Am I Willing?

By Bill P & Lisa D

Dear Higher Power, help me

To forget what I have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for me.

To ignore what the world owes me, and to think what I owe the world.

To put my rights in the background, and my duties in the middle distance, and my chances to do a little more than my duty in the foreground.

To see that my fellows are just as real as I am, and to try to look behind their faces to their hearts, as hungry for joy as mine is.

To own that the only good reason for my existence is not what I can get out of life, but what I can give to life.

To close my book of complaints against management of the universe and look for a place where I can sow a few seeds of happiness-am I willing to do these things even for a day?

Then I have a good chance of staying with this Design for Living.

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Destructive Relationships In Recovery

By Dawn Maslar

On April 30, 2015, I was invited to participate in a Recovery Forum. The evening had a variety of speakers that were asked to comment on different aspects of addictions. My job was to talk about, why relationships can be so difficult in recovery and, to address destructive and even dangerous relationship patterns.
As I reflected on my task, one terrible night came to mind. I was doubled over in a ball on the floor of my bedroom. I was crying so hard that no sound came out of my open mouth. When I was able to catch my breath, I would cry out to God. I wanted to know: “Why? Why doesn’t he love me? Why am I so unlovable?”
I had just discovered that the man I was in love with, the man that I had been sleeping with for six months was with another woman. This revelation was particularly painful because this wasn’t the first time this happened in one of my relationships. In fact, it wasn’t even the second. It was another in a long line of failed relationships and it devastated me.
What I discovered since that time was my problems with relationships started in my childhood. I had an older brother with emotional problems. He got in trouble at home, then in school and later with the law. He was the kid in the neighborhood that would smash the pumpkins at Halloween and break all the Christmas lights.
When I was ten he got heavy into drugs. So, when I went to bed at night, I didn’t know if I would sleep through the night, wake-up to screaming, or have someone crash into the wall behind my bed.
What I have since learned is that children raised in a dysfunctional or unpredictable environment tend to have larger amygdala’s. That’s the small structure in your brain that sounds the alarm. When you have a larger one, it gets set off easier. Therefore, you tend to be very very nervous.
When I was twelve years old, my aunt gave a little white pill. It was called a Quaalude. I took the pill and my amygdala instant turned off. It was heaven. I no longer felt nervous or worried. I chased that feeling all the way to the doors of recovery many years later.
The problem was once I found recovery, I got my overactive amygdala back. This made me uncomfortable. But, it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to shut it back off. I just needed to fall in love. Research using fMRI’s shows that falling in love deactivates the amygdala.
The way I did this was to walk into a room, scan the environment and if I found a man that made my body tingle it was game on. I didn’t need to date or even get to know him. All that could wait until after we had sex.
What I didn’t know at the time, but now I know, is that the act of having sex started the process of me falling in love. For a woman, the combination of dopamine (where I excited to be with him) and oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) built up to a point where I fell in love.
Once I’m in love, my amygdala shut down and I’m happy. But now I have a new problem. It’s not just my amygdala that gets shut down. My ventromedial prefrontal cortex, something I call the Judge, also gets shut down. That means I’m trying to get to know this guy, but the part of my brain that should be judging him is not working.
So, what happened was, I would meet this guy and introduce him to my friends. I would say, “Here he is, isn’t he great?” They would pull me aside and say, “Dawn, he’s an escaped felon.” But because my alarm wasn’t working and my Judge was muted, I would say, “I know, isn’t it exciting?”
But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that men don’t fall in love the same way women do. So, I would be at home thinking I was in this great relationship, planning for the future and picking out china patterns and he would be out dating other women.
This process would set me up over and over again for a frustrating and painful relationship pattern. This is what eventually caused me to collapse on the floor of my bedroom. The good news is that although I had fallen, I did get up. I have an amazing man in my life that does love me. And, thanks to that experience, I can now help other women find love too.

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Music Aids Healing and Recovery

