Over my years in the program I've heard some great rehab stories. There are people who arrive at the doors of a treatment center whacked to the gills on their drug of choice with their golf clubs, squash racquet or skis. Celebrities who ask if their hair and makeup team can come for an hour each morning to get them "ready for the day." Addicts who refuse to check in unless they can bring their cat. The list goes on and on. As if rehab is just some sort of expensive spa instead of a place they’re going to save their own life. A place where they can hopefully be rescued from their self-destructive nature. I have a friend who went to rehab but snorted several Roxys* right before his intake meeting so he would “make a good impression." He certainly made an impression, I'll leave it at that. A lot of people show up and decide that in 30 days they are going to conquer every issue they have ever struggled with in their life, every issue that they feel needs immediate conquering. A friend of mine who works at a rehab center told me about a new patient who was bitching that he was not getting the sort of vegan diet that he - now that he was in rehab - was suddenly going to start eating. My friend said to him "Dude. Please. 2 days ago you were shooting heroin with scummy pond water and now you're mad that your breakfast is not 100% plant based???" Addicts are a funny bunch.
Occasionally someone struggling with addiction will find out through the grapevine that I'm sober and ask me to take them to an A.A. meeting. Often I'll have coffee with them after the meeting and that is when I usually hear about their new "I will conquer all my demons at once" regimen. They are going to stop drinking, smoking, eating meat, dairy, sugar and gluten. Oh, and sleeping with their wife's sister. They will lose 20 pounds, get the girl or guy back, quit their job (they only drink because of their current boss anyway), move cities, repair broken relationships and sign up for the New York City marathon. I can only roll my eyes and try to talk them off this ledge of over-achievement. A ledge that is doomed to fail. It's just too much. One of the best things I have heard in A.A. is the idea of quitting things in the order that they will kill you. And now that I no longer do drugs and alcohol, that list of things that will kill me, or at the very least make me extremely uncomfortable in my own skin, has changed.
When I first entered A.A. I wanted to stop drinking, stop doing drugs, lose weight, and possibly have a baby. Whoa Nellie. I had to slow down and focus. What would kill me the fastest? The drinking for sure. And the drugs too, but I never really did drugs without drinking first so I figured if I could stop drinking then stopping drugs would follow. I also wanted to quit caffeine and sugar and smoking cigarettes but I was counseled against that. "Go a year without booze and then you can think about your other 'issues'", my new cohorts suggested. And that's what I did. I know now that had I tried to lose weight, get pregnant, give up coffee AND stop abusing alcohol all at the same time I would have felt so discouraged, so frustrated by my failures, like such a super-loser that I would surely have gone back to drinking and drugging.
So we are counseled against giving it all up at once. The coffee, doughnuts, 6-hour long TV binges, don't worry about any of that for now. Focus on the drugs and alcohol. I have noticed that what eventually happens if we work the program to the best of our ability is that those other behaviors begin to slip away. We become intuitive, aware of the little things that can rob us of our serenity, just like a drink would. For me those "little things" are varied but are pretty much all based on the seven deadly sins. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. The details change but the impetus behind them can always be tracked back to those seven deadlies. But the great thing is this: by being in recovery, by living a clean life, a life of clarity, I have become aware of which things are actually helpful to my spiritual progress and which things are holding me back.
So we conquer our demons one at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time if need be. What are the things that are holding me back today? The things that I indulge in that make me feel uncomfortable, yet are almost too delicious to give up? Gossip (pride), social media (envy), sugar (gluttony), excessive napping (sloth), the list goes on and on. But this is not about beating myself up, it's just about being more aware of how I am treating myself. For every single thing I do and every thought I have I can ask myself “is this leading me toward a drink or away from a drink?” By staying sober I have learned how to observe myself objectively. I no longer abuse drugs and alcohol but as an addict I can still be drawn, like a junkie to a needle, to things that are not necessarily good for me. I'll wake up with all sorts of ideas for the day. No sugar, caffeine, social media or gossip, and yet before you can blink I'll be sipping a very sweet sugary coffee, reading a tabloid and then calling a friend to discuss the latest gossip I saw there. I still have a long way to go but at least my path is clear. I know what I need to do to feel better about myself and the world around me. As we say in A.A. it’s about spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection. Which is fine with me as I have learned over the years that a little imperfection is a lot more fun anyway.
*ROXY = ROXICET, an opioid medication containing Oxycodone and Acetaminophen. Similar to Oxycodone, Roxy became very popular once Perdue Pharma made Oxy impossible to crush. Most addicts abusing Oxy crush and snort or dissolve and inject the crushed pills. Unfortunately, so many people were dying that way that Perdue Pharma made the Oxy pills impossible to crush. Enter Roxicet, made by the same company, which remained crushable long after Oxy. So many addicts switched from Oxy to Roxy. You know, for convenience’s sake. Gee, thanks Perdue Pharma! So thoughtful of you.