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Monday, March 31, 2014

Aftermath of My Porn Addiction Presentation

Readers here may remember me mentioning that I was putting on a presentation of pornography addiction in my parish last Saturday.  Had a fairly good turn-out (half the people who RSVP'd didn't bother showing up, but were made up for by people who didn't RSVP but came anyhow).  So, the food didn't go to waste.
I'm not all that thrilled with how it came off.  Perhaps it is because I was so nervous.  There was also the fact that by the time I got through describing the problem, there wasn't much time to discuss the treatment side.  So, I will have to do a Part II.
But, most folks in the audience seemed satisfied.  Well, at least to my face.  Perhaps it was pity.  I was sore from standing all the way from 7:30am (we had the Soul Saturday services first) to 6pm when Great Vespers ended.  My back and my feet were telling me it was too much for them.
I will work on the videos, and hopefully can get them up in a month or so.
Please pray for me.  My computer is still randomly crashing, and I can only imagine what it will do once I start editing MP4s with it.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The News Just Keeps Getting Worse

One of the most tragic stories I have read in a while:
Yes, it appears to not be one of those headlines that oversells the reality-
Some 200,000 aged under 16 -- one in 16 who went online -- also accessed an adult website in the same month, while one in five teenage boys under 18 were clicking on porn, the online video regulator said.
One adult site, Pornhub, which allows users unrestricted access to thousands of hardcore porn videos free of charge attracted 112,000 of the teenagers.
And, that's in an island (Great Britain) of 60 million people.  You can imagine the numbers for the US for over 300 million.  These early exposures are what leads to 'hijacking.'  I would be surprised if all but a small percentage of the older children are purposefully accessing porn.  There are a lot of hidden links these days.
I have stopped posting comments here with hot links because so many of them end up being (or becoming at a later point), porn links.  In fact, I don't even check them, because I am tired of getting 'surprised.'  My software blocks some, but not all.  I don't need any of it.
These children are being harmed.  Some will get hooked, but a vast majority will not.  However, this does not mean they are not influenced by it.
How many kids who 'occasionally' peaked into porn will continue to compare their own sexual experiences to the videos they saw in childhood?  How many women will wonder about their bodies or their 'performance,' because of watching some of this junk?  How many men will also wonder about themselves and their wives?
Couples used to have the freedom to explore and enjoy their sex without the worries and concerns that porn adds to the mind.  Just like Adam and Eve, you can't un-ring the bell of knowledge.  Once it is gained, it is retained.  Experiences follow us for the rest of our lives.
With modern medicine and technology, we sometimes think we can fix anything.  Sometimes we can't.  The best we can hope for is a way to cope.
These images are not something anyone should want to, or have to, cope with.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Addiction and 'Hijacking'

There are some people who become addicts because they purposefully use a substance or a behavior to 'feel better.'  Then there are those who find themselves addicted or 'get hooked' through no real 'need.'
There are a growing number of people whose brains are being 'hijacked.'  It is not the old fashioned 'addiction' or even 'dependency.'  It really is even a stretch to call it 'abuse' (even though it certainly is as far as outward appearances).
Brain hijacking comes in many forms, from food designed to induce us to eat more of it to High-definition streaming porn ads that pop up and immediately set the mind ablaze.  It is more than the dealer offering a 'free sample.'  It is a methodological approach to getting people hooked through camouflage and subterfuge.
An interesting read on the topic is The Fix.  While I don't agree with everything he says, much of it I do.
We live in an age where science is now coaching the corporate-government complex on how to hijack our minds and get us to go along with thoughts and plans we would much rather not do.  We are no longer able to entirely exercise our free-wills, because we are laden with bad information which is then enforced by the hijacking of our natural functions.
This is a real challenge to a recovery model that is designed for those who choose to abuse substances and behaviors for set reasons.  Sometimes, I think we have people chasing ghosts in their memories that really are not there.  Treatment may mean an entirely different approach for those who are hijacked versus those who are addicted.
I think it also explains why some people shake off even severe 'addictions.'  If the hijacker can be dislodged, the problem will go away.  I'm not saying that I think spirituality is optional, because I do believe that true spirituality makes everyone better, addicted or not.  What I am saying is that there can be times where what seems like an addiction case is really something else.
I call this a brain hijacking.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I am seeing more and more cases of people with compulsions that simply don't match up with more traditional addiction narrative.
Of course, this hijacking can eventually lead to real addiction as the hijacked person acts out and starts creating his own reasons to use.  But, they did not start out that way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prescription Drugs as the 'Gateway'

