Wish I Had Another Chance by Tommy Rosen

A young man in recovery named Charlie came to my house earlier this year with his parents. His entry into addiction came as the result of a head-on car accident caused by an old man who was driving on the wrong side of Highway 17 near Santa Cruz on Jan. 1, 2010. That was the day that changed the course of Charlie’s life. Opiates!

Charlie had been to many rehabs, but nothing had stuck. Yet, his heart shined through the epic pain and suffering his addiction had wreaked upon his life. He was sweet and had a true sense of compassion and kindness.

When we met he had been out of treatment and sober for a month or two. We chatted together and I took him to a 12-Step meeting. All at once, I felt a slight distance between us and a tremendous love for him, like someone I knew much better. I can’t explain this feeling. I think it has to do with something beyond my limited perspective, but the point is, he made an impact on me.

He was adamant about moving down to the LA area, I think to Long Beach, from his home in Northern, CA. He had no real program or connections to speak of, but his plan was to work that out when he got down. He did not ask me to sponsor him and I did not offer that. I had gotten very busy between work and my existing sponsees and it would have been difficult to take on another one.

A few months passed and I decided to email his mom to see how things were proceeding before reaching out to him. I received her email back a day later telling me that Charlie had died from his addiction just two weeks after I had met him months ago. She had wanted to email me, but just couldn’t do it. The news crushed me. It makes no sense to grieve for someone you never knew, but that’s how I felt. It was real grief.

And if you want to know the truth, I felt guilty. Had I missed an opportunity to help this person? Could I have made a difference in his life? What if I had volunteered to sponsor him?

I’m perfectly aware that I cannot control another person. I’m clear that people die all the time from the dis-ease of addiction, especially opiates these days. I know we can only help a few people, but God Dammit, I’m so sorry that Charlie died. I’m so sorry about it that I have to write about it and tell you, I wish I had another shot at this. I wish I had a chance to go back and push myself upon this kid as his sponsor. Would things have turned out differently? I have no idea, but I would like to have the shot at it.

This is part of what drives me to do the work I’m doing. Addiction is a disease. It has a treatment. If you apply the treatment you get better. If you then apply the elements of yoga, meditation, healthy diet and continue to strengthen your mind, body and connection to spirit, things turn out amazingly well. BUT all this takes an amazing amount of willingness and day-to-day vigilance. Most people just cannot understand that this is what it takes to survive and ultimately thrive in recovery.

I will not ever forget Charlie. In the face of a disease that kills amazing people like him, all we can do is to carry the message that Recovery = Life.

This is yet another wake-up call. Young people are dropping like flies around Heroin addiction. It’s an epidemic. We must get out in front of this thing and help our kids to understand just how devastating this thing is and help those afflicted to access holistic treatment to heal them into the wholeness of their being.

In Loving Memory of Charlie Thomas,

—Tommy Rosen

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Toldot-Yin and Yang

“And G‑d said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb and two peoples shall diverge from your belly; and one nation will struggle against the other…’”—Genesis 25:23.

In this week’s portion, the matriarch Rebecca conceives and – not knowing that she is pregnant with twins – asks God to tell her why her pregnancy is causing her so much pain. She discovers that not only is she carrying two babies, but that they are actually battling within her. Her sons, Jacob and Esau, are rivals who are destined to continuously struggle from inside the womb, throughout their lives and into the annals of history.

The fate of Jacob and Esau is such that they cannot both exert power at the same time. Each one’s strength is derived only from the weakening of the other. As tradition relates, “They will never be equal. When one rises, the other will fall.”

Let’s move away from the literal obvious explanation and try to understand this on a spiritual metamorphic level.

Not only within Rebecca, but in all of us, these two twins struggle…In spiritual terms, Jacob and Esau represent two diametrically-opposed inclinations in human beings: a desire to serve a Higher Power and a desire to serve oneself One represents spirituality, humility and service to others—while the other represents physicality, arrogance, self centeredness and aggression. Not only within one soul, but also in all of us, these twin struggles exist in all humans, always vying for control over the other.

As human beings we are no strangers to the dynamic of this conflict.

