One drink (or drug) away…

My third anniversary clean and sober has come and gone, and I feel as though I have put this thing called “addiction” behind me-that I am now cured, freed from my former flawed self.  No longer do I obsess over my next “fix,” in fact I rarely think of it at all.  I’m one of the lucky people who’ve never experienced the horrors of craving, I now realize what a blessing this is.  The myriad of trendy and cute names given to new brands of alcohol and street drugs fascinate me no longer.  I can stroll through the local market without staring at the aisles and aisles of booze so easily put in my cart.


I am finally free, right?

Not on your life.


Three years is both a short and long time.  In Alcoholics Anonymous and many other recovery groups, “sober birthdays” are celebrated with applause and congratulations, oftentimes even a homemade cake.  One year celebrations are as miraculous as thirty year birthdays.  And yet we are all aware that every one of us suffers from the same, humbling condition-that this disease never goes away.  It is insidious in its insistence that we relapse and succumb to our former, self-destructive ways.  During my first year of sobriety, I admired and envied other addicts with more “time” than I, in particular, a woman I’ll call Becky. She was lovely and reserved, and had been sober 22 years.  It was her birthday and the room went wild, we were all incredibly impressed with such an achievement, and that she continued to come to meetings occasionally.


And so, after a few weeks without her presence, no one was in the least concerned about her.


Around three weeks later, Becky returned to us in tears.  Her appearance had deteriorated and she smelled of scotch.  Oh yes, after 22 alcohol-free years, Becky had relapsed, she had to “do some more research.”  She spoke of her guilt to the group for disappointing us and begged us to forgive her.  One by one, we addressed Becky with complete understanding and thanks, yes, thanks for reminding us how close each of us were to relapse.  The disease of alcoholism and addiction never, never leaves us.


That day, Becky was proof of the saying that we are only “one drink (or drug) away.





















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This post must be written with a computer keyboard since, over the years, my penmanship has become virtually indecipherable.   It doesn’t take a consummate genius to look at the title of this writing and determine that it addresses Internet addiction.  However, it is unusual to fully recognize in oneself that an addiction has indeed set in, and is almost certainly going to become unmanageable, if it has not already. I consider myself quite fortunate to “suffer” from insomnia from time to time, and this morning at 2:30 a.m, I woke suddenly to the realization that I am, in fact, obsessed.

As I came to my waking senses, I slowly understood that the Internet was all I was thinking about: “When will I post this?”,  “How should I deal with that?”,  “Have I encountered a person of ‘questionable’ intentions?” and  “Is this person genuinely what he claims to be?”  The list could go on and on.

I did not consider going back to sleep.

After completing some crucial tasks-especially brewing my first cup of coffee-I turned on my table lamp, then pushed the magic button.  The computer refused to start.  I checked every plug and cord imaginable, and finally, in defeat, considered the options of watching the morning news or even trying to write this piece longhand (both somewhat disastrous considerations).  After 3 or 4 attempts, I sat myself down, resigned to my fate, and dramatically vowed never to use the electronic beast again. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the machine come to life, and felt a wave of relief as I noticed the Windows logo lovingly distract me from my scribbling across the room.

Since I believe I am also a writer, I was relieved to think my keyboard would soon be in use, hopefully with lightning speed.  As an addict, I tend to set unreasonably high standards for myself, and no strike is in sight, so the soft glow of the lamp and glare of the screen will have to suffice. Another crazed characteristic of a junkie is to approach his object of need with unparallelled enthusiasm, with leads to neglect (or abuse) of anyone or anything that gets in the way of satisfaction.  “The dog won’t stop licking my leg!”, yell at the animal or kick it away.  “I have to blow my nose!”, snuff it up until it hits the keys.  “Damn, I’m getting cold, I need my robe!”, screw that, I’ll wait until it becomes unbearable.

Some may counter that such reactions can be reasonable, yet the degree is not. Anger and frustration with such mundane variables, in retrospect, becomes astonishingly substantial and even self-destructive.

One of the hallmarks of addiction is the predisposition to chase the object of desire into unimaginably brutal despair, or even worse.  Yet, no matter the ramifications, the authentic addict will continue in his maniacal search for gratification.  This type of fanatic is not often conscious of such insanity, so in this case I am lucky that the writing impulse woke me and demanded its own expression.  I would argue that writing, as opposed to the essentially mindless greed of  “the hunt” is a far more mindful and conscious pastime.

Rationalizing my obsession with the Internet, I began to mentally sort, one by one, the tasks I felt I needed to perform on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc., and why: “If I don’t respond to so and so, what will they think of me?”,  “What if the momentum I’ve enjoyed slows, or even ceases?”

