Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Resentments and Gratitude

....on the Road to Recovery

Heard this the other day.....

Write your resentments in sand.....write your blessings in granite.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hmmmm....Was my worst day sober really better than my best day drunk?

....on the Road to Recovery


My worst day sober was better than my best day drunk.

I've heard this saying for a long time. Several years ago I stopped and really thought about the statement as it relates to my life. The simple answer I came up with is that your answer depends on how you look at things... I wrote the following short story that explained this in more detail

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recovery from Alcoholism- Gratitude and Blessings

During my days of drinking, I'm not sure what I would have said if someone asked me what I was grateful for. I'm not sure I even had an understanding of what that word meant. I would say things like, "Man, I was lucky to get that or have this". Or, "Well, I worked hard for it,  it I deserve it."  I took so many things large and small for granted. As if I deserved it - like this is the way it should be.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What are the principles we are supposed to "practice in all our affairs"?


I attended a meeting a while ago where the lead and discussion were on Step 12,  (Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.)  When it was their turn to speak, a person who had been around for a while, but less than a year, asked this question.  "What does it mean,  and practice these principals in all our affairs"? They went on.....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Recovery from alcoholism- A promise

I have been in meetings with lots of newcomers to AA during my years of sobriety. I listen to their struggles from both a life perspective and most intently from an emotional perspective. They describe their fears, remorse, depression, loneliness, along with their desire to stay sober. The pain in their faces is not hard to recognize. Neither is the uncertainty of their lives to follow….

I remember this time in my life very well.  I remember thinking, well I may not ever drink again (nor do I want to), but this is for sure: I will never laugh or enjoy laughing again like those guys sitting at that front table yucking it up all meeting long.

Recovery from alcoholism- The sorry plight of the "functioning alcoholic"

....on the Road to Recovery

                                          The sorry plight of the "Functioning Alcoholic"

First, here are a few of the tendencies I would use to describe a functioning alcoholic (someone who is dependent on alcohol to cope with life, but who has managed to keep functioning without getting into "too much trouble"):

  • They rarely miss work due to drinking.
  • They try to control when and how much they drink- they are constantly aware of this need to "control" their drinking.
  • They do not want people to know how much they drink.
  • They try to hide their drinking from others. (Although they believe they are sneakily successful at this, almost all around them know they drink to excess.)
  • They are very moody, restless, irritable and discontent until they get the needed level of alcohol in their system.
  • They attribute alcohol-related or aggravating illnesses, like stomach problems, sleeping problems, nervousness, skin issues, and even life threatening diseases,  to anything other than their continual, excessive drinking. 

But that's not the essence of what I want to share.....

Monday, September 1, 2014

The "Ism" in Alcoholism - Below the Surface


A friend of mine recently gave an analogy of the complete picture of our disease. The analogy goes something like this:

Our actual abuse of alcohol and  its damage to us and others is like the tip of  an iceberg. Only a symptom of our problem. What lies underneath the surface is the total iceberg of our disease - the "ism" that is the engine that drives our alcohol abuse.

I think this "ism' is driven by our negative attitudes, resentments, selfishness, angers, fears, and the rest of our character defects.

So what I get out of this is,  if we want the tip of the iceberg (abuse of alcohol) to be removed, we need to get underneath the waves to address  the "exact nature of our wrongs".

Please share:

What are your thoughts on this analogy?

How would you describe the "ism"  in this analogy?

Have you ever experienced "untreated alcoholism" where you are not drinking, but that's about it for being positive?

How are you addressing the "rest of the iceberg" in terms of your recovery? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Recovery from alcoholism- Bless them, change me!

The other day I was talking with someone about an issue they were having with a relative. The essence of their story was that they needed to take a stand and let the person know their behavior was not acceptable and that they weren’t going to be a “doormat” for them any longer. I have heard people talk about similar issues many times.  In talking to my sponsor about it  he suggested that this issue is tied into self-esteem. The ability to stand up for ourselves thereby building our self-confidence and sense of well-being-  reducing resentments toward ourselves and others when we refuse to do things that aren’t good for us- as a result of  people pleasing, and other enabling type defects.  

The person went on to say once she had taken this stance with her relative, she then needed to let the situation go and resume life including an ongoing relationship with the person she had confronted. That’s when she came up with a new tool for me to use:  It was a prayer that went “Bless them, change me”.

