This too shall pass: timeless advice when the going gets tough

By Jeff Vircoe

It’s not exactly something we say to ourselves when the landlord or the dealer’s buddies are pounding on the door.

This too shall pass.

But it is a slogan, a jingle, or an adage that many in recovery use to get through difficult patches. A death. A deadline. A health crisis. A traffic jam.

Though some in the 12 Step fellowships have taken it as their own, “this too shall pass” has a history steeped in wisdom as well as spiritual and philosophical context. The adage can be definitively traced back to the musings and writings of Hebrew, Turkish and Persian scribes, in particular, poets like Sanai (1080-1131) and the Attar of Nishapur (1145-1220).  The saying grew from a fable about a powerful king who was in search of a ring which would bring him happiness whenever he felt sad. His sages presented such a ring, with words to the effect of “this too shall pass” etched on it.

Over time, many story writers, poets and hymnists have created vehicles for the sentiment that sponsors love to use to comfort the rattled or grieving.

In the 19th century, English poet, Edward Fitzgerald, was writing about it. In 1852, he crafted the fable Solomon’s Seal, explaining how the adage had the power to make a sad man happy but, conversely, a happy man sad.

American newspaper editor and abolitionist, Theodore Tilton (1835-1907), reworked the concept when he wrote The King’s Ring in 1867, which noted that, though one could lose anxiety with the passage of difficult times, one should also expect the end of the good times, too. “This too shall pass” waves a double-edged sword.

The great Roman Stoic philosopher and statesman, Seneca, perhaps explained that side best.

“It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.”

In other words, change is coming.

In modern times, former Led Zeppelin frontman, Robert Plant, recorded a song in 2010 with fellow musician, Buddy Miller, based on Tilton’s poem, Even This Shall Pass Away.

In one of the more widely circulated explanations of the slogan, before he became the United States’ 16th president, even Abraham Lincoln took a run at explaining the story of the Persian king who needed a ring to pick him up when he was down.

On September 30, 1859, the top-hat-wearing, bearded, up-and-coming Republican icon gave a 4,800-word speech to a collection of farmers in Milwaukee and dropped the mic with this:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! And this, too, shall pass away.”

While Lincoln was referring to the debate over slavery, modern techniques in agriculture such as the steam plow, and the importance of farming and using the land and labour smartly, the point he was making was that, good or bad, history moves forward. Nothing remains the same. Things change every day.

One of the reasons the adage resonates so much with the recovery crowd is it reminds them that situations which may seem like a dead end – marital, employment, legal – can, and often do, turn on a dime. Some call them acts of providence. Some call them miracles. Others call them coincidences. No matter, changes happen.

“We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health,” Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson wrote in the Big Book in the chapter A Vision For You (p. 161). And in his own story on page 11 in the same book, “My ideas about miracles were drastically revised,” Wilson says.

Another popular saying may sum up the essence of “This Too Shall Pass”:

“Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens.”

“The world is a wheel always turning,” American novelist Anzia Yezierska (1880-1970) once said. “Those who are high go down low, and those who’ve been low go up higher.”

The post This too shall pass: timeless advice when the going gets tough appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

Fentanyl Crisis: Edgewood Health Network Offers Free Residential Treatment For Opiate Addicts

Program to launch May 2017

TORONTO, May 15, 2017: In light of the Fentanyl Crisis, Bellwood Health Services in Ontario and Edgewood Treatment Centre in British Columbia will offer free treatment bursaries for opiate addicts.

“Opiates continue to be the fastest growing addiction in Canada, and Fentanyl has made it the most deadly,” says Cara Vaccarino, Chief Operating Officer of EHN. According to the Coroners Service of British Columbia, the epicenter of the crisis, Fentanyl overdoses killed nearly 1,000 people in that province last year. It’s a growing problem in Alberta and Ontario too, where Fentanyl overdoses have killed hundreds of people. “The public health system has not been able to respond quickly enough to the crisis. There are wait times for as much as 18 months to enter public residential treatment centers. And sadly, most of them fall short of addressing the complex issues related to addiction.”

Since beginning operations over 30 years ago, Edgewood Health Network’s treatment centers (Bellwood and Edgewood) have helped thousands kick their addictions. Bellwood’s six-week program claims an 83% success rate. Normally, this level of inpatient treatment costs patients $25,000 each. But Vaccarino says that the privately run network has decided to extend treatment to addicts who don’t have the financial means to pay that fee because; “We need to do our part.” “Many addicts live marginal lives and deserve every opportunity to get better just like anyone else facing a life-threatening disease,” says Vaccarino, “and we recognize that a lot of them simply do not have the financial resources to pay. Not only that, says Vaccarino, but it’s good for society and families faced with addition.” Over the next year, Edgewood’s centers in Nanaimo and Toronto plan to treat between 12 and 15 addicts each, at no cost to the patient or the public. You can also check high profile Pakistani escorts in dubai for enjoyment.

Persons seeking treatment can contact the centers 27/7 toll-free, at 1-800-387-6198 (Toronto) or 1-800-683-0111 (British Columbia).

Press Contact:

Cara Vaccarino, Chief Operating Officer
Edgewood Health Network Inc.
Email: cvaccarino@bellwood.ca
(647) 822-0903

When it comes to Higher Power, open mind, insert relief

By Jeff Vircoe

The old-timer grunted it out.

“There are only two things you need to know about God, son: There is one. And you’re not it.”

When I first heard that proclamation at the Out To Lunch Bunch 12 Step meeting in North East Calgary back in 1986, I nearly spit out my coffee. It was so outrageously sanctimonious, yet, at the same time, so very helpful. I was, of course, too new and too afraid to say I had no idea what the hell I was doing in this cult. I just sat there and laughed between my ears where nobody could see me.

I didn’t believe in a Christian God.  Okay – I was more afraid that there was a God because if there was, I was in big trouble. But I got the point just the same – I’m not all that and a bag of chips. I was just another drunk trying to get better, and I needed to keep that in mind.

As time has gone by, I’ve actually learned to pay more attention to the hidden gems in the slogans. While interviewing people for this one, I had an atheist tell me that There is a God and You’re Not It was an “idiot slogan” that he didn’t bother processing or interpreting.