I grew up with an 'up-close-and-personal' life experience of this problem.  Not something that I write about, but I would have to say that it has influenced me in my approach here.

Over the past year, I've spent more and more time trying to understand the human brain and its effect on perception and spirituality.  Addiction is a large component of this, since it is interwoven with so many systems within the brain.

There really are two forms of addiction: one is dopamine-related, and the other is endorphin/opiate-related.  Alcohol and cocaine play off the former, while marijuana and heroin work on the latter.

My sense is that the opiates are the more difficult addictions to break because they trigger that sense of satisfaction and contentment that people so desperately need these days.  Too much dopamine and you end up with OCD and chronic anxiety.  I'm looking for a down side to too much endorphin other than not wanting to get out of bed ever again.

Satisfaction is hard to 'overcome.'  People who live tidy and well-insulated lives, away from the turmoil of the world, are hard to convince that they need to repent and change.

The draw of opioids in today's culture is largely about how little satisfaction we have with what he have and how most of us now engage in work that has no real season or cycle.  We live in the era of the perpetual, where nothing stops because there are no seasons and no lasting accomplishments.

We are endorphin-starved... up until the doctor gives us the script.

In America, things are relatively stable for the time being, but we could very well end up like Manchuria in the 19th century with an opium epidemic, just as I believe we are entering into a period similar to 'Gin Craze' of 18th century England.  People are hungry for marijuana, and are quite willing to admit that they only want it to get high.

Something is missing from our modern life.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Heroin in the US

Sorry that posting has been a bit sporadic lately, but with Lent and the passing of our Metropolitan, it has been a busy time.

I've also been spending a lot of time reading about sexuality and brain research, which has left me with even more questions than answers.  The upcoming presentation on the 29th may be more controversial than I expected, because what I am theorizing is something that I have not heard as a popular description of sexual disorders and sexuality in general.

So, what I am really hoping for is that those who attend are willing to argue and question what I am going to say.  I need the 'push back.'  It helps get to the truth, or at least something resembling it.

In the meantime, here's a fascinating, albeit brief, take on the heroin situation in the US.  Hint: it is not getting any better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cool Web Resource on the Brain

In my research into pornography addiction, I came across a really interesting site that describes the various areas and functions of the human brain-
It is a bit complex at times, but helpful nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Addiction Isn't So Much About Addiction

Because of the popularity of 12 Step programs (mostly because they have been the most effective method for treating end-stage addicts), we tend to throw everyone into these programs who have substance abuse problems.  It becomes another form of "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" approach (I remember 20 years ago seeing those T-shirts, and I am glad the fad went away).
What it ends up doing is clogging up meetings with loads of unwilling people, but it also does no favors for people who are 'medicating' another problem which isn't really addiction.
If we follow the Big Book carefully, we see how the addict's central problem is his resentments and guilt, both of which stir up fears which are then 'coped' with using the addictive substance of choice.  However, there are those who's real problem are not so much about their memories as they are about their overall disposition.
Bill W., as it turned out, struggled with depression in addition to a long life of destructive drinking.  We have all encountered people in the program with moderate to severe mental illness, which the 12 Steps really cannot treat.
I have run into several cases where people with Asperger's Syndrome use alcohol or drugs to break out of the 'shell' of Autism. The problem here is that addiction often distorts us and leaves us with much of the same social awkwardness that an AS person suffers with.   And, just as AS people can be inconsiderate and lack empathy, so addicts can even one-up them into profound callousness and egomania. 
So, while people with certain organic mental disorders can become substance and behavioral abusers, it is wrong to lump their problems into the general category of addiction as if they are completely undifferentiated.  Think about it: if the program equates sobriety with a return to 'sanity,' what are we offering these people?
They need treatment for their underlying problems as much if not more than they need help with 'addiction.'  I'm not saying that the 12 Steps are not helpful.  What I am saying is that the 12 Steps will not work if the underlying problem is not effectively managed.  Otherwise, relapse is an unavoidable reality.
Since we live in an age where we have so many resources, folks who are trying to get sober may well benefit from an initial evaluation.  Getting a handle on the whole problem is important, and trying to treat true mental illness with 12 Steps is like trying to a migraine with an aspirin.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Hobby

