A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Take What You Need & Leave The Rest

The title of this blog is an important 12 Step saying.  It’s a philosophy in itself and one that I try to live by.  That’s not always easy for me.  Sometimes I want to absorb everything and just accept it, but I never can do it.  There is no holy book for me and no holy person and no holy philosophy that I follow without question.  In every situation or book or with every person, there is always something that I disagree with or view differently.  This is a good thing; it means I’m trying to think for myself and not just mimic someone else.  As far as I can see, this is what we all need to do - decide for ourselves what rings true and what rings false using both our intelligence and our intuition.

I have found for now that I have a need to write these blog entries.  It’s my way of working through my ideas and feelings, following the process of my day to day life.  I know that I come on strong, but my heartfelt intention is to challenge whomever reads my writing to think in a new way by challenging some culturally held assumptions about how to see the world around us and ourselves and most especially about how to behave in society.  I’m not trying to convince you to believe what I believe, I’m trying to help you to think and feel more deeply about some serious topics that affect many of us on this planet.

We are all continuously in the flow of our lives, continually going through the process from one experience to the next.  We are works in progress until we die and after that, who knows?  As you work to heighten your awareness about yourself, you will begin to see what heals you and what hurts you.  Trust yourself during those times.  Listen and learn.  Don’t conform blindly.  Question others, question yourself.  You will learn what you need to learn if you are open to it when the time is right. Work with what you are ready to work with and let go of all that is not necessary to the work at hand. Keep it simple.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Love Is Work

M. Scott Peck’s definition of love in his book The Road Less Travelled is:  “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing  one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  The will to extend one’s self is the will to go beyond what is comfortable and safe; it is the will to stretch one’s boundaries, to reach out.  Doing it with the intention of causing no harm and of being loving kind transforms the intention into a spiritual practice.  On discovering this through trial and error one sees that love is all about spiritual growth.  Our spiritual self is a loving self and it is a self that wants to share this liberating discovery with others.  When we work with this basis of love, we know we want to continue to learn and grow and we want those we respond to to do the same.

To extend one’s self beyond the comfortable, the known, is to work.  It is also the willingness to take emotional risks that could result in pain.  But if the aim is spiritual growth through the practice of genuine loving kindness, personal sacrifice is acceptable, even desirable, when the result is the deepening of patience, tolerance and compassion.  Love is all about generosity of spirit.  And as we practice love we experience the reality that to give is to receive.  Love is about generating good karma. Send it out and it will sooner or later come back to you.

Fortunately and unfortunately for us we are very clever animals.  If we can devise and invent ways of either reducing work or getting out of it entirely, many of us will choose that.  We have developed over the years a way to cater to our laziness.  That way is the way of instant gratification, which is just another way of saying addiction.  Advertising is all about selling instant gratification, instant “fixes”. If we get some kind of temporary reward for buying into the hype, we continue to buy the product. When we feel pain, we turn to the fix, until we feel pain again, which leads right back to the fix.  We put off indefinitely dealing with the root causes of our pain.  We push the work of loving ourselves further and further away.  And as long as we push that away, we have no understanding of how to actually love another human being.  Love is no longer the point.  The point is to feed the addiction.

Relationships that are about addiction are fraught with problems.  More about trying to lie and manipulate one’s way out of the pain of facing the problems, than about extending one’s self “for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  We run at top speed away from the intimacy of being nurturing and in doing that we can’t even conceive of what the nature of spiritual growth even is.  Truly, I’m not sure we even care at that point.  We blind ourselves daily with our denial of the truth.  We allow ourselves to get sucked deeper into the vicious cycle of addiction.

Awareness and self honesty are the means to break through the massive denial inside oneself. Awareness and self honesty are the key ingredients for returning to a sense of intimacy with yourself.
The question remains, when you are so blinded by your addiction, how exactly can you become aware? And when you surround yourself with other using addicts, how can you find someone who can reflect the truth back to you?  If you are lucky, lousy circumstances or traumatic events can temporarily make you wake up to the fact that you are actually insane.  And once you really and truly realize this, you know you need to find some kind of bridge back to sanity.  For many, many people that bridge is found in fostering a belief in some greater, loving, spiritual power that can give you insight into your condition and how to heal it.

And so we come full circle back to the necessity of work.  Back to where the problem first emerged -- trying to avoid the spiritual work of learning to love yourself and then extending that understanding of love out to others.  Really, either way you are working, working to incessantly feed the addiction or working to love and to heal through the process of loving.  Love is work, but it is so worth it. Addiction is a waste of time, but more than that it is soul murder.  A young friend of mine who has the courage to admit to her addiction and the courage to be in recovery once said, “I either pray or I die.” When it comes to addiction, that’s the bottom line.  Live or die.  The choice should be obvious, but it’s not when you are sealed inside insanity and living in an insane world.

Sexuality: Denying The Truth

We all know and accept that our sexuality is the instinctual way we continue our species.  Sex is for making babies.  But most of us also know that it can be much more than that.  If we are very fortunate our sexual expression can be a direct and intense way to love ourselves and another person.  If we are not fortunate, often due to having been abused sexually when young, our sexuality can quickly change into an addiction.  I truly believe that sex addicts begin by believing that they are expressing love for another person when they have sex with them.  This hooks in with romance and relationship addiction. Our culture continually reinforces the idea that sex and romance and relationships are all about love. We read about it in books, watch it in films and listen to it in popular music.  The great irony is that those who become addicted are not trying to develop intimacy, they are trying to escape intimacy with themselves and others.

Despite the fact that our culture is sex/romance/relationship obsessed, despite that we sell it over and over again in this capitalistic country, open discussions about the nature of sexuality are taboo.  The first myth that we promote is that children are not sexual beings until they reach puberty.  It is taboo to acknowledge that we are born into this world with not only sensual feelings and responses, but sexual ones, too.  That is just the nature of being animals.  Children are taught very young to deny this necessary part of their spirit.  The way they are taught is through the practice of shaming.  Shaming is a pernicious, common practice.  Shame instructs that not only what the child may be doing is “wrong”, but that something is essentially wrong with the child in his or her being.  How often have you heard the expression, “What’s wrong with you?!”

Society and adults say it is “okay” to promote the idea of “romance” in children.  Stories of princesses and princes or heroines and heros abound.  These fantasies make the assumption that these stories are depictions of “true” love without ever bothering to go into what basic love is all about.  The children eat up these shallow fantasies.  And, of course, sexuality is left out entirely.  Can you see what a great distortion of reality this is?  “Romance” is okay.  Sexuality is shameful.  Puppy love crushes are “okay”.  No, they are more than okay, they are encouraged, they are “normal” and “natural” and a part of every child’s experience.  The  truth is that without addressing sexuality except to label it shameful is to make the natural laws of attraction in children something perverse.  It is to deny a healthy link between sexuality and romantic love.

The whole issue of what exactly healthy sexuality is, is ignored.  And why?  Because the majority of adults do not know what healthy sexuality is.  And why?  Because they were taught the same shame based sickness when they were children.  The sickest of these adults were sexually abused as children and teenagers and what do they do when they have children?  They sexually abuse their children.  And why do so many get away with it?  Because discussion of sexuality is taboo.  The children, even before they are abused, are taught that being sexual is shameful.  Then their abusers use that lesson to bind the child into silence.  They exploit the child’s extreme vulnerability on all levels.  Many of the children who have the courage to tell someone are shamed into denying what they know is true.

These children especially, but all children, learn to deny the truth.  It becomes their way of life, just as it is obviously the way of all the adults they meet.  This denial is the beginning of the dual living of the addictive life.  We develop socially acceptable personas, but behind closed doors we behave differently. We lose our precious sense of personal integrity.  We teach ourselves, each other and the children sickness instead of health.  By labeling discussion of sexuality as taboo, we shirk our responsibility to the children most of all.  One of the first rules of recovery from addiction is:  Get Honest!  Break the cycle.  Stop denying the truth.  Stop living a dual life.  Regain your personal integrity.  Ask for help. Learn to be responsible to yourself and others.  Learn what the word love really means.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pain Can Be A Great Teacher

Today there seems to be a lightening of the depression.  I don’t take this for granted; I know it can return anytime.  So I’m writing to make good use of my time.  Maybe someone will read what I write and it will be helpful in some way.

This bout with depression seems particularly striking to me as I have been living a relatively happy life for a few years now and so the contrast acts to highlight each way of being.  I see that there is something worthwhile in feeling spiritually oppressed and incapacitated.  It helps me to evaluate the depth or shallowness of my endurance and faith.  I can see this time that I have learned more about the path of acceptance.  It is a very hard lesson to learn when I am buffeted by the restlessness of experiencing pain.  Sometimes all you can do, all you need to do, is hold on and wait.  Life is change and going with the flow of it can lead you like water down into the cracks of the earth where it is dark and seemingly lifeless.  But down is only one part of the path.  The valleys are defined by the mountains and visa versa.  We all go down and up, that it the nature of flow - it moves all around.