We may view ourselves as having our own personality, one that values selfishness and gratification. It wants to control our lives so that we pursue only its desires. It is big and strong, a hunter and an outlaw. Then there is a part of us that wants to be closer to God and live a life of usefulness. This is our other self who is quiet, peaceful and loving. These two cannot both be in charge at the same time. Neither can they share nor divvy up control so as to coexist on equal footing. There is no possibility of compromise. Each one can only strengthen itself at the direct expense of the other.

Like the image of a seesaw, if one end is rising, then the other must be going down. At any given moment, the selfish material side may push itself up over our spiritual self; or, conversely, our spirituality comes to the fore through the quelling and repressing of our disease for another little while. But one thing is certain: both cannot happen at once.

Ask yourself at this moment, ‘Are you working towards or away from a your Higher Power?’”

Or, as it’s also been said: “When I’m not working on my spiritual enlargement, I’m working on my self absorption.”

A mystical tradition tells us that even if one is completely reformed and exerts perfect control over negative impulses for the rest of your life, your internal negativity will never go away. To the contrary, even when kept in perfect and constant check, not only does it not leave—but, just by our maintaining our bodily needs, the animalistic and selfish side unavoidably grows stronger every day.

Scholarly spiritualists tell us that progresses even during the best of times are precarious. It comes as no wonder, then, to know that the our negative side progresses even during these good times.

But, thankfully, our Higher Power has given each of us the ability to stay one step – or hopefully many steps – ahead. It is our relationship with God that is the key to outrunning, outlasting and overpowering our internal negativity—one day at a time.

Thus, when it comes to spiritual growth, we must renew our commitment daily with refreshed intensity and vigor. We must remain ever vigilant. We can settle for no less than a goal of complete spiritual domination of all aspects of our lives.

Does this sound extreme or intense? It is—because our negativity is.

It is because we are human and our God wants close and trusting so that relationship can continue our spiritual growth.

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Gratitude and Trust

Oprah sits down with Oscar®- and Grammy®-winning songwriter Paul Williams and screenwriter Tracey Jackson, who discuss their new book on addiction and recovery, Gratitude and Trust. In the interview, each shares a unique experience of addiction: Paul as a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 24 years, and Tracey as someone who has been inspired by her friends who participate in traditional recovery programs. Paul and Tracey believe that everyone, even the nonaddict, struggles with life-limiting behaviors. Through these fear-based habits—including perfectionism, smartphone obsession, overeating and fear of intimacy—we subconsciously stand in the way of our personal wholeness. Paul and Tracey have created six affirmations, rooted in traditional principles of recovery, that they say can help people identify personal obstacles, break their dysfunctional patterns and embark on a path toward a better version of themselves while learning to evolve through trust and gratitude.

Click on the link below to watch full episode.

Gratitude and Trust

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Feminist Love

This is an exceptionally written D’Var Torah by my friend Dr. Leon Weissberg that I am sharing today.
It is especially poignant to me because it speaks to the strength and spiritual grace of the women in my life who have supported me in my recovery. I love you and feel blessed.
CARYN, SIMONE, MICHELE, GABRIELLE, CHEYANNE, BETH and all my friends /family who have helped me grow…

Chayai Sarah-LOVE
by Dr Leon Weissberg

This week’s portion called the Life of Sarah, begins with her death …”And the life of Sarah was one hundred years, and twenty years, andseven years. These were the years of the life of Sarah” (Genesis 23:1)

The fact that the Torah counts her life span by separating each number with “and”, Rashi comments that all the years of Sarah’s life were equally good. How could they have been equally good when we have read that Sarah was barren during her fertile years, she experienced famine and exile, and was taken captive twice. So how could it be that every one of her years were equally good? Reb Zushe, a Biblical commentator, explains that Sarah internalized the concept “Gam Zeh l”Tovah” (This too, is for the good). Sarah recognized that everything that happened to her was the will of God, therefore, how could anything be bad — it all had to be good. And even if it was a challenge, she understood a basic Torah principle; God doesn’t give people challenges which they can not overcome. Therefore, she was always happy and viewed every year of her life as equally good. We too have the capacity to view life in the same way — that everything that happens to us is ultimately for our good. We call this attribute coping.

