philip-seymour-hoffmanWhen I saw the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman lost his long-time struggle with addiction to a heroin overdose, I audibly gasped “Oh, no!” at my Twitter feed. Lost in the unanswerable why, things were a blur for a few minutes after that.

I posted on my personal Facebook feed about how sorry I was that addiction had claimed another victim. One of my alleged “friends” made this asinine comment:

Guy had a net worth of 35 million. Had access to the best facilities in the world. Feel bad for his children but at some point in his life he made a conscience decision to stick a needle in his arm. No one chooses to get cancer. It just happens but you can choose not jabbing a heroin filled needle into your vein.

My blood started to boil. Like millions of others and some of the media, my “friend” just didn’t get the disease of addiction.

Let me set the record straight. Addiction is not a choice. It has nothing to do with fault or blame.

I know this from personal experience, and from hearing the stories and watching the successful (and unsuccessful) recovery of hundreds of alcoholics and drug addicts in various recovery programs of which I’ve participated.

The addict or alcoholic does not choose to be afflicted with the disease of addiction. When the addict is a child, he doesn’t daydream and say to himself, “When I grow up, I want to be a heroin addict and stick a needle in my arm everyday…” No one in their right mind would choose to become a drug addict or alcoholic.

And there’s the rub. No one in their right mind…

Addicts and alcoholics suffer from a mental disease of the brain — as accepted by the American Medical Association, National Institute of Health and American Psychological Association. Our brains are not “right” or “normal” when afflicted with this disease. Although there is a scientific debate on this issue, I believe that the vast majority of people who suffered from addiction were born or predisposed to the disease. Some alcoholics knew they were alcoholics from the very first drink. Sometimes the disease is triggered by trauma. Sometimes it’s just a long progressive process. But for some reason, people like Philip Seymour Hoffman are more susceptible to the effects of the addictive qualities of alcohol and drugs and will continue to use despite the negative consequences including the specter of death.

That said, the question of choice does enter into the equation. I believe that anyone suffering from addiction can choose to get clean and sober. There is an element of personal responsibility which comes into play when one makes the decision to get sober. But when the addict is in the throws of addiction, dope sick and cannot think straight or rationally, he doesn’t necessarily have a choice of whether to use. He uses to stay alive and to become “normal” again, or so he thinks. And that’s the insanity of the disease and how it makes talented, educated people like PSH do insane things.

But getting clean and sober is a scary prospect for most addicts. It’s a beast. For me, getting sober has been the single most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. I would rather study and take the bar exam every week. I would rather go to the dentist every day. Well, maybe not. I hate the dentist.

Some people recover. Some people like Mr. Hoffman do not, and they die. Addiction does not discriminate based on wealth or celebrity status. For every Philip Seymour Hoffman, there are a thousand nameless soldiers of recovery, trudging along every day, going to meetings, reading from their Hazelden 24 Hour Book, and not drinking or using one day at a time. We don’t talk about those folks. Instead, we lament and blame Mr. Hoffman for “choosing” to stick a heroin filled needle in his arm.

Trust me, he didn’t choose that for his life. Would anyone?

To perpetuate the myth that addiction is somehow a choice is irresponsible.

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Burgundy-bigdealA great many of us lawyers have strong egos and sharp analytical minds. That’s what makes us talented litigators and corporate attorneys.

But those two traits are huge liabilities in recovery. It certainly has been for me.

An over-inflated ego makes it much more difficult to achieve humility and identify with others in the recovery community. In the early days, I was certainly guilty of saying to myself, “Oh, I was never that bad” or “I’m much smarter than that guy — he made so many dumb decisions.” But the fact is that I am no different from “that guy.” And If I really took a hard and honest look at myself, I too made the insane decision to keep drinking, and if I didn’t stop I would have gotten another DUI, risking my law license, family and career in the process.