The holy spirit within each of us is like a muscle; it needs to be exercised in order to stay strong.  If I had continued on in my happy state my feeling would eventually become shallow because I would lose touch with the great suffering of the people in this world.  I have been taught by mostly Buddhist teachers that compassion and wisdom are one.  Being compassionate towards myself and others is allowing myself to feel the pain while consciously cradling it within the empathy of love.  Pain is the spirit’s call for love.  Love is the healing balm.  Love is the Higher Power.  Pain is this internal sense of being separate from what is higher and greater than ourselves.  It is the expression of spiritual despair; it is helplessness.  Pain is a great teacher because it sends out a simple message:  something is wrong and must be attended to.  It says look, see, understand the nature of the illness.  It also says look beyond the pain to find the healing.  That is the hardest part of the lesson because the intensity of the pain draws our attention to the blackness of it till all we seem to see is darkness and no hope of light.  But if we really stay open, we know that there is a bigger picture and that the light continues to surround the pain.

Yesterday the pain within me was great and I escaped into sleep several times, but when I awoke and lay on the couch near the open windows I could feel the gentle breeze and see the expanse of the sky and the solemn beauty of the trees.  I could scan the accepting, quiet space of my living room and reach for the comfort of touching and talking to one of my cats.  And I held on as the despair tried to claim me.  And I waited.  Waiting is something that needs to be re-learned in our instant gratification culture.  Waiting cultivates the non aggression of patience and trains us to trust that when the time is right the answers will come.

Pain does come to all of us and it is enough; it can guide us.  But many people do not have the patience to sit with their pain and listen to it the way one might listen to a stream in the woods.  Instead we act out by essentially running away into misguided fantasies or worse into taking the initial pain and feeding it till it blazes out of control into acts of violence towards self and others.  We fail ourselves.  We do not listen and so we have no chance of learning.  And so we create more pain and spread it around.  We project it and see its reflection all around us.  This is the hell of being addicted to pain which is generated by self rejection, self-hate.  Instead of using pain to teach us to strengthen our spirit, we use pain to attack our spirit.

Consumed by the darkness of amplified pain, there is no where else to look but out into space and open enough to reach out to the unknown.  The universe and nature on this planet still have so much to teach us if we would just allow ourselves to look, see and understand it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


This has been a hard month for me.  I’ve had various physical problems accompanied by severe depression, especially in the last couple of weeks.  The depression is much worse than the physical pain because it robs me of a sense of purpose leaving me with nearly no motivation to do anything but sleep.  Even my ability to pray for help gets greatly diminished.  Telling myself that I am where I am supposed to be obviously doesn’t help either.  In my helplessness, I wait it out.

Yesterday I managed to get myself to lie on the couch and listen to an audio recording of Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist nun.  She was talking about the important practice of gratitude.  I knew she was right  and I have relied of this practice many times before when I’ve been in psychological pain.  In my little corner of the world there are no bombs falling from the the sky, no military men paroling the streets and roads.  I have food, shelter, water, electricity and a functioning automobile.  I have the company of my beautiful cats and friends and family are only a call away.  Despite some physical problems I have the full use of my body, all of my senses are intact.  Even my mind is free of paranoia and delusions.

What the depression really does to me is to damage my connection to the Higher Power.  Without this strong connection my view of myself turns towards the negative.  I see myself as pointless and stupid, sort of a lost cause.  Without having a belief in myself, a belief in my right to be here and to contribute something, however small, to the world through speaking, interacting with others, writing and making songs, I turn away from the very things that normally give my life meaning.  The piles of books I have surrounding me at my usual spot at the dining room table become burdens instead of doorways to understanding and freedom.  What keeps me holding on is the natural world, my cats, the view from my windows of the expanse of the sky, the trees, the sound of the birds, the breeze and the freedom to lie down and soak it in.

But still, without faith, it’s as if I’m in a beautiful, even nurturing, prison.  I feel the depth of my sickness and when I try to turn to man-made creations -- films, fictional books and music -- I feel the depth of other people’s sickness as well and it is too much for me.  I forget to concentrate on the health within art.  I forget the lesson I learned that wherever there is sickness, there is also health.  The Higher Power never abandons us, no matter how dark everything seems, there is some light.  The necessary challenge is to find the health and focus on it and learn from it.

I used to tell my voices when they were particularly sadistic that despite their sickness they still had the wonderful healing gifts of intelligence, sensitivity and creativity.  That was the gift of God within them and everyone.  God is not out there somewhere, but inside the very fabric of our minds.  But we are also given the free will to choose what to do with those gifts.  Either we can use them as tools to generate health within ourselves or we can use them as weapons to attack ourselves.  With these voices I chose the path of compassion and I’ve seen over the years how my persistence in believing in the goodness and health within them has transformed them from a hateful way of being into a much more tolerant and kind way of being.  They could have attacked me while I was down in these last few weeks, but they did not.  Instead they mostly chose to detach.  As I sat with my pain, so did they.  Sitting with our own pain and that of others and not reacting or running away, but instead accepting it, is the basis of compassion.  Compassion is the path of peace.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Power & Powerlessness

All addicts must admit to their illness and to their powerlessness over their illness if they are to heal.  But how many using addicts are there in high places, in positions of power over others? And isn’t the thirst for power an addiction in itself?  People rise to wealth and fame through competition within a closed system.  Motivation is fueled by ambition to rise to the top of the chosen system.  The goal is to get the material reward - the money, the attention and the power to influence others in order to continue getting the money and attention and to maintain the power to influence others.  It is a system that must be fed in order to operate and unless halted it is a system that will continue indefinitely.

For many ambitious people, the end justifies the means and the means often includes sacrifices to personal integrity.  Manipulation and deceit are deemed acceptable.  The dual life of the addict emerges; public and private life split dramatically.  The pursuit of a spiritual path is forfeited for the pursuit of a worldly path.  Those that do succeed surround themselves with people like them, people supportive of the addictive process.  These are the codependent addicts that enable the successful addict to continue in his addictive lifestyle.

For the successful using addict, fame, power and wealth can supply him with an unending stream of enablers.  They “protect” him and feed him his fix and help him to stay sealed inside of his own denial.  He in turn “protects” them and feeds them their fix, encouraging them to continue in their denial.  That the world at large rewards them for this only goes to show that the world operates from a basis of addiction rather than from a basis of love and healing.

Using addicts always place the world above the spirit with themselves as the center of the world.  Their Higher Power is their addiction.  This is the delusion they live within.  In reality, the human animal is mostly powerless, ever subject to illness, accident and devastating circumstances.  We are finite, limited, vulnerable beings.  Human power is often fickle and sick because we are fickle and sick.  We have seen countless times how mighty men have fallen.  Those men are blessed to have the opportunity to emerge from their fortress of addiction.  They have been given the chance to see clearly that they are indeed powerless and in desperate need of help like all the rest of us.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Practicing Peace

There can be no lasting peace on earth until each of us makes peace with ourselves.  Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 Steps are about making amends for the harm we have caused while being actively addicted.  The most important amend we have to make is to ourselves for losing faith in our essential goodness as living beings on this planet.  We are all born innocent, open and receptive.  This is our birthright, the basis of our essential goodness.  How we are taught and treated after we enter into this world will often determine whether we embrace this essence or reject it.

What is self love and why do so many of us mistakenly associate it with selfishness?  I think it is because we don’t really understand the meaning of love.  Love is a verb; it is an action and a way of being.  Love is love because it sets no conditions for itself.  Love is vast, healthy, balanced, healing.  Love gives with no thought of getting.  Love is the most perfect thing we can think of which is why many people identify their Higher Power with love.  But the adults of our species must confront their own imperfections daily and the greatest imperfection of all is this shocking lack of self love.  Yet it is mostly the adult population that breed and bring children into this world.  And these adults teach what they have learned from their parents, caretakers and teachers; they teach the great lie that love is conditional.

When Buddha and Jesus tried to teach us to love our enemies, they were trying to teach us that love must be unconditional towards ourselves and all others.  This world we have set up of reward and punishment is not a world based on love.  We live in a world of rules.  Follow the rule or “moral law” and you will be rewarded, break it and you will be punished.  And yet we break these rules all the time.  Love has only one rule: do no harm to yourself or others.  That’s it.  When you beak that one rule, all you have to do is to return to love once again, that’s how we are able to make the amends we all have to make.

