I saw my heroin dealer this weekend

On Saturday my wife and I went to the city to attend a reptile expo. The expo was at the state park which is also the same area of the city I used to roam around while I was homeless. My old heroin dealer would ride his pedal bike, meeting up with us desperate and wayward users who had no access to a vehicle. I didn’t think much about the correlation between the location of the expo and my past drug excursions, but I did think about it briefly, prior to going. I didn’t put a lot of concern on this because my employer is in the same city as where I was homeless and I have built new and sober memories at these areas now. Also, I didn’t want to ruin our day by navelgazing.

The area of the expo is an area I haven’t been to since I was using and when we were driving through the area, I began talking with my wife about how I was feeling uneasy and had a sick feeling in my gut. It was raining quite hard and transients were walking up and down the rough and graffiti littered streets. Right after we started talking about my emotional state, I seen a man on a bike pedaling towards our vehicle. We was not stopped- we were heading north on the narrow neighborhood street and the cycler was riding south on the sidewalk. As soon as I seen the man on the bicycle, I knew it was my heroin dealer.

I told my wife who it was. I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to keep to myself. To someone who has never been addicted to heroin, maybe this situation seems kind of inconsequential but for me, it was a pretty scary situation. I am very glad my wife was with me. I am glad she is willing to listen to my issues and fears without much warning.

I know that if that would have happened earlier in my sobriety, I would have slammed on the brakes, bought heroin, and got high. The sickening feeling I had did pass, but it did shake me up for a few hours. Addiction continually baffles me in its unrelenting patience and power. It’s not something to play around with. I go months without so much as a thought about heroin then BOOM! there it is. This is a rushed post because I am at work. I wanted to get this down in writing before the raw feelings of the situation disappeared. Thanks for reading.

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Emotional Growth

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I often hear in the recovery community that some emotions are bad while others are good. I understand that point of view but I believe it is incorrect. It may not seem like a problem, but I think it is very important to be precise when talking about this topic so that we are not led astray. Emotions can be extremely powerful and if we perceive them incorrectly for a long period of time, it can be catastrophic for our recovery. It has always been an emotion that I acted on that caused a relapse.

Some people believe anger is an emotion that should be suppressed, ignored or outright avoided at all costs. Anger is healthy. Anger is the opposite of depression and is a valuable emotion that we should speak to, and evaluate in much more depth. If you begin to feel anger, that emotion is there for a very good reason. Suppressing it or ignoring it is only erasing your true self. Of course, it is possible to allow anger to get out of control. That means you are not listening to what it is saying to you. You are simply allowing it to operate you like a giant meat puppet. Figure out what it is telling you. Don’t confuse anger with rage. Rage can be destructive. If you are swinging a baseball bat through the flat-screen, it is safe to say that you are no longer angry. If you act as though your emotions are “against” you instead of there to help you, you are not going through optimal recovery and very little growth, if any, will occur. Your emotions are your friends. Your emotions are your true self. Don’t treat them with contempt or hatred. Each one of your emotions is a part of your personality eco-system. They are your Board of Directors. They are your Congress (a Congress that actually does something useful.)

When I was in early sobriety, I remember how powerful and overwhelming my emotions were. So I understand the early random flooding bombardment of uncontrolled guilt-cry-happy-joyous-disgust fits that hit without warning. I also know that I made it through that time and I am still alive. Emotions always fade away. That is why it is so important to understand what they are trying to tell us and why.

Relapsing because of a non-harmful emotion seems kind of silly in hindsight. When my father passed away, I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. The pain felt so powerful, so intense. I knew the pain wasn’t going to kill me and even though it felt similar to physical pain, I knew it was just a deep sadness and grieving in knowing I could never see him again. I allowed myself to wail over his death. I remember sobbing loudly and uncontrollably on my mother’s couch with my wife at my side. Right in the middle of my emotional deluge, a thought popped into my head. I realized at that moment that my father’s death was not a good enough reason for me to relapse. I knew I would be okay.