That’s a good one to remember!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recovery from alcoholism- Hawaii and my spiritual condition


The last few days have been rough ones for me. Over the weekend I went away and as my friend Bob says “got out of my routines and practices”. Got out of sync.  I got a call from a friend Dan this morning and we talked about being spiritually fit and how that is the most important thing for our peace and serenity.  I admitted that when I feel “bad” the first thing I want to do; is do something to escape, anything (thank God drinking does not come to mind) - preferably those things that are “fun” things to do for me. Golf, fish, buy something, etc. These are not bad things in themselves but they are not the priority,  if my objective is to get some peace of mind and get connected with God. Once I get connected spiritually then my world opens up to many exciting, pleasant possibilities.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- "All the help we can get"

With the tragic passing of Robin Williams, there is much talk in the meetings I attend regarding the topics of addiction, depression,  anxiety and other mental disorders.  

Here is the bottom line for me:  in the context of the recovery world, I'm not ashamed to admit... I suffer from alcoholism, an addicitve personality, anxiety and depression. None of these mental disorders hinders me from living a full and meaningul life. I'm sure many in the outside world who don't know about my illnesses...  would probably even think I have my act together pretty well.

But that doesn't matter. What really matters is that I understand and accept that I need to address all of my illnesses. That means I need to see medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists... and I have and will continue to do so.

I also need to work out regularly, pray and meditate, do new things like yoga,  drink minimal amounts of caffeine (not doing so well there at the moment),  eat regularly, and get the best sleep possible.

The reality that I have to do things I don't want to do and not do things I want to do really frustrates me at times...

But here is the question.: do I want to be as well as I can be? Am I willing to do the things that I need to do for the good of myself and those around me?

Am I willing to work for my sobriety (as defined in the dictionary as "soundness of mind")?

There is, at time,s a subtle reference in AA meetings "that AA is all we need."  Typically there is not much more added to the statement of  "need."  People can say and believe whatever they want.

The full program of AA, with the help of my God, has saved me from a "hopeless state of mind and body." No question about that. And I will be forever grateful that I found the program.

However, it is clear to me that I, along with many others in AA,  need more help than what's entailed in the full program of AA. Some get this and take action, others don't. Some of those who don't get outside help suffer unnecessarily, end up in mental institutions or and even die... without drinking. 

The following is what the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on the matter.

Page 133 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous  (First Edition):

"Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any dissipation.

But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward."

Football and a Game Plan for Recovery (from alcoholism)

The Chicago AA office issues a newsletter named "Here's How".  They recently published an article I wrote celebrating the start of the NFL season- and relating a particular game to the priority of staying sober.

Wanted to share the story with you.

Football and a Game Plan for Recovery

Well its football season again. A few days ago, I was watching the Chicago Bears pre-season game. I am a huge NFL fan and a die-hard Chicago Bear fan. I’m predicting (like always) this will be a good year for the Bears.

Watching this game got me thinking about a Bears game several years ago where an event happened that caused me to reflect on the stages of recovery. This analogy that I will describe is like many I get regarding real life situations and how they relate to alcoholism. I don’t know why I get these thoughts or inspirations, but I do know they mean a lot to me, are spiritual in nature and I am grateful to God for giving them to me.......

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- "Attitude Adjustment"

....on the Road to Recovery
"Attitude Adjustment"

A few days ago, I was driving around and had a bunch of negative thinking going on. So many blessings in my life... so much to be grateful for... and my mind is full of negativity.

A thought came to me: I didn't need to change anything, go anywhere, buy anything, watch anything, play anything... do anything at all to change my frame of mind... I just needed an attitude adjustment.

Needed to view things from a different perspective. Turn my attention elsewhere.  A thought adjustment such as life is,  and never will be,  perfect. We are always going to have some type of struggle and challenge going on... no matter how much we try to control things. It's the way we look at these things and how we address them that determines our state of mind.

Is it a major problem or a minor obstacle?

Is there action we can take to address the situation or do we need to  accept part or all of it as "life"?

Is there any positive side to it... short or long term?

Can we use the situation to encourage or help someone else who has a similar situation?

Is it something that will help us build a stronger recovery program?

Get us closer to God?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- "Other Focused"

....on the Road to Recovery

                                                     "Other Focused"


How can I get what I want now? What's in it for me?

What can I do to make me happy? How will that affect me?

I have too many things to do to help them.

I can say whatever I want to whomever I want to say it.