Do no harm to yourself and others.  What would our world turn into if every parent in every culture across the planet taught their children this one golden rule?  It would turn into a place of peace.  Love is peace and harmony amongst us all.  As it stands we are a planet of using addicts.  Addiction is about war and disharmony within ourselves and with each other. Addiction at its core is about self hatred.  Addiction is about reward and punishment. Addiction is about following and breaking “rules”.  Addiction is about being caught in a cycle we cannot willingly stop.  This is the world we teach our children to enter into and to adapt to and they do.

The seeds of self hatred are planted in each of us when we are so very young and vulnerable to attack.  We are told as soon as we are able to understand that if we are “good” and follow the rules, we will receive the reward of love and attention, and if we are “bad” and don’t follow the rules, we will be punished and the affection we need for our soul’s health will be withdrawn or worse we will be verbally attacked or worse than that physically and/or sexually abused.  Most of us choose as children to follow the rules because we wanted  to survive. How quickly we as adults forget that children are dependent on us for their physical, emotional and mental survival.  When we teach the children that love is a thing, a reward, and not an action and way of being, we stop practicing and teaching love.

Addicts who choose to enter into recovery, choose to practice love as a way of being and acting.  They finally take on the responsibility of caring for themselves and loving themselves in a way that their parents, caretakers and teachers did not.  They take the child that they once were and become a true parent to that child.  They give love with no thought of a return and continually teach themselves and that child about unconditional love, how to nurture it and extend it out to all others.  This is called practicing peace.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Song: The Crossroads

The Crossroads

Sometimes depression lays me low
Takes me places I do no want to go
Down to the crossroads where I must decide
Whether to stay here or to give up and die.

Do I really have a choice?
I've said Thy will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.

God's will be done
I am joined by Heaven to another person,
His suffering is greater than mine
But he fuels that fire all the time.

It's his turn to make the choice
That I made a long time ago
To give peace and love a chance
To grow.

Play Song

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letter To An Addict

Dear Suffering Friend,

Who/What is more important than your recovery?  No one and nothing.  Not your career, nor your friends and lovers and family.  Perhaps you’ve been financially successful, even famous, in part because of your addiction.  Maybe you’ve become codependently addicted to the people who supported you in your ambition to succeed in the world and they to you.  If so, you have taken on too much responsibility.  You have been ignoring your spiritual health by hurting your body, heart and mind.

I know you’ve learned the art of managing the unmanageable and of hiding behind a wall of denial. And there is so much in this troubled world to support you in your denial.  Yes, it is easier to go along with business as usual, to adapt to the sickness rather than to challenge it.  So here you are in this place where the world tell you one thing, but your spirit tells you another.  Can you honestly tell me that you are not deeply suffering inside, doesn’t this aching awareness follow you wherever you go?  Your spirit has not given up on you.  That pain is its way of calling to you, reminding you to take care of yourself.

What would you do if you entered a prison cell and found a little boy chained to the wall repeatedly hitting his head against the wall?  Wouldn’t you search for the key to unchain him?  Wouldn’t you pull him away from the wall and embrace him, comfort him?  Wouldn’t you lead him out of his cell to freedom?  Doesn’t that boy deserve the chance that only you can give him to heal?  Of course he does. Listen to this call to love yourself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Love Your Enemies

I am not a Buddhist or a Christian, but I feel a great love for Buddha and Jesus.  They are our worlds great messengers of peace and love.  Buddha lived to be eighty years old as a master teacher; he lived in peace and health.  I wish I could say that the countries that embraced Buddhism also embraced peace and became the leaders of a peace movement all over the world, but that has not come to pass.  Jesus lived to be thirty three and died a horrible death and because of this he stands out in a more dramatic way than Buddha.  Jesus’ language is more dramatic, too.  He didn’t just suggest that human beings should love each other, he commanded it over and over again.  He could have said it no plainer:  love your enemies.  And he practiced what he preached, even towards the Pharisees that he rebuked for being scholarly hypocrites.  Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for another person is to be direct.  The shock of the confrontation is a wake up call.  It wasn’t business as usual with Jesus.  He did not conform to the sickness of the culture he lived within, inviting some to listen to his message while rejecting others.  Everyone was welcome; he spoke to everyone.

Almost a third of the world’s seven billion plus people claim to be “Christians” or followers of Jesus, but they are not.  If they were then at least over a third of the world would be committed to pacifism. Jesus was willing to die for peace and he did.  No, mostly men continue to be willing to die, be maimed, maim and murder others by participating in the practice of war.  But this faith in war goes much deeper into conflict within nations, within communities, within families, and most particularly within our own souls.  Who is really our worst enemy?  We are to ourselves.  You cannot extend love out to others in a genuine and life changing way until you face yourself and accept yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses.  But most of us run from facing ourselves as much as we run from facing the fact that all of us will die.

And so, in over two thousand years since the murder of Jesus, we have become a world of addicts. God has repeatedly touched the lives of spiritual teachers like Buddha and Jesus and sent the message out. The message is love.  Love yourself, love others, love this planet, love God.  It is so simple, so basic, so logical.  So what do we do with this message?  As a species, quite simply, we reject it.  We are just where we should be, clinging to our illusions as our very world is in the process of succumbing to the poisons we so willingly produce within it.  Can we save ourselves?  What group of people can lead the way?  The answer:  addicts committed to recovery.  Addicts are interspersed throughout the whole world’s population.  Those who commit to recovery are committing to it all over.  They are like white blood cells fighting off the infection in a sick organism.

In recovery programs all over the world addicts are taught that they must love and accept themselves as they are.  Self hatred is the plague of the using addict and it is a way of being that must be confronted right from the start.  There can be no personal recovery without self love.  I know 12 Step programs are not the only way to recovery, but as far as I can judge, they are to date the most effective and the most widespread.  It is a requirement that each individual addict admit to themselves and publicly that they are indeed an addict.  We must admit that we are powerless over the illness, an illness both physical and spiritual.  Addicts who become this self aware also become very aware of the elements of addiction interspersed throughout the culture they find themselves living in.  Using addicts are everywhere, inside religious organizations, governments, businesses, education, courts of law, communities, families - everywhere.  There is really no place left to turn but to something greater than humankind, to the Higher Power.  And so it should be.  Our sickness is just too deeply rooted into the core of the human species.

The way to heal the world is to focus on healing ourselves and healing ourselves means becoming honest, peace loving, responsible, humble, spiritually disciplined individuals.  There is no other way. There never has been.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our Mute God

Maybe about five percent of our entire mind is conscious.  Much of what  goes on inside of us is a mystery.  We speculate that all of our memories are stored in the unconscious in some kind of retrievable order.  If we are not conscious of the process, who or what organizes our memories?  Much of what we can retrieve is visual rather than verbal.  Our night dreams give us glimpses into our mental process of often working through the things that disturb us in life, but much of our awareness of our dreams fades quickly upon waking.  As for our conscious minds so many of us are pulled into habitual, non reflective patterns of living.  How “awake” are most of us?  Not many.  Waking ourselves up requires a spiritual discipline that most of us are either ignorant of or evasive of.  And so we attach to the superficial as if it were profound when the superficial is just the tip of the iceberg in a wide open sea.

For those of us who believe in an entity or great spirit we call the Higher Power, that Power has been throughout history mute.  God does not “talk” to us directly and yet so very many of us believe that we commune with God anyway and I believe that we do.  Communion is not so much intellectual as intuitive.  How could it be any other way when so much of our minds are submerged.  Those that rely mostly on reason with its facts and its proofs, with its intellectual analysis, ignore that they, too, are mysterious to themselves and don’t know themselves because so much of our existence is ruled by unconscious processes.  Our very spirits cannot be contained and analyzed and so it is the same with the Higher Power.

The Higher Power relates itself to our entire spirits, not just the conscious part.  While we over attach to our skills at verbal and written communication, our language is still woefully lacking in expressing the depth of each of our spirits.  Language necessarily reduces the individual and complex to the simple allowing us to use and misuse the symbolism contained within it.  Our languages are a blessing and a curse, both potentially  uniting us and also dividing us.  Our extensive use of language is what sets us apart from other animals and allows us to embrace the arrogant notion that we are not  really animals at all.  We have all been wounded at a young age by thoughtless comments about us by our caretakers and other children.  We, in turn, all learned how to wound others with our words.  Words are a double edged sword.  The sickness deep within our spirits gets expressed through words and abusive actions.

It is no wonder to me that the Higher Power does not speak to us in words.  They are neither a pure enough form of communication nor an accurate one.  Words are in themselves manipulative and God is not.  Words come from the individual who utters them and not from the Great Spirit that tries to guide them through other means.  God works through us and our experiences of life, through our conscious and unconscious lives.  God can inspire individuals to touch on great truths through their words, but the illnesses and biases within our souls always come through.  We are finite beings.  We have many limitations and we need to be humble.
I don’t believe there are any holy books precisely because man wrote them and the true spirit of God cannot be reduced to words.  It is too vast and too brilliant and we are not.  And yet we continue to presume and continue to divide ourselves from each other most hatefully by using these “holy” books as a basis for our actions against others.