I often find myself asking people the same question: what is your hobby?

You may or may not be surprised at how many people identify watching TV as their hobby.  I usually am successful at resisting the urge to say something sarcastic.

Watching TV or listening to music is 'entertainment.'  It is not, NOT, NOT a hobby.  A hobby is an activity in which you actively engage your mind in a creative process.  Watching TV is neither active nor creative.  It is numbing.  That's what entertainment does... it numbs us to our thoughts.

A hobby is an active engagement of our faculties, enfolding our bodies, minds, and our spirits.  Yes, a hobby is a spiritual activity because your spirit is where you are.

Hobbies are important these days because we suffer from so much information overload that our minds become bogged down.  A hobby is a kind of meditation, where we leave our worries and concerns to do something constructive.

In an age of manufacturing, we assume that everything we own or do must look like it was just unpacked from the store, and so we have lost the feel for hand-made items and their natural 'flaws' and inconsistencies.  Our modern possessions have lost the human feel of their design and making, and so we assume that we can't make things, even for fun.

This is not true.  You don't have to make something perfect in order to enjoy and benefit from the process.  If we are embarrassed, then we are probably just suffering from a little ego.

Most addicts discover that addiction is a full time occupation, and so they drop their hobbies.  Recovery means taking back that creative drive drowned in pills and booze and unhealthy activities.  It means getting a hobby.

We are made in the image and likeness of a Creator, and so we are also more human when we are creating.  As you trudge the road of happy destiny, do not forget the importance of hobbies.

Oh, and organizing your MP3 collection is not a hobby.  I have heard that one before.  I asked, "Did you use to use meth?"  The reply was something like, "Wow, how did you know?!"

Friday, March 14, 2014


One of the most successful counseling models around is Cognative Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.  Here's a short article from the BBC on it-
There are plenty of people I know who have gotten a lot out of it and, while it is no magic bullet for severe cases of addiction, it holds the potential to deal with many of the contributing factors.   This popped up during my research on brain plasticity
If you are wondering why I have not posted for a few days, here's a list of things going on-
Construction at the church
Sick wife
Parish duties
Mysterious computer problems leading to three trips to the tech dude
More Lent
Construction at my house
Dealing with a contractor who screwed up
Dealing with a child's learning issues (too bad I can't just let him run around with a BB gun all day, which is mostly what he needs)
Research for my presentation on pornography, which is taking some really odd turns
Did I mention Lent?
Writer's block, which is a clear sign of stress
That's a partial list.  Gee, I wonder why I am stressed?  Am I getting weak?
Anyway, these things shall all pass, and some of them already have or are packing their bags.
Back to CBT: I do think that most self-identified addicts would get as much help from CBT as they would a 12 Step group, mostly because modern society is so distorted that we need help finding normal.  Of course, this pre-supposes that the CBT therapist you are going to has the kind of 'normal' you are looking for.  Make sure to pop the hood and ask lots of questions before you sign up with any therapist.  There are some real nut-jobs out there.
The same is true of clergy, and this is why in the traditional Orthodox setting, church life is usually not centered on the priest, but the Church.  These days in America, we tend to make the church all about the priest, who has to 'recruit' and 'retain' 'members.'  This is why the 'successful' priests end up with all kinds of ego temptations, and many of them fall.
While no Christian should be ashamed of getting help, woe to the priest who lets it be known that he needs help.  You may be surprised how judgmental people can be towards someone they call 'father.'  But, given how little respect most American fathers get these days, it is little wonder.
Changing attitudes starts with ourselves.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Addiction Vending Machine