Sarah is the iconic Matriarch of the Jewish people. She is a woman described by our ancient sages as being even a greater prophet than her husband, Abraham, to the point that God told Abraham to follow her advice. Further Sarah was a woman renown in the ancient world for her wisdom, compassion, hospitality and spirituality. It is said that the shechinah itself –hovered over the tents of Abraham in her honor and for her sake – and that on her death they disappeared to reappear later only when Rebecca, enters those tents. Sarah was a complete partner in Abraham’s holy work, that except for two specific acts, buying her gravesite and searching for a bride for Isaac – a job that he delegates to another — Abraham effectively disappears from the stage of Jewish history after her death, although he remarries and lives another 38 years.

The parsha does not fixate on Sarah although it’s called her life, but also segues to the establishment of her successor Rebecca. The portion follows with Abraham sending his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac from among his people. Abraham insists that Eliezer bring the prospective bride back to Hebron; under no circumstances is Isaac to leave the country (he is the only one of the three patriarchs who never left the land). Eliezer takes ten camels laden with presents and sets out on his mission, encounters Rebecca and her brother and subsequently brings her back to her husband, but only if she chooses to do so without any duress. We see how many cultural customs are changed as the Book of Genesis unfolds. She comes to Isaac and the word “love” is used for how the two of them see each other. Quite a lovely love story. Rebecca assumes the mantle of Sarah and the patrilineal and matrilineal hierarchy continues.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom to know the difference

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Hope In Recovery

By Rachel Naomi Remen

“Strong hope is a much greater stimulant of life than any single realized joy could be.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Strong hope in recovery from addiction, is just as important as embracing a “one day at a time” perspective, seeking therapy, seeking a support system, having courage to change, and determination to never give up no matter how many times you fall. There are many ways to help you embrace an attitude of hope: 

Writing in a journal acknowledging the progress is so important. Addicts in recovery often get stuck thinking they are making no progress in the recovery journey. If they keep a journal, and look back over a few months they will see progress happens, just one day at a time and builds over time. 

I think a lot of people in recovery get tripped up over relapse, they lose hope, and worry that they are back to square one, but this is not the case. They are constantly learning in recovery, and with each relapse they learn new triggers, and can apply new tools to help them stand back up and fight for recovery. They never start in square one; they just may have stopped moving forward. They need to keep pushing forward knowing that they have learned from the past, will continue to learn, and there is hope that with each new day they are moving further in their recovery. 

Every day, they may learn to embrace a little more hope. Not be so hard on them for not feeling like they have “enough” hope. The recovery path is different from others, and the hope being built will take time. After years of addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. they may have lost any hope they ever had, and it will take time to build a reservoir of hope to tap into on the hard days. 

Many people may be overachievers, perfectionists, and want to be recovered fast, and with little effort. Some may feel frustrated when they see others doing so well, and they feel like they are fighting harder and harder and not getting anywhere. It is important to stop comparing to others, and lower expectations in recovery. There will be progression at their own speed, and having hope and accepting a mindset of being present in the moment will help them take one step at a time. This isn’t a race, and finding a support system to help them along the way, can help slowly build hope in the recovery process. 
I believe embracing a mindset of hope is returning more and more to their authentic selves, working with and embracing who they really are. 

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.

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Time For Silence

We must be careful not to do the right thing at the wrong time. As recovering alcoholics we are obligated to be concerned about our fellow man and assist in his needs — be them physical, financial or emotional. However, everything must be done in its proper time. King Solomon wrote, “[There is] a time to remain silent and a time to speak”. People are not always ready to hear our wise spiritualistic words. We must have an awareness of what our friend can and cannot handle. Well-intentioned words delivered to ill-prepared ears may do more harm than good and may cause reactions and returned words, which both parties will live to regret.
Furthermore, quite often silence does more good than words. If a person is mourning the loss of a loved one, words of explanation and consolation are usually inadequate — and often gratuitous. The mourner may not be prepared to “size up” his or her loss by putting it into words. The time will come for that — but certainly not when “his dead lie before him/her.”
Rather, sometimes the silent show of support — especially the support of close friends — may be far more beneficial. The silent presence of comforters delivers an equally strong message of consolation: “We are here for you. We share in your loss and suffering. We realize nothing we could possibly say or do would fully take away your hurt. But realize that with our presence we stand together with you and are with you in your sorrow.” Comfort and solace are not always found in lengthy dissertations on the 12 Steps and the Big Book.
There are all sorts of people we must be approach with special care. Come to think of it, virtually all of us are sensitive about *something*. And finally, we most certainly cannot size up our fellow based on our own fleeting first impressions. Anyone is capable of momentarily putting on a good face.
As is always the case in such areas, however, when do we speak and how, and when do we remain silent. No two people are the same and no two situations are alike. As we have applied the Principles of Recovery to relationships, we know it requires as much an understanding of human nature as the working of The Steps.
We know to only give others what they can handle. Try to help, understand and comfort, but only to the extent your fellow is able to accept. If he/she is not ready, leave him in his sorrow or anger. Don’t lecture others for the sake of stating your moral convictions. What will most benefit our friend must be paramount on our minds.
And such is spiritual behavior: it is exactly the manner God treats us.

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Take It As It Comes

“Be wholehearted with yourGod”—Deuteronomy 18:13.

In this week’s portion we are told, “There shall not be found among you… a soothsayer, a diviner of times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer…” We are then told – immediately in the next verse – to be “wholehearted” with God.

What is the connection between the prohibitions against various occult practices and the commandment to be wholehearted with God? And what does it mean to be wholehearted with God?

First let’s understand the various prohibitions enumerated in this reading. As modern, so-called “enlightened” individuals, we may discount these warnings as something outdated, something that was told to our ancestors—but does not pertain to us. After all, we think, who runs after soothsayers and sorcerers to tell them their fortune nowadays? But let’s examine the underlying psychology that drove the ancients to seek a stolen glimpse into the future. Are we really immune from the very same weakness—a preoccupation with what is yet to come?

We worry and fret about outcomes. We expend energy trying to secure that, which cannot be guaranteed. Oh, the price we would pay just to have certainty about the future, but to no avail.

Thus, we are told to be “wholehearted” with God—to leave the future up to The Power of the Universe and to accept life as it comes. After all, isn’t it enough just to know that our Higher Power is in perfect control? Why should we prefer to have foreknowledge of the plans? Why don’t we realize that whatever is choosen will be best?

If we cannot give up our worries about the future, then it seems that our trust in our Higher Power is tenuous, conditional and half-hearted. What we are really telling God is that our relationship is conditional.

Think of a marriage. If your spouse were to suddenly whisk you away on an impetuous romantic getaway, would you first demand to know what the plans were? To do so would mean being more interested in how the time will be spent than with whom it will be shared. True love means that time shared with one’s beloved is always time well spent—whatever happens, whatever we are doing and wherever we go.

If God were to speak to you and invite you to live in His presence, to follow at every turn, would you ask first where the plans are taking you? Before agreeing, would you first ask for an itinerary?

Let’s rely on our relationship with God for our very survival. We cannot afford to let that relationship to be half-hearted. We need to stay in the present and let the One who is above time worry about what is to come. Our wholehearted commitment means that we are ready to joyfully and fearlessly accept whatever may brought us, for we trust that ultimately, whatever happens, God is with us and is running the show.

That is all we need to know.

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Robin Williams: Speak Up About Recovery Other Lives Depend On It