It is my belief that God exists in space, as a kind of holy spirit, and thus is everywhere, inside and outside of us.  Space cannot be captured or manipulated or controlled or even defined and yet it is integral to everything.  Space is always receptive, non harming, non judgmental.  Space is and always will be greater than we are.  That is the natural order of things.  It has no voice and yet it makes its presence felt, especially when we stop taking it and the great mercy of it for granted.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sex And Love Addiction

I am in a close friendship with a sex and love addict.  He is an incest survivor who never healed from the severity of the abuse he endured.  He was taught to equate sex with “love” and he was taught that “love” also meant pain, that true love had something to do with abuse of self and others.  His experience taught him to embrace sex/romance/relationship addiction.  He’s been living with this addiction for 35 years.   I’ve been working with him for over a year, regularly encouraging him to seek help outside his circle of codependently addicted “friends”.  These also very sick “friends” are his whole world when he’s not working and when he is working.  Unfortunately society has rewarded him financially for being an addict.  He is a hardworking perfectionist and the work he does is of good quality, but it comes at a great sacrifice.  Essentially he does not love himself and is mistrustful of the idea that a benevolent unconditionally loving Higher Power exists.

It is really quite a miracle that he reached out to me at all.  I don’t even know if there is anybody but me that is trying to help him see and go treat his illnesses.  What it means to me is that a part of him really wants to heal and be a good man because he listens to me.  I talk to him about my love addicted past and how much it hurt me, but that when I turned toward help, particularly from a 12 Step program, I began to become aware of how much I had been hurting myself, essentially hating myself and putting myself in a position where I would be beaten down and degraded.  Then I talk about how I began to deepen my faith that there existed a benevolent Higher Power that was aware of every second I had ever lived and cared about me all through my trials which were my toughest lessons.  From there I talk about my gradual process of learning to love and accept myself with all my strengths and weaknesses.

For the last two months I’ve been talking to him about the 12 Steps as I go through them while trying to commit myself to going to a 12 Step group.  He’s still listening.  He’s not shutting me out or acting defensively.  Obviously, he doesn’t share all the details of his life with me, but the part of himself he does share has a great deal of health in it already.  He is kind, considerate, tries to be open, reflects on what I say and appears to be continuing to try to be honest, particularly with himself.  I can see the seeds of self-love starting to grow in him.  I’ve asked him to “act as if” there exists a loving God and he hasn’t said no to that either.  I’ve sent him support books which include a couple of daily readers, one for people recovering from sex addiction and one for men recovering from any addiction.  I encourage him to read at the very least one of the readers each day and reflect on it.  I learned so much and got a lot of comfort from reading my Al-Anon daily readers when I was very ill and lost.

I understand, sympathize and have great compassion for the many sex and love addicts in this world. Here in the US particularly romance addiction is interwoven into the entertainment industry and massive numbers of people flock to the most popular products (books, films, music) and consume them often repeatedly.  The twisted message is that addiction is cool and perfectly “normal” and healthy. Any reference to the concept of a benevolent Higher Power that  is trying to help us help ourselves to heal this sick world are conspicuously absent.  More often there is a one finger salute to the individual artist’s idea of “God” yet even that happens infrequently.  After all, God is not the point; the point is to preserve the romantic delusion that unhealthy relationships with ourselves and others is actually profound, passionate, interesting and good.  The point is to continue the addictive cycle and make a lot of money doing it.

How do you heal from such a soul destroying illness when examples of people engaging in the addiction are all around you.  How do you get the strength to detach with love from others who are caught inside the illness that you are trying to heal within your spirit?  The answer is basic and practical: read support literature and meditate on it, pray to a healing God, write your feeling and thoughts and lessons learned in a journal, go to a 12 Step meeting, find an appropriate therapist, get a sponsor or several sponsors to go through the Steps with, practice self honesty always, cultivate love and compassion for yourself and others, include as much humor into the process as is possible or appropriate, believe that you are on a spiritual path, ask God to remove your compulsions, stay creative, open and expressive.  It’s a matter of unlearning false lessons from childhood and adolescence, false lessons given by our culture and learning the truest lesson there is, that of cultivating from now on love and compassion for yourself and all beings.

The prime directive for everyone of us is to take care of ourselves in our spirits by connecting to something greater than ourselves, whatever that might be as long as it is something healthy and healing. Our responsibility is to keeping ourselves healthy, that’s the only real and lasting way to deeply help other suffering people.  I can’t heal you.  You can’t heal me.  But we can heal ourselves through the grace of the Higher Power.  And if we choose to take this path, there will be many fellow travelers to be supported by and to support.  This is the way to heal the world, person by person.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Let Go And Let God

Right now I am holding on and I am in a lot of pain.  I want to figure things out and find solutions, but the more I study and work and think, the more overwhelmed I am by the massive quantities of problems and pain in this world.  That I am in pain is the logical outcome of trying to take on the role of God.  I lose sight of my smallness when I get ambitious this way and I forget that I am dependent on God for help and not the other way around.  I lose the faith that God is in this world and that every person is connected to God and on their particular path.  It is not my job to heal anyone else.  My responsibility is to take care of myself and hopefully set a good example for other people to do the same.  God loves me as I am; I do not need to prove myself to God or anyone else.  The goal is for each of us to do our part, working from inside out, from improving our conscious contact with God and being helpful to others without taking on their responsibilities to themselves. There is no one human savior for humankind.  What we have on this planet is a living network and that is how we create positive change in the world.  We willingly work together on one playing field without bogus hierarchies.

I have to accept that I will never know the big picture; only God has that vision.  Letting go is accepting my limitations, letting myself be humbled by them and putting myself in my proper place as one small being amongst many.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Eleventh Step

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

Step eleven is a very, very important step.  An individual cannot turn his or her will and life over to God until he or she reaches out to try and form a conception of God.  After meditating on it and finding some kind of orientation be it towards Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Mother Nature, a group of recovering addicts or any other creative alternative, it is time to call out to that spiritual power, to pray for guidance.  Remember, whatever orientation you have, this power that you pray to knows absolutely everything about you and loves you unconditionally.

So, on the one hand, you have to come to realize that you are totally vulnerable with God and there is nothing that you can hide, no matter how much you might like to.  The reason why this is okay, more than okay really, wonderfully healing is that God is also always sending you unconditional love.  All the  shame and guilt, all the resentment, all the abuse, everything that makes you tighten up in your spirit, is put in the presence of this inexplicable force, that is here at the moment you turn your awareness towards it, to heal you, not just a bit, but entirely.  The key is to train yourself to turn to the Higher Power as much as you are able to, in good times and in bad times alike.

Very simply, turning towards God heals you and turning away from God makes you sick.  For all people, the language of God is in the words patience, tolerance, open-mindedness, kindness, healing humor, acceptance; it doesn’t matter whether you are a conscious believer or not, we all know the same language and know that it represents what in our heart of hearts we want for ourselves and those we care about.  Most of us move towards and away from God each day, which is why we need to improve our conscious contact with God and allow God to guide us by turning our will and lives over to something infinitely wiser.

Every time we pray, (and a prayer can be as simple as “Please guide me”) and every time we meditate (and meditation can be as simple as reading one small page of a daily reader and reflecting on it) we are admitting our powerlessness, our need for help and our willingness to reach out and do our part.  The big message is that we must learn to put ourselves in our proper place, a place of humility.  How could it be any other way?  And how often do we fall flat on our faces when we try to assume God’s position in relation to others and parts of our own more vulnerable personalities?  We have to stop taking on other people’s responsibilities, avoiding our own responsibilities (mostly towards taking good care of ourselves) and avoiding having faith in and reliance on the Higher Power.  We also need to acknowledge that in trying to be God we perform a terrible interpretation, sick and distorted.  People who try to believe that they are God, or the only Higher Power around, are very controlling, perfectionistic, judgmental, unforgiving in their relationship to others, but much worse, in their relationship to themselves.  This is the world of the using addict, a world of self hatred that gets projected out onto whatever target the addict attaches to.

The addict, however compulsive and miserable, is never outside God’s realm, though he or she can feel sometimes to be caught in a Godless place, a Godless world.  Using addicts walk around sometimes in a dream and other times in a nightmare, and the reason they hurt themselves so often is because they are blinded by the negative, destructive force of their addiction.  The main thing that restores vision is developing a belief in God that you reach out to and abstinence.  Every time I removed myself from the person I was codependently addicted to my connection to myself and the Higher Power grew and my vision began to return.  The magnitude of how much I had been hurting myself grew in my mind and with it the need to face it and gradually move towards changing myself.