I understood his disgust. I also understand that, like it or not, more people in recovery believe in a Higher Power than not, so it is up to me to figure out how to deal with what seem like over the top slogans that are occasionally spouted in recovery rooms.

Asking around, it seems people in recovery – renowned for taking things too seriously – actually don’t worry too much about this one.

Thirty-three year-old Elspeth just finished her time in Edgewood’s Extended Care program. Though she spent the better part of attending meetings, to the tune of five a week, she says she never heard the slogan “There is a God and you’re not it.”

But it gave her something to think about, and as she pondered it, a smile crossed her face.

“What immediately comes to mind are other slogans. Like running your own show. In the therapeutic sense, it is the block on my Wall [assignment] of terminal uniqueness,” she said, moments after receiving her treatment medallion in the lecture hall for completing treatment.

As a recovering addict, knowing you are not God and that you need help from others to survive is fundamental stuff, says Anthony C., an Edgewood alumnus, former chaplain and current counselor. He says most addicts don’t trust people so they end up trusting themselves as their own higher powers. Not a good idea.

“Unless they fire themselves as their authority and their God, they are going to continue to be slaves to addiction,” says Anthony. “If they fire themselves as God, they need to find something that is greater than their addiction and greater than themselves, that will help them and they can trust.”

The power of “We”, found in other recovering addicts and the first word of the first of the 12 Steps. A creator. A supreme deity. The home group – whatever, the bottom line with the slogan is its important to learn to ask something greater than yourself for help. Stop being God!

“Discovering that I’m not God is like ‘ahhhhh,’ says Shaun Jessop, a chaplain at Edgewood. “It’s a relief. Because it’s not all my responsibility. And I’m not where I’m at solely because of me. There are more things going on than just me being a horrible person in this addiction, in this disease, you know?” he said. “I’m not alone. I can identify. Because when you are your own God, your own Higher Power, you’re isolated. There’s so much pressure. All that weight on your shoulders.”

That makes sense to newcomers.

“Actually, there is a lot of power in the relief that would provide,” Elspeth concurred. “Finding the relief and knowing you think you’re doing yourself a favour by being all powerful and in charge. The relief it provides in knowing I’m not!  It all comes back to Step Three and turning it over, and realizing that that is unburdening yourself. Allowing things to happen without obsessing about the outcomes. Relinquishing control.”

That from the mouth of someone just getting into recovery, newly post-treatment.

In the rooms of recovery, others who’ve been around a while have a whole different pallet on the slogan.

One woman in Parksville, who will notch 30 years of sobriety later this summer, is Renée L.. She says when she works with newcomers regarding the slogan, she tries to keep it simple.

“I tell them to look for the essence behind the saying,” says Renée. “It just means I’m not in charge of the universe. I don’t have control over anything or anyone but my own actions and attitude. Not even a little bit. So, quit trying!”

The essence, she says, is humility.

“I take responsibility for my own stuff and never mind what’s going on on the outside – it’s none of my business how others live. There is no room in recovery for self-importance. Self-respect and self-care, yes. Self-importance, no.”

Another old-timer, familiar to most who have a connection to Edgewood, is Sergio O.. With 29 years of clean time and 17 years counseling addicts at Edgewood, he also sees the principle of humility at play when it comes to There is a God and you’re not it.

“In the early stage of my recovery, I used to hear that,” he says with a smile and a nod. “For me today, it says there needs to be a lot of humility. Being humble. There is a power greater than myself, which I call God, or love, today. For me it’s about God, it’s about loving. It’s not a mystery; it’s not something up in the sky. It’s in my spirit and in my heart. That’s the meaning for me. I’m not it.”

Whether you have decades clean, days in recovery or somewhere in between, the point of the slogan “There is a God and you’re not it” resonates. Chelsea P. completed Edgewood back in early 2012. Five years later, she sees the slogan as something to not get all twisted up over.

First of all, I love this slogan. It brings the good ol’ ego down a couple of notches,” said Chelsea, adding, “I don’t hear it often in the rooms, but when I do, it’s from someone who’s been around for a while.”

Like many, the whole God issue is something that can frustrate newcomers if they let it, which she chooses not to.

“I don’t need to overthink it. Simply put, this whole HP [higher power] thing exists even if I can’t explain it and even if I don’t initially believe in it,” says Chelsea. “Being open to something I don’t understand is sometimes hard to grasp but it’s also been very comforting for me. And the fact that I’m not God – well, what a relief!”

“Imagine if I had that kind of power. Or you. Or any of us. What a weight to carry on my shoulders. I can trust that something is out there that is guiding me, and I can choose to seek that guidance on a daily basis. I am not God. Nor do I wish to be. I thank my HP for that,” she said, with a wink.

The post When it comes to Higher Power, open mind, insert relief appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

Can spirituality and therapy get along?

By Jeff Vircoe

If you came into recovery at peace with the God word, the old-school A.A. slogan “There is a God and you’re not it” won’t particularly bother you.

You’re not alone. Studies show that most people do have some kind of God with whom they are comfortable. Gallup Polls conducted in the U.S. in 2005 showed that 90 percent of respondents held a belief in a personal God. Arguably, that may be different in Canada, but the point is that the conclusion that “there is a God and the guy or gal in the mirror ain’t it” just doesn’t freak the majority of people out.

Psychotherapists and religious types have long been at odds with one another about this topic. The great Sigmund Freud once characterized spiritual experiences as pathological, an illusion, and “an infantile need for a powerful father figure.” The renowned American psychologist Albert Ellis once deemed all religion as “childish dependency.”

In a modern, evidence-based society, especially in the health industry in which addiction therapy finds itself, old-school slogans containing the God word can be problematic to qualify if you are a clinician.

While the nature of the “G word” is debatable, it has always been part of deal for millions who practice the 12 Step way of life. Anyone who takes a chair in 12 Step rooms will hear regular talk of Higher Powers at meetings, and witness the omnipresent scroll of the Steps on the wall that ooze and encourage spiritual discussion way more than they do abstinence.