As for the analytic mind, there’s a saying that analysis leads to paralysis. Despite my natural intelligence and superior education, I have been unable to out-think the disease of addiction. At various points in my recovery, I actually thought I could! Trust me on this, it’s a pointless exercise in futility.

I have realized that for me the program of recovery is much more about doing than thinking.

For me, “doing” means getting to meetings, going to therapy, talking to my sponsor and others in the program, exercising, writing and reading.

The more I stay inside my own head analyzing why I became an alcoholic, why some of the Steps seem illogical, and why there are no such thing as “character defects,” the more my recovery suffered. So I work on not analyzing everything in recovery. I’ll leave the analysis for my law practice. I certainly do plenty of it every day.

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Can A Puppy Help You Stay Sober?

by Dick on October 21, 2013 · 2 comments

in Addiction, Recovery

DSC_0125I don’t know the “official” answer to that, but it sure does help!

We just got a new puppy a few weeks ago — an adorable mini-golden doodle. Her name is Lucy.

I have to tell ya that having a cute little puppy in the house does wonders for my sobriety.

Puppies and dogs live in the moment. They show unconditional love. They take you away from the worries and stresses of the real world.

There are great stories out there dogs helping folks recover from addiction.

I was never an animal lover when I was younger. I’m not sure why. But I’m becoming one now with Lucy. And that’s a good thing.

~Dick

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corona_beachHey there! It’s been a long time since the last post. My apologies. Life gets in the way. Anyways…

For me, summer is always a very difficult time for my recovery. Everyone seems to be out drinking and partying. Tiki bars, cold beers, margaritas, pina coladas, whatever, it’s out there in the open during the summer months. And these Corona Beer ads —–> don’t help any!!!

Back in my youth, summer was the time for Grateful Dead, Phish and Dave Matthews shows and everything that went with it. Good times for sure, but not a healthy environment for me, at least for right now.

I was at a meeting the other day and a wise old timer called the summer the “Terrible Triad” of Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. He advised to attend more meetings during the summer drinking months.

I’m looking forward to the end of summer and the cooler months of Fall. I love Fall because everyone gets back to school and work, and the focus is more on business, less on partying and drinking. Maybe that will change, but right now, the end of summer cannot come sooner!

How do you guys feel about summer? Is it a hard time for you?  Thanks, it’s good to be back blogging again!

~Dick

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12steps800My therapist told me to craft my own version of the Twelve (12) Steps since I am always pointing out the illogic in several of the Steps. I’m not trying to replace AA’s 12 Steps, but rather, formulate my own personal set of steps or guidelines for my own recovery. Each person has a unique recovery program, or at least they should, in my opinion.

  1. Don’t drink, don’t drink, don’t drink. Yes, my program is one of abstinence. A few people in recovery believe they can drink in moderation or controlled, but I’ve already tested out that theory, and it doesn’t work for me.
  2. Work on and achieve acceptance. Accept your disease, but recognize that it’s ok not be happy about it and that you did not aspire to become an alcoholic. It’s ok to hate that word, alcoholic.
  3. Actively participate in AA. Embrace those steps which you believe in, and the fellowship. Discard the rest. Stop analyzing and pointing out deficiencies with AA program. It does no good. Reconnect with your Judaism to achieve some kind of spiritual foundation, whatever that may be.
  4. Go to private therapy as outlined by your therapist.
  5. Exercise, take care of my body, and eat healthy.
  6. Stay in frequent touch with your sponsor.
  7. Do Steps 4 and 5 of the AA program the way it’s laid out. It’s important to take that personal inventory and clean out all the “baggage.”
  8. Stay away from trigger locations, including bars, certain restaurants, parties and gatherings until I feel 100% confident I can deal with the situation without drinking or craving a drink.
  9. Do the making amends steps 8 and 9 of AA the way it’s laid out. It’s equally important to say your sorry to all the people you have hurt. But you can only do this once you have a solid foundation for recovery or else it’s just words.
  10. Seek rewards and gratification for a job well done and successes through healthy choices and inner confidence.
  11. Forgive yourself of all your past mistakes and focus on the future and the joy and happiness a sober you will bring to yourself and your family.
  12. Try to limit acting like a lawyer in recovery by over-analyzing everything and trying to “out-smart” the disease. Keep it simple. Again, if you don’t drink, you’ve done a good job for the day.