Why should I volunteer?  There are many others who are available.


What can I do for you today? How is your day going?

Can I help? Who can I call today that is hurting?

What can I give away today to help someone else: time, possessions, a listening ear, a call to say hello, a ride, some service work?


my Higher Power, God, is caring for me,  at least partly,  so I can be of service to others.

not everything that happens to me is about me.

selfishly doing whatever I want is not the answer to making me feel good.

the feeling that I get when I am unselfish is the touch of God.

working on building good relationships is one of the top priorities in life

Friday, July 25, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism - "Fast Forgetters"

....on the Road to Recovery

                                                       " Fast Forgetters"

I have attended AA meetings for over 24 years.  I'm guessing I have averaged four meetings a week during that time. I just did the math - that equals 35,040 meetings.

I'm also guessing that I have read/ heard the majority of slogans, principles, suggestions, key points of the Big Book, etc.

So one theory would have it that I have heard it all and all I need to do is implement these things on a daily basis. In other words, why would I continue to need to hear the same things over and over?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- "Who have thoroughly followed our path"

...on the Road to Recovery
                                ...."Who have thoroughly followed our path"

The opening sentence of "How it Works" from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states, "Rarely have we seen a person who has thoroughly followed our path."

My understanding is that, in the original manuscript, the sentence stated "Never have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path."

My thoughts lately on this sentence involve the phrase "followed our path."

My question: followed what path?

My belief is the path they are referring to involves the full program of Alcoholics Anonymous that has evolved for over 75 years.

I have been talking about this theme in the meetings I attend often as it becomes clearer and clearer to me that....We are going to stay sober (sober defined as abstinence from alcohol and soundness of mind)  if we put in the necessary work. In many places in the Big Book and the Bible there are wonderful promises of  good things for us.  Many of these end in clauses like "if we work for them"... "who have thoroughly followed our path," "I will blanket My protection over all who trust in me" (Psalm 5:11).

So in each of these, in order to get the promise, we are asked to do something...

Here are some of the simple (I didn't say easy!) things I was taught to do in order to receive the full benefits of the AA program:

1. Go to meetings regularly
2. Get a sponsor
3. Read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
4. Find a Higher Power and build a personal relationship with that Power
5. Ask your God for help each morning and thank Him at night
6. Work the 12 steps (all of them!)
7. Engage in fellowship (e.g., socialize before and after the meetings)
8. Help others new to the program
9. Help others members who are hurting in the program
10. Volunteer for service work (e.g., set-up,  chair and speak at meetings)

These are some of the areas I will be addressing in detail in my upcoming book AA Bootcamp.

I would be interested in any other things you would add to the definition of "thoroughly followed our path."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- Coincidences?

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                        God Coincidences

God Coincidences

As I have gone through recovery discovery, the fullness of a Higher Power has been a major cornerstone of my life. It's not just about defining the nature of my Higher Power (God); it's about getting to know Him on a personal level. I know that may sound strange to some... i.e., "What do you mean a personal relationship with something you can't feel, see or touch?" 

Yep, it’s not a human concept; it’s a spiritual one. Can't analyze it; just need to experience it.

It's hard for me to have faith in something that is not tangible. However, God knows me personally and knows that, like the disciple Thomas, I need real evidence of His existence.

So He has given me proof of His love and care over and over again in the last 24 years, especially the times when I needed it most.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous speaks about a 4th dimension where we experience a spiritual awakening that allows us to view the world with spiritual insight. This idea has allowed me to change my beliefs from the idea of luck and coincidence to one of faith, humility, and the power of God.  

But I still haven't gotten to the specific message of this article, which is about specific, identifiable events that happen in my life, sometimes, but not always, on a daily basis... which I know deep in my heart are evidence of God helping me and more importantly continually demonstrating to me that He exists.

It goes back to the beginning of my sobriety...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- What are you thinking?

....on the Road to Recovery

                                                 What are you thinking about?

Many people with addiction problems talk about their "default" to negative thinking and obsessing over troubles and worries of the past or future.

We can't make much progress in changing this type of thinking until we know we are engaging in it.

So here is a great tool to help with that:

Implement a discipline where you stop 4 times during the day and think about what you are thinking about!

Once you capture negative thinking you can start changing. You can ask your Higher Power to remove the thought.... You can focus on what you are grateful for and the positive things that are happening in your life...you can say the third step prayer and/or the serenity prayer.