As most readers are well aware, the easier you make life for an addict, the more likely you are to be suffering from a condition known as 'emotional dependency.'  Emotional dependency is quite simple: one's own emotional well-being is derived from another person.

Now, read this silliness-

Million-dollar question: is the decision here really about the addicts, or how the policy-makers feel about addicts?

Is there any study behind this that proves that public health is under threat from unsafe crack-pipes?  Has anyone caught HIV from a crack pipe as posited, or is this just more fantasy?

The reason I am annoyed is that we should not be using emotions to make decisions to the exclusion of real facts.  Yes, addicts tend to acquire diseases in their addictive behaviors, but they are engaging in so much risk-taking it is hard to point to one single thing and say, "Hey, if they stop doing this one thing (other than using), their lives will get better."

Stop giving them tools to get high, and start giving them tools to get sober.  One of the most effective ways addicts get sober is with a hard encounter with the reality of life.  Sometimes, it is prison or a major accident that awakens a person to the hopelessness of his situation.

Then, he becomes willing to use any means necessary to get sober, especially the means we call 'good orderly direction.'  Once his ego has been crushed, the addict can take advice and act on it.  Until that crush occurs, nothing will work.

Handing out crack pipes does not crush the ego.  It does the opposite.  t enables the addict to spin all kinds of excuses... "Hey, man, smoking crack cocaine just got safer!  How about another rock in celebration?"

When we look at forming public policy, it is important to stop feeling and start thinking.  And, thinking begins with facts.  You want to hand out crack pipes?  Then, demonstrate either how public health is made better or addicts get sober.  Everything else is a delusion.

Do I think that we should make the lives of addicts any easier?  No, I don't.  This may sound heartless and cruel, but I think that it is more heartless and cruel to keep addicts in a state where they never come out of addiction because we are busy coddling them and protecting them from the natural consequences of their decisions.

Addicts are usually stunned by the concept of cause and effect, though it would seem they are not alone.  The more I deal with people these days, the fewer people I find who can understand it.  I think it may be part of a larger problem with post-modernism in modern schooling.  Sciences have not lost it for the most part, but just about everywhere else has.

Reading this book, you can see how often the diagnosis of HIV ends up stunning addicts into sobriety.  The condition of addiction often leaves its participants in a perpetual cloud that obscures reality.  The threat of AIDS sometimes, but not always, parts the clouds.

Even what is seen by the rest of the world as a tragedy can be a 'blessing.'  We need to have belief in God in order to have the courage to acknowledge such a possibility.  It takes great faith to let people 'fail.'

Or, we can try to 'help' and enable addicts right into the grave.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Internet Pornography Addiction Lecture

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, you are invited to a one-day presentation I've entitled 'The Spiritual Treatment of Pornography Addiction.'  It is free of charge, and lunch will also be free to those who RSVP.
Email me if you want directions.  Here is the basic schedule:
9:00am – Soul Saturday Liturgy & Memorial for the Reposed
10:30am - Introduction to the Physiology of Porn Addiction
11:30am - Questions
& Answers
Noon - Lenten Lunch (provided for RSVPers)
1:30pm - The Passions and Addiction
2:30pm - Questions & Answers
2:45pm - Break
3:00pm - 12 Step Recovery & the Church
4:15pm - Questions & Answers
4:30pm - Conclusion
4:45pm - Break
5:00pm - Great Vespers
This will not be recorded, so don't ask.  I'm really not sure this is 'polished' enough for general consumption, since I have not given this talk before and will be rolling out some theories about addiction that will be controversial.
I will also be delving into some -ologies and -osophies that I really don't have the 'certification' to talk about, and so I am largely going off of books I've read from other experts and some observations of 'addicts.'  To be honest, I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with the label 'addiction,' because I think it is simply too general and obscures some important differences within addicts.
While I do think that anyone who wants to can work the Steps and find them useful, I also think that they are being over-prescribed to people who have different problems that often mimic addictive behaviors.  This is what we are seeing with internet pornography and the shadowy OCD that lurks among so many 'addicts.'
Anyway, I hope in another year or so to have a better handle on the ideas that are bouncing around my crowded mind.  I've realized this has been a big part of the depression I've been battling the past year.  Now that I've found some resources that are asking some of the same questions I am, things feel much more hopeful.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Who is Responsible?