What a lot of you don’t know about me is that I have a master’s degree in music. Through my studies, I had to do a lot of research on various ways that music promotes learning, healing and even recovery. The statistics are astounding. Music can be as powerful as modern medicine.
Think about it – music has been around as long as the human race. It is powerful. It is personal. It is physical. You, yourself, have a favorite song. There’s the one that always makes you smile. The one that brings tears to your eyes. The one that helps you recall a special time or event in your life. Music is powerful!!!
Let’s talk for a second about how music affects us physically. As a college student, I was asked to do some sort of experiment along these lines. Admittedly it was not scientific, but it was enlightening. I had several other students measure their resting pulse rates. We then played some fast, upbeat music and measured again. Pulse rates went up. We played some slower-tempo music and pulse rates went down. As non-scientific as it was, it proved to us that music had an effect on our bodies. Studies have shown that music can even decrease blood pressure!
Music can be a valuable tool to help people who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. I asked some friends who have either personally experienced addiction or have had family members experience addiction if music aided in recovery. Every single one answered with a resounding yes. One close family member admitted her struggle with alcoholism back in the 70s. I never knew that she had a problem. She said, “The music that helped was the Eagles. There were several like ‘Lying Eyes’. They wouldn’t let us listen to spiritual music or even a pastor to come see us it because they felt it would be too confusing for us. Music helped save me.”
Another said that the song that helped his recovery was the theme from Rocky. And another adopted the anthem ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’.
Although music alone is unlikely to help someone recover from addiction, it can certainly be an effective tool. How?
1. When people are newly sober, they experience many different emotions. Creating music can actually give them an outlet to express some of these volatile feelings.
2. One reason why many people relapse is because they have a difficult time managing stress. Listening to or creating music can be a way to manage stress levels.
3. Boredom can be another relapse trigger. Listening to favorite music can help to prevent boredom.
4. People who are newly sober often experience loneliness. After all, they have broken away from their circle of friends. Even their drug of choice was a “friend”. Listening to music may help to combat this feeling of loneliness.
5. Many people, when going through recovery, experience mental ‘fuzziness’. Music can help to improve focus and concentration.

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Letter From You To Your Addiction

Dear __________(his name),
You may be feeling better, but I am out here doing push-ups, getting stronger, smarter, and hiding in your shadow. I miss that warm, fuzzy feeling I would get when you would turn to me in times of despair. I won’t let you get rid of me so easily. We were together for years and suddenly you think you can let go? Nothing was your fault, my friend! It was the cop’s fault for pulling you over. It’s your family’s fault for never understanding what was going on in your head. It was your friends’ fault that they couldn’t accept you for who you are. I am a part of you and will never stop trying to be your beloved again. I enjoyed when you would listen to my every command, acting without hesitation. Why not steal that money from your parents? You are entitled to it. Why not expect others to change the way they live? You are perfectly fine the way you are. Who needs an education with your level of intelligence? I hope you will come back to me soon enough and snap out of this. I will be waiting for you, right by your side, for the rest of your life.
Yours truly,

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Running Into Clarity

By William Pullen

Recently The BBC news website ran a piece based on an article in Neurology magazine about how “running may preserve thinking skills”. I’ve included it below as I think it illustrates another benefit of exercise. Although the research concerns younger people I believe the benefits of movement whether it be walking, tai chi, or running, are available to everyone. I need to include my usual addendum that DRT is not about getting fit nor about colluding in fantasies of perfection. Instead DRT aims to promote what Dr Jacobs refers to below as “total fitness” which incorporates social, physical and mental aspects of health. And for those that just want to talk/walk/sit and not run it’s very much there for you too. DRT is talk therapy first. By doing that in outside spaces with “mother nature” we already begin to break up rigid thinking.
As mentioned before, we don’t aim for perfection so “total fitness” is a concept we hold lightly for those who subscribe to a more holistic understanding of health. Sometimes, for some people, it’s better to just sit down on a park bench. For others, the info is below:
• Aerobic exercise in your 20s may protect the brain in middle age, according to a US study.
• Activities that maintain cardio fitness – such as running, swimming and cycling – led to better thinking skills and memory 20 years on.
• Scientists say the research, reported in Neurology, adds to evidence the brain benefits from good heart health.
• Cardio fitness is a measure of how well the body absorbs oxygen during exercise and transports it to the muscles.
• Researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, tested almost 3,000 healthy people with an average age of 25.
“This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes” They underwent treadmill tests of cardiovascular fitness during the first year of the study and again 20 years later. They were asked to run for as long as possible before they became exhausted or short of breath.
Cognitive tests taken 25 years after the start of the study measured memory and thinking skills. People who ran for longer on the treadmill performed better at tests of memory and thinking skills 25 years on, even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.
People who had smaller time differences in their treadmill test 20 years later were more likely to perform better on the executive function test than those who had bigger differences. “Many studies show the benefits to the brain of good heart health,” said study author Dr David Jacobs.
“This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes.” Dr. Jacobs said a concept was emerging of total fitness, incorporating social, physical and mental aspects of health. “It’s really a total package of how your body is and the linkage of that entire package of performance – that’s related to cognitive function many years later and in mid-life,” he told BBC News.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “A growing body of evidence suggests exercise may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and much research has shown a link between healthy habits in mid-life and better health in old age.

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Recovery Just For Today

Reprinted from The 12 Step Prayer Book – Hazelden Foundation
By Bill P. & Lisa D.