The essence of this idea is ...we can't get better until we know where we are at the moment.

Thoughts on this?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- Cash or Credit?

..on the Road to Recovery

                                                  Cash or Credit?

Yesterday is like a cancelled check...

Tomorrow is like a promissory note...

Today is like cash!

Are you spending it wisely?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- memory problems

.....on the Road to Recovery

                            We are slow learners and fast forgetters!

I heard this at a meeting yesterday.  Although there is obviously some humor intended, I believe its an important message for those who have been sober and in recovery for a while.

We cannot sit on our laurels and expect to have contented sobriety. Our sobriety (soundness of mind) is contingent on our daily spiritual condition.

In order to maintain this spiritual condition, we need to be "fed" on a regular basis things that aid us in maintaining and growing the tools that we have that keep us on the right path.

In my recently published book (page xix), "Under Construction, 25 Life-Giving Tools for Addicts in Recovery," I wrote this:

 "Depending on where you are in recovery, some of this information may be instructional. However, for many of us, it will merely serve as a reminder of things we have already heard, understood, and incorporated in our lives, but have just been forgotten momentarily."

The point being that what we have learned in our recovery  needs to be reinforced on a regular basis to keep it fresh in our minds and actions. Regular meeting attendance is the best way I have found to ensure this happens.

Have you found this to be true in your recovery?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- counting days?

.......on the road to Recovery

                                                Counting days... AND... Making days count

I recently heard the statement:  You shouldn't count days (of sobriety), but instead make the days count. I've heard a lot of opinions on this  topic of time vs. quality in AA and other addiction recovery programs.

My attitude is: Both are important.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- His ways are not your ways

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                      His ways are not your ways

You know God does not do bad things. But sometimes you may fail to realize that everything that feels bad to you is not necessarily bad for you. Reminding yourself that His ways are not your ways will help you trust Him even when your circumstances are hard to understand.-Joyce Meyer

Do you believe this?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Reflections on the Road to Recovery from Alcoholism- Contempt prior to investigation

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                 Contempt prior to investigation

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Have you ever had someone suggest that a belief you have may be wrong, and before they even finish, you cut them off because "you really don't want to hear it"? Or have a friend make a suggestion that you should try something new - and your reaction is, "Thanks, but no thanks. I'm just fine with the way things are going" (even if they're not going so well...).

I had a professional counselor once tell me that I may not believe this or like to hear it but, "I walk around with some beliefs that are absolutely wrong"!  That was a shocking consideration.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- Identifying ourselves

.......on the Road to Recovery

                                                  Identifying ourselves

In AA recovery meetings, people identify themselves in many different ways. Let's take the fictional "Mary" for example.

My name is Mary and I'm:

an alcoholic
a recovering alcoholic
a recovered alcoholic
a grateful, recovering alcoholic
powerless over alcohol
a recovering alcoholic and addict

I'm writing on the topic to get readers to consider why people use these different identifiers and what the differences imply.

Just as an fyi - I use "Hello I'm Rick and I'm an alcoholic.

Long ago, as I listened to others begin differently I  concluded any of them would apply to me, but decided I better keep mine really simple... so I don't get confused!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- abstinence or sobriety?

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                 Abstinence or Sobriety?

I have been hearing this theme a lot lately at meetings:

 Is sobriety solely the absence of alcohol in our lives? 

Sayings like "just go to meetings" and "don't drink" seem to imply this. There is, however, another theme that basically says not taking that first drink and abstaining from alcohol is just a start to recovery.

Sobriety as "Soundness of Mind"

Sobriety, in many dictionaries and other sources, is defined as "soundness of mind." Is it possible or even reasonable that  alcoholics can just stop drinking - and do nothing else - and have their lives change from a pit of despair, misery and selfishness to one of happiness joy and freedom? 

If you are in recovery programs, you will hear  phrases such as "dry drunk," and  "stinkin thinkin."  I always find it funny, but containing a serious message, when I hear the statement, " If you take alcohol away from an alcoholic horse thief... you are left with a horse thief." 

I personally have witnessed several alcoholics who stop drinking, but do not work any kind of program of recovery. I have seen them cry, wreck their lives, even end up in mental institutions... all without drinking. I have heard relatives say, "We were much better off when fill in the name... was drinking - at least they got drunk and passed out - left us alone."