OK, so here in California, our governor decided to weigh in on the controversy regarding marijuana legalization.  He actually disclosed a type of thinking I believe is an important factor in discussing legalization:
So what is Governor Brown (who's nickname here is 'Governor Moonbeam' among his detractors due to his own hippy-like life experiences both in and out of office) really saying?  What is it that he is really hinting at here?
Well, let's go through some basics. 
The governor here is talking about the 'social cost' of too many people getting hooked on marijuana.  He is worried about economics.  That is because the governor sees himself as being responsible for the economy of California, which boils down to responsibility to provide corporations with functioning workers.
After all, the taxes on these corporations provide the budget for the programs he wants to spend money on.
Never mind the personal suffering of addicts as they destroy their families and relationships.  That's not an economic principle, so to speak.  Not in his world.
The flip side is that the government now handles more and more of what used to be personal responsibility.  What that means is that if you get yourself into a financial bind, it is up to the state (rather than you or your extended family) to bail you out.  The state is now controlling all aspects of healthcare, which addiction treatment is also folded into by extension.
That means addicts become a burden for the state.
We can see now with the gradual nationalization of healthcare, the government is going to have more and more say in our personal decisions.  It has done this with tobacco, alcohol, and some foods for quite a while.  But, as more 'costs' come to the system through 'bad' personal choices, get ready for more regulation.
Colorado is making a bet that if things get really bad, the federal government will bail them out.  Besides, healthcare is really becoming a federal responsibility, so the other 49 states can pony up if this all comes crashing down.  The problem here is the distribution of final responsibility means that no one feels particularly responsible.
Sure, Colorado is making noises about using the marijuana tax revenues to pay for treatment, but what happens if the treatment demands outpace the taxes?  Is there a mechanism to shut off the experiment?  Nope.  It is a flat permission to use and legalize the supply, and so if the situation gets out of control, the Federal government will step in and, just like the Wall Street bailouts, the guilty parties will get off with a mild warning. 
Who will be bailed out?  Why, the entire state of Colorado!  The people made a decision for this law, knowing that it is a gamble.
We live in an age where the whole idea of allowing addicts to die openly in the streets is considered abhorrent.  When we see a junkie on the curb, we demand treatment for him, forgetting the fact that treatment without willingness is largely ineffective.  You can't just give him a shot and have this bug go away.
If we want to really legalize drugs, then we have to make sure we are all willing to allow people to bear the full consequences of their actions.  This is mostly to help them understand before they 'experiment' that they will not get bailed out if this goes wrong.
After all, is it really fair for people to experiment with addictive substances, expecting the rest of the non-addict community to pay for it?  AA groups are 'self-supporting through our own contributions' because part of recovery is taking responsibility for paying for it yourself.  As a rule, we tend to appreciate the things we work for far more than the gifts we receive without a price.
In a way, this is what Gov. Brown is hinting at.  If people think, as they tend to in California, that there will always be help if they get in over their heads, then they will indeed abuse marijuana and expect all the services of the state to come to their aid.
He is seeing the bottom of the purse already, and is worried that if he has more takers than givers (i.e. workers to supply corporations with), then he won't be able to give away much of anything.  California already has 30% of the nation's welfare recipients.  While it is a complex figure, Gov. Brown knows that legalization in his state may have greater financial consequences.  If the state fails to manage the problem, the Feds will step in and he will end up losing much of his present spending discretion.
Once you lose your personal responsibility, you also lose your freedom.  They go hand-in-hand.  If you want someone to take care of you, you should expect that they will ask for something in return.  In the case of medical care, we are expected to pay for the privilege of being cared for.  Insurance companies have done that for some time (they have their rules outlined in the terms of the policy), and now the government is absorbing that.
So, the government will eventually get into regulating our highs.  They already are to some degree.  Alcohol is heavily high, but since it is so easy to make, it is regulated through inconvenience.
Marijuana is a more labor intensive and demanding than alcohol, but it has traditionally been regulated, like pornography, through social expectation.  Now that both are 'mainstream,' usage has gone up, creating more demand, which in turn is now effecting the supply.  Suppliers are stepping in and filling the void, and so you have the snowball effect of a 'War on Drugs' in the 1980s followed by today's popular acceptance.
What's going to happen?  First, I think that there will be an initial wave of abuse.  No doubt.
Second, I think that the government-corporate complex needs the highs of marijuana to relieve stress on its workers, and so they will find ways to 'manage' it through regulation (that's how we fix all our problems today, isn't it?).

