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One of the best recovery tools that does not get its rightful due in the debate among the popular treatment options is exercise. Hundreds of studies have found a positive link between exercise and reducing depression, the most recent coming from Sweden which found that well-trained skeletal muscles may provide the brain with an edge over stress, and ultimately engender protection against stress-related depression.

There have been a few studies done on exercise and the treatment of addiction. A 2009 study in Pathophysiology Journal showed treadmill exercise reduced morphine use in male rats. And in 2011, a study in the journal Current Neuropharmacology demonstrated animals’ preference for saline over amphetamines when they exercised.

Exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain medication. They interact with human opiate receptors, which reduces your perception of pain. Serotonin are hormones responsible for mood balance and are the targets for widely used anti-depressant medication like Celexa, Lexapro and Zoloft. Less pain, better mood and all natural? That should be a no-brainer for any alcoholic/addict right?

Since I entered recovery about 3 years ago, I’ve put on a bunch of weight and I’ve not been feeling very good about my physical appearance which has affected my mood and self-esteem. While I go to the gym a few times a week and have taken up cycling, I haven’t found a consistent exercise regimen to take off the extra weight and get back to my “fighting” shape.

That has changed since I recently joined Title Boxing Club and participated in their intense boxing training workouts 3-4 times per week. The 60 to 75 minute classes are INTENSE even for the most in-shape person, but anyone can do them and you are free to modify the workout to lessen the intensity.

It’s a group class lead by a real amateur boxer/trainer centered around the scores of heavy bags hanging from the workout ring. Your hands are protected with real boxing wraps and you are provided with big, thick heavy bag boxing gloves. (New member deals often include a free set of wraps and nicer gloves). The first 15 minutes is a “warm-up” with jumping jacks, simulated jump roping, lunges, mountain climbers and shadow boxing. I am usually in full sweat 5 minutes into the warm up. The next phase is the boxing, with 8-12 “rounds” of punching combinations on the heavy bag with one minute active rest periods. Jabs, cross, hooks, uppercuts, bodyblows, 3-4-5-6-7 punch combinations, ending with a 30 second punch out as fast and hard as you can. The workout ends with 15 minutes of real boxing abdominal and core work, with punching sit-ups, leg lifts and planks followed by stretching.

Talk about stress relief. I am literally punching aways all my stresses and resentments in one session! The group format and trainer also motivates me to workout much harder than a normal gym workout. My competitive juices start coming out! There is also a group camaraderie with the sessions (sound familiar to AA folks?). I can feel the endorphins and that workout “high” for hours after a boxing training session. In only two weeks, I’ve already lost 5 lbs, and can definitely notice a change in my body type as well as mood, energy and sleeping. My alcohol cravings have also gone down.

As you can see, I highly recommend boxing as part of my recovery program. Of course, you don’t have to do boxing, just get out there and exercise and it will help.

 

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Hey fellow friends in recovery. I wanted to share a great short documentary I stumbled across by Irish filmmaker Gareth Bowler entitled “SOBER.” I’ve been watching this as part of my “morning inspiration” even in the car (shush, don’t tell!). I just love the story, dramatic soundtrack, and especially the inspirational message of keeping going forwards, forwards, forwards. I hope you like it too, and maybe it can be part of your morning routine.

I hope you all had a great and sober holiday season. Even if you didn’t or struggled (we all struggle this time of year), get back on that beam, get to a meeting, write, talk to someone or do whatever has worked before to keep you sober.

SOBER // Short Documentary from Gareth Bowler on Vimeo.

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So here we are two days after Thanksgiving. Did you make it through in one piece?

For many people in recovery and who are actively drinking, this is the hardest time of the year to get through. Thanksgiving — Christmas — New Year’s. Hey, it drives “normal” people to throw punches at Walmart over big screen TVs, so we can only imagine how hard it can be for people in recovery! That said, here are some of my thoughts about getting through the holidays sober:

  • Load up on recovery meetings. Now is a great time to increase your recovery meeting attendance, whether it’s AA, SMART, or other program. I am currently going to one meeting every day and it definitely helps!
  • If you have not attended a recovery meeting yet, there’s no better time than now! In AA, we see quite a lot of newcomers coming in this time of year, so you are in good company and there are people who will welcome you with open arms and understanding.
  • Don’t be afraid to make tough, unpopular decisions. In my family, we typically go to two Thanksgiving events, one for lunch and a long drive to another for dinner. This year, I opted to skip the dinner event. I went to an all day Alkathon meeting instead to get some recovery medicine. It was the right choice for me. Don’t be afraid of saying “no.”
  • Take your own car to events so you can arrive late and leave early.
  • Have your sponsor and recovery friends on speed dial in case you need to make an emergency support phone call. 
  • Be very cognizant of the emotional toll of the holidays. I’m a big fan of the saying “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” In recovery, we cannot underestimate the emotional toll the holidays take on us. You are not immune from the stress. Respect it.
  • Work on your spirituality. The holidays are a great time to focus on your spirituality. Isn’t that what they are all about anyways? Attend Midnight Mass. Go caroling. Spin dreidels with the children. Get comfort from being with another human being.
  • Watch out for the post holiday relapse effect. Just as dangerous as the holidays is the emotional hangover which often occurs after the holidays are over. I have personally relapsed after the holidays because I thought to myself, “I deserve a drink after getting through all that stress!” Don’t do this! Stay on the beam, keep going to meetings, working on your recovery, straight through January until you feel back on solid ground.
  • The best gift you can give your family for the holidays is staying sober! Remember this. Your recovery comes first!

For more reading, here is a great list of articles from Hazelden about staying sober through the holidays.

Good luck!

P.S. my apologies from going AWOL from this blog. The truth is that the last year has been a struggle but I never left recovery, never stopped going to meetings and working on my sobriety. I just had too many more important things to do both in my recovery and personal/professional life than write on this blog. But I would like to make the effort of getting back to blogging because it does help my recovery.

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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?

October 21, 2013

I 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 […]

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Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Yikes! Is Summer Over Yet?

August 13, 2013

Hey 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 […]

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The Sober Lawyer’s Personal 12 Steps

January 26, 2013

My 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 […]

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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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