God’s will may seem elusive, but it is not.  Keep in mind, the overall goal is peace on earth for all of us.  Who hasn’t thought at one time or another - what an amazing, beautiful planet we live on, a place fit to be called, in the places where humans have not been set on the destruction of it, heavenly.  The block to that possibility is not the planet and not God, but us.  The only way to heal the damage we have done and are still doing is for every individual to turn towards healing in whatever way or form that takes.

Don’t you know we are destroying the life sustaining qualities inherent on this world?  There is no way we can get out of this web we have woven without turning to a Higher Power and that means turning inward, doing our part by working on our own spiritual development and letting go and allowing God to take on the rest.  God will show us what we have to do, where we have to go, who we have to connect with in order to form a whole, functioning human organism that can overcome the sickness in our spirits that we have been spreading all around us.

Self Acceptance

Anyone who tentatively approaches recovery from any kind of addiction is told that first you have to accept yourself as you are.  That is what the Higher Power does and if the Higher Power can do it, so can you.  And you must because it is the basis of self love.  For the most part, I do accept myself as I am, but there is one area where I resist:  my obese weight.  God has placed a voice in my mind, a man’s voice and this voice says that it is a sex addict.  Sex addicts, like most using addicts, are immature and they focus in on physical appearance.  So this voice often attacks me for being obese. He says he has multiple lovers who are all physically beautiful.  He does not dwell on their sexual sicknesses.

Actually, he doesn’t dwell on them much at all, but they are the measure by which he measures me. From what I can tell he and they are “beautiful”, self hating addicts who probably have eating disorders that lead them to be underweight.  They see sex as an expression of “love” when the reality is more like they use each other to avoid dealing with themselves and their problems.  I do not want to be like them.  I am very resistant to the reduction of love to mere appearances.  This is not the man that I would choose to be in a love relationship with because he is not capable at this point of loving himself or anyone else.  But my connection to him and his insistence on the superficial aspects of relating to me hurts me.

Unfortunately his sick, sexually addicted way of looking at women in particular is mirrored in our culture.  He has a lot to hold onto to preserve his orientation.  TV, films, magazines and countless teenagers and young women all trying to present a prefabricated image of what it is to be an attractive woman.  The irony is that many of these women who obsessively attach to the superficial are not able to accept themselves even when they do reach an “ideal” weight.  Regardless of how they look, they do not feel beautiful inside.  Inside I feel neither beautiful nor ugly; I am just myself and I like and love myself inside.  Outside I usually like myself, too, but not always.  So this is my Achilles heel and my sex addict voice attaches to it with a certain relish.  And I believe God is using my obesity as a lesson to me and to this voice in my mind, whoever, whatever it is.

As I said in a previous blog, Love is spiritual in its essence, not physical.  How many people have you loved dearly who were physically imperfect?  I think most of us would say most of us because the fact is that’s the way we come.  We are imperfect beings.  Physical imperfections are the least of it.  But for obsessive, controlling individuals trying to erase or deny their physical imperfections, minor things become major things and hook them into horribly addicted patterns that too often cost them their very lives.  I did decide at a certain point in my illness when I was reducing my meals to one or two a day that I would rather be fat than anorexic or bulimic.  I was not willing to train myself to become obsessively compulsive with my food and treatment of myself.

It is my heart and mind, my spirit that is most valuable to me.  As for my body, I am so grateful that I can walk and that I have relatively good health.  So many people are suffering within their bodies due to various ailments.  I have nothing to complain about.  More than that I know the Higher Power loves me just as I am.  I will continue to try to eat right and get some exercise, try to do my part, but as to the rest of it, it is what God wills and in God’s time, not mine.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What Is Love?

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”    (The New Testament - Corinthians  13:4-7)

Because I see God as Love, this quote is for me a good description of God.  Just replace the word Love with God and see if it broadens your perspective.  God can be so unconditionally loving because God is not sick, but we human animals are very sick and in our sickness we distort our conceptions of love. The most distorted conception of love that we have conceived and compulsively promote is romantic love.  Conventionally the height of romantic love is marriage and our first example of it is with our parents.  Most of the marriage partners I’ve encountered through my friends and lovers have been dysfunctional.  It does not surprise me that in the US 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The dysfunction within these marriages teaches dysfunctional patterns of interrelating to the children who in turn grow up and seek out what is familiar to them:  another dysfunctional relationship.  And the cycle continues.

Meanwhile the myth of ideal romantic love is fed to the children in the form of stories, particularly in fairy tales, found in books, TV, films and music.  The archetypes of the princess and the prince were in my experience always white, heterosexual, presented as physically “beautiful”, personally flawless. The storyline was one of discovering each other and instantly “falling in love” followed by separation due to an almost insurmountable external threat that primarily the prince has to overcome thus proving his worthiness to union in marriage and living happily ever after in some now ideal world.  And in this world full of “ideal” romance there is no expression of sexuality except for a kiss or two.

The reality that each child confronts in their daily lives is that there are no princesses or princes, no Queens and Kings to be found.  We live in a multicultural world with couples who have different sexual orientations.  Most of us are not  stereotypically “beautiful” and every single person encountered has personal flaws.  Children are very perceptive.  They know what kind of world they are living in.  Perhaps that is why they are taught over and over to seek out fantasy as an escape from the problems and pains of real life.  What’s worse is that the fantasies that are chosen for them are very shallow, very unchallenging, counter to the deepening awareness of personal growth.  Counter to the very thing that parents say they want for their children: to be grounded in reality, to grow up healthy, able to work through the challenges of life.

As a culture made up of so many individuals, we don’t only teach our children poorly, we teach them to be sick.  We teach them to adapt to the dysfunction in society.  It is depressing to me that so many artists not only reflect our collective illness, but promote it and feed their own individual sicknesses, thus continuing the cycle yet again.  It is an addictive cycle.  What fuels any kind of addiction is at first the need to avoid pain and then the compulsion to always look outside oneself for fulfillment.  Romance addiction is not about love and intimacy and growth; it is about trying to use another person to avoid facing oneself.

I think the very first lesson children should be taught is to love themselves unconditionally.  But how can a child learn that if they are being taught by adults who have adapted to the dysfunctional, addictive society they live in?  These are adults who continue to love themselves and others conditionally, which I believe is not true loving.  The answer is these children can’t, unless they are blessed by having regular contact with some self loving healthy adult that agrees to take them under their wing from time to time.  This doesn’t mean that these children don’t have contact with examples of healthy love growing up, but these examples are short in duration and can get overwhelmed by the many more examples set by self rejecting adults and peers.  And so as these children grow up they cobble together a mixture of health and sickness in their relationships with others.

I think we all really do want health and happiness in our lives, but all too often we are blinded by our own sickness, which is so deeply rooted as to be passed on from generation to generation.  Adolescents and adults feed on conflict in romantic relationships in their lives and in the stories they read, watch, listen to which includes intrigues, infidelity, lies, manipulation, mistrust, misrepresentation, all of which seem put in place to sabotage self love and love of the other and neatly avoids the necessary inclusion of any positive spiritual orientation.

The essence of love is spiritual, not physical.  Learning to love yourself is a spiritual process.  If the Higher Power is Unconditional Love, then when you reach out to love and care for yourself, you are reaching out to God in and around you.  The usual pattern is to reach out to love and care for someone else, but if you skip over the most important step, that of committing to loving yourself first, you will never find the love you seek.  More likely you will encounter conflict and pain.  Without unconditionally loving yourself, in essence removing the Higher Power from the picture, you are left with a lot of sickness.

Though we try to convince ourselves otherwise, love and hate do not mix.  Love is health; there is absolutely no sickness in love.  Hate, in all its guises, is all sickness;  there is no health in hatred.  That we can recognize genuine love at all in a world so full of distortions of it, is a miracle in itself.  That’s God’s grace at work in everyone, everywhere.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Third Step

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The God of my understanding is a God of Love; within Love there is balance, health, wisdom and compassion.  What Buddhists call “Buddha Nature”, which is seen as the core of everyone of us, is God.  I see God everywhere, in everything, especially in our hearts and minds, which when combined seem to form our spirit.  From this perspective we never have been, nor ever will be, disconnected from this Higher Power.  And yet so many of us walk around feeling as is we are separate, not only from others, but from God.  I’ve felt this way too when I was young and especially when I was in a co-addicted relationship where I unconsciously turned my will over to my human partner, not yet having had a clear conception of God in my life till then.  But falling quickly to one of my bottoms within that addicted relationship taught me more in five and a half years than my whole previous life.  My partner, who suffered greatly both before I had met him and with me, was my greatest teacher.  He taught me sweet lessons and he taught me horribly painful lessons, but I realized that that was just the Higher Power working through him, not letting anything go to waste for either of us.  It was up to us to learn the lessons and move forward towards health and balance.