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make their minds to be.”
Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study; I will learn something useful; I will not be a mental loafer; I will red something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways; I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do-just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt, they may be but today I will not show it.
Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as good as I can, dress comfortably, talk low, act courteously, criticize not one bit, not find fault with anything, and not try to improve or regulate anyone except myself.
Just for today I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.
Just for today I will have a quiet half hour just for myself and relax. During that half hour I will not try to get a better perspective on my life.
Just for today I will be unafraid. I will enjoy that which is beautiful, and I will believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

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A Recovery Coach Answers Critical Questions

We see so much about addiction in the media and on TV, but many people have a lot of questions about sobriety, what it means and how it will change their lives. Here some answers anyone ready for a change needs to know.

What Is The Point of Sobriety?

Survival. It is a medical fact that long-term alcoholism will result in a shorter more painful life, not just for the abuser but also for those closest to him/her. The point of sobriety is ‘life over death’. Addiction is a chronic progressive disease that, if untreated, will end in death.

What Is Sobriety?

Sobriety is described as the absence of mood altering substances: alcohol, narcotic drugs, pot, non-prescribed pain killers, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Sobriety And Recovery?

We can achieve sobriety by self-willed abstinence. In abstinence we may be successful for short periods of time or indefinitely. The easier and undisciplined way, which is abstinence only, affords a less stressful lack of commitment. It does not involve much self-awareness or inner change.

Recovery is a planned change of lifestyle designed not only to prolong life, but also make it more joyous and free. If the point of sobriety is recovery; then we can have a quality of life with more enjoyment, better relationships, less expectations, more acceptance and tolerance

Questions To Answer When Making A Recovery Plan

We need to know some basic facts before working with a client as a Recovery Coach, the same facts suggested by The Bridge, a publication of the Addiction Treatment Technology Centers. These facts should be used to ascertain a plan, which the client will write him/herself based on what they have revealed about themselves and other facts of their lifestyle the RC must learn from them:

1. Full substance abuse history as well as current use
2. Age, gender, marital status, partner status (sexual activity) and educational status
3. Occupation & Financial Status
4. Culture & Ethnicity
5. Medical, Psychiatric, Psychology and treatment history
6. Self knowledge of substance abuse
7. Readiness and Motivation
8. Spiritual or Religious beliefs and activity
9. Personal-finances, job, housing, family, support

Are There Alternatives to 12-Step Programs?

Yes. Some people are not comfortable in the beginning of their recovery journey with the 12-step approach, but may come to it later on in recovery. Those who dislike the AA approach are especially vulnerable to relapse, as there may to be no other place to go for ongoing support. But alternatives do exist and include the following:

• Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)
• A women’s group called WFS
• SOS a self help program that does not include spirituality
• Life Ring
• Moderation Management

There are many ways to change your life, but certain basic skills and patterns of behavior need to be learned for any of them to be successful. Most addicts don’t have those skills, or have not used them in so long that they need someone like a Recovery Coach, especially if they don’t go to AA meetings, to get them back on track.
See Spotlight on Marc Dunn and find him at

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Finding Inspiration In Recovery

By Kristin Reinink
Admissions Counselor

I remember sitting through my first AA meeting like it was yesterday. The first person to share was a seventy something year old man who announced that he was a “grateful recovering alcoholic.” He went on to explain that he had been clean for over twenty years and runs six miles a day. I thought to myself… these people make me sick.

As our disease progresses we find new and creative ways to maintain our active addiction. Our internal self-talk finds a way to rationalize why our using is “normal” and why we aren’t “addicts/alcoholics.” By doing this over a period of time we become internally conflicted with believing and therefore behaving in a way that does not align with our morals and values. This process is difficult because we start losing ourselves to our addiction. Our goals, dreams and ultimately our identity is slowly taken from us and replaced with a substance. Most alcoholics and addicts can identify with this process and often have a hard time articulating how this process happens or happened.

When someone stops using and gets sober finding inspiration and gratitude can be challenging. The act of getting sober is scary and for many a last resort. Our behavior and thought process has revolved around our using. The motivation behind what we do, say and feel supports our addiction and continued use.

In my experience waking up in a detox unit after a five year bender was not particularly inspiring. To be honest my disease continued to rationalize why I was not like all the others who had a “real drinking problem”. This thought process took time and patience. It involved accepting the help and guidance of others. Initially I found inspiration in treatment, from my peers, my counselors, mentors and books. I had to trust the process and I still do.