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Reflecting On The Sandy Hook Shooting

December 16, 2012

As the horrible details started to emerge from Sandy Hook, CT on Friday, the pit in my stomach grew more painful. My productively and concentration level at work became less and less. I was holding back tears all day. I drove home with my dad who had not heard all the details. When he learned […]

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A Lawyer’s Life Cut Short

November 27, 2012

Hey there. I haven’t posted in a long, long time. Life, work, family just got in the way. Quick update. Things are going well. Still sober and very much active in AA/recovery. Still haven’t got my head around the AA dogma, nor do I think I will ever really. Heading to my favorite speaker discussion […]

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Hijacking The Brain: The Science Behind 12 Step Programs

September 3, 2012

Hijacking The Brain, How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks our Brains – The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery During my time-off, I read this amazing book called Hijacking The Brain, by Louis Teresi, M.D., a Harvard neuro-scientist and also a recovering alcoholic. This book, for me, was like a gift from heaven. As you could tell […]

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Stacking Meetings Before Starting A Big Trial

July 30, 2012

Just a quick note because I’m crazy busy at work preparing for a big jury trial starting next Monday. I’ve been “stacking” up meetings — which around here means simply going to more meetings than usual for a particular reason. So I’ve been hitting around 5-6 meetings/ per week, up from my usual 3-4. My […]

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My First SMART Recovery Meeting

July 14, 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been looking into the SMART Recovery program for a while. I wrote about it previously in this post, Is Smart Recovery A Smart Choice For for An Alcoholics Anonymous Member? I can say that for this alcoholic, it was a smart choice, and I got a lot out of […]

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Struggling, So Time To Make Some Changes

July 11, 2012

With the nice summer weather upon us and the abundance of parties, I have been having a hard time. July 4th weekend was particularly difficult. A cold beer would have really hit the spot…. I’ve determined that my current program needs some changes. I’m going to get a new sponsor.  I have fallen out of […]

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Enjoying The Good Life…Managing Quick Success In Early Recovery

June 18, 2012

My sponsor texted me the other day: “You alive? Still sober?” I had to laugh because I just got back from the most fantastic family vacation to Disney World in Florida. I replied, “Yes, very much so!” (On a side note, DisneyWorld is an awesome venue for a sober vacation, especially if you have kids. […]

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Reflections On Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino Getting Sober

May 22, 2012

“The Situation” Sobers Up Get More: Music News   If you don’t know who Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is from MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show, you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years. The show is a maelstrom of booze, partying and debauchery depicting the lives of a bunch of 20 year olds […]

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Wreckage Of The Past: The Double-Edged Sword

May 16, 2012

Just a quick blog before I leave for our Disney family vacation (which is directly related to my sobriety!). Last night at my favorite AA meeting — a speaker discussion — the topic was our past. For me, my past, and its associated wreckage, is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I still […]

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De-bunking Powerlessness: I Have Power Over My Choice To Remain Sober

May 14, 2012

The first part of Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.” There is a lot of talk in AA meetings about the concept of powerlessness and what it is. Being the over-analytic attorney that I am, I often find myself trying to figure out […]

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Balancing A Busy Lawyer’s Work Schedule And Recovery

May 9, 2012

I just finished a crazy week of preparing for a big trial. It’s one of the busiest and stressful times for any trial lawyer. This case involved mold exposure so I had to become an expert on toxic mold and analysis. Plus I had to deal with an extremely emotional and stressed out client. So […]

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Anger Management and Emails: Pausing Before Hitting “Send”

May 2, 2012

I’m now in my 5th month of sobriety, and I still get pissed off at certain things. Maybe more pissed off now as I don’t have the alcohol to dull my pissed-off-ness. Being a lawyer and getting pissed off from time to time go hand in hand, unfortunately. There are a ton of jerks who […]

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Is Facebook Bad For Early Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery?

