A few days late, but as I thought about how important having a secular choice in recovery has been to me, I thought maybe I’d riff on light and dark today. Whether you’re in Sweden or South Africa, the Yukon or Tierra del Fuego, or somewhere in between, the summer and winter solstice times offer opportunities to notice, and be thankful for, both light and darkness.
Something I found surprisingly peaceful about living for four months pretty much on the equator was the regularity of the days. I think I noticed it the most when we were up at Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf). Maybe it was because I was surrounded by paleontologists (it’s hard to ignore being in the company of Richard and Maeve Leakey) and thinking a lot not just about human origins but about human strife. There are still prejudices and grudges held between villages and tribes in the Turkana region; one conflict last year that started with a stolen fishing net ended up escalating to stolen goats, stolen cattle, and finally, directly or indirectly, to the deaths of 40 people. Anyway, where we were, there was a lot of silence and opportunity for deep, reflective solitude once I finally got into the rhythm of the place.
The author and commentator Christopher Hitchens died a couple of months ago, provoking an outpouring of sympathetic praise from his many admirers, especially among the intelligentsia, where he loomed large, respected for his outspokenness and razor-sharp mind and debating skills.
But in addition to his writing and speaking on subjects of intense current interest, Hitchens was a drinker. Another respected author, Katha Pollit, wrote of this in The Nation magazine. In commenting on his death, she wrote words that surely apply to many, many of the writers and artists who seem to believe that alcohol is an important part of what makes them creative. She wrote:
His drinking was not something to admire, and it was not a charming foible. Maybe sometimes it made him warm and expansive, but I never saw that side of it. What I saw was that drinking made him angry and combative and bullying… Drinking didn’t make him a better writer either–that’s another myth. Christopher was such a practiced hand, with a style that was so patented, so integrally an expression of his personality, he was so sure he was right about whatever the subject, he could meet his deadlines even when he was totally sozzled. But those passages of pointless linguistic pirouetting? The arguments that don’t track if you look beneath the bravura phrasing? Forgive the cliche: That was the booze talking…. It makes me sad to see young writers cherishing their drinking bouts with him, and even his alcohol-fuelled displays of contempt for them… as if drink is what makes a great writer, and what makes a great writer a real man.
The description, with some modifications, applies to many, many drug and alcohol abusers.
One of my jobs for LifeRing is keeping an eye on the website comments. It’s a regular occurrence for someone to post a plaintive plea for help as a comment, often as a response to an item that seems completely unrelated. “I just found your website. I’ve tried and tried to quit drinking. Nothing I do works. Please help me,” they write, or words to that effect. I get similar messages in emails sent directly to me. I respond trying to give them hope and get them involved, usually online because they live in an area where we don’t yet offer face-to-face meetings.
The messages are often heartbreaking in their sadness and desperation. But they also remind me of how I felt when I first stumbled across LifeRing a dozen years ago. I feel undying gratitude to LifeRing for the support I received in overcoming my own addiction. I want everyone to have access to that kind of help. Becoming known to more people who need what we offer is a daunting task. We’re a tiny boat in a huge ocean. We’re trying to grow and are steadily doing so, but it’s slow and there aren’t very many of us and we don’t have much money. We could use your help.
There’s a button on this page that links to the donation section of this website. Or you can just click HERE. I used to spend a lot of money on alcohol; now I try to donate a fraction of that each month to LifeRing. We’re a volunteer organization with one part-time office worker – everybody else works for free (although the psychic rewards are huge). But we do have expenses and they’ve been growing. We’re running a deficit this year as we try to do more. In the new year we’ll either have to reduce our spending or increase our income, particularly from donations.
There aren’t very many causes you can contribute to that will do more good than this one – every day we work hard to save the lives of people, give them hope and allow them to regain a life of meaning and self-respect. Please help if you can. Donate.
Yours in sobriety,
The MSN website carried an article by Maia Szalavitz recently that should be of great interest to those seeking an overview of addiction that looks deeper than “spiritual weakness.” It’s a bit long, but worth the effort. Here it is:
Although addiction and alcoholism treatment research has advanced tremendously since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, many people do not know that equally effective alternatives to 12-step programs exist—nor do they know how to find them. In popular culture, AA is often portrayed as the only way.
Worse, while reality TV spotlights tough family “interventions” as a way of getting people to enter treatment and often shows rehab as a “boot camp” or exercise in humiliation, research finds that both these approaches have significant risks, and other less risky tactics have equivalent or superior benefits.
So, how can you find evidence-based addiction and alcoholism treatment for yourself or a loved one instead of—or as an addition to—12-step approaches?
One of the hardest things in recovery is simply to remember how bad life was when drinking. Time passes and the painful memories become blurred and they disconnect themselves from the act that brought them about. In a recent note, an e-mail pal sent me a list she had made of why she can’t drink. She wants to remember. I thought I’d share it: