This post draws on Book of Genesis as an example of spirituality for the purpose of bringing forward into consciousness a “Power greater than ourselves” to rely on in recovery. It is not intended to espouse any religion or to insinuate that one needs a religion to recover from alcoholism, only that it is my belief that my recovery was by finding a spiritual path.
And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I instead of God? You intended evil but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:19-20
In the final portion of the Book of Genesis, Jacob passes away, leaving his sons to fear that with their father gone their brother, Joseph, will take vengeance upon them. They feared he would be vengeful for the wrong they did him many years ago when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. The brothers approach Joseph and beg him to do them no harm. Joseph is taken aback. “Am I instead of God?” he asks rhetorically, “You intended evil for me but God meant it for good.”
The words with which Joseph reassures his brothers are quite telling. Certainly, he could have said something to the effect that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” But Joseph communicated a message far more profound than that. Not only did he have no desire for revenge, he would not even concede that his brothers had actually succeeded in doing anything to him for which he should feel wronged. He allows that they had intended evil for him – for which they are presumably accountable to their Higher Power – but that is none of his concern anyhow, as he says, “Am I instead of God?” As far as what they actually did to him, Joseph completely dismisses any grounds for feeling ill will.
In other words, he explains the reason for his lack of resentment: The Power of The Universe was in control all along and his brothers had done nothing to him. To be sure, the day his brothers sold him as a slave, Joseph’s life was changed forever. There was a plan for him to come to Egypt, to become Pharaoh’s viceroy and to save his brothers in time of famine. That was not what his brothers had in mind, but for Joseph that was irrelevant. Life, as he saw it, was not a result of anything that any human being could ever have done to him, but rather, the culmination of a beneficent plan.
When we take stock of our lives, we endeavor to confront any resentment we may still hold toward anyone in our lives, past or present, and to let the hurt go. We make amends after the introspection that traditionally takes place on Yom Kippur but is never complete; we must continually look at our deeds and ourselves. In Seeking Spiritual Renewal teaches us “resentment is the number one obstacle.” Only then are we able to rid ourselves of any resentment we carry with us.
Our spiritual journey is best traveled lightly and we can scarcely afford to be weighed down by such useless, heavy baggage.
But getting over our resentments is not just a matter of unburdening ourselves of emotional pain. It is also how we get in touch with our Higher Power’s purpose and plan for our lives. When we attribute to the actions of others any power to define our lives, then we submit ourselves to the tyranny of people, places and things rather than surrendering to the loving care of God. Even when there have been people in our lives who have intended us harm, our faith tells us that none of that could have ever derailed our lives from Our Creator’s plan. Even those who have genuinely wronged us have been no more than unwitting players in a show that is constantly being rewritten. To state it succinctly, to carry a resentment is to grant power to a created being; to truly let go of resentment means to grant power only to God.
This interpretation and the report itself is disturbing to me. Besides the headline and its pronouncement that heavy drinking is OK because you are not necessarily an alcoholic is easily misleading.
Most alcoholics don’t begin as heavy out of control drinkers, they progress from moderation or infrequent to uncontrollable drinkers. The distinction is not easy to spot and usually is not discernible until the alcoholism has begun. Alcoholism is a disease once it starts cannot be cured; there are solutions that begin with an admission of powerlessness and abstinence.
These suggestions that raising the price of alcohol, or not being concerned about young people binging, leaves the false impression that it is always a phase. It may be but usually it is not. It also needs to be recognized that we are dealing with a mental health issues and needs to be addressed as such.
Heavy drinking and drug use is epidemic; education, intervention and non-incarcerating programs are required to allow those needing help and their families to seek help.
Most Heavy Drinkers Are Not Alcoholics-NY Times
By Tara Parker-Pope
November 20, 2014 5:30 pm
Most people who drink to get drunk are not alcoholics, suggesting that more can be done to help heavy drinkers cut back, a new government report concludes.
The finding, from a government survey of 138,100 adults, counters the conventional wisdom that every “falling-down drunk” must be addicted to alcohol. Instead, the results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not addicts, and can change their behavior with a little — or perhaps a lot of — prompting.
“Many people tend to equate excessive drinking with alcohol dependence,’’ said Dr. Robert Brewer, who leads the alcohol program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much but who are not addicted to alcohol.”
Excessive drinking is viewed as a major public health problem that results in 88,000 deaths a year, from causes that include alcohol poisoning and liver disease, to car accidents and other accidental deaths. Excessive drinking is defined as drinking too much at one time or over the course of a week. For men, it’s having five or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks or more during a week. For women, it’s four drinks on one occasion or eight drinks over the course of a week. Underage drinkers and women who drink any amount while pregnant also are defined as “excessive drinkers.”
Surprisingly, about 29 percent of the population meets the definition for excessive drinking, but 90 percent of them do not meet the definition of alcoholism. That’s good news because it means excessive drinking may be an easier problem to solve than previously believed.
Studies show that simply raising the price of an alcoholic beverage by 10 percent reduces alcohol consumption by 7 percent, suggesting that higher taxes on alcohol could make a significant dent in excessive drinking. Zoning laws that reduce the number of establishments that serve alcohol in a given area can also curb excessive drinking. Importantly, a simple intervention by a physician, talking to patients about their alcohol use, has also been shown to help people make better choices and curb excessive alcohol consumption.
Ad campaigns, like a 2010 New York City initiative called “Two drinks ago,” also may help. In the New York campaign, posters showed a well-dressed woman slumped and drunk and a young businessman bleeding and bruised. The posters read, “Two drinks ago you could still get yourself home,” and “Two drinks ago you would have walked away.” The tagline was “Stop drinking while you’re still thinking.”
Dr. Brewer noted that excessive drinking is still a challenging problem, but it is not as difficult to address as alcohol addiction can be.
“I don’t want to minimize the fact that excessive drinking can be a difficult behavior to change even in those people who are not alcohol dependent,’’ said Dr. Brewer. “So many of the cues people get about drinking behavior in our society are confusing. People think drinking to get drunk is part of having a good time.”
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 RosenContinue Reading...
“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.Continue Reading...
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.Continue Reading...
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…
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
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.Continue Reading...
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.
“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.Continue Reading...