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Recovery Blog

Keeping the Memory Very Green

May 17, 2009

From Twenty Four Hours a Day, April 21: When I stop to think that but for the grace of G‑d I might be drunk right now, I can't help feeling humble....When I think of the kind of person I was not so long ago, the person I left behind me, I have nothing to be proud of. Am I grateful and humble?"

There's nothing like remembering the past for humility. I am not proud of who I was, but I feel good about who I am now. There is a program saying: "Keep the memory green." This means that it's all too easy to forget what we were like before program, and feel super-haughty about all that we've accomplished, sometimes in a very short time. But remembering where we were, and remembering what it took to get to the place we're now in is a sure way to keep that "memory green." It's important, too, because we "program folks" don't fool ourselves into thinking that we can't lose all the ground we've gained, and go slip-sliding right back down the hill, and into that old, slimy, dark hole again.

In the Promises, we read: "We will not forget the past, nor wish to shut the door on it."

That's because we've learned from our past. We've learned to value the changes, and remember what it was like. We've learned that we can even grow from our trials and tribulations, and that we wouldn't be where we are without them. That's an awful lot of learning, and a lot of wisdom.

But knowing how easily we could end up right back where we began keeps us from getting haughty or showy about it.

What this leaves us with is a lot of gratitude, and a whole package of humility.

Sometimes I need a push to remember to be grateful for everything my Higher Power has done for me. Last night, my sponsor gave me that push. She reminded me that even when things seem down, there is much more good in my life, and much more to be grateful for than to cry and kvetch about.

So, I hope to end my day with thoughts of gratitude, thoughts of gladness, thoughts of feeling Happy, Joyous and Free from the tyranny of addiction.

Caring and Sharing

May 11, 2009 1:00 PM

From 24 Hours a Day, May 1: "The real meaning of the word charity is to care enough about other people to really want to help them."

Before I joined my 12 Step program, I don't think I could honestly say that I cared all that much about helping others. If truth be told, I'm not sure that I cared all that much about others at all—forget about the helping part!

Addiction is like that. It kind of clouds the mind, leaving no room for anything or anyone else other than the "Drug Of Choice"—whatever it is we addicts use to soothe ourselves. That comes first and foremost—i.e. I feel bad, hurt, lonely, scared, worried, etc., and this object (be it alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling, etc.) makes me feel better... Ahhhhhh, now I can relax... until the guilt hits, that is, and then we just dip into our "pot of gold" (our substance bucket) again, to make us feel better from this secondary issue/ problem (the guilt, the remorse, the promises of "I'll never do this again").

Where is there room in all that for thinking about others, much less helping them?!

There isn't, actually.

Working a Program and getting sober/abstinent is the way that we clear out the mess of this cyclical pattern—the feeling, the substance-using, the guilt, and the re-using.

Once the cycle is broken, we suddenly see the light and see the others; and our natural, G‑d-given instinct of wanting to help other people in their struggles comes to the fore.

Call it charity, call it loving, call it sharing, call it helping—the words don't really matter so much.

My point is: the Program allows us to find that place of helpfulness and caring, right there inside of ourselves, inside of our own hearts, where it was hiding, all covered up, the whole time.

Letting the Secret Out—The Story of Lag B'Omer

May 11, 2009

Lag B'Omer is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the greatest sages of the Talmud. He is well-known as the author of the Zohar, the fundamental text of the Kabbalah, which teaches us about Jewish mysticism. It was on this day, his final day, that he revealed the secrets of secrets that would illuminate our world like never before. With revelation comes liberation—especially if the secrets are about just how much G‑d loves His children. I might have known that before, but never with such detail and clarity.

There are different motivations to conceal things. Rabbi Shimon needed permission from on high to reveal what he revealed. The world wasn't ready for the powerfully blinding truths of Kabbalah until that time. So we rejoice because the world reached a point to have a teacher like Rabbi Shimon, whom G‑d trusted to open the gates of mysticism.

But then there is another motivation to keep a secret, a motivation that is not divinely sanctioned. My friends in recovery have a saying that addresses this type: "We are as sick as our secrets."

Keeping this type of secrets by hiding, being isolated or withdrawn will fuel the shame that holds us all back from growing. It's the fungus of the soul that thrives in darkness. The Chassidic master Rebbe Elimelech recommends that we have a trusted friend in whom we can confide, and to whom we can reveal all our thoughts as well as our actions.

The ultimate secret is that there is a loving caring Father in heaven who is recreating us anew constantly. We are precious, imperfect and valuable beyond our wildest imagination. This must be exposed not only to the world, but especially to the ones who are so busy being on guard, fearful of being exposed, saying to themselves: "If they knew who I really am, then they would reject me. The false truth that I invest so much of my life into hiding is that I am not worth much." When talked out with a friend, then the real truth gets its chance to be exposed. The fear of being discovered can be crippling. Such a relief, such a sense of being free to tell it to someone. I am finally free from the fear that keeps me alone.

This Lag B'Omer celebrate that your secret is out!

Contact your local Recovery Rabbi and join a Jewish Recovery Community:
Boca Raton, FL
Rabbi Meir Kessler
Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Mendel Cohen
Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Shais Taub
Montreal, Canada
Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger
New York, NY
Rabbi Yaakov Bankahalter
Reading, PA
Rabbi Yosef Lipsker
West Bloomfield, MI
Rabbi Yisrael Pinson
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