April 22, 2012

Pictures Of Cocktails And Drunk Karaoke On My News Feed Will Be Blocked! My usual Sunday morning internet routine consists of checking my Facebook feed from the night before — Saturday night — an often dreaded night for those in early recovery. (I always go to my Saturday Night Live AA meeting, so I’m always […]

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Is SMART Recovery A Smart Choice For An Alcoholic Anonymous Member?

April 21, 2012

Differences and Similarities Between SMART Recovery & Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) My previous post about the Huff Post hit piece on AA has made me start reading more about the different alcohol recovery programs. I have all the respect for AA and its fellowship, but it was written in 1937 without the benefit of the last […]

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Trepidation On The Eve of My First Sober Business Trip

April 9, 2012

Later in the week, I’m heading out of town for 3 days for some depositions. It’s definitely giving me the heeby-jeebies. Not that I’m going to drink or anything, but it’s just being out of my routine and my comfort zone that causes me anxiety. I’m having dinner with my clients on the first night […]

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Recognized As “Blog of the Month” In Sober Bloggers Directory!

April 5, 2012

Very unexpectedly, I received word that the editors of the fantastic Sober Bloggers Directory selected this Blog as a featured “blog of the month”! The Sober Bloggers Directory is, by far, the best compilation of sober blogs out there. I recommend it very much. Also check out their Sober Sites Blog which also features sober […]

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Helping Another Alcoholic And Hitting 100 Days

April 4, 2012

Recently, I’ve been helping another alcoholic get into the program. I’ll call him “Mike.” I’ve kind of become his de facto sponsor although due to my limited sobriety I’m not qualified to be his sponsor. I’ve been trying to get him a real sponsor, but I’m not sure if he’s ready. Anyways, the situation presented […]

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Huff Post Therapist Doesn’t Know Diddly About Alcoholics Anonymous

March 30, 2012

My Thoughts On Huff Post Therapist’s Criticism Of Alcoholics Anonymous Laura Tompkins is a “certified addiction specialist” who blogs at the Huffington Post. She just penned a slam piece against all that is “negative” and “wrong” about Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled, appropriately enough, Is Alcoholics Anonymous Negativity Based? Ms. Tompkins repeats some of the same tired […]

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Back From The Brink: Reflections On Relapse

March 14, 2012

As I approach 90 days of sobriety — for the 3rd time — I was going through my computer and came across an email I sent to my mom, dad and brother two days after I relapsed. For me, it’s very powerful and emotional. I was a train-wreck. Despite how good I feel now, I […]

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On Being A Jewish Alcoholic: My Spiritual Journey Continues

March 11, 2012

“Religion is for folks who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.” –Anonymous I’m Jewish. At least in my area, which has a decent Jewish population, there are only a handful of Jewish folks in A.A. I definitely feel in the minority, and I’ve felt a bit of […]

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1705 Hours Sober, But Who’s Counting?

March 6, 2012
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It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged here. Too long, actually. As my handy AA iPhone app tells me, I’ve been sober for 71 days, 2.33 months, or 1705 hours. But who’s keeping track?! So what’s been going on with my recovery? Well, not much other than staying sober. So that’s a good thing, actually. I’ve […]

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Power In Numbers: Why I Think Alcoholics Anonymous Works

February 20, 2012

Forget All The Myths Surrounding The Program: It’s All About The Fellowship (For Me) Have you ever tried to do something really hard? Perhaps lose weight, start a new fitness program or stop smoking? Did someone else help you or support you? Was it less difficult with someone’s help and support who accomplished what you […]

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Hazelden’s William Moyers Talks About Whitney Houston and Prescription Pill Addiction

February 17, 2012

I’d like to share this interesting CNN interview with William Cope Moyers, the VP of Public Affairs of the Hazelden Foundation (where I sought treatment) about what is sobriety today and the increase in prescription pill addiction in the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death.  You should also check out Moyer’s awesome book, Broken.