So what helped me find inspiration in recovery? Below is a list of suggestions and techniques etc. that helped me find and maintain sobriety.
• Create a gratitude list – Put a notepad next to your bed. If you are a morning person write a list of things you are grateful for in the morning; if you are a night person then write your list before you go to bed. If you are an over achiever do it both in the AM and PM. If you have a hard time knowing where to begin try making a gratitude list using the alphabet to provide as a guide. (Example: A is for AA Meetings, B is for Books, C is for my sister Chelsea and so on).
• Take in your five senses – Go somewhere quiet, if it helps close your eyes. And think what do I currently see, feel, hear, taste and smell. It is easy to move through your day on autopilot. It is healthy to bring yourself back to the present moment and feel grounded.
• Remember – One Day at A Time. In early recovery this saying got me through tough times. Often I would even break this down further and tell myself “one hour at a time.“ Before I knew it my one hours were turning into days, my days into weeks, and weeks into month and so on. It made time doable and helped me accomplish small goals.
• Get out into nature – This is very personal to me and I could probably write a book about it. However, finding the beauty in nature has enhanced the quality of my life…period. I remember talking to a very good friend and mentor who is also in recovery. At the time I was feeling stuck, it was winter and my attitude needed adjustment. I remember my friend saying “Don’t you enjoy skiing? When you are riding up the chair lift take a moment to really take in the beauty of the outdoors.” I have always remembered this advice. It is simple but has dramatically impacted my outlook. This would be a good time to take in your five senses.
• Appreciate the small/simple things – It is easy to take life for granted. One of my favorite quotes “That breath you just took… it’s a gift” by Rob Bell really summarizes what I mean by appreciating the small and simple things. Another favorite memory I have that exemplifies this was a time when I was facilitating a group at a residential treatment facility. One young woman in particular shared that she was grateful to see the sun for the first time sober in 10 years. This forever will be a perfect example of what I mean by finding gratitude.

Today, I am a little more than four and a half years sober. I am now the person who attends meetings and introduces myself, “Hi I am Kristin and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.”

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Constant Flame

And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning thereby, it shall not go out. Leviticus 6:5
There is a tradition that interprets this verse as a specific warning against the fire on the altar going out even under conditions where one might reason that it should. No never, even if it travels or other obstacles present themselves we must be prepared and not allow ourselves to be forced into bad decisions. Much like our spiritual renewal, we must make the choices that keep it alive.
On a deeper level, this verse also speaks to the individual regarding the “flame” – that is the passion – that burns on an internal “altar” in our heart. We must always be enthusiastic in the service of our Maker. Apathy, depression, sloth and other “cold” emotional states are antithetical to being of true service to our Higher Power.
It is easy to keep the fire in our heart burning as long as we are in our routine and the comfort of home, but we cannot become complacent and think that s just because we are away, and it is more difficult that we can let it slide. After all who would know? We would and so would our God. We do it for the peace of mind we give by constantly having that flame alive to keep us in touch with the Power of the Universe.
We carry it wherever we go; there is no situation too lofty and none too bleak that precludes our constant need for exuberance, joy and warmth.

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Sacrificial offerings on an altar are described in our ancient text are an atonement for sins; animals and foods were “burnt offerings”, expressions of gratitude were given in “peace offerings”, an expression of sorrow or remorse were given as “sin/guilt offerings”, and sometimes and an entire meal to express devotion.

Today it is common practice to substitute prayer for these sacrifices and to ask for God’s will in our life and build a relationship with Our Creator to atone for our transgressions.

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,” the Psalmist tells us (4:6) and indeed has a point. Just as the sacrifices are necessary to atone for various misdeeds, so are sacrifices required for us to remain good-sacrifices not of animals, not of money, but of ourselves. To reach any goal requires not only focus and determination, but also the foregoing of a part of us. As the saying goes, we can have anything we want, we just can’t have everything we want.

In our quick-fix society, instant gratification is the spiritual opposite of sacrifice. By taking the time and making the effort to seek a spiritual solution through prayer and meditation we get results that are more enduring and improve our quality of life.

Just as athletes in training forego many of life’s pleasures to achieve their goals, so we can learn to put doing what we need to do ahead of doing what we want to do. Living life on life’s terms may sometimes interfere with our living a “normal life,” but, then again, sacrifice is an offering of giving not receiving.

The bottom line is that if my spiritual renewal is to work, then I must do what is uncomfortable. Doing the right thing may not always be easy, but it is always the right thing. We have so much more to offer.

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  • Disclaimer

    This Blog is about our primary purpose, “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety”.

    It is my belief that the retelling of our experiences, what we have leaned from them and how we have changed our lives in recovery is key to helping others.

    If I can borrow from someone else, “I can tell you things that I have come to believe with every fiber of my being, and you can disagree with every syllable I utter, and yet both of us can be sober...both of us can be useful, productive members, not only of Alcoholics Anonymous, but of society. So, if anything I say bothers you, just dismiss it. If anything I say you disagree with, you're entitled to.”

    ……nobody speaks officially for the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, not even the founders.”

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