Gratefulness

July 22, 2009

Recently I’ve been stunned with how grateful I am for my recovery. Every day in some new ways a new aspect of the miracle I’ve experienced unfolds for me.

In some ways no matter what happens with my legal woes I am a better person who is better off for what happened. It’s a terrible route to take that I wish I hadn’t had to take, but perhaps I really had no other option.

I don’t think I would have ever entered AA without hitting bottom. I think that without it I wouldn’t have done anything like the steps. I have always needed a dose of humility – which is a hard thing to come by when nearly everything you put your mind to works out well.

To me this is the essense of the third step. My humility could never form because my will was too extravagantly powerful. By subjurgating my will to God I have gained tremendous ability I never had. Not just to do things, but to be a better person in my own heart, and to be a person worthy of respect as a person not just for my ability. I always struggled for that, and the simple thing is if you are a good person you just need to get your will and ego out of the picture and the rest will come naturally.

To me that is God’s spirit guiding me once I gave my will up.

Three

June 28, 2009

The third step has been a hard one for me, giving anything over to anyone has always been a tough thing to do for me. I never ask for help if I can absolutely get away with it.

Indeed, I think this is one reason I’ve been successful so far in my career and intellectual interests, and other aspects of my life. I drive through things and train my already sharp skills with intense focus that is honed by the fact that I believe I am essentially alone. I’ve always felt that I would be seen as lesser if I did “surrender” to… to what? Maybe my own inadequacies.

I was thinking about the platitudes of written principles and that sort of thing with scorn the other day. At the same time I’ve been feeling quite despondent. I’ve got things piling up around me that I need to take care of and I’ve been putting them off. I’ve had excuses — I need to make up for time lost to my descent into addiction, I’ve got to take care of my fragile psyche, etc.

None of these is really true. I was just surrendering to the same thinking that got me into dependency to begin with. I realized in an epiphany that there’s nothing wrong at all with getting help. I needed help to get out of the clutches of pills and alcohol. I need help to deal with my legal problems. I need help with a lot of things, actually.

So, why can’t I need help from God? It’s not that I don’t believe in God — I do. I don’t pigeon hole God.

So I have turned my will and life over to God as I understand him.

Fear and isolation

June 28, 2009

This week I learned that one of the people who was affected by my misbehavior during a blackout is not willing to let me do the pretrial diversion. We are going to try to impress upon him the facts of what happened – I was under the influence of a debilitating and addictive substance which impaired my judgement profoundly and I was actively working on titrating.

The harder point to convey is about the drinking. It is odd to anyone who hasn’t gone through this that you can become addicted to alcohol when taking something else. It certainly never dawned on me.

I now have to live on hope alone, and rely on the mercy of others. One thing I have learned though is that mercy comes in short supply from our criminal justice system. So I will try to make it through the next three months with as high spirits as I can muster.

My fear is strong and palapble. This is different than the anxiety I felt during withdrawal and prior to taking the klonopin. This is steady hopelessness. I know that I can do everything right, work hard, be a good husband with perfect sobriety, complete my step work with honesty and conviction, but have it fall on blind and deaf justice.

Everything I’ve worked for can be easily pulled away and dashed on the rocks. Perhaps God did save me from drowning just to beat me on the shores.

Thinking this way isn’t productive or useful, but this is the fear one feels when confronted with what feels like unreasoning anonymous forces that have the power of life and death at their disposal.

So my work has to be stepped up. My surrender has to be completed. I need to become more vigilant against my bad habits as ever before because I will never be sure which one was the one that brought me to this impasse in my life.

The people who hold my life and future in their hands do not know me, and will pass their judgement on me based on a few hours of my life, during which time a substance acted in my place. The years of good and hard work goes unheeded. The charity and my unwaivering struggle to be the most moral man I could be is unexamined as the forces at work judge a brief period of my life that stands out in extreme contrast to my prior, and God willing, future life.