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For My Wife On Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2012

I wrote this note to my wife on Valentine’s Day, and just wanted to share… To My Valentine: Words cannot express how much your support and love has meant to me over these challenging months. You took care of the family admirably and courageously while I was in the throes of my addiction, and when […]

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We Are Only One Drink Or Drug Away From Being Whitney Houston

February 14, 2012

Renew Magazine had an interesting perspective on Whitney Houston’s untimely passing today in an article appropriately titled, No Lesson, Just Loss In Whitney Houston’s Death: When it comes to addiction, we are all just another drink or drug away from ending up just like Houston. And so the recovery blogs and comments online and in […]

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Sometimes In Recovery, You Just Have To Say “No Thanks”

February 9, 2012
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My family put together a nice dinner at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse (which I love) last weekend for my mom’s 65th birthday. They asked me a while ago if it would be OK for me, and I initially said yes. They said no one would order alcohol at the table. As the dinner approached, I become […]

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My Difficulty With Finding A Higher Power

February 3, 2012
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“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” –Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous For my Step 2 work, my sponsor told me to write a blog entry on my ongoing difficulty with the Higher Power concept. Like most new AA members, this is very hard for me. And as an […]

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Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Alcoholism: The Vicious Cycle

January 30, 2012
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I Used Alcohol To Combat Anxiety, But Alcohol Itself Causes Anxiety In 2006, I suffered my first full blown panic attack. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was reading a bedtime story to my son and felt this weird flip-flopping in my chest. My heart was doing somersaults. Having never experienced any type […]

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Reality Check: My First Al-Anon Meeting

January 27, 2012

Alcoholism is a family disease. I had dinner with my dad the other night, and he was going to take me to an AA meeting after. Over dinner, we were talking about Al-Anon and how it has really helped him. I’ve been wanting to go to an Al-Anon meeting for awhile now, so I suggested […]

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“Keeping Sober Is The Most Important Thing In My Life”

January 22, 2012

When I was at Hazelden, each morning the unit rose at 6:30AM, gathered together and read passages from the Hazelden Twenty Four Hours A Day Book. (There’s even an Iphone app for it!). Every morning, we read the passage from January 6th. I call this the “daily look in the mirror” passage, and for me […]

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Alcoholism vs. Dick: The Case of Powerlessness Over Alcohol

January 21, 2012

As a homework assignment for Step One work, my sponsor told me to read Step 1 out of the 12 and 12 Book, and to write one story about how I was powerless over alcohol. Geez, which story should I pick? There are so many…. Then this thought came into my head. Of course I […]

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Humiliation Leads To Humility In Recovery

January 18, 2012

For me, drinking alcoholically lead to a great deal of private and public humiliation. I have had a hard time dealing with the resulting shame and guilt. This, in turn, contributed to my drinking to escape those bad feelings. Spiritual growth and real recovery, however, occurs as a result of our failures, not successes. For […]

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Acceptance: The Foundation For Recovery

January 16, 2012

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step One: Alcoholics Anonymous For me, admitting that I was powerless over alcohol — more accurately, alcoholism  — has been the single most difficult thing to accept in my recovery. However, without a complete acceptance of powerlessness over my alcoholism, there […]

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It’s Saturday Night Live!

January 15, 2012

When you are a recovering alcoholic in early sobriety, you need to make getting to AA meetings a top priority. Even on Saturday night. And even when there’s a huge NFL playoff game on like last night. One of my favorite local AA meetings starts at 7pm on Saturday night while the “normies” are just […]

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My Hazelden Experience: The Power of the Peer Group and Fellowship

January 14, 2012

“One foot in, for those left out…right foot here for us. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. So be it!” My peers and I at the Hazelden Treatment Center said this variation of the […]

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