I did so gradually wandering a meandering path up and down still not knowing how to direct myself towards a good and useful life.  When I wandered away from the path, away from the Higher Power, by forgetting the great lesson I was given about admitting that I was spiritually and mentally ill and that I needed to reach out to other recovering people, I was brought, I believe with a most deliberate intention, into several years of acute psychosis.  Over three years time, I hit bottom three times.  The problem and the pain were no longer outside of me in an addicted relationship with an abusive young man, but within my mind itself.  I was given the opportunity to experience the nature of delusions and paranoia.  From the very first moment that this psychic mental illness descended upon me in my already sick, self hating state, there was the strong presence of God there.  When I was most desolate, I never felt abandoned.  It was early in my psychosis that I turned my will over to God.  I know I was thoroughly prepared years before I became acutely ill to endure the hellish times and to place God above every person in the world by practicing peace towards others, towards the voices in my mind, towards myself.

It’s been sixteen years that I have been turning my will over to God during adverse circumstances and good ones equally.  In the beginning it was excruciating and off and on I wanted to die, but the very clear answer I got when I called out to God was - it was not allowed; I had to stay and continue which was the biggest test of my faith I’d ever had.  But in my mind to reject my faith in the absolute goodness of the Higher Power was to be pulled deeper and deeper into the horror of insanity.  And I struggled with having faith when I tried to do what I thought God wanted and still was in so much pain.  But the alternative was so much worse and on a very basic level the sickness within me did not make sense to me, it was illogical, perverse, distorting basic truths.  I was already in love with seeking the Truth since I was a teenager.  My main motivation for continuing to live was that I just wanted to understand the Truth regardless of whether it worked in my favor or not.  I wanted to know because I already knew that revealing the Truth brought God in my presence too and when God was there so strongly I felt myself being healed.

I am in a very good place in my life right now because I am improving my conscious contact with this Higher Power.  I turn my will over every day and ask for guidance throughout the day to be given the clues and intuition to be of service in whatever way this great force, this Great Mystery, decides for me.  As best I can, I go with the flow of the goodness I find all around me.  This is not a painless process.  Following God’s will is not about removing pain and there are times when I absolutely must just sit with the pain and wait.  But now, as compared to before, the pain is mostly minimal and I feel and express a lot of joy in living.

The Second Step

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

After admitting to powerlessness, to the insanity in our lives, this obviously leaves us face to face with our own weakness and with a natural desire to find some source of strength to lean on and provide us with guidance for continuing in our struggle to find health and happiness.  We know that we cannot heal ourselves on our own.  Our sense of isolation is great at this point.  I, like many addicts, put my life in danger in order to continue a self destroying pattern that began to emerge sometime in childhood.  After surviving each attack, usually with my house trashed by my boyfriend and myself in a state of shock, it felt like I was outside the circle of humanity.  All I wanted to do was pull deeper into myself.  I was out of touch with the fact that so many other people were experiencing their own version of just what I had endured and survived.

I don’t remember how I found my way to an Al-Anon meeting, but I knew after just one meeting that there were other people going through some of what I had been going through.  That in itself was a comforting revelation.  I quickly bought a daily reader for the group and reading it each day gave me another revelation:  not only was I not alone, but there was this program that seemed full of health and guidance and comfort.  Much of the guidance consisted of practical ways to apply common sense to the challenges of daily life as a codependent addict affected by other addicts.  This wealth of healing common sense rested on a core belief, that there was some benevolent, unconditionally loving Higher Power.

In some ways I was fortunate because I had no formal religious training.  I could reach for my own concept of God from an open, fresh place.  I had not encountered what many had encountered:  the human frailty of saying one thing and doing another, of hypocrisy within religious communities.  Children who are taught to believe in God start from an open, fresh place too, but we are too sick a species not to lead those children straight into a shocking disillusionment as they grow and begin to suffer from the effects of seeing for themselves the sickness in those adults who tried to “teach” them and failed to live by their own lessons.  Disillusionment with the people around us can all too often lead to a loss of faith in a benevolent God.  The question comes up:  “If God is so benevolent and powerful, how could God let these hurtful people into my life?”

To my mind, that is one of the dangers of anthropomorphizing our concept of the Higher Power.  It’s not that we are made in God’s image, but that we make God in our own image.  In doing so we can’t help but paint a picture of an imperfect God.  My conception of God was and is more abstract than many others’ conception.   I believed from childhood in the value and power of human kindness.  Whenever anyone acted with kindness towards me or anyone and I in turn towards them, I knew it was precious.  That knowledge and response was my link to my spiritual center.  No matter how bad life got, the kindness that came out of people never failed me and my essentially kind nature did not fail me either, except mainly with me to myself.  And so it was not hard for me to believe that God in its essence is Love.  I did believe that love, was restorative, was in fact the core of sanity.  But I had to learn to disentangle my sick belief in “romantic love” as a means to salvation from a deeper belief in a love that allowed no room for self-hatred and abuse.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The First Step

1.  We admitted we were powerless over our addictions (including to other people) -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

To admit to something is to “confess, acknowledge, own, concede, grant, accept, allow; reveal, disclose, divulge; plead guilty.”  It is the opposite of denying something.  And denial is what we are nearly sealed into when we first consciously realize that our lives keep going out of control because of our addictions.  In denial, we accept the unacceptable from ourselves and others, we adapt to the insane pattern of doing things the same way over and over, each time expecting a different result.  For me it was continuing to return to my co-addicted alcoholic partner when he would not seek outside help and kept acting out against me and ultimately himself.  We each were responsible for choosing each other, but after we made that choice we sank into quickly into the addictive system of self hatred and blame, a no win situation.

Addiction is a no win situation, a no way out situation.  One of the definitions of addiction is trying to control a behavior that over time becomes obvious that we can’t control.  When we can admit this powerlessness to ourselves after each failure, we begin to approach a path back to healthy personal power, the power of self honesty, from a place of humility.  We can acknowledge that the sickness we have is indeed an addiction.

The nature of addiction is that it goes in cycles.  When we’ve crashed down to the bottom of the cycle, it is possible to admit to defeat and to know that we are helpless and need help.  That’s a window of opportunity.  Some of us wind up in hospitals or jails and from there get court ordered to deal with our devastating illness.  Others of us suffer in isolation until we reach out to support groups and literature and possibly therapy.  But many more seem to make an illusory “recovery” without once reaching out for the help that is available.  At that stage we deny powerlessness, we deny that we are addicts and we continue to hide in the very deep holes we’ve made for ourselves.

I think that it is part of human nature to keep falling for the illusion that we are in control over our lives.  What is the truth?  We don’t know when we will die, only that we will die, that is the real powerlessness we face, this foreknowledge.  Our fear of death is the fear of the unknown.  We cling to comfort to hide from this.  Unfortunately the many behaviors we generate to comfort us from time to time often turn into addictions:  drug use, sex, relationships, gambling, overeating, overspending, working too much, etc...  We look outside of ourselves for meaning and for solutions to problems, while our meaning and the solutions to our problems are inside of us.  No person, place, activity or thing can give us what we need to grow and heal.

This increasingly compulsive need to control our environments and the people we encounter within those environments is back to the no win cycle.  Admitting to powerlessness puts us back in the right relationship to the world.  We are small and vulnerable and the universe is vast and a mystery.  That’s the way we began and that is the way we will end this life.  But look around you at all the even smaller elements, smaller lives;  all valuable, all meaningful, all part of the great whole.  We count, but to delude ourselves that we have God like powers to design our lives is to be lost and even weaker than when we started out.

And so those in recovery from addiction admit powerlessness, admit to defeat and are freed to reach out, most likely over and over again.  It is a retraining of ourselves away from addictive thought/feeling patterns and it brings with it relief.  To aspire to be powerful figures is to take on a great weight, a weight we cannot carry that will direct us to taking on other people’s responsibilities while dodging our own.  It’s both a pressure and an excuse to avoid the one person we really need to face, ourselves.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Return To The 12 Steps

There’s an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that meets once a week in my town.  This meeting has been active since before I arrived here 25 years ago.  It has always had the reputation of being a very good meeting.  I went to this meeting a couple of times when I was in a relationship with an alcoholic many years ago.  Last Friday I went to my first meeting and yesterday I returned again.  I plan to go each week from now on.  The reason I can go is because it is a beginners meeting and open to anyone. Though I am not addicted to any substance except the nicotine in cigarettes, I consider myself an addict, too.  I am a recovering codependent addict.  I crossed the line into addiction when I chose to begin a relationship with a young alcoholic who was cyclically abusive to me.  I remained in that relationship for over 5 years, which was plenty of time to establish this chronic illness inside of me. Some people may claim that addiction can be cured; most do not.  The 12 step program is meant for those affected by addiction who believe that they must follow a lifelong recovery program based on strict self-honesty combined with compassion for themselves and others.  The basis for this program rests on coming to believe in a Higher Power and then turning one’s will over to that power by continuing to ask for help and by following the guidance that comes.