So, God or no God, faith or no faith, agnostic or atheist, just how does one qualify the slogan “There is a God and you’re not it” as good therapy?

Those who have their sleeves rolled up and are doing the work say it can and is being done.

Like many things in recovery, it all depends on how you choose to look at it.

“Well, first off, what is God? Who or what am I taking directions from in my life?” says Edgewood Treatment Centre counselor and former chaplain, Anthony Cafik.

As a man who has been on the receiving end of literally hundreds of Fifth Steps, he says that the word God in that slogan is not necessarily what people assume is meant.

“In addiction, if my choice has been taken away to say no to alcohol and drugs after I pick up the first drink, it is officially where I am taking my direction from. It is my authority. Someone in their active addiction, in their delusion, may think that, just because they didn’t say no to it, that they can freely say yes, they don’t see that they are a slave. That is their God.”

As Cafik sees it, they already have a God and they just don’t know it.

“It’s not religious, no. It is whatever is the authority and direction you are taking from in your life.”

In the rooms of recovery, most members are quick to point out that religion and spirituality are very different animals.

“Religion is for those afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there,” the saying goes.

Many people who are not big fans of the “G word” are often put off by the amount of religious overtones in the literature or even the shares of group members. That may be unfortunate, given that, in the A.A. Preamble, members are assured that the organization is not affiliated with any sect or denomination. Nonetheless, it is important to remember the roots of the program come from an evangelical Christian movement and, as such, many old-timers were raised on the language passed on to them from their sponsors. Language that includes the word God.

So, is there a God? That’s far too complex a subject to cover in this story. But if you are one of those who believe there is, there is evidence to show that you can benefit from that way of looking at things.

In a opinion column for the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, Dr. Ruth Buczynski commented on the a pair of studies done by psychologist David Rosmarin and his team at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in 2011.

The idea of the studies was to see how spirituality and belief impact worry and doubt – things most addicts suffer through in great detail once the fog lifts and when the truth of their new sober life is looking at them square in the face. The results of the study, which included 332 subjects, showed how participants who chose to believe in a caring God reported lower levels of worry and were more open to uncertainty.

“Some therapists are hesitant to include spirituality in their practice. But if it can calm worries and lower stress, wouldn’t we want to integrate it into practice?” Buczynski writes.

In another study, this one in 2015 by London, UK-based psychologists Yveline Arnaud, Ava Kanyeredzi and Jacqueline Lawrence, the clinicians found that, in the analysis of 10 recorded one-hour interviews, it could be argued that “the Higher Power is not only central to sobriety but also to the well-being of A.A. members, whatever their original or current declared spiritual or religious beliefs may be.”

The study quoted from the late American psychiatrist and best-selling author Scott Peck, who once said, “the importance attributed to the HP is seen by some as the main reasons why A.A. has been much more effective than psychiatry in treating alcoholics, because A.A. addresses the spiritual needs of these people – something that traditional psychotherapy, with its secular humanist values, does not address.”

In a 2012 posting on Scotland’s Castle Craig Hospital website, the facility noted that Peck’s main criticism of western psychiatry is that “it disregards spirituality.”

“In 1992, he was invited to address the American Psychiatric Association and he told them that people were turning away from the profession because they were unable to discuss spiritual issues with their psychiatrist. He urged them to incorporate spirituality into their thinking and stop the loss of patients to “the competition” – lay, fundamentalist and new age healers.”

After six years working as a chaplain at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre, a high security remand centre for men, Edgewood chaplain Shaun Jessop says the God issue is front and centre for those arriving at the House of Miracles, as Edgewood is fondly referred to by many of its alumni.

“It’s huge. I find, with a lot of patients that come in, the God thing, they don’t want anything to do with it. It’s religion and all that kind of thing,” says Jessop, an ordained minister with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Literature.

Hearing slogans like the ones recovering old-timers hurl about like Frisbees regarding the higher power concept can be a powerful, and even necessary, wake up call.

“So, it’s the beginning [of] redefining what is God and what’s religion. It’s kind of drawing the line in the sand and saying, ‘Okay, religion is one thing, God is another thing.’ They tie the two together all the time,” he says.

“It is beginning that journey of connecting with something outside of themselves. A lot of them come in and they already are their own Higher Powers. So, it’s a case of, ‘How is that working for you?”

And once they are getting curious about God, then comes the next piece: You’re not it. That often brings with it a sense of relief when the implication is understood, Jessop says.

“You’re not it? It’s very freeing. People don’t usually think they’re God – but they act like it. Self-centeredness. Grandiosity. False pride. Where the whole world revolves around them. A victim mentality. Where they think that everything outside of Edgewood relates to them, or is because of them.”

When you are your own God, your own Higher Power, you’re isolated, he says. There’s so much pressure. The weight is on your shoulders.

“The ‘you’re not God’ part? Connecting with the ‘We’ is a huge starting point. Because that spirituality thing, well, it’s often too vague and weird. So, it becomes about starting to connect in group [therapy]. Beginning to connect with somebody outside of yourself. They begin doing that and then they’re like, ‘Oh, this helps! This is great!’ and it gives them life and freedom. Then that builds that confidence to step out a bit more out of their comfort zones. To risk a bit more with prayer, with meditation. So, it’s baby steps.”

Anthony Cafik agrees.

“Many come from homes of addiction, and that means abuse. [The] authority figure becomes abusive and, therefore, they can’t trust it. So, guess what? They become their own God. ‘I’m going to make the choices in my life so I don’t have to get hurt like that again.’ They choose something to comfort them because that’s a lonely place. So, alcohol and drugs. Then they become a slave to that, unknowingly. So, unless they fire themselves as their authority and their God, they are going to continue to be slaves to addiction,” says Cafik.

“If they fire themselves as God, they need to find something that is greater than their addiction and greater than themselves, that will help them and they can trust.”

The door is open for addicts to choose their own concept of a power greater than themselves. It certainly does not have to be religious. Many choose this power of “We” that facilities like Edgewood support. An addict and his or her peers can do it. “If that person can stay sober, why can’t I?” One addict talking to another. Group of Drunks. Good Orderly Direction. Acronyms abound.

Of course, not everyone buys into the slogans which imply a supernatural being at play.