“How will they know I still exist?”, 

which can lead, unfortunately, but almost inevitably, to the question,

“How will I know I even exist?”

Therein lies the “unimaginably brutal despair” I mentioned earlier.  Alcoholics Anonymous’ phraseology is “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization,” which is far superior to my own, yet basically the same.  My life had become defined by my addiction to the Internet, and I realized I had to slow or even stop its progression.  Yearning for success, friendship, admiration, and even the elusive fame to which we all seem to aspire out of my own realm had become an exhausting, self-defeating cycle.  At this realization, all I finally wanted was the comfort of my own luxurious blankets, the dear caress of my lover.

Every addict craves fulfillment, no matter the consequence.  The difference between such healthy gratification and itsInternet options obsessive alternative (not to imply any sort of choice involved) is to be found in the ramifications inherent in human behavior.  If I can not find what I truly need in my day to day affairs, then I just may be prone to addiction.

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Shared Past. — lemanshots – Fine Pictures and Digital Art

via Shared Past. — lemanshots – Fine Pictures and Digital Art

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A.A. Verses Outpatient Treatment-My Story

I have attended many A.A. meetings for around 15 years and have relapsed over and over again.  I’m still going to 1 every Saturday which I find open and ‘real’.  I’m not sure what it is about A.A. that disturbs me, but the relapsing is certainly a problem.

Perhaps I feel most meetings too formal, cliquish, and ‘principals before personalities’ mean nothing to some.This, of course, is only my experience.

On the other hand, I attend Alpine Recovery Center in Bishop, California 4 times a week and am over 8 months sober.  This sobriety is different than that of A.A. for me, since the group I meet with is open, folks can say all they wish, obscenities allowed-if that’s your thing. A psychologist/psychiatrist  ‘leads’ the group, though the clients do most of the talking. With most of these clients there are true friendships, and at this writing, a serious relationship that is blooming.  Whether this development is beneficial so early in sobriety is moot, relationships are common.  We are, after all, human beings.

Alpine has saved my life, giving me hope, trust, and the belief in my Higher Power.

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Too much thinking…

Damn, I hate this feeling-considering taking a drink or drug.  It’s not constantly on my mind, but I’m wondering if it’s leading to a relapse.  I know that ” …you’re edging toward either relapse or recovery.”  I need to remember these and study them once again.  Drugs-including alcohol, which is a drug only in a liquid form-are obviously not the solution, but the persistence of this thinking is dangerous.

Tomorrow is another day, and today I will take it one hour at a time.

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What One Person Can Do to Stand Against “Shades of Grey” by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, MFT Intern (#63601)

Excellent article on sex addiction which is no different than other compulsions.

LifeSTAR Central Valley Blog


As a therapist who specializes in treating sexual addictions, I have both seen and studied the effects of the misrepresentation of sexuality through pornography. From young to old, our generation has unprecedented access to sexually explicit material, leading to increased addiction and damage socially, relationally, and sexually. Pornography’s messages are in opposition to healthy, connected relationship. Instead, “pornography promotes and eroticizes power imbalances, discrimination, disrespect, abuse, violence, voyeurism, objectification, and detachment” (The Social Costs of Pornography). These are not values that enhance our world. These messages demean and dehumanize. We have yet to experience the full ramifications of living in this porn-saturated era.

This Valentines Day, the controversial yet highly anticipated movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” hits theaters. While the movie achieved an “R” rating, that does not discount its pornographic plot. Just like other forms of pornography, this movie communicates messages of degradation,

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Emma’s Awakening: An Alcoholic’s Tale


Good Morning

She wakes in the usual way, nothing on her mind but the tall glass of ice cubes she left waiting in the fridge last night, ready to go at any time. Another dandy day in store, she is sure. Richard stirs as Emma crawls out of the bed, grunting his usual greeting, “What time is it?”
“Six forty-five, give or take,” she answers, stubbing her toe on the snoring dog, “Damn dog! Always in the way.” There are far too many animals in this house…

Emma’s morning drink isn’t too far away, only she’s not absolutely sure of her supply. Who knows what would be left of her stash on any given morning? She is pretty sure Richard wouldn’t dare drink it without asking, but she’s never certain. Not these days. Nobody trusts her anymore, and she trusts no one in return.
She drags her 50 year old bones down the hall to the kitchen, anxiety growing now to get a glimpse her alcohol supply. Truth be known, she hasn’t been able to stomach much of the old Seagrams as of late. She needs to drink just a bit to ‘get steady’ but her belly is in rebellion mode. Up it comes, as soon as she tastes it. Well, today is new, she is probably all over that. A contrary stomach, that’s all it is.
Her slippers squish softly over the kitchen tile, coming to rest in front of her favored cupboard for the whiskey, and reaching for the bottle, she finds an unnervingly light vessel. Emma brings it up to the dawning light in the nook, squinting her eyes at the disappointing reality. “Christ,” she curses, “Shit!”

