The information in this book was gathered in my mind after many late night milkshakes, over the pain of tattoo ink applied to me, from rides home after meetings, and over-caffeinated ramblings of the recovering minds. It’s late night phone calls, desperate instant messages, and overtyped emails. There’s no one person who helped me more than the others, from MFA holders to ex-cons on parole. CEOs and reformed gangbangers alike have contributed to the mishmash of knowledge I now share with you.
Thanks to Maggie for putting up with me during the entire process of this book, listening to my thoughts, reading my work, and giving me a sounding board for every idea in here. Thanks most of all to Amber, my editor, for persuading me to write the book in the first place. There should be many more freak out anxiety calls coming your way; thanks for always talking me down.
What This Book Is
This is a recovery book written by a guy who never thought he’d read one all the way through. I never liked any of the self-help or spirituality books I saw. I thought they were trite, or pandered to the perpetually wounded soul. Many of them recycled the same self-affirmations that were in other books. Frankly, a lot of them I thought were total bullshit.
I’m a strict atheist. I’m a cynic. I’m a freak, a weirdo, a misfit. I’ve spent as much time growing up in fundamentalist circles as I did in the punk scene. I’m also an alcoholic and drug addict who hasn’t picked up a drink or a drug since 2002.I went into 12-Step recovery with as much reluctance as I could muster while still giving it a try. Now I love the program’s steps and traditions, and I look forward to the meeting I run every week and the ones I go to for fun.
You read that right . . . for fun. Yes, the meetings are fun. They are as fun as a revival or a really good punk show. My favorite aspects of going out to bars—namely the camaraderie, the BS sessions, and the new people to meet—are all much better at meetings. Some of my friends ask me if I still go to meetings after all this time sober, and it stuns me that they don’t realize that I like to go. But it wasn’t always fun for me.
I knew I had to quit drinking, but I didn’t want to go to meetings. What I wanted was to go to some really nice celebrity rehab center, the kind where Ben Affleck or Danny Bonaduce gets to go, where I could sit around in a thick bathrobe and Ray-Bans while networking my next book-to-movie deal with my feet in the pool. That didn’t work out. I had negative money, no health insurance, and no chance at getting in any place like that. 12-Step meetings were my only option, but I was still reluctant.
The 12-Step groups are free. There are no dues or fees. People will pick you up and give you a ride if that’s an issue. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t beat the price, and it was imperative that I did something.
The last place I wanted to be was in a church basement. I’ve been in more church basements than shitty green paint. I’ve eaten many lifetimes’ worth of tuna casserole and Frito pie at potlucks in these basements. But I’ll be damned if that isn’t where most 12-Step meetings are.
The meetings being my only option, I had to suck it up and go. My way had damn near killed me. I needed other ideas, outside help, and the only people who would do it for free were a bunch of people who had been in my same situation.
I struggled with each aspect of the program. For a long time, I just practiced Step 1 over and over. That’s the step where you decide to not drink or use anymore, because it’s fucking
17up your life. My first meeting, I wasn’t sure that I was powerless over alcohol, but I knew without a doubt that my life was unmanageable, like it says in Step 1. Still, I struggled, keeping my own pace.
It took me longer to get through than anyone else I’ve met who hasn’t relapsed. I stayed on a step for months or years if necessary. I didn’t even say the full Serenity Prayer for the first three years I was in, because it had the word God at the beginning of it. It was like there were two of me, one dragging the other one through the program.
But I’ve come full circle, and I want to share my thoughts and experiences with other people who are suspicious of 12 Steppers and their coffee-chugging meetings. It’s okay to think they all look a little desperate and weird, chain-smoking like that outside the back door of a church building at 6 p.m. on a Friday night. It’s okay to wonder if these people really mean it when they say you can call them “anytime” when you just met them a minute ago. It’s okay to be cynical, skeptical, and a little freaked out by the whole situation. That’s what this book is about, really. It’s encouragement to give something that looks ridiculous a shot at saving your life.
What It’s Not
This is not a book that will solve your problems. You will have to do that yourself. Whether your problems were caused by forces outside your control or were self-inflicted, you’re the
18only one who has the ability to overcome your own struggles. This book will encourage you to find the proper help for your problems.
This is not a book against 12-Step programs. Think of 12 Step as a set of tools, and you have to build a house. You’re building that house on your own, and you’ll have to live in it when you’re done. The advice I give will help you learn how to use those tools to build the house that best suits you.
This is not a book that will lead to you buying DVDs, going to seminars, or taking workshops. I’ve seen a lot of other people with a This-Is-The-Answer book that is nothing more than a text version of an infomercial for what they’re really selling. I’m trying to encourage you to seek help from an established community near you, one that won’t charge you a dime for their services.
This is not a book that will ask you to believe in any spiritual dogmatic system, any religion, or subscribe to any established philosophical trope. I’m not mishmashing Eastern religions; I’m not rehashing self-help gurus from years past; and I’m not slamming a view of life, the universe, and everything down your throat. I’m also not telling you that whatever religion or philosophy you have is the wrong one. I do want to clear out some of the clutter in your mind so you’re free to think about who you really are and get a clear picture of what you believe.
I want you to read this book with an open mind. If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for the first thing you disagree with that you will use to discount the entire book.
I’m not perfect, consistent, or absolute. I’m a hardheaded addict with a few ideas that you could use for yourself. I’m not trying to save you. I want you to save yourself.