank God for all the good things He has given me, and for the miracle of recovery.  And I love on my kids, or paint… I smile because it all passes.  I’m clean,  and I have a house, a family, and a husband, or I wouldn’t be having trouble with them.

Challenges: God does have you in the palm of his hand

Okay, we talked about in the last post how sometimes it is hard to stay clean. Life happens and you get too busy. Or the calendar reminds you of the anniversary of something you want to forget. Or maybe you are one of those people who wants to use anytime their anniversary comes up. Or any of a number of other things.

Somehow you get through the challenge. And with each challenge you grow stronger. You trust God just a little bit more.  You realize, you might be stronger, but you wouldn’t have made it without God. And friends. And the tools you’ve learned at AA or NA.  Or any of a number of other places and people you’ve learned from since getting clean and sober.  And you realize God really does have you in the palm of his hand.

Maybe you’ve used your personal creativity to get through the challenge, as I do. Maybe someday I’ll post some of my early painting that really helped me at the beginning. It wasn’t always pretty, but even when it’s ugly, or even slightly disturbing, somehow it helps. My mind would be slightly clearer, at least for a few moments, and on I would go.  And perhaps you find, like me, that what you thought was disturbing other people actually like. And sometimes the painting helped with the migraines that I used to experience.  It’s really cool when something like painting helps with physical pain.

I try not to quote from the Bible on this site, because religion gives so many people bad “vibes”. But this quote fits so well: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  (II Corinthians 12: 9).  I am weak, but God is strong.  He’s the one who keeps me clean.

Top 10 reasons I like being clean and sober!

Hello. Do you ever have that I can’t be here – I can’t do what I’m doing now – I’m gonna go crazy – feeling in your head? Is it something you have to escape from, maybe by using?  I know it used to be for me. The funny thing is, now that I’m not using, I don’t feel that way very often! It’s great! At first, that coulda bowled me over – I couldn’t believe what I thought was the solution was actually, well, the problem.

Well, I guess it’s not so great when I feel that way – like now – but I can usually figure out why I feel this way and move on. Like, today, I feel this way because I’m tired of grading papers. But I really need to get them done. Usually it’s when I feel stressed about finishing something, so when I plan ahead, I feel this way less often, and I know how to deal with it.

Here’s my top ten list of things I don’t have to worry about now that I’m clean:

1.) I JUST LIKE MYSELF BETTER! (this is the top one!)

2.) I don’t have debilitating, awful headaches anymore and  my back doesn’t go out as often.

3.) I just feel healthier… even though I work at my job about twice as much as I did when I was using.

4.) I don’t get terribly confused and anxious inside, and when I do, I can usually talk myself out of it.

5.) I’m not terribly afraid of people all the time. Mostly now, I know that it’ll be okay.

6.) Sometimes I have fun at work. It’s alot easier to grade papers and do research when you are sober. Actually it’s kind of fun.

7.) I talk with God alot more. And He listens. I LOVE THIS ONE!!!

8.) I get along better with my FAMILY.

9.) I got the PTSD treated. That means I don’t have those awful flashbacks anymore.

10.) I enjoy the outdoors, nature, painting, playing my music alot more… I’ll have to admit I’m still working on this… I’m too much of a type A person…

Getting clean was good, wasn’t it? Even though it took awhile to feel that way.

Being clean & art: for me its the motion of the planets

My life used to be chaotic. Well, sometimes it still is, but at least it isn’t the “what’s the name of that man I slept with last night?” or “why did I drink so much last night” or “why in the world would that man want to see me again, I only slept with him to get even…”

And for the longest time I thought I thrived on the chaos. I thought that I couldn’t be an artist without that chaos, that I couldn’t be like the great writers without the alcohol or drugs, that somehow I would miss something. And so after I got clean the first time, I didn’t do art. I wrote, but not that much. And I got so busy that I forgot my music.

And not being an artist was like losing my sense of self. I lost part of me. Fortunately, when I got clean this time, I had good people around me to encourage me to do art, to dance, even if I wasn’t very good, to paint, and to play my instruments.

And playing music and art, for me, was like feeling the motion of the planets, the sweet whisper of the wind, the feel of the beach upon my feet. It helped me find myself and to connect with others. It made me smile, and encouraged me to love others, to get out and do things with my family, and to feel happy.

Your new life story- what changes?

Okay, so the party days are over. You’ve come in from the cold (at least that’s how it felt for me), you’ve been clean and sober for awhile, but something is still missing. For some of us, it is feeling a part of humanity. For some it’s a need to be creative, to reach out  and make some more friends, any of a number of things.

Getting clean is a huge accomplishment. You can do anything, and become the person you want to be.

Okay, so who are you? What do you value?  These might be some of the things that are important to you:

Character:  love, joy peace, friendship, creativity, spirituality

The zone: getting into “the zone” where everything just flows. For me that comes from painting, and to a lesser degree, from writing. Always nice when you can get in “the zone” with your job.

Relaxation: arts and crafts, music, photography, exercise (I like to put my young daughter on the back of my bike and take off!), sports, yoga…

Education: going back to school

Other: Religion, improving public speaking (I love Toastmaster’s),

What are YOU going to do this week to become the person you want to be?

Why are you clean?

I have heard far too many people tell newcomers who are stressed or complain, “Oh, it sounds like you need to go out and drink/use some more”. Am I the only one who thinks that is negative and pessimistic?

I’d rather think in terms of knowing why you are clean. If you know why you are clean, when the going gets rough, you can tell
yourself why you are clean and keep going. It’s a way of encouraging yourself.

I am clean because I love Jesus and I can’t live without Him anymore.

Your reason doesn’t have to have anything to do with God, but it does have to do with whatever is important to you, and it does need to be short and easy for you to remember, and it has to be important to you.

It could be because you don’t feel healthy when you use, or because you can’t paint or do your artwork as well, or whatever matters to you.

How about leaving me a comment with your reason?