For so much of my life, I have misunderstood my emotions. I have let my emotions overrun my life by my misguided reactions and irrationality. I’ve mainly focused on anger and sadness in this post but all of our emotions are legitimate mind/body awareness that tell us everything we need to know. The hard part is figuring out what they are trying to say. As long as we don’t push them away and suppress them as unnecessary glitches in the system, we can grow and learn everything we need to know about who we are. Just remember there is always a thought before an emotion. You have that “magic quarter of a second” to beat your emotion to the punch. But don’t punch your emotion, violence is bad.

Remember the eve of Christmas

ice-crystal-222274_1280

Remember the eve of Christmas,

I spent shivering, in a cell.

Detoxing off of heroin,

A cold and bitter hell.

Remember the eve of Christmas, ice-crystal-222274_1280

I spent homeless, on the street.

Poison flowing through my veins,

But my heart still beat.

Remember the eve of Christmas,

ice-crystal-222274_1280When I was all alone.

The wind blew, through my soul,

It sliced right through the bone.

Remember the eve of Christmas,

When I finally, faced my fears.

ice-crystal-222274_1280The battle came, to a bloody end,

After so many painful years.

Remember the eve of Christmas,

Dark years, have long passed by.

I’m staring at our Christmas tree,

ice-crystal-222274_1280As water fills my eye.

Remember the eve of Christmas,

When life was good, indeed.

I need not open, a single gift,

I have all I’ll ever need.

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The Fork in the Road

Admitting defeat against an opponent isn’t a simple thing to do. After-all, competition seems built in to humans on some level. The moment we stop sucking on our toes, the sibling rivalries begin. Early youngsters being taught to compete on the soccer/football fields before they learn how to read.

American football is where high paid, steroid and triple bacon cheezeburger infused men are allowed to beat their wives and children, abuse animals, commit other immoral crimes and still continue their over-paid, brain damaging profession. Because here in America, competitive sports are more lucrative and entertaining than protecting abused woman, children, and animals. Being on a winning team is the outstanding moral excellence we strive for and hold as the highest of values. So what happens to me if I admit defeat or if I lose to my opponent?

School is set up on a grade scale where there is also competition. War is competition for power and dominance. Everywhere you look, there is competition.

I don’t think all competition is bad. Competition in the free market is what grows economies and infrastructures. Competition also yields better products and more efficient ways of living. It also pushes human limits to phenomenal places. My point is that from a very young age, we learn that being defeated against a competitor is not valiant or accepted with pride. Maybe there is a small amount of it directly, but the indirect message is clear.

Is this part of the reason I couldn’t admit defeat from my opponent? Did I have to get so badly beaten before tapping out?

Me VS My Opponent

All my bones had been completely fractured, like a botched skydiver splatting against earth.

My 130lb frame, in the ring with the athletic prowess of Mike Tyson. my eyes swollen shut, ear dangling by a small piece of skin.

It was like having a guitar solo against Eric Clapton. I can’t play a guitar. It was over before it started. My fingers bled for weeks.

I was fighting a hungry lion with my arms tied behind my back. I gave it all I had.

When I first started using drugs, there was no way possible for me to admit I had been defeated. In my eyes, I hadn’t. In the beginning, drugs made my life seem so much better, and far less painful. Admitting defeat before the drugs had made a significant visible impact would have left me empty, depressed, and horribly miserable. If I was powerless, I sure didn’t feel it.

As time went on, so did my justifications for any visible impact of my drug use. Within a couple years I was homeless. I went from a $150,000 house to a half a million dollar overpass bridge. Not a bad swap, right?

This is a much nicer set-up than I had.

This is a much nicer set-up than I had.

It wasn’t until I stood at the fork in the road that I knew I had been completely defeated. If I go left, I go to prison. If I go right, I die. This is when I finally admitted I was powerless over drugs, and that my life had become unmanageable. This fork in the road was where I began to build a foundation for sobriety. It wouldn’t have happened had I not admitted defeat.

Left or Right?

Left or Right? Have you reached this fork in the road?

Get High or Get Higher Power?

deity-229216_1920I have been wanting to do a blog on my version of God; or more accurately, my higher power for many weeks now but I kept putting it off. The topic is controversial to say the least- mainly if the status quo deity is put into question. Religion beliefs are often a topic in recovery and I feel that having an honest and open discussion is relevant and absolutely necessary in my own personal recovery. Some of you may disagree with my beliefs and that is perfectly fine. My goal is not to argue that my higher power is right or wrong or that any of my reader’s belief’s are incorrect. I am only explaining my experience and what works for me.