Asked for his opinion on the “There is a God and you’re not it” slogan, Roger C., website master of Toronto’s A.A. Agnostica site had this to say: “There are idiot slogans that I don’t process or interpret, and that is one of them.”

In this fellowship, whose expressed written Third Tradition assures members that “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking”, the message is clear: Take what you like and leave the rest.

The post Can spirituality and therapy get along? appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

Digesting the religiosity of some of the language of recovery

 

By Jeff Vircoe

“There are only two things you need to know about the spiritual side of the program. There is a God and you’re not it.”

To anyone who has been sober in A.A. a long time, as in 20 or more years, they will likely have heard this admonishment in smoke-filled rooms.

It’s a slogan that brings smiles to the faces of many old-school members. It is also about as polarizing a statement as you can find in the program. It is the line in the sand for those who struggle with “the God thing”; it’s saying on the surface that, in this outfit, we believe in a supreme deity. And, since it is supreme, it does not need your assistance. You need it. That scares the bejesus out of some who have God issues.

But really, should it?

First off, there is no record in any literature of A.A. or any other 12 Step program where “There is a God and you’re not it” is conference-approved. It just isn’t. So, when someone makes such a statement, they are not speaking for A.A., N.A. or any A at all. They are merely voicing an opinion. No different than if someone were to say, “There is no God, nor am I it,” or “There is a God, and I’m pretty sure Morgan Freeman is it.” It’s an opinion. Though some folks in recovery believe there are too many opinions, the truth is people are allowed, and even encouraged, to express theirs – especially in a meeting setting.

“There is a God, and you’re not it” may be just an opinion, but it is one with sentimental and historically contextual background.

It is important to remember that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith did not sober up in A.A., they found abstinence in an organization called The Oxford Group, an evangelical Christian fellowship founded by an American Lutheran minister named Dr. Frank Buchman. Originally called A First Century Christian Fellowship, at its peak in the late 1930s The Oxford Group had roughly 50,000 followers in the United States.

Buchman, who believed that the root of all humanity’s problems was fear and selfishness, was not shy about the solution to these problems.

“The world is anxiously waiting to see what Jesus Christ can do in, by, for, and through one man wholly given to him – God led,” he told prospects. “You can be that man.”

Amongst other things, Buchman and his followers believed that sin was the block between God and a person, and selfishness and self-centeredness were primary problems to be dealt with. The theory was if you surrendered your ego to God, sin would leave.

Through a process of conversion, which included confession, conviction, confidence, and continuance, members aimed towards practicing absolute honesty, unselfishness, love and purity – considered to be the moral principles espoused by Jesus Christ.

There is no doubt that the Oxford Group, which accepted Bill Wilson into its midst in New York City and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio, believed there was a God and His name was Jesus.

A.A. co-founder, Bill Wilson, always gave credit to The Oxford Group for being the foundation from which A.A. would stem.

“The early A.A. got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group,” Wilson wrote in the book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, first published in 1957.

Dr. Bob’s expressed attitude about Bible study, prayers, and use of devotional Christian literature, as well as his unrelenting advice for new A.A. members to join a church, are legendary. In his mind, there was no doubt about God. To have someone say, “There is a God and you’re not it” wouldn’t have rankled him, or many in Akron Oxford Group circles, one bit. Things were different in New York, where Bill was struggling with the religiosity of the program.

Up until the moment of his so-called “hot flash” (what he called his vital spiritual experience) in the detox ward at Towns Hospital in December 1934, “I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself,” Wilson wrote in on page 63 of Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. But after his experience in which he says “the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe,” things changed. He believed he had experienced God and knew he would never drink again. He set out from there to apply the Oxford Group principles as best he could.

Of course, long serving members of the Oxford Group, like Henrietta Seiberling, who introduced Bill to Bob, weren’t necessarily sold on Bill’s brand of recovery. She agreed Wilson was a catalyst for the movement, especially being the promoter that he was, but she believed more along the lines of faith first and foremost.

Henrietta’s son, John F. Seiberling (1918-2008), was an eight-term Akron member of the U.S. Congress who released, in 1973, transcripts of a talk he and his mother had shortly after Wilson’s death in January 1971 about the early days of A.A. and the Oxford Group. It contained an interaction she once had with the two co-founders, in which she said to them, “We are not out to please the alcoholics. They have been pleasing themselves all these years. We are out to please God. And if you don’t talk about what God does, and your faith, and your guidance, then you might as well be the Rotary Club or something like that. Because God is your only source of power,” she wrote.

Again, in her mind, there certainly was a God and the alcoholics were not it.

“Not-God – A History of Alcoholics Anonymous”, published in 1979, is the title of what may be the most comprehensive, non-AA conference approved book ever written about the fellowship, by the late historian Ernest Kurtz. The Harvard educated Ph.D had this to say about the importance of the concept.

“The fundamental and first message of Alcoholics Anonymous to its members is that they are not infinite, not absolute, not God,” he wrote. “Every alcoholic had first been, according to this insight, claiming God-like powers, especially that of control. But the alcoholic at least, the message insists, is not in control, even of himself; and the first step towards recovery from alcoholism must be admission and acceptance of this fact that is so blatantly  obvious to others but so tenaciously denied by the obsessive-compulsive drinker.”

The forefathers of the fellowship certainly understood who was in charge. Remember the early members of A.A. were surrounded by strong, religious Christians. The alcoholics who arrived at the Oxford Group meetings looking for help were getting a strong dose of the Judeo-Christian God talk, like it or not.

“The last A.A. dinner that I went to, over 3,000 people were there,” Henrietta Seiberling wrote. “And it was the first meeting that I went to which I was disappointed in. There were two witnesses there, a man and a woman, and you would have thought they were giving you a description of a psychiatrist’s work on them. Their progress was always on the level of psychology. And I spoke to Bill (Wilson) afterwards and I said that there was no spirituality there or talk of what God had done in their lives. They were giving views, not news of what God had done. And Bill said, ‘I know, but (the speakers) think there were so many people that need this and they don’t want to send them away. So there again has come up this same old bugaboo – without the realization that they have lost their source of power.”