It took me four or five attempts to leave my codependent relationship with my abusive, addicted lover. In the final year I prayed to be released and was given the ability to do so in the summer of 1995.  But I haven’t all these years treated the root cause of my addiction.  Instead I chose to avoid all romantic relationships and have been on my own since the day I left him.  Part of why I chose to stay alone was because I became psychotic in the Spring of 1998. For over 3 years I was too sick to be in a relationship with anyone.  Gradually, after committing to take the anti-psychotic medications, I entered into an early recovery stage but was plagued by depression and the continuation of voices in my mind. Several years later I believe I could have tried to find a new relationship with someone, but hid behind the weight I had put on because of the medications I was taking and continued the self hating practice of calling myself “fat and ugly”.  I had also entered into middle age and had to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer young.  I was aging and my body was gradually changing.  I held onto the slight possibility that I might have a child still, but let go of that once I reached my mid 40s.  The truth was that I continued to struggle to take care of myself and was not fit to care for a child and I knew it.

Now, at almost 52 years old, I am finally ready to address the roots of my addiction, which began to develop I believe in childhood.  I have decided to commit to the 12 Step recovery program.  This program has been my guide during the most traumatic times in my life when I was in a self destructive mutually codependent relationship and when I was in the acute stages of my psychotic illness.  I never fully dedicated myself to going to either Al-Anon or AA meetings, but I did embrace the study of 12 Step daily readers and other support literature and worked to apply the concepts to my daily life.  Self-honesty has been the foundation of my recovery.  I know now that there can be no recovery for me without this practice.  By the end of 2006 I did two things that set me going in a healthy direction; in addition to a written journal, I began an audio journal using a small tape recorder and I began my Yin And Yang blog.  The audio journal became my daily self honesty practice just for myself.  The Yin And Yang blog became my public self honesty practice.

The spiritual path I chose to follow combined elements of Christianity and Buddhism.  I was raised by parents who had rejected their Catholic upbringing and chose to become committed to atheism.  But I knew at a young age that I was different from them in that I believed in something greater than myself that I could not clearly define.  I studied Christian history and art in college, but did not become converted to it.  It wasn’t until I was around 30 years old when I first went to Al-Anon that I began to consider deepening my shaky faith in a Higher Power.  I read and studied the Al-Anon daily readers and read books on defining and treating codependency addiction.  One of my favorite authors was Melody Beattie who was an expert on codependency and a firm believer in the value of applying the 12 Steps to daily life.  She wrote a daily reader for codependents called The Language of Letting Go and this book, along with the Al-Anon daily readers, gave me permission to put the focus on myself and my recovery.

Ms. Beattie wrote several times that it was important to believe in a totally benevolent Higher Power and also to believe that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, even though I was desperately miserable because I was stuck inside self hating attitudes and behaviors.  But at least I was coming out of the fog of denial about my own sickness.  I was learning to take responsibility for myself, for my thoughts and actions.  I began to see that I had many more choices in life than I had thought and that, with the help of a Higher Power’s guidance, I could have the courage to change myself from an actively addicted mess into a person who could practice recovery attitudes and behavior, into someone who could heal.

Twenty two years have passed.  I did have the courage to leave my addictive relationship, but did not have enough faith in myself to try to have a healthy love relationship.  Before I was pulled into psychosis, I did not return to Al-Anon, only temporarily saw a therapist, continued being reclusive, and continued my practice of relying on addictive fantasies about unavailable men.  Too often I chose fantasy over reality.  In my journals of the time I realized that on some level I was hating myself and yet I did not reach out for help.  I thought going back to college and getting a second bachelor’s degree in art and photography would be enough to give me a fresh start.  It did not.  By the end of my first year I was delusional and paranoid and had to take a leave of absence from school.

I believe now that I was deliberately led by the Higher Power into an even deeper mental illness than my codependent addiction because I had continued to live according to one of my deepest character defects:  self imposed isolation.  How could the Higher Power help me when I refused to seek out help from other recovering addicts, when I refused to practice a recovery program, when I refused to be of service to the people in my community?  I had been given many opportunities.  In fact, once I left my addictive relationship, I had been given another chance to really get well.  I don’t think God had any other choice but to bring the abuse that had once attacked me in the form of my lover into my mind, into the one place where I could not run away from my core issue of self hatred.

The voices in my mind, which I had been conscious of since my mid 20s, now transformed from mostly benevolent guides that did not intrude upon my life into two groups.  One group was devilish and the other was angelic.  It was as if my very soul was being fought over.  While the devilish group tried to convince me that I was some kind of anti-Christ figure, the angelic group tried very hard to teach me how to help myself.   In the midst of my desperation, I was directed to get admitted into a hospital, which I did.  I stayed only over night, but it was enough to get my diagnosis of schizophrenia from a psychiatrist and a prescription for an anti-depressant and an anti-psychotic.  My father arrived the next day from Florida and stayed with me for a month and then my mother came an stayed with me for another month.  From there the helpful voices told me to get a therapist and to go to two support groups:  Al-Anon and a domestic violence support group.  From there I was told to pray for the people in those groups and actively try to help them however I could despite the fact that I was still very psychotic.  I agreed to take the anti-depressant, but not the anti-psychotic.  It would take me over three years and three break downs before I would take them.  I mark January 2002 as the beginning of my recovery from severe mental illness.

That was 12 years ago.  I have come a long way in that time following a spiritual path that includes elements of 12 Step philosophy, Christianity and Buddhism.  I have been vigilantly honest with myself.  I go to therapy every two weeks and I take my medications, get enough sleep and eat well.  But all through these last 12 years I have continued to be reclusive, going to support meetings only sporadically and never fully going through all the Steps.  But two years ago I reached out to someone in my town in friendship and we have been close and mutually supportive since then.  Now I know for sure that I am ready to push myself farther by going to the AA group each week while working the Steps each day.  It is my turn to be of service to others while taking very good care of myself by continuing on my spiritual path.  One thing I do know for sure and that is that somewhere along the line, I don’t exactly know when, but I have turned my life and my will over to the Higher Power.  And so I have a strong foundation to work from as I go through the rest of the Steps.  I know that after all I’ve been through that I love and respect myself very much.  I know that I love my life and am grateful every day.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Song: Right & Wrong

Right & Wrong

He is locked up                              
With only one key to freedom.      
They sealed him inside of
Four walls
Because he took a life,
Took a life, because he took a life
That was not his to take
But he took it anyway.

Yeah, he was crazy
Out of his mind
That’s why he took a life
Took a life away.

There was method in his madness
That people mistook for culpability
But he lost his way
His ability to distinguish
Between right and wrong.

Yeah, he was crazy
Out of his mind
That’s why he took a life
Took a life away.

So he is locked up
With only one key
Yes he is locked up
With only one key
To freedom.

Play Song

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Song: Boys Are Blue

Boys Are Blue

Boys are blue        
And girls are pink
They get taught at a young age
Not to reason and think,
But to swallow it whole
With their toys and their clothes
And the ones that can’t conform
Are all told that they're wrong.

Boys will be boys
With so much energy
They climb the walls  
And pick a leader  
From their pack    
And pick their spots  
And wait to attack  
Each other.  

They’re given weaponry
It’s all fake
But we can still see the message
Behind the play
Kill your brothers
And then walk away
The victor.

War games
War games  
It’s insane  
How we teach boys
To maim and kill.  

Boys are blue        
And girls are pink
They get taught at a young age
Not to reason and think,
But to swallow it whole
With their toys and their clothes
And the ones that can’t conform
Are all told that they’re wrong.

So be wrong
And don’t conform
Take off the military uniform  (x2)
There are peaceful ways  (x3)
To be strong.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Song: Buddha In Her Body

Buddha In Her Body

There is Buddha in her body  
And Jesus in her mind.
Buddha captivates her heart
While Jesus helps her find
The path of revolution    
That others left behind.

Peace on earth is not a promise    
That either man made,
But they left a legacy a few have heard
On how love conquers hate.

It’s the only path to this world’s freedom,  
The only path
It’s an illusion that we are not all the same,  
That only some die in a savior’s name    
And go to heaven while the rest of us fall  
Down into the darkness of nothing at all.  

She preaches to an empty choir  
About the joys of reaching higher.  
Because there is Buddha in her body
And Jesus in her mind.

 Play Song

Song: Clueless


My sickness started    
When I was just a kid    
With Mr. John Lennon singing -    
He sang - Run for your life little girl  
Catch you with another man
That’s the end
Little girl.

So here I was
Just 7 years old
Running round the house
Singing - Run for your life little girl
Catch you with another man
That’s the end
Little girl.