By Marc Dunn
Once again a beloved celebrity, Robin Williams, has died as a result of his addiction to drugs or alcohol and the depression that goes along with it. If you are reading this, probably you are, or someone you know very well, is an addict. The number of people affected by addiction either directly or indirectly, is staggering. Yet we are shocked by the deaths it causes. And we continue to be uninformed or misinformed. This has to stop.
I didn’t know Robin Williams, nor will I presume to be able to explain his apparent suicide. I do know that he has admitted he was powerless over his addiction and had relapsed many times. Addiction is cunning, baffling, demoralizing and devastating disease. For too many it remains a secret, cloaked in anonymity.
Robin Williams was beloved by us all, as was so many actors, singers, and talented people who lost their lives to addiction. But celebrity deaths are the same as thousands of other addicts who die every year in automobile accidents, boating accidents, overdoses, suicides or numerous other ways as a result of their addictions. They leave behind families and friends and spouses who loved them.
Those in recovery must speak out about the actions we took to find a better way of life. We owe it to our families and friends to talk about addiction and recovery and what it takes to change. Our continued drinking and drugging never ends well. We use because of a disease, like cancer, that is not curable but can be treated. If we die, others continue to suffer because of the devastation we leave behind. Everyone else must now deal with the pity, the looks of despair, the awkward explanations and questions and worst of all the feeling that there was something wrong with those we left behind because they couldn’t fix us. None of it is true. We die as result of not making good choices.
Writing and speaking about addiction allows me to be of service to others who seek recovery. I believe with every fiber of my being that recovery needs to have the faces of everyday people on it, not mysterious anonymity that deprives those sick and suffering of hope because they think only those with special access to help can find a solution.
There isn’t an easy solution, no softer easier way. It takes dedication to a new design for living. We have to change our habits; eating, fitness, therapy, acknowledgement of our limitations and a connection with a power greater than ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a 12-step program; there are many other ways to find recovery. It does require discipline and changing the persons, places and things that we associated with during our addiction.
It is time for recovery to come out of the closet and those of us comfortable with speaking about our recovery to do just that. Others lives depend on it. Many of us have been told not to speak publicly about our addiction because of the negative ramifications, or because it may reflect poorly on our fellowship, or it may cause us to inflate our egos too much for our own good. And inflated egos can result in a relapse. But the identification publicly as a person in recovery, not as a spokesperson for any group does save lives. We can be a regular guy or gal who has found a way not to drug or drink. And telling that story helps.
Whether by writing, speaking or filming we must carry this message. We must let others know that recovery is a courageous choice.
If, “our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others to achieve sobriety,” as 12 step programs say, then why wouldn’t we use 21st century tools to carry that message? I am a recovering addict. My name is Marc. I have not had a drug or drink since November 28, 2005.

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Bashing AA

By Nicola O’Hanlon

Reblogged from http://iloverecovery.com/2014/07/23/is-there-an-upsurge-in-12-step-bashing/%22