Seiberling said, “It is my great hope that they will never be afraid to acknowledge God and what he has done for them.”

If you do not believe in God, this slogan may make you cringe. Perhaps that is why it is one of the slogans rarely heard in the rooms anymore. The idea of a God, and certainly a Christian, heaven-and-hell, keeping-score kind of God, is passé.

But it wasn’t passé at all for the first wave of sober alcoholics who came to develop the fellowship.

Clarence Snyder, who, when he died in 1984, had the longest A.A. sobriety in the world at the time, sobered up under the guidance of Dr. Bob in Akron in 1938. Snyder would go on to found the first group, not under the auspices of the Oxford Group, but instead using a portion of the title of the newly published Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as the group’s name in Cleveland in May 1939. He was completely sold on the principles of the Big Book as expressed in the first 164 pages, according to longtime A.A. historian, Dick B.

“At the very outset of his recovery efforts, Clarence accepted: (1) A.A.’s original insistence on a belief in Almighty God, the Creator, (2) the necessity for coming to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, and (3) the Bible as the main source of all for religious truth. He also understood and espoused Akron’s emphasis on the Book of James (the healing book, as he called it), the Sermon on the Mount (which, as stated by Dr. Bob and Bill W., contained the underlying philosophy of A.A.), and 1 Corinthians 13, which epitomized A.A.’s emphasis on love). Nonetheless, Clarence was quick to recognize and absorb the life-changing ideas of the Oxford Group and its four absolute standards – honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love.”

However, not everyone was into the God thing, even in the early days.

When writing the Big Book, Bill Wilson asked the first 100 or so members of A.A. in Akron, New York and Cleveland to review the manuscript, which would become the final nail in the coffin of the relationship between the Oxford Group and its “alcoholic squadron.” One member in particular was prominent in convincing the author to make changes to tone down the old-time religious talk. Jim Burwell (1898-1974), whose story appears in the Big Book as “The Vicious Cycle”, is credited as being the one who convinced Wilson and Smith and the others who were sober in the winter of 1938 to change some of the wording in the Big Book, especially as it pertained to God. Burwell’s self-proclaimed “militant agnosticism” facilitated the use of the phrases “Higher Power” and “God as we understand him” in the Big Book instead of anything specifically pertaining to one religion or another.

Clarence Snyder, whose own story appears in the Big Book as The Home Brewmeister, told his biographer this about Burwell:

“Jimmy remained steadfast throughout his life and ‘preached’ his particular [non-God] brand of A.A. wherever he went.”

The God question is not one that will leave A.A. anytime soon. Some members have no problem with the obvious Christian bias of the literature. Others are frustrated with it, especially given the A.A. Preamble, which supposedly assures members that, “A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution”, including Christianity.

History shows us that those divisions between the God-centered crowd and the Easy Does It bunch are anything but new. One old-timer used to say this at a Calgary A.A. meeting: “Some people call it luck. And God doesn’t mind.”

One thing is for sure. “There is a God, and you’re not it” is one slogan that doesn’t work for everyone. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to.

 

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Seventh Annual Recovery Run brings hundreds together to raise hope, help others

Thousands are already part of the Edgewood Treatment Centre family. But one seven-year-old member is doing plenty to make sure that family keeps growing.

The seventh annual Run For Recovery, a twilight tradition along the comfortable mulch shores of Nanaimo, British Columbia’s Westwood Lake, is set for another instalment next month.

On Friday, June 23, alumni, staff, their family members and members of the Nanaimo and Central Vancouver Island community at large will come together to raise funds to combat addiction and raise awareness that recovery is possible and available.

And if you are connected to the Edgewood Health Network, or if recovery advocacy is your thing, then if you’re on Vancouver Island in June, come on down!

This year’s Run For Recovery features all the perks that have helped raise over $100,000 in the first six years of the event. First, there’s the food – what would a warm evening out on the lake be without scrumptious food? Throughout the event, Edgewood’s own Bridges Dining Kitchen crew will be under the big tent on-site, flipping burgers and hot dogs. A high-end Silent Auction features all sorts of items and events: BC Lions football game getaways, fishing charters, Harbour Air flights, items, gift baskets and certificates from local businesses, and more. While fun bidding battles get going over the big packages, there are plenty of little skirmishes on the dining, golfing, arts and other categories of gift items too – all for a great cause, and all in great fun.

While music sets the mood, the family atmosphere always includes a competitive side of the event. Though many people choose a leisurely walk with their children and/or pets, some have a lot of fun trying to beat their run time from years gone past. Others just try to beat their buddies. Either way, there will be prizes awarded for fastest times in Men, Women, Youth, Family and Team categories. And for the zanier, outside of the box crowd, prizes will be awarded for Costumes.

A Bouncy Castle donated by an alumnus keeps the little ones giggling, while face-painted youngsters grin and wander about. All in all, it’s a full-on Edgewood family fun event.

The sobering message behind the event, however, is not forgotten in the fun, given the brutality of the current opioid crisis across the province and in the Central Vancouver Island. Last year, 912 died in illicit drug-related overdoses, 153 of them on Vancouver Island. In the first two months of 2017, another 219 more are gone, 39 from the Island. This March alone there were 120 suspected drug overdose deaths in B.C. – up 51.9 percent from the previous March, according to the BC Coroners Service, most between the ages of 19 and 50. The Times-Colonist Newspaper reported last month that although more than 7,000 Naloxone kits have been distributed on the Island, in the past 13 months there have been over 1,676 overdose-related emergency room visits.

In years past, the funds raised from Edgewood’s Fun Run have been targeted to the Edgewood Foundation, educating people about addiction, and clearing the way for free treatment at Edgewood for several fortunate applicants. But this year, given the critical situation with opioids, Edgewood has teamed up with the mid-Island chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association and their efforts to combat the crisis.

With its vision of mentally healthy people in a healthy society, the CMHA will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2018, as a nation-wide leader and champion for mental health.  The CMHA’s mid-Island branch provides mental health promotion and mental illness recovery-focused programs and services for people of all ages and their families. Services include housing and homeless outreach, employment support, a social centre in Nanaimo and a frozen meals program in Courtenay.