I recently stayed for a business meeting at one of my local groups.  I found the experience thoroughly disappointing.

I know a key to recovery is the idea of service.  Perhaps my recovery is too short to fully appreciate it, but I find the idea of meeting management to be repugnant.  Certainly I want my meeting to survive, and I want to spread the wonderful gift I’ve been blessed with to other addicts.  One of the things I can’t stand in my professional life, though, is going to meetings.  The worst type of meeting is a meeting about meetings.

This particular meeting had such joyous subjects as enforcing share time limits to three minutes, complete with an alarm or designated time keepers to enforce time limits.  The reasoning is that if someone talks for five minutes, they might be stealing a precious two minutes from someone else.

Granted, everyone who wants to share should have the time to do so.  But I’m in the meeting to hear what people have to say about their recovery, and share what’s going on in mine — if I have something to share.  This particular meeting is structured so that they go around the room in a direction and everyone is supposed to share.

If your meeting is 90 minutes long, with a 15 minute speaker share, and a 5 minute break, you’re looking at about 70 minutes for shares among the group.  That means you can fit in 23 people if everyone is perfectly adherent to the 3 minute rule, and people speak back to back without pause.  We can then death march our way to recovery, but in a meeting with 30 or more, it’s not realistic to give everyone 3 minutes.  That’s what hand showing is for!

Addicts are notorious for not accepting the rules and taking more than their share.  So, perhaps bristling at this sort of enforced structure is a bad sign for me.  The thing is, I’m going to meetings as a way to recover with peers that are interested in seeing both mine and their recovery go well.  People frequently have less than three minutes to share, and some have more than three.

This is just an example of what bothers me about business meetings about recovery.  I want my time in meetings to be about recovery, and the distraction of rule making and enforcement is absurd.  In my opinion, we should pay our rent, and make sure we have speakers.  The rest falls into place as addicts with a strong recovery make an example for those early on.

The rest is perhaps necessary for others, but I don’t need it.

Relapse

May 27, 2009

A few weeks ago Eminem released his first record in several years. Most people who follow these things were aware of some travails of his – overdose, rehab, inability to function, relapse…

Which after he started to take his recovery seriously led to his most recent release – named Relapse, aptly enough. Whatever you think of the real Slim Shady, you have to respect the honesty about his addiction and recovery.

He opens with the addicts nightmare when leaving rehab to the real world. Seeking validation and support from his addiction councilor his doctor dismisses the importance of meetings, step work, and his own sobriety. Then the doctor starts to offer him his pills.

He rhymes about Klonopin induced blackouts, which I have personal experiece with. The chronicled story of coming to in a mcdonalds naked with bodies behind the counter. Those who have not experienced this would think this sounds like an exageration. It is not- every day I dreaded what would happen to me, what I would do, what horrendous thing would I do. I knew too I would have to learn about it by cleaning up the consequences.

Upon leaving rehab I came out with a new addiction to ambien. I didn’t realize at the time that ambien and klonopin are virtually identical chemically, and especially in their interaction with brain chemistry. When I took it my withdrawal symptoms evaporated. But for some reason my symptoms never got better -indeed as time went by they got worse and worse.

Additionally my “bed time” kept getting earlier and earlier. I would black out but since I slept I thought it was ok. Then one day I took one in the early afternoon because my withdrawal symptoms were especially bad. I took the entire bottle, blacked out, and relapsed hard.

The next day I researched ambien and learned that I had made a huge mistake. I immediately stopped taking it, and suffered through painful withdrawal again. Fortunately it only lasted two weeks this time, and I’ve been clean since. My overall withdrawal symptoms have improved dramatically.

That is just a few stories of my own listening to Relapse stirs. Indeed listening to the record is like listening to a share. Which isn’t surprising at all – Marshall Mathers medium of expression is entertainment, and he’s doing his step work in the best way he knows.

With his music.