Many conversations in the rooms of AA/NA, give strong evidence that many addicts struggle with finding, keeping and believing in a God or any form of higher power. I want to explain my higher power so that others who are struggling can see that they are not alone in their struggles. I also want to explain how I finally found what I believe to be- my higher power.

GROWING UP

I was raised in the LDS church as a young child. Up until my mid 20s, I believed in the Judeo-Christian ethical standards as well as a living, breathing deity who had a flowing white beard and had a homestead somewhere above the highest of clouds. After continually struggling to make even a single right turn into the driveway of virtue, I began to question what kind of Satan-spawn I had become. The harder I tried to do right by God, the further he faded from me. No coffee or caffeine? No hot drinks? No nicotine? No masturbation? God must have known me quite well. I was doomed right out of the placenta bursting gate.

THE CRUX

Despite my appalling past; homelessness, IV drug use, robbery, theft etc., I have always thought I was a decent and respectful human being. It may be difficult to believe that, and after reading that previous sentence, I think I may have threw up a little from the ridiculousness of my statement. Anyone who has been addicted to drugs I’m sure can relate. I knew I had done some really terrible things and for God and my sober self, that was a big problem. The thought of going to hell drove me to study religion and to study it passionately. Both sides. Both arguments and even other religions. So that is what I did. I studied Christian, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Taoism. After studying these religions* and reading their doctrines, I began to study agnosticism and atheism. I knew I couldn’t make any accurate or true claims about anything if I didn’t understand both sides of the religious coin- belief and non-belief.

THE SEARCH

After countless hours of work, I came to my own conclusion based on empirical evidence, logical consistency, and facts. I now consider myself to be an atheist. However, just because I do not believe that Gods or Deities’ exist, does not mean I do not have a higher power.

CRUX-BASED FINDINGS

When I first realized I was in fact, a strong atheist, I began to feel an emptiness. Like my life was missing something crucial. A pinging vibration of hollowness echoed throughout my body. “If I did not believe that Gods’ exist, how could I ever stay sober?” AA/NA taught me that to continue a happy and fulfilling sober lifestyle, I had to find a higher power!

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

I had heard in a meeting one time that someone was using a doorknob as their higher power but I felt more powerful than a doorknob. After-all, I could turn one and walk through a door so I knew the doorknob would not suffice as my higher power. I think the point of a higher power is choosing something that is more powerful than me and something I CAN’T control- unlike the turning of a doorknob. That is however, only my amateur opinion. If a doorknob works for someone as a HP, then grab hold of it!

FINDING MY HIGHER POWER

My HP had to be something much smarter than me, much stronger than me, something I could not control, something I do not understand, something that would keep me safe and something I COULD allow to run my life so I didn’t screw it up again. After pondering these strict and crucial requirements for my next potential higher power, I finally realized this higher power was right in front of me the entire time. It was with me throughout my entire life and it knew me much better than I knew myself. It is thousands of time stronger than me and it is thousands of times smarter than me. Its capabilities are known to be almost limitless.This amazing higher power I am describing is the subconscious mind.

Actual X-ray of my big yellow-purple brain dots.

Actual X-ray of my big yellow-purple brain dots.

JUST SOME THOUGHTS

Being conscious of our unconscious mind is extremely helpful for living a successful life; even if you think having it (subconscious) as your higher power is ludicrous. For many years, I thought of my subconscious mind as an abstract concept and I never put much “thought” into it. Today, I work to provide a conduit of clear communication between my conscious and subconscious mind. A working relationship between the two is essential for my daily recovery. Having this deity-free higher power has continued to keep me sober and has help me understand so many things that used to baffle me.

I welcome all troll-free comments but if any of my readers are having a hard time with God or a higher power, please feel free to comment. Also, I would love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic. I appreciate all my readers support. Thank you all!

Dustin J.

It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” –Andre Gide

(*) Taoism can arguably fall outside the religion category but is still taught as a religion.