“Given the seriousness of the opioid crisis, it just seemed like the right fit to team up with, and donate the funds raised at the run, to CMHA,” said Colleen Ward, director of the Edgewood Health Network’s western operations.

With this family fun event set, a great cause to get behind, and a location like no other in the central Island, the benefits of taking part in the Edgewood Fun Run can’t be beat.

The whole event costs a grand total of $30 per person, with a check-in time of 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. race start. Please consider helping out by registering early, and if you have a smashing gift idea for the Silent Auction, please donate it by calling Bonnie at Edgewood at 1-800-683-0111 or 250-751-0111. Call the same numbers to register or go to www.events.runningroom.com for more information.

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Live Let Live: A battle – tested slogan in the fight for recovery

As Canadians pause this week to remember the battle of Vimy Ridge and its impact on a wide-eyed, impressionable nation 100 years ago, it may surprise some in recovery, from their own battles with the bottle, to learn that one of the most sage bits of advice offered to them has a close connection to the war “over there.”

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One of the most enduring slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous is Live and Let Live. Found in the organization’s basic text book, the title from which the name of the fellowship originated, Live and Let Live is one of the big three slogans, sandwiched between First Things First and Easy Does It in the chapter The Family Afterward in all four editions of the Big Book.

Its meaning is not vigorously debated. Most would agree that Live and Let Live fits along the lines of “mind your own business”, “let sleeping dogs lie”, or my personal favorite, “What people think of me is none of my business.”

“We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders,” wrote A.A. co-founder and Big Book author, Bill Wilson, in the chapter in which Live and Let Live appears.

Practical. Sage. Innocuous advice, perhaps.

In early April 2017, as we solemnly watch rickety black and white images of young men racing up steep trench walls and out into Vimy’s no man’s land pockmarked with millions of shell craters, the juxtaposition of the peaceful concepts behind Live and Let Live and any military connection may seem polar opposites, yet the battlefields are precisely where the term originated.

In a series of unofficial, but widespread, ceasefires on the Western Front around Christmas 1914, French, German and British soldiers laid down their weapons, crossed the trenches and created a sense of fellowship with one another. There were reports of joint burial ceremonies and exchanges of food and souvenirs. Harmless soccer games broke out. These spontaneous mini-truces broke up the horror and monotony of steady shelling and sniping, attacks and counter attacks. The truces meant, literally, that the soldiers would stay alive – Live, and would allow the other side to stay alive, as well – Let Live.

The New York Times and Britain’s Daily Mirror and Daily Sketch newspapers published reports of the examples of good faith exhibited by those warriors, but as senior commanders on both sides learned of the fraternization on the front lines, orders were given to knock it off.  Some units defied the no fraternization order over the next year, especially around seasonal holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving, but by 1916, with gas attacks and casualties continuing to climb into the hundreds of thousands, the war bogged down, resentments hardened and Live and Let Live was put on hold as far as the battlefields went.

In his book, Trench Warfare 1914-1918: The Live and Let Live System, British author Tony Ashworth went through diaries, letters and veterans’ testimonies and came to the conclusion that the term and concept of Live and Let Live was widely known by that generation.

These days, when you think about sayings like, “Pick your battles” or “I’m not willing to die on this hill”, you can see the potential military correlation. Not necessarily so with “Live and Let Live.”

It may be important to remember that, in 1939, the Big Book was introduced to a world only 20 years removed from the supposed War to End All Wars, or The Great War,  as World War One was known by that generation. Much of the lexicon of the day still held a military connection. In fact, many in the 12 Step movement were veterans of WW1.

Bill Wilson was part of the Vermont National Guard, having had his first drink after being commissioned as an artillery officer.

“I found the elixir of life,” he wrote in Pass It On. “Even that first evening I got thoroughly drunk, and within the next time or two I passed out completely. But as everyone drank hard, not too much was made of that.”

Neuro-Psychiatrist Dr. William Silkworth, the physician in charge of Towns Hospital in New York City where Wilson detoxed, served in the U.S. Army from 1917-1919. Rowland Hazard, who brought Ebby Thatcher to the Oxford Group before Ebby introduced Wilson to that organization from which A.A. evolved, had been a Captain in the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Corps. And Jim B., an agnostic A.A. pioneer who is credited with establishing the Third Tradition, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, and the terms, “God As We Understand Him” and “Power Greater Than Ourselves” rather than religious terminology, was a first class private in the U.S. Army in the First World War. His story, The Vicious Cycle, was published in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions of the Big Book.

With all these veterans having input into the Big Book as Wilson cobbled it together through most of 1938, it is no small wonder that Live and Let Live, a military term urging alcoholics to put their own psychological weapons of mass destruction down, came to pass.

Photo: An artist’s impression from The Illustrated London News of  January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

Live Let Live: It makes good therapeutic, scientific sense

When, as children, we are told not to put our hand on the hot stove, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Yeah, I think I can figure that out, mom.

And when we come to the rooms of recovery, beat up, lost, and feeling like old little kids in an adult world, the term Live and Live can have a similar connotation.

Intuitively it makes sense… but how the heck does one do that?

Live and Let Live is one of the big three slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous, in that it is one of the trio of helpful suggestions written at the bottom of page 135 in the 12 Step movement’s basic text, the Big Book, alongside First Things First and Easy Does It. Sage advice for anyone, not just addicts, Live and Let Live has plenty of therapeutic value. In the treatment world, where suffering addicts are clamoring for a way out of their pain, the slogan speaks to modalities employed by counselors.

“For me, therapeutically, Live and Let Live is being in the moment. Being right now,” says Ryan Tompkins, 50, an addictions counselor at Edgewood Treatment Centre in Nanaimo, B.C. “If I’m working with patients who are living in the past, or they’re living in the future, that’s all they’re focused on. They can’t live in the now. So they can’t process what SEO Expert Gold Coast need to do now, to just live and let live and move on.”

For the past three and a half years, the retired naval chief petty officer has been helping Edgewood patients learn to deal with their clear and present danger – addiction.