I was sweet, but clueless
Running to the rhythm of the music,
Mixing up images of love and war
Between lovers who want more and more
Conflict to fuel their passion,
Barely disguised aggression,
More about dominance and control
Swallowing the addiction whole.

Play Song

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Song: You Have Never

You Have Never

You have never          
Walked on the water;  
You have never
Been nailed to a cross;  
You haven’t raised the dead,
Except inside your head.

Extraordinary you are maybe  
But more than that    
You’re just crazy.

You’ve called me Jesus, too  
But Jesus is not me, not you
And Lucifer is in recovery
He once was blind
But now he sees
If only partially.      

It’s better than nothing.
This glass is half full.

You have never
Walked on the water;
You have never
Been nailed to a cross.
You haven’t raised the dead,
Except inside your head.

Extraordinary you are maybe
But more than that
You’re just crazy.

It’s better than nothing.
This glass is half full.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rest In Peace Moocher

I came back to my home in New York after staying with my father for two and a half weeks.  I discovered quickly that one of my cats was dying, my oldest cat (15 years), Moocher.  I've spent the last fours days and nights waiting for him to go and decided last night to have him euthanized this morning.  I am both depressed and detached.  All my cats have been and are great, but Moocher had been with me since almost the beginning of my acute psychosis all the way through into my recovery.  He was a wonderful, little being, full of energy, affection and playfulness, not just with me, but with all the other cats.  I will miss him.  He was a great friend.  May you be well wherever you are now my Moocher. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

On Death & Ignorance

My mother has been dead for a little over three weeks and my brother and I have spent the last two weeks staying with my father.  We will return home on Thursday.  My father is in mourning, but I am very glad to report that he is not devastated.  I don't think he is just going to give up; I believe he will continue and adjust to being on his own.  His friends here at this retirement community have been very kind and plan to invite him to dinner after we leave.  I have been gently encouraging him to engage in social activities and not spend all of his time in his apartment.  He appears to be willing to try and that is all that I ask of him, to keep trying.  I am glad that I have been here for him in his environment, but I also know I must return home.  I will continue to stay in closer touch with him, but I cannot live his life for him.  He must find the courage and the will to live and find enjoyment in his life.

Perhaps it is because I believe my mother's spirit lives on in some unknown dimension that I, too, am not devastated.  I am changing with the change and accepting the loss.  I am determined to continue living with as much appreciation for my life and for those still living.  I have lived through devastation several times in my life so far and this does not come close to that experience.  My mother was eighty five when she died and lived a very good life.  I celebrate her life and am in awe at the mystery hidden within death.  I see death as a transformation and not as a final, solemn ending.  I believe too many people get caught up in the horror of the dying process and in the shock of the sudden absence of a living presence.  And some do not like to encounter other people's deaths because it reminds them of their own mortality.  I don't feel this way.  To me there is meaning everywhere, be it in life or in death. I believe that there is a bigger and wonderful picture that includes us all.

I have learned several valuable lessons from Tibetan Buddhism.  They make a point of preparing for death in life through various meditation practices.  I would like to follow them and prepare now for my turn to pass out of this life and into I know not what.  One thing I do know for sure, I do not want to live the rest of my life in fear.  When my time comes, I want to let go into it and not resist.  I want to go with the flow wherever it leads me.  I consider this the joyful approach to death.  If one takes away the horror and fear, one is left with peace.  Peace is what I want most within myself, in my interaction with others and in the world we all live in.  I do think that so much of the pain we feel is self created and even glorified in so many of the stories we tell ourselves or read about or watch in films.  The deaths of characters make for high drama, for a kind of sick entertainment.  Personally I think we spoon feed ourselves a lot of bullshit.  And this basis of bullshit, this essential distortion makes so many of us walk around in a delusion believing that the negative assessment is the TRUTH when it is only lies we tell ourselves to justify our reactions and our lifestyles.

I've seen people blaming other people or their concept of "God" for all the ills in the world.  I've done some of this myself, but as I age I see that all this does is to contribute to the problems we face.  The blame game is a cop out.  It separates us when we need to unite for peace on earth.  Death is a fact of life on this planet, but, for now, so is regeneration.  And what exactly is death?  Does anyone really know?  Change your view on death and you change your world view; you change your spirit.  I stay open to the view that death is a portal into the unknown.  Within the unknown there is magic.  There's magic in the universe.  See how small you really are, but how valuable, too, and how each of us has a place in this seemingly unending puzzle.

What I'm suggesting is that our concepts of death are actually misconceptions.  I am also saying that many of our concepts of life are also misconceptions.  We live inside bubbles, dreams and we are all very stubborn.  We think we know.  We gather up knowledge to block out our fundamental insecurity and common ignorance.  Really, how can you sum up a life?  Why do you want to reduce a beautiful tapestry to one single thread?  Yes, I know some things about my own life because I exist within it. That's as close as I get to knowledge.  But it is still only partial knowledge and it will always be truer to say that mostly I do not know.  From the stance of not knowing, you stay in a beginners' mind and that is an open, receptive and, to me, a very beautiful mind.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Memorial Essay

This is the short essay I wrote and then read at the memorial gathering we had for my mother:

Ellen Mary Irving Kiernan, 1928 to 2014.  My mother.  Her name means light and she was an incredible light to our small family and to the people she met and touched.  She was an exceptionally bright woman all the way through from her childhood to her old age.  That innate intelligence shown brightly in her keen curiosity in the world around her.  She watched, she listened, she read and reflected, she talked and she created.  She was a vibrant woman, an honest woman, a good woman.  I am so proud of her.

She grew up as a child during the Great Depression in New York City in the Bronx.  Her family was small, just her mother, father and brother and like so many others of the time, they did not have much money.  She wore home made clothing made by her mother, but longed for fine store bought clothes and shoes.  When she was a bit older and she went to work, she saved her money to do just that.  In this way, she followed her father, who also had fine taste in good quality clothing.

But her focus as a child and young adult was not clothing so much as school.  She excelled at her school work and was a hard act to follow for her younger brother, Bob, though he, too, was very, very bright.  Their parents were good about taking advantage of all that the great city of New York had to offer.  They went to museums and parks and beaches.  Mom and her brother soaked it all up.  By the time my mother was five years old she progressed from a serious envy of her cute little brother that her mother adored to becoming his friend and protector.  They loved to read, listen to music and play outside and as they grew up together they bonded as a team and stood up from time to time to their parents, especially their father, who could be unjustly critical and tough.

Her father died when she was in her mid 40s and when I was 12 years old.  I didn’t get the chance to know him as a young adult and my mother was mostly unwilling to talk about her relationship with him growing up.  Whatever unresolved conflict she had with her father, she always maintained that he was a hardworking, responsible man who loved his wife.  Still, it was obvious to me that he left his mark on Mom and helped to cultivate some core aspects of her personality.  Whatever critical attitudes he took with his daughter, it was clear that he was very proud of her intelligence and skill.  It is because he prodded and challenged her to excel at her school work that she worked even harder.  She learned to assert her point of view in an honest, direct and intelligent way and came to value her mind and her unique spirit.  Most likely she suffered because, like any young person, she needed love and kindness from her father more than criticism, but she endured and she got stronger.

It is my feeling that my mother was at her happiest living here at Cypress Cove in the last 15 years.  She no longer had the responsibility of caring for her children or her mother and my father’s mother and so she was free to live in a way that was most comfortable for her.  The pace of her life was relaxed and she bonded more closely with my father.  Her favorite spot in their apartment was looking out the windows of the living room.  She loved the view looking out over the water and watching the wide array of birds with her binoculars.  She also loved all her thriving house plants and never failed to take care of them.  In my mind’s eye I still see her reading, writing, singing, talking to others with such a cheerful attitude and walking the grounds.  She had this uplifting energy about her that was motivated by a keen curiosity and an innate kindness towards others.  She never failed to do her part to help out.

She taught me from childhood to be very honest, polite and tolerant of others.  I think I valued her direct, intelligent honesty most of all.  She did not lie; she did not manipulate me.  She always stated her opinion and perspective plainly and she continued to be respectful of me even when she disagreed with me.  And when I made poor choices and got into trouble, she was there for me, as was my father, and provided a safe haven for me to stay in when I needed it.  She was not just my mother, she was my friend.  But it was this strict adherence to honesty that came to define me and my personality as well.  She passed on this ability to have the courage to be honest with myself and others and that has saved me on numerous occasions and has given me a foundation of joy from which to work.

My mother was an atheist, as is her brother Bob and my father, but I am not.  I’m the only one in our family who believes that there is some kind of higher power or higher order that is involved with the life on this planet.  I truly believe that my mother’s spirit continues in some way and that she is just continuing on her journey somewhere out of my reach.  I will miss her and I will never forget her.  I feel truly blessed by the time we spent together.  May you be well Mom.   May you find happiness and the root of happiness.