Bulletproofing My Relationships in Sobriety

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My sobriety in the past– I noticed a reoccurring pattern.

1) I would get sober.

2) I would get lonely.

3) I would search fearlessly for a girlfriend.

4) I would find a girlfriend.

5) Our relationship would fall apart.

6) I would relapse.

7) Rinse and repeat.

After realizing why this continued to happen and what I was doing wrong, it all seemed so simple. There is a very important reason addicts are told to wait until they have acquired at least one year of continuous sobriety before they start any kind of intimate relationship. I think this is great advise and if you truly want long term sobriety, please follow AAs simple relationship advise. I think its a good first step, but to have a meaningful, happy, non-toxic relationship, a lot more is required.

Once I heard this in an AA meeting, I took it very serious (waiting at least 1 year). I knew I needed some time to learn more about myself and why I kept ending up freezing cold, homeless, running from the law- and self-inflicted needle scars up and down my battered arms. A real catch for any woman, right?

My life changed drastically (for the better) in 2006 when I spent 13 months behind bars for various drug related charges and theft. When I was released from jail in 2007, I decided to continue on the path to self-knowledge, sobriety, and continued celibacy.  No dating, no searching for women. Only self knowledge, spirituality, and the repairing and paying off of past restitution. I had dug a huge crater and I knew if I were to drag a new, unsuspecting woman into it, it could only end in despair. Relapse would most likely follow.

Waiting (including jail time) almost 3 years before I entered into a new relationship gave me greater hope that things would finally work out. I had built my life back to the point where my confidence and charm was second only to my sobriety and happiness. Guess what happened? The relationship fell apart and shortly after, I relapsed. Why? What did I do wrong this time? Did I not do things right this time? Nope. I sure didn’t. I didn’t put on the Kevlar. The relationship was not bulletproofed.

BULLETPROOFING?

Until I met my current wife, I have ALWAYS done relationships the wrong way. Whether it was lack of knowledge, too young, or too dumb… No it was none of those. It was fear. Now I no longer have any excuse. If a relationship starts wrong, it will inherently end wrong. It will be too weak to continue on. If I build my home on sand, it will eventually wash away. There is love and there is lust. What is the difference? When I say I love someone, is it really love- or is it lust? I believe that “love” must have moral and virtuous objective qualities attached. That person must possess continual virtuous traits; empathetic, warm, caring, helpful, non-violent, slow to anger, etc. This is fundamental in separating this love-lust dichotomy. For Dustin to love someone, they must have virtuous qualities about them!  Being pretty or sexy or beautiful is not virtuous, it is accidental, historical genetics. Relationships are so often founded on base-of-the-brain, mammal instinct; you are delicious so lets bump our nasty-bits. Relationships will often go years without either partner knowing even the most basic of questions about the other. Important, fundamental questions about compatibility. What is your definition of love? What religion are you? Do you believe in God? Will a difference in religion be a problem? Do you want kids? How will you discipline your children? Can you even have kids? What was your childhood like? Do you have unresolved childhood issues or abuse? What are you political views? Some relationships will start and end without either party asking any of these questions. We are often too concerned with manipulation, playing games, lying, jealousy and lust. Any relationship structured on these unethical premises will cause insurmountable problems, but we see it all the time (including my own past relationships.) They are weak and can’t create anything healthy or worthwhile.

The problem was- I was too afraid to ask these kind of questions. I thought I would push the other person away from me if we talked about such big and scary topics early on in the relationship. Instead, I let two or three years of wasted time and energy dictate our relationship compatibility. It is much easier to just have lustful sex with an empty and hollow relationship and think we are in love when we really don’t know anything about each other. Just agreeing with whatever. Not having any kind of opinion or identity. Enabling each other because its the short-term path of less fear and resistance.Then when the relationship ends with hostility, bitterness and anger, I would wonder what went wrong. It is so much easier to be “liked” then to be honest. This is true even for every day friendships. Do you have friends who work harder to be liked rather than being honest? I wonder often if there is a diminishing amount of people left in the world with real honesty, real integrity. Someone who will call you out on your shit. That’s what I need in my life. If they aren’t calling me out on my shit, then they are doing behind my back, amongst other people. I may have mentioned this before but the other day, someone had posted something to online that was clearly a bad idea for that person and yet all of their so-called friends posted how great of an idea it was. Not one person mentioned how it could cause serious long term concerns or issues. Yes you should run out in front of a moving train! In today’s world, honesty is very unpopular. I want to continue striving for “unpopular.”