“Addicts get so caught up in the past or the future.  Addiction lives in the past or the future. If we help the patients live in the now, in this moment, addiction can’t live here, with their people, with their peers, with what’s happening to them in that moment, whether they’re breathing – or not breathing half the time,” he says with a smile.

Tompkins says a lot of the work he does with patients is utilizing various grounding techniques.

“Breathing in the moment. Living. Right in this moment. Focus on, ‘How am I living in this moment? What’s happening in me? What’s happening to me right now?’ These [are] reflective questions that I get patients to ask themselves.  How do we help you be in the room with us right now and not be caught in the past? So, the breathing, the grounding, we do a lot of schematic stuff, ‘What’s happening in your body right now?’, so they can begin to recognize this is what I’m feeling like in this moment right now, process it, and then they get to move on to the next minute. Versus living in their past and holding onto a resentment, or moving towards the future and how they’re going to figure everything out. So, that mindfulness piece of being in this moment right now. The here and now.”

Psychologists and scientists seem to agree with the philosophy of Live and Let Live. The practices of Mindfulness – defined as the psychology of bringing a person’s attention to external and internal experiences happening in the present moment, embody the concepts proposed in the slogan. It’s not just a good idea. The scientists have proven it works.

Pointing to a series of neuroimaging studies exploring the neural mechanisms underlying mindfulness meditation practices, scientists are finding that “experienced meditators exhibit a different gray matter morphometry in multiple brain regions when compared with non-meditating individuals,” according to six different studies done between 2005-2010.

In other words, “We can train our brains to automatically reconnect to what matters, break free from the limiting stories in our minds, incline our minds toward the good in life and even learn how to relate to our difficult feelings differently to realize an emotional freedom from the confines of our habitual thoughts and reactions,” says Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, in a Huffington Post blog in 2013.

Though the contemporary version of Live and Let Live may have originated on the battlefields of World War One, when opposing armies were recorded standing down and interacting in a non-violent way at Christmas and other important holidays, the truth is, since ancient times, getting grounded, choosing acceptance and seeking coherence with the world – right now – has always made sense.  Early Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism used meditation as far back as 4,000 years ago. The practice remains a critical component of their beliefs. In today’s fast paced world, the versatility of mindfulness practices means virtually anyone can find a form of the practice to fit their schedule, and the benefits are undeniable, whether you are an addict or not.

“That therapeutic bond that happens in the here and now? Addiction can’t live there. Addiction can live in the past or the future,” says Tomkins.

Indeed, with many addicts referring to themselves as control freaks, acceptance, a radical departure for most struggling addicts, is a big part of finding the peace to calm down a busy brain.

Marsha M. Linehan, an American psychologist credited with creating dialectical behavior therapy, once put it this way:

“Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.”

She’s also quoted saying acceptance is the only way out of hell, a place too many addicts identify with.

Live and Let Live as a concept doesn’t appear in A.A. literature in the Big Book only. One of the books patients study at Edgewood is called Living Sober, an 88 page book detailing some of the methods A.A. members have used to not drink. This handy resource dedicates an entire chapter to the slogan, two and a half pages of wise advice to ponder.

“To begin to put the concept of Live and Let Live into practice, we must face this fact: There are people in A.A., and everywhere else, who sometimes say things we disagree with, or do things we don’t like. Learning how to live with differences is essential to our comfort. It is exactly in those cases that we have found it extremely helpful to say to ourselves, “Oh, well, ‘Live and Let Live.’”

“In fact, in A.A. much emphasis is placed on learning how to tolerate other people’s behavior. However offensive or distasteful it may seem to us, it is certainly not worth drinking about. Our own recovery is too important. Alcoholism can and does kill, we recall.”

In other words, how important is this resentment we are building up rather than accepting them for who they are.

Nicole Makin is a clinical counselor at the Edgewood Health Network’s clinic in Victoria, B.C. With over a decade of helping people who suffer from addictions and other mental health issues find peace, she says Live and Let Live is an important bit of advice to get our heads around.

“It’s complicated. I think of addiction as isolation and the opposite of that is connection. So when we are living in an interconnected way, we have to have a balance of allowing others to make their choices, and also having boundaries around what we are willing to experience,” she says.

“For me, Live and Let Live would come into play if I was struggling with someone else’s behavior. It’s a reminder that I have a responsibility to set healthy boundaries for myself and allow others to have their own choices,” she says.

In closing, whether you are an addict or not, Live and Let Live is a bite-sized jingle packing a powerful psychological and scientifically-backed punch. As one anonymous writer put it in the book Stress Less: The Essential Guide to Reducing Stress With Meditation and Mindfulness, it’s just something we need to think about.

“When we are stressed, it effectively makes us less intelligent. This is due to the reduction in prefrontal activity, which in turn is designed to make us more focused and alert. Essentially, the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for forward planning, creative thinking and other ‘high-order’ brain activity.

“When you are being chased by a lion, though, it is really not the time to be thinking about the meaning of life!  So, shutting down this part of the brain and placing your focus on feedback from your senses makes much more sense.”

How recovering addicts use ‘Live and Let Live’ to quieten their minds

By Jeff Vircoe

It’s one thing to sit in a circle or around a table and talk the talk. It’s another thing to practice it when the meeting is over.

Live and Let Live is one of those slogans which requires any alcoholic or addict to pause. What does it really mean in my case? How do I not live and let live, or as Paul McCartney flippantly wrote, Live and Let Die?

Asking people in recovery about the slogan Live and Let Live, it quickly becomes obvious that control seems to be a major issue for many when they first arrive in the rooms.

“Control was a huge issue for me, always being overly concerned with what everybody else was doing and living their lives – particularly my siblings,” says Lindsay, a 35 year-old woman who recently celebrated her 10th year clean.

“I have a brother and a sister in recovery. But, when I was first getting sober and my brother was still in his addiction, I was like, you know, putting the Big Book downstairs, and doing stuff to try and get him to change his life rather than just kind of letting it all happen mechanically, which it did in the end.”