Third, I would say watch out for how marijuana problems are reported.  While there will be denials at first, you will see a new corporate treatment model arise.

Finally, watch birthrates and marriage rate plummet.  That's the real target.

Thirty years ago, I read Aldous Huxley.  I've just ordered a copy of 'Brave New World' after a reader's comment triggered some old memories.  There is a connection here.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Overdosing and Supply

Massachusetts is having a crisis in overdoses from opiates, particularly heroin.  It is getting so bad, they want to put overdose kits on ambulances in an attempt to help save lives-

I am definitely all for this idea.  Saving lives should be a priority.

But, the reason I posted this article is something that caught my eye, buried within the article:

With a bag of heroin cheaper than a pack a cigarettes or most six-packs of beer, and prescribed opiates available more in the community, Ms. Bartlett said the state is experiencing a spike in elicit drug use. As a result, there has been a lot discussion on what it would take to make Narcan more readily available in the state. 

This should give the forces of drug legalization something to think about.  Access is related to death from overdose.

Aside from the obvious logic that one cannot overdose on something one cannot access to begin with, the general principle follows that the cheaper a substance becomes, the more people will access.  For example, there are many people who want to raise the price of gasoline in the US in order to get us to stop driving as much.

We tax alcohol and cigarettes also with a preventative eye.  The higher the price, the less 'casual' users will get involved.  A high school student isn't going to try a drug he can't afford (unless he steals it).

Once legalization takes place, already low drug prices will drop further because part of the cost of a drug is for all those layers of 'security' and losses due to law enforcement.  Every time a dealer or a transporter gets busted with his stash, there's a loss that the next sale will have to cover. 

So, the supply will increase.  But, the question is, will the quality improve?  You see, the other side of legalization is that it does not control the quality of the product. Illicit drugs like meth and heroin are not regulated for quality and potency, let alone basic sanitation, and so the addict is taking a risk every time he uses.

That's what the overdose problem is about: addicts underestimate the strength of their drugs.  

So, to save lives, are we going to merely try to resuscitate overdosers, or should we regulate the purity of their drugs?  Suddenly, the government becomes involved in enabling.  I think we can all agree that if the government starts helping out addicts in this way, and drugs become 'safer,' we will see an increase in exposure and probably an increase in addiction as well.

Let's face it: most of us know that heroin feels really good... and that scares us enough to not try it.  What if the perceived risks were taken away?  Suddenly, the restraints of danger would be removed, and many of us would be more inclined to try it.  After all, a good feeling without a significant 'down side'... what could be more enticing?