A Plan

Now for a plan, quickly before they wake and come into the kitchen. They have one vehicle in this household, only one, which can be a logistical pain in the ass when she is out of liquor. She stays home daily, tending to herself the best she knows how. And occasionally she tries to care for the others who live here, 7 animals, her hubby Richard and their 17 year old son, Michael. Since she still has about 20 minutes before they get up, Emma makes her first drink of the day. The trembling is still there, though not as bad as it was yesterday. What she really needs now is one little sip.
“Hey Mom,” mumbles Mike as he reaches for the opened carton of milk, “What’s that?” she tries to hide the empty scotch bottle behind her robe, but is unsuccessful.
“Damn it Mother…Have a cup of COFFEE for God’s sake, fuck!” and disappears around the hall corner. That went well, didn’t it? Teenagers, she thinks to herself, what on earth do they know? Soon, too soon, his father. Gratefully, she sips.
Shambling to her purse on the dining room table, she coaxes out her hairbrush and drags it through her tangles. Richard appears from down the hall grumbling and searching for something to drink. “Thirsty?” she asks as he downs a large bottle of chilled water, trying to charm him in some pitiful and desperate fashion.

“Hey, is it all right if I drop you off at work this morning?”
“Why, what do you need, more booze?” asks Richard with only a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Well, as a matter of fact…” she replies.
“Emma, are you serious?”
“Well, what the hell happened to it last night? I did not drink all that on my own!”
“So you’re saying that I drank it? Why would I drink your whiskey?”
“Are you saying that I did?” she asks, appalled.
“Christ, Emma, do we have to do this every time?”
Emma lets the tears fall. She is caught once again. Weak with the guilt of it all, she collapses into a kitchen chair.
Why is she so damned surprised at all of this? And she nurses her scotch, ice cubes tinkle their familiar tune.
“Go wash your face, hon, I’ll get the booze before work, just get cleaned up, won’t you? I’ll be right back.”
Relieved, Emma goes to take care of her face, feeling defeated yet victorious as an alcoholic can possibly be.

Defeat Looms

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The Last Day

Relieved that she doesn’t need to dress to take Richard to work, Emma makes Michael his lunch-a hurriedly put-together PBJ and a bag of chips. She needs to sit down to keep the scotch from coming up again. Michael enters the kitchen, gives her a dutiful peck on the cheek, then leaves for school without a word. She is comforted to think that he has his own life now, and does not have to worry so about his mother.

When Richard returns, he finds Emma in her usual place on the couch, watching the morning news. He hands her the fresh bottle with cautious words, “Emma, now you know you’re drinking too much, but hey, I love you, so just be careful, Okay?” “I will, babe, thanks,” she says, literally snatching the bottle from his hands. She follows him to the front door, gives him a short kiss, and watches sadly as he leaves her alone.

But alone is what Emma wants, who is she kidding? Now for a real drink.

No….not now! She rushes to the bathroom to vomit once again. This is beginning to get tedious. Emma regards herself in the mirror, and disgusted at the woman she has become, returns to make her drink. Still clad in her pajamas and robe, she settles in for another day with the television and fifth-at least. Her mind wanders to the man who married her so many years ago, the man who has watched her deterioration with silent love. Richard, though wary of her drinking, is not one to criticize or call her what she knows she is.

No More

Her loving thoughts can no longer keep her stomach from its protests, and she returns to the toilet time and time again. Each trip weakens her, her body now wracked with the pain of the efforts. She tries to keep the liquor down, but it rebels. Exhausted, she collapses on the bathroom floor.

The Awakening

Emma opens her eyes groggily to a collage of unfamiliar faces. Focusing now, she seeks out Richard and Michael, but these are not family, these are doctors and nurses. As she tries to rise, a nurse calms her, asking “Would you like to see your family now? They’re just outside.” She relaxes, then notes the various tubes inserted into her veins. Both Richard and Michael are allowed to enter the ICU, and they greet her with looks of concern.

“Emma, you almost died,” Richard began, “your Pancreas is simply shot. The doctors claim that you must have been drinking far more than I thought.” Guilty as charged. Now for Michael’s two cents. “Mama, please, please don’t die.”

Michael’s words were all it took for this horribly ill woman to truly consider that she was, indeed, an alcoholic.

Out of the mouth of babes, as they say.

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