“So, today I use Live and Let Live in remembering that their program and their choices are theirs, and that my choices and my program are mine and I don’t have any control over what they do or don’t do – just like they don’t have any control over my program. “

Another woman who had a strong desire to steer the outcome back in the day is Janina B. At age 43, she’s 19-plus years clean and sober, and has over a decade in the field of addiction treatment. She says the slogan Live and Let Live can be compared to Step One, in terms of being powerless over people.

“So Live and Let Live is: I live, and then I let you live. At least, that’s what it means now to me,” she says.

But, of course, it wasn’t always that simple to figure out, she says.

“Before, I would just obsess about everything. I say the first year I was MOCUS – which is Mind Out of Focus. I was going a million miles a second in every direction and not going anywhere.  I fired a sponsor of mine because she called me manipulative. But I was. I just wasn’t ready to hear it. But I was totally manipulative!”

“She told me, ‘I’ll be on your Step Nine!’, and in my head I was, like, ‘No, you won’t!’ But she was right. She totally was right. In that instance, I was manipulating one of my male friends to give me money, when I could have just gone to the bank. So, in that instance the Live and Let Live was I wasn’t letting him live. I was manipulating him so that I could “Live.”

If Live and Let Live can be aligned with Step One, at least one member of the recovery community we talked to sees a comparison to Tradition Three as well.

Warren W. will notch nine years out of the darkness of addiction later this month in Nanaimo. The 48 year-old says the gist of the slogan is acceptance.

“It reminds me of Tradition Three, whereby the only requirement is a desire to stop using. You don’t have to be white, straight, male, Christian, sis-gendered, whatever. It reminds of inclusivity. Tolerance,” he says.

“It’s about accepting that anyone can do this and get this with the support of others with similar goals. So Live and Let Live, to me, equals I want to get this and I want you to get it too, no matter who you are or where you come from.”

One woman in recovery in Al-Anon says practicing Live and Let Live can be a battle for many who come out of the world of addiction.

“It’s a challenge for people with addictions because we lose our sense of self. Whether we have addiction or co-addiction, we lose our sense of self and we don’t develop relationship skills in our isolation,” says Nicole M. “So, in that sense, [I] don’t know how my life ends and somebody else’s begins. Reminding myself that I’m here to live. I have my life to live and other people have their lives to live. That’s what the slogan is all about,” says the 42 year-old.

It takes years of practice to live and let live, Janina concurs.

“I want my partner to behave in a certain way. I want you to call me. I want you to, if you have a plan, I want you to cancel. I also don’t, but there is a part of me that does. So the Live and Let Live is, I can ask for what I want or need, and then let him respond in his way.”

In the end, another woman in recovery says the slogan is about respect.

Andie M., who went through Edgewood in May 2012, says living her life and accepting others is the key to serenity in recovery.

“Basically, I live my life to be the best that I can be, the best that I know how, and respect that others do the same in their own way. ’To each their own,’ as they say,” says Andie, 38.

“In my day to day life, coming across so many different people at work and in the recovery community, I come up against different ideas, points of view, values and beliefs. I may not always agree, but can respectfully disagree. We are each entitled to our own thoughts and opinions, our own way of being. It’s those differences that make life interesting. I live my life to the best of my ability with what I have learned, without fear of judgement, and I hope others can do the same.”

 

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From an Addict’s Perspective: Addicts Keep Their Feet on the Ground By Using Old Slogan

Jeff Vircoe

It’s about that First Things First slogan. Some say it originated with Moses walking down the slopes of Mt. Sinai carrying the tablets burned with the 10 Commandments – the second of which says no Gods before that God. Historically speaking, that’s pretty old-school First Things First.

While many of the early 12 Step recovery men and women were not necessarily religiously obsessed, they were teachable enough to see the importance of First Things First’s cautionary finger wag of, “Don’t drink, no matter what.”

These days, on the clinical side of addiction medicine, many counselors and psychologists refer to mindfulness and the importance of being grounded when talking about First Things First. Clearly, it’s a cautionary tale, an urging of staying in the moment and not letting the distracted mind overtake the mission of recovery.

Historical and clinical definitions aside, just how do those in the boat row to the chant of First Things First?

Perspectives asked several men and women in recovery to explain the layman’s approach to utilizing the slogan, which has been part of 12 Step lore from its beginnings in the mid-1930s.

“I use the slogan First Things First when I’m overwhelmed, or have too much going on in my head,” says Jennifer B., who is coming up on her six year anniversary of achieving recovery. “It helps me focus on the next right thing. For instance, on my day off, with all the running around and things I think I have to get done, the first thing, to stop the crazy train thoughts speeding around, is to stop and pray that I do my best and ask for help. First Things First reminds me to think of solutions like calling someone in my support group,” says Jennifer.

Another woman in recovery who will get her sixth medallion this August, agrees.

“It means show up. Be present, try with your whole heart, every day, all the time,” says Kathleen S.. “And that’s what I want, every day. To leave nothing on the field, if you know what I mean.”

Patrick D. came through Edgewood in 2010. Now pushing seven years, he says First Things First is about being willing to do the heavy lifting of recovery.

“First Things First, to me, reminds me that, for years, I’d want to bypass all the uncomfortable pain of growing in early recovery. I’d be sitting in a detox and not focusing on the present, or even the next day or week, but months away, devising how to get my girlfriend back or get a nice ride again,” he says.

“Really, all I needed was to focus on not being full of shit that day, and being open to taking anyone’s suggestions but my own!”

Still, another woman points to the focusing value of First Things First. Mara K., who will notch seven years on the beam this fall, says it has to do with letting go as well.

“First Things First is letting go of the petty things and focus on the important things,” she says. “So, where do my priorities lay?”

“I try to no longer get caught up in drama and chaos, and instead either steer clear or offer solutions. Am I bringing recovery to the table or sickness? I now ask myself before I engage, ‘Am I helping, enabling or hurting the person or situation?”

Underneath all the many possible applications of First Things First, however, lies a basic, time-tested premise. How do I stay sober?

“I think of the sobriety statement,” says Ross M., a man closing in on two years. “Everything has to follow my sobriety. Without it, I have nothing,” he says, adding that, in the end, it all comes down to doing the next right thing for himself.

“In my life today, I have to do what is best for me. Fifty years of people pleasing just didn’t turn out so good.”

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