I have made many mistakes in my life. I do accept that I still screw up often, I accept that I still make mistakes, of course- but I continue to work at not repeating these mistakes.I want to become a better person. If I can’t accept that I am doing something wrong, I will never try to change it. Being aware of what I was doing wrong in the past has now allowed my current relationship with my wife to continue to grow stronger. We do not argue, we do not raise our voices at each other, we do not call each other names and we both try to work with moral and ethical principles. When we disagree with each other, we negotiate some form of win-win situation that makes us both happy. There is no concerns or issues over jealousy and that is a first for me. I never thought it could work, but I promise you, it does. Like S. Molyneux says “The only thing that will separate my wife and I will be a coffin lid.”

Relationships that are founded on moral ethics will be bulletproof!

Word “Games”

vistaspdibertA decade ago, before I understood what I needed to do to stay sober, I was a little bothered with the expression “working a program”. This term, being the deciding factor between living a happy sober life or succumbing to the vicious talon grips of a miserable, heroin infused death never sat well with me.

When I think of the word program, I think of a specific schedule or curriculum. An appointment or an arrangement of business or specific tasks to be completed. On the surface, it may seem that debating something as simple as a word definition or word usage is rather silly or insignificant. The truth is quite the opposite. The misuse of words have caused some of the most destructive actions we have seen in our world. Endless bickering and arguments in my own circle of friends and family has happened due to the misuse of spoken language. The misuse of words has caused a myriad of unnecessary and avoidable problems. It has also caused relationship perplexities with an endless amount of marriages rushing into splitsville.  All because we use the wrongs words!

Maybe using the phrase “working a program” works well for you. If so, that’s great! I would argue that is isn’t the correct term for redirecting someone’s entire life and everything in it, but like I said, if it works for you, great. I do believe that if we want words to keep some sort of firm validity and if we want continual growth in our relationships, we should do our best to say what we truly mean. I have noticed an large increase in the amount of word exploitation with the English language over the past 20 years. I am one of the worst culprits. In an ever-changing world, many words accurate meaning seems to slowly mesh and blend with others.

In a world where individuals want to ban the word bossy because it somehow sounds sexist.

In a world where shell-shock was too shocking so it was changed to combat fatigue but was still to real so it is now called PTSD. A complete disconnect from the reality my friends. Call it what it is. It is shell shock.

In a world where up is down and down is up.

In a world where a war against addicts is labeled The War on Drugs.

It is still a world that I refuse to call living my life, “a program”.

That is why I don’t use the term “working a program”. I would rather call it what it is. I am living my life. Yes, it is a much different life than the one I failed at before but I know now; I must live a much different life today. Letting go of the things I cannot control was the perfect starting point and I wanted to give my life what it deserved. My life deserves much more than a program.

The phrase “working a program” leaves the after-taste of an “ending just around the corner”. Recovery is nothing of the sort. It is a complete and total life change that requires things that are not always at the top of my to-do list. A program itself is easily fallible; easily set aside or put on the back burner. A life however, not so much.

Part of living a sober life, I want to become a better communicator. My goal after this post is to be more impeccable with my words and focus more on what I say to others.

-I can’t say I love someone if they don’t have any virtuous and/or admirable qualities about them.

-I will be upfront and honest. I won’t use words to soften a verbal blow. That is not admirable. That is only protecting the other persons feelings at the cost of my own.

If I am impeccable with my communication, no one has to “read between the lines” or “put words in my mouth” or try to guess what is bothering me.

Without spoken language, humans couldn’t do even the simplest of tasks. We would be like a dog, begging for a treat. I so often take for granted the ability to use the spoken language. Our words can be used as poisonous weapons or as helpful, informative sound waves of truth and logic. For so many years I have spread poison, lies, hate and misinformation and it is now time to be a better man. It is time to start living a truer, happier life.