So long as there is an unregulated supply, there will be deaths.  However, the cost of regulation would be the state enabling addicts in their addiction.  I'll have more on this in the next post, in which I will decipher a remark made by Gov. Jerry Brown of California as to why he (an admitted former pot user) is against legalization.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wandering Hearts

Perhaps last night you stood for several hours in a darkened church singing the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.  If you didn't, and would like to read it, here you go.
If you did, you probably only heard about half of it. The rest of the time, your mind wandered.  That's not by accident.
Most Orthodox services way overshoot the normal human attention span.  Then again, so did a lot of events in the Bible:
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done."
And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." (Matthew 26:37-46)
We can't focus for even five minutes.  Our minds race and flit from thought to thought.  When we try to concentrate, we do so with great difficulty and only receive modest improvements after years of ceaseless effort.
It is reminder that we can't even begin to repent without divine intervention.  If you wonder why someone can relapse after tasting the freedom of abstinence, or why we return to sin almost immediately after going to Confession, it is because we are constitutionally distracted.
Lent is not something achieved.  It is endured.  It's purpose is to remind us that we cannot pray or repent without God's help.  Once we accept the proposition that we are utterly incapable of helping ourselves, then we finally arrive at that place where real change can take place.
yes, we must continue to try, but the real work is not so much in the progress as it is in the effort.  If we continue to focus on making the effort, we will make progress.  If we keep trying to achieve progress on our own, the effort often seems insurmountable.
Accept the failures of this time, and keep trying.  God will heal you even when your heart wanders... so long as you wander back.
If you leave and never come back, then you'll never experience joy.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Struggling With Meetings

It is normal for many of us to struggle with going to 12 Step meetings.  There are a number of reasons:

1) I don't like talking about my problem.
2) I like talking about my problems too much.
3) I'm not all that interested in change right now.
4) I hear a lot of crazy stuff from other people trying to talk about God but describing something very different from the 'Higher Power' of the Big Book.
5) I see a lot of people in meetings who really don't have an addiction problem, but rather severe emotional retardation which mimics addiction but really isn't.

Of course, the problem is with the 'I' in each of these cases.

So, how do we deal with our resistance?  First, I would say that it is time to get honest: are you really an addict?  This is the million-dollar question.

Addiction is now one of the most trendy and over-diagnosed problems in America.  Everyone loves to be addicted, because it sounds so much better than just being weak-willed and immature.  Yet, most addiction acting-out is precisely that.  So, the professionals look at the behavior and say, 'Well, look at what you are doing... you must be an addict!'

Then comes the prescriptions and trips to rehab.  All of which are billable.

Then, there are do-gooder judges and legislators who send flocks of wobbly drivers to AA meetings even though they are just substance-abusers rather than real addicts.  Some of those people stick around for a myriad of reasons, none of which have to do with genuine addiction.

So, it is no wonder why so many AA meetings are something of a disaster these days.  The trick is whether we can see ourselves as clearly as others.  Until you can, you might just have to stick it out.  We have to understand that we must put up until we change, rather than demanding others change as well.

Second, if you can find another way to get sober, then by all means go do that.  There are plenty of new therapy programs, such as Cognative Behavioral Therapy, that word quite well on modern malaise and flat-out dysfunction.  Drop the meetings and work the extra hours to afford some sessions.  You may find that to be your solution.

Some people don't handle meetings well because they really don't have an addiction problem and so everything there is gibberish.  If you don't identify, then it makes no sense to stay.  No, I do not believe you can force anyone to admit they have a problem, no matter how many meetings they attend.  And, very often, 'fake-it-until-you-make-it leaves you as a well-practiced faker who never makes it at all.

Go ahead and do something else.  Stop banging your head against a wall.

When you are ready, and all of a sudden all the stuff you heard in meetings makes sense, then go back.  AA began with members fishing end-stage alcoholics out of hospital beds and jail cells.  That's the kind of alcoholic that is willing to do anything to get sober.  If you ain't there, sitting in a meeting being bored is not going to help you. 

Third, try to remember that half the people in the room are probably annoyed with you as well.  Extend a little bit of patience to those you are annoying...