Transformation of the Old Me to the New Me

In my years of recovery, I have discovered this:  removing alcohol from my life did many positive things... the most significant was to uncover so that I could discover what my problem really is... me. It led me to understand what my character defects were (the exact nature of my wrongs) and then provided me with the tools to begin the transformation of the old me to a new me.

"Immersing" Ourselves in the Program

This transformation required immersing myself in the "full program of recovery." This included (and still includes) getting a sponsor, working the steps, engaging in the fellowship, finding and building a relationship with a Power greater than myself,  doing service work, carrying the message of hope of recovery to others... along with a few other things.

I think you would agree that the above involves a whole new way of living, much more than just not drinking... but the work also brings with it a fullness of recovery - for the benefit of ourselves and those around us.

I speak often to newcomers about this idea of "immersing ourselves in recovery." One day one of these new people asked me "what does immersion include - what do I need to do?" This question has inspired me to begin writing my second book on recovery, "AA Bootcamp."  I am very excited about being able to hand it to the next newcomer who asks me what they need to do to get better.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- The mornings

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                  The Morning
When I was drinking, I would wake up and think, "Oh my God, it's the morning."

In recovery I wake and think, "It's the morning, good morning God."

How did you and do you now wake in the morning?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- Relationships

........on the road to Recovery

One measure of the daily quality of our program of recovery ...and our spiritual condition...is the state of our relationships with others.

I don't know about anyone else, but keeping relationships intact and growing is extremely difficult for me, especially when my spiritual condition is weak.

Why?  A few examples:

I tend to quit when there is friction or strong negative emotional exchanges - I think "I don't need this anymore".

I get irritable and judgmental and people don't want to be around me.

I like to isolate.

It's difficult for me to engage socially in a comfortable manner.

I get bored easily.

I want perfection.

When I think about relationships, there are many types I include:

My wife, my children, the rest of my family, my wife's family, my neighbors, my friends in recovery, my church members, my sponsor, those I sponsor, and God.

Where do you stand with your relationships?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- Words of addicition and recovery

...on the Road to Recovery

                                    Words of addiction and recovery

When my alcoholism and addictive personalty are active, the following words describe my tendencies:

Impulsive, fast, selfish, mean-spirited, irritable, angry, fearful, seeking immediate gratification, undisciplined...

Drifting and remaining in this state takes no effort on my part- just happens by default.

In recovery, I have been introduced to a whole new set of words that represent the fullness of sobriety (soundness of mind) to me:

Perseverance, consistency, thoroughness, patience, kindness, caring, courage, discipline, thoughtfulness, other- focused...

Implementing and integrating these attitudes and actions in my life is extremely difficult for me. I make frustratingly slow progress. But each step toward them gets me to be the kind of person who I like and who God meant me to be.  As I move toward them (on a snail's pace). I like myself more and more (I believe others feel the same about me). It's truly a journey.

Which of these words strike home with you?

What words would you add?

Where are you on the journey of transformation as you envision it?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- Who am I, really?

...on the Road to Recovery

                                                           Who am I, really?

Fueled by alcohol,  I gained the false courage to behave in a way that reflected the person I thought I wanted to be. In new sobriety, absent alcohol, I found that I was full of fear and lacked the courage to become the person I knew I was meant to be.

Through the grace of God and the power of AA I am becoming the the person God meant for me to be-one day at a time- for 24 years (today).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- The most important thing in my life

                 Reflections on the ...........................................Road to recovery

                                            The most important thing in my life

I hear it all the time. "Not taking a drink is the most important thing in my life".  Every time I hear it I pause to consider if this I what I really believe for myself.

 I'm conflicted......

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reflections on the road to Recovery from alcoholism- Connecting with others

....on the Road to Recovery

                                       Connecting with others when I speak

The other day I did a lead on step 11 and afterward I didn't feel really great about it. I had read sections of the Big Book and shared a blog I had written about God's will..But something wasn't right. One thing I am sure of was a story I told of an experience I had with a spiritual event in my life...connected with the people. I could see it in their faces as I told the story.

I was confused about why I felt uncomfortable with my lead until yesterday-when someone out of the blue said, "AA asks that when we speak at a meeting we share our experience, strength and hope of recovery...not our knowledge".

That was it..I was trying to educate..not share my experience, strength and hope. Then just to confirm I attended a meeting a few days later when a lady gave a lead on step 11..filled with personal experience, struggles, joy and hope..everyone connected.

I got it now!