Thank you for releasing Relapse, and I look forward to the second installment.

Sharing…

May 23, 2009

Today is the first day of this blog, which will serve as my recovery journal and a place where I can also journal my thoughts as I navigate my way through the world of software design and development.

I am an addict, my drug of choice was pills.  I’ve been recovering and doing my 12 step work for three months now.  I passed my 90 days recently and decided it is time to move forward with my recovery and take it more seriously.  I do my meetings on a regular basis, and try to participate and share.  I look on this as a way to journalize my shares and my recovery, so that perhaps I can help another like myself, either to understand their problems better, or to promote by example the benefits of recovery.

I am a highly successful computer scientist.  I graduated with highest honors from one of the top five computer science schools.  I helped found some of the most influential companies in the history of computers.  I developed in a significant capacity the foundational technologies of modern computers.  I currently am employed as a senior executive at one of the most respected companies in the world, and am considered bright and talented among some of the brightest and most talented people I’ve ever met.

And I’m a recovering addict.

I realized my life was unmanageable after struggling with pill addiction for several years.  My work and life severely suffered as I began using pills to deal with a terrible anxiety disorder.  Instead of seeking therapy, I turned to psychiatry and the promise of magic beans not thinking about the giant at the top of the beanstalk.

I nearly lost my wife and my career.  In the end I was having near daily blackouts and doing insane things.  I was slowly tapering off the pills but it was too slow.  I was arrested during a black out and charged with several felonies.

My life was unmanageable, and I knew the cause.  My addiction was so powerful that it was stripping away what I spent a life time building in only a few months – a few months after a few years of honeymoon.

As much as I abused my substance, it abused me more.

When I went into rehab as a diversion from jail time and felony convictions, I was exceptionally relieved.  Not by how I got there, or that I was in rehab, but that I would finally be forced to admit my addiction and resolve it – now, not in eight months.

It was horrific.  I still struggle with withdrawals.  However, it was entirely worth it.  I am clean and sober now, and have begun innovating and learning once again.  This time, though, I have the gift of sobriety and the strength only a recovering addict can summon.

The steps I’ve come to realize are of paramount importance to recovery.  I’m working on the third step.  The first step was profoundly demonstrated to me by my arrest and treatment.

The second step was trickier, but my training made it easier than most.

First, a power greater than myself?  That was simple.  My addiction was obviously greater than me, it had wrested me away to powerlessness with extreme rapidity, and used my own intelligence against me.  So already I knew of some power greater than me – the power of addiction.  I observed people in recovery, and realized they also had been defeated by the same disease.

Therefore, there must be a power greater than addiction.  Hence, the power that brought them recovery is greater than myself.

I have no interest in debating the existence of God – God exists with or without my intellectual acceptance of God.  I am willing to accept there is a power greater than myself, be it God or whatever.  The manifestation of that power is somewhat meaningless, and likely truly unknowable.  So I believe in that power, simply and starkly.

The second part of the second step requires desiring of sanity.  I had taken the same pills, then different pills, then different yet again, hoping for different results from the same bugbear.  That monster made me do crazy things that hurt myself and my family.  What animal on earth knowingly and happily with all energy continue to poison itself intentionally other than a mentally diseased animal?  I knew I was insane, and I knew those in recovery were not.  Therefore I accepted that since I was weaker than my addiction, I needed a power greater than addiction to defeat it, and sanity lie in that defeat.

Now I will savor the second step for a while.  Turning my will entirely to God is a tougher one, and one that I don’t do well every day.  Some days I blithely go about my business and have full faith in my will and ability to succeed.  I have not yet accepted that I need to surrender to that power completely.

But, what is important today is I go to bed sober.  Tomorrow is tomorrow, and I’m taking it one day at a time.

Thank you, and for those struggling with this terrible disease, keep coming back.  It really does work if you work it, so you should work it.  You are worth it.

God,

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.