I’m not sure if there is currently an upsurge in 12 Step bashing recently or if I’m just, by accident, coming across a lot of it. It seems everywhere I turn this past few months there’s a new book, or article or ex 12 step member with a blog telling of the evils or 12 step fellowships; spouting about the ridiculousness of 12 steppers relying on a Higher Power to get them sober as if it was akin to something out of a fairytale. Now I’m not talking about people who have differing opinions per se. That’s a whole different thing. I am whole heartedly supportive of any fellow human on the path to recovery finding what’s best for them and I totally get that 12 step is not for everyone. In fact I have friends who left 12 step fellowships after many years of sobriety and are doing great without it, at least for now. There are of course many avenues to recovery from the long list of addictions in our society today, which in my opinion is a very positive thing. But is there any reason to be down on a program in such an extreme manner that has worked for millions of people for seventy plus years? So good are the bashers at manipulating words, that sometimes when I read these assaults on 12 step it makes me feel like I should be ashamed about being pro 12 step. This of course is ridiculous. Personally without them I’d be up to my neck in every addictive substance known to man and probably creating new ones. But really, I feel sometimes that the term”12 step” has almost become a derogatory term in some circles.
What really bothers me the most is the way anti 12 steppers misrepresent what the programs are really about and they manage to do this beautifully by using the term “powerless” in a negative manner. They just love to make it sound like 12 step attendees are subjected to a barrage of negative, soul destroying, brainwashing; their self esteem being crushed by old timers diminishing their already sparse self worth by telling them they are powerless and must conform to their evil ways. What a pile of crap. Of course most of you will know that the term “powerless” is mentioned in the first step. But what it actually says is I am “powerless” over alcohol, or “powerless” over food, or whatever your preferred substance or behavior is. It does not say you are a powerless good for nothing. Quite frankly, in my humble yet quite extensive experience, being powerless over certain substances is absolutely true for those of us who find ourselves addicted. Once an addict ingests their drug of choice they have little or no control (or power) over how much of that substance they consume or what the consequences will be. Quite a simple and realistic concept don’t you think? It is a fact, for example, that if an alcoholic drinks alcohol it triggers a physiological and mental process in the body that produces craving and obsession. And that’s an actual scientific fact, not something I or anyone else just plucked from obscurity. Yet the term will be used in misrepresentative rants by people who, it seems, are determined to debunk the reputation of 12 step programs.
Then of course, there’s the God thing. Oh boy how the haters love to beat this one with a big stick. Apparently, in 12 step groups everyone must conform to the one idea of a Christian God, and if you don’t, the old timers will come and get you-Again! Actually it is my understanding that most 12 step groups have their fair share of atheists and agnostics and that there is actually no requirement to believe in any form of god. I certainly know of people in 12 step groups in my area that use the G.O.D. term to interpret Good Orderly Direction, and they look to the collective group for their “Higher Power”. Anyone I’ve spoken to has never been told that they need to believe in a preconceived idea of a Christian God nor a God of any other faith for that matter. Here’s my humble experience again, sorry! I have never been looked down on because I do not follow Christian beliefs nor have I ever had an old timer chastise me because my idea of a Higher Power is not the same as theirs. Believe me, having been raised in a staunchly Catholic era in Irish history, any notion that it was necessary for me to conform to Christianity would have been rejected in a rather forceful manner. In fact what I’ve found is the total freedom to believe in something I chose or in fact, to believe in nothing at all. I experience nothing but encouragement to think and express myself freely, and I do. I’ve made plenty of wrong turns and mistakes in my recovery and I have been nurtured through them, not told that I’ll burn in hell for all eternity. The only people that I have ever been ridiculed by about my beliefs are by people outside of 12 step groups.
Another bugbear for me is the fact that some like to ignore the fact that addiction is about far more than the substance. I’m constantly reading statistics about how the majority of people experiencing addiction to alcohol, manage to get sober by themselves without any form of program. So is that physically sober? What about the other components of the disease? Now maybe I’m a vastly inferior being, but for me there is no way on this earth that I could have fought this disease alone. I absolutely need help from an army of people to kick my many habits, and I will reiterate, that no, I don’t think 12 step is the only way, but it does work.
I’ve also read on several occasions that people felt pressured by other members when they talked about the use of anti-depressants, that its frowned upon in the 12 step world. Well, actually, yet again, more crap! In my 12 step world, seeking outside help when needed is highly encouraged, and boy have I sought it. I’ve never once been told to stop taking medication but to always follow medical advice on such matters and that I should be commended for being honest enough to realize I needed further help. I believe it talks about that old “seeking outside help when needed” in the original 12 step text, which is AA’s Big Book. It also says something in there about it not being a cure all. Maybe anti 12 steppers failed to read that text and just don’t know.
It has often occurred to me that perhaps I’m just really lucky to have found so much love and encouragement inside the 12 step groups I attend. However, I’m surrounded by hundreds of people who have had the same experience, so I don’t think it’s luck. I am also very aware that in EVERY organization, be it religious, political or otherwise there will always be a percentage of bad eggs who will want to take advantage of people and be in control. I’m sure lots of people have had bad experiences and that perhaps there are groups in general that are just not working 12 step principles but their own version of. Of course there is going to be those who will use their perceived power and knowledge to prey on people. I hear about that all the time too. The men are just unscrupulous sex crazed abusers, right? Here I go with my opinion again! Actually no, they are not. While I absolutely do not condone the predatory nature of some members, none of us got into 12 step groups for being Mother Theresa and we are not going to become her over night. I’m sure if you scratch the surface of any recovery group you will find those who have ulterior motives. Lots of our behaviors follow us into recovery, and changing them takes time. Many of us are really sick puppies. There are dangerous, unethical people everywhere in society, including 12 step groups. However, those people and or groups do not represent the majority nor the real essence of 12 step ethics. There are thousands of groups to choose from and if you don’t like the atmosphere and philosophy of one then find another.
If I was to spend my time nit picking over every word that has the potential to offended me inside a 12 step setting, I’m sure I’d be turned off too. I chose to listen to the real 12 steppers who promote freedom of thought, expression and attitude and talk about spiritual principles. I avoid the sexual predators and egomaniacs, and let them get on with their program. After all it’s rarely a secret as to who these members are. I do however, keep my mind open, just in case I don’t actually know everything, and give myself a chance to learn something. It helps when you chose to focus on the reality of what 12 step programs have brought to millions of people all over the world and not the agenda filled naysayers. Perhaps I should just stop reading these malignant articles. I might just keep my sanity a bit longer.

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Reflections by Tommy Rosen

Twenty-three years ago I could not imagine getting through a day without drugs and alcohol, and frankly, I had no intention or desire to do so. Now, twenty-three years later, I cannot imagine a day that would include drugs and alcohol. There has been a profound transformation at every level of my being. Almost everything is different. My body and my thinking have changed. My understanding of the world and my place in it has certainly changed. My relationship with the Power I cannot touch or see, while still ineffable, has developed into a very real detectable experience. What has not changed is the Truth within me. By definition, Truth is that which never changes. Therefore, all the changes I just referenced cannot be considered the Truth with a capital “T”. Yet, within this being called Tommy Rosen there is a Truth (as is the case for you) and these 23 years of recovery have served to bring me closer to it.

I’m never going to be able to do anything more profound than realizing that Truth within me, or perhaps helping another person to do so for themselves. In Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, the mantra which best expresses this idea is Sat Nam, which means Truth is my identity. I did not set out to learn the Truth. I just wanted to feel better. For a while drugs did that for me. Then the drugs became a source of more pain than what I was originally trying to fix. Everything happened in stages for me. There were the 12 Steps. There was the path of yoga and finally learning to sit still and meditate, which has been one of the great gifts of my life. There was the complete overhaul of my relationship with food and my relationship with money. With each successive stage there was more strength, more clarity, but there was a lot of pain along the way. I had to lose the myth that pain only happens if you do something wrong. That idea compounded my pain and messed with me. I have to thank all the sponsors, therapists, friends and family members who shined a light on the path and loved me along it. As a point of fact, all the progress I have made in my life has come because of the efforts, care and love of my teachers. One of my teachers this year came in the form of a whole family. They gave me a huge lesson about courage and taking life on life’s terms. Here is how it happened.

There is a man I have become close with through powerful face-to-face connections that take place each Summer Solstice at the worldwide 3HO Kundalini Yoga gathering. I love this man and we have had a heartfelt connection from the beginning. This year, I met and spent a bit of time with both he and his wife. They told me a story that struck me to the core of my being and I am compelled to share it now. Their son and his wife got pregnant with their first child together. They ran through the normal necessary pre-natal tests and learned that their baby boy had a very rare disease. He would likely make it to full term and be born, but he would likely live only for a few hours. The couple and their family could not imagine stopping their pregnancy before this little soul had a chance to live…even just a few hours. Despite knowing that they were going to have to face excruciating pain and grief they decided to have the baby anyway. Such is the emphasis Yogis place on the blessing that it is to have an incarnation as a Human Being.

I’m sitting there listening to this story and the sheer courage of it cracked my heart wide open. In a world where most of what I see is people trying to duck pain, here was an example of a family that leaned into it. Who would choose to have a baby knowing they would only get a few precious moments with it?

Extraordinary people, that’s who. Their beautiful baby boy was born and flourished for 3 days, much longer than anyone had expected. The family reports that there was a sense of wonder and awe about this child. He was truly grateful to be alive and they were truly grateful to have afforded it the opportunity. When I ask my friend what the greatest gifts were from this whole event, he tells it like this: “It taught my children, my wife and I to live in the moment, one day at a time. And not just to live in the moment, but also to actually notice the moment like when the dragonfly hovers there in front of you or when the goldfinch flies by. We know for certain that life does not end with the physical and there is proof of that all around us if only we pay attention to the signs.”

What I have taken away from this story is a clearer sense that nothing would have been possible for me without the gift of recovery, without a spiritual approach to life and without a community of people who are carrying so much light that they shine a path ahead for all of us.

This is what occurs to me at the beginning of this new year taking life on life’s terms and one day at a time.

Sending you all my Love, Gratitude and Strength in our pursuit of the Truth within.
Tommy Rosen

Tommy’s upcoming book, 2.0: Move RecoveryBeyond Addiction And Upgrade Your Life, which comes out Oct 21, 2014?   Here is the link for pre-order  http://bit.ly/1mkV54u

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