“Blame Is For God And Small Children”

“Fifth Step Prayer:

Higher Power,

My inventory has shown me who I am, yet I ask for Your help

in admitting my wrongs to another person and to You.

Assure me, and be with me, in this Step,

for without this step I cannot progress in my recovery.

With Your help, I can do this and I will do it.”

 I’ve stopped the blame game. Admitting my defects to God and another human being has been critical in my recovery. Denial is like a dark cave: we hide there, from ourselves and others, and without any light it’s not easy to see the truth.

I’ve struggled with addictions my whole life, but until I told someone about them, brought them into the light, they weren’t real to me, and I could continue on the merry-go-round of denial.

But when I told someone else, I couldn’t pretend anymore. Sharing with someone else makes me accountable. Admitting our defects to others shines a light on who we really are. Then, and only the, do we have the opportunity, through God’s help and the support of others, to work on our defects and our recovery. 

P.S. It’s also kinda necessary to know who we are, and admit who we are, before we can love who we are and accept who we are!

Loosen Your Grip!

From From Survival To Recovery, page 268:

“Living fully requires enough trust to release our manipulative, tight-fisted control of life, for only then can we accept the guidance of a Power greater than ourselves. For adult children of alcoholics, our damaged, devastated trust has to be healed and nurtured bit by bit until we feel safe enough to truly let go and let God. Trust does not come from reading a book, however inspired, but from experiencing new relationships in which we are trusted and we can learn to trust those around us…If we willingly surrender ourselves to the spiritual discipline of the Twelve Steps, our lives will be transformed…Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential…We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves…”

“We will laugh more.”  How can I, beset by depression and instability for many of my early years, come to revisit my life now from another perspective? How have I learned how to laugh and see the comedy in things? What has enabled me at last to live well and be happy?

Being in the rooms.

But I hasten to add that we can learn the same tools elsewhere: the tools of letting go and accepting what we can’t change; the tool of gratitude (a big one—half the world is starving; I have enough food and a roof over my head); the tool of detachment and understanding our personal boundaries in relation to our addict.

I might have been luckier, like many of you out there, and learned these tools in a happy, functioning family when I was growing up. But I didn’t; I learned them later.

And it’s never too late to learn how to be happy.


When I met my partner, Gene, twenty-four years ago, he was an experienced canoeist, and he loved paddling every summer. So I figured I’d better learn fast. One memorable incident was during a trip to Quetico Provincial Park across the Minnesota border in Canada. It was there that I added a chapter to my “Life Lessons” journal.

Gene and I always went canoeing with his friend, Stewart and his wife, Joan. I didn’t like Joan from the beginning. She talked non-stop, endlessly showing off how much she knew about everything. And worst of all, because I can’t even boil a carrot, she was a gourmet cook.

So the two weeks of wilderness paddling and camping were a challenge for me. At the end of one day, we scouted around for a stellar camping site and I showed Joan the one we had found.

“This island sucks,” she sniffed, “Stew and I’ll stay on that one over there,” she informed us, pointing to another one across an inlet.

“Okay,” I chirped. “See you tomorrow.”

I was awakened in the morning by the smell of smoke in the air.

“Gene, get up!” I screamed, looking across the water. “There’s a fire on Stew and Joan’s island!”

We piled into our canoe and raced across the inlet to find them frantically trying to remove the underbrush from the flames. Soon we heard the Canadian Forest Service arriving by helicopter to douse the area. It took twenty-six hours, but they finally extinguished the fire.

Joan had neglected to stamp out her cigarette while she was shitting in the woods, and, well, shit happens.

She was inconsolable. She loved nature and couldn’t bear to see the results of her carelessness.

The Canadians sent a crew of four, two Ojibwa Indians, the ax man and the pump man, an assistant chief and a chief, both White.  The cost of the manpower and equipment could have exceeded $12,000 if they hadn’t called off the aerial  bomber. It was a particularly dry season that summer in Canada, but they didn’t fine us. We were lucky.

Joan and I had pushed each others’ buttons plenty before that incident. But our esteem for one another began then. I suppose the dark side of our natures enjoys it when our adversaries falter. And I’m no different. But somehow that smug inner smile turned the mirror back onto me, and I didn’t like what I saw.

“Joan Joan, come on,” I insisted, offering her a hug and a shoulder to cry on. “It could easily have been me. I smoke too. Please, don’t be so hard on yourself. It was just a terrible accident.”

She and I hold each other in very high esteem now. This brief confrontation with my darker side opened my heart to appreciating Joan’s good qualities. Maybe it also reminded me how human we all are and how important it is to lift each other up as we pass through life.

Beats bitchin.’

The Boomerang Of Enabling

A few years ago in one of my support groups in New Mexico, a friend shared how she had to lock everything up in her house. She’d lock the jewelry here, the silver there. She had a different key for every place, and one time she was so flummoxed by her son that she lost all the keys! We laughed together at that one, grateful that we still could laugh.

This is what it comes to for many of us parents. We erect walls to protect ourselves, keeping the addicts out. And then, of course, we feel guilty about doing that.

My daughter Angie used to steal valuables from my home in order to sell them for drug money. It was safer, she thought, to steal from me than from a store. She already knew what an enabler I was; but she was still a thief. And even though her addiction pushed her onto the wrong path, she still should have paid the consequences if she was going to learn and mature. But I let her get away with it.  I deeply regret that.

They will work us, manipulate us, and use every tool in their arsenal to get what they want if they’re still using. Parents are so vulnerable, and they’re walking a fine line between helping their child recover, and enabling them to continue using. We learn eventually to sit frozen in inaction, to do nothing.  We learn to let our addicts be accountable for their own actions, and hopefully learn from the consequences: eviction, jail, or death.

But it’s that last consequence that holds us hostage, keeps us doing for our addict all that he should be doing for himself. We say to ourselves, ‘As long as he’s alive, he can recover.’  True, but when will we ever get rid of our God-like parental power, thinking that his recovery is all up to us?

Lighten Up! Do We Still Know How To Laugh?


From Courage to Change, March 13:

“I’m apt to think of Step Seven—‘Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings’–as a step I take tearfully and on my knees. I’ve had that experience, but I want to entertain the possibility that Step Seven might be taken with joy—and even humor.

Sometimes the sign that I have actually gotten humble enough to ask my Higher Power to remove a shortcoming is that I can laugh about it. Suddenly a past action or decision of mine seems ludicrous and I can stop taking myself so seriously…

So the next time I want to tear my hair out because I haven’t gotten rid of some nagging shortcoming, I’ll try to lighten up and see how silly my intensity can be…

Desperation and pain can certainly lead me to humility, but in Al-Anon I’m cultivating a new and eager willingness to follow my Higher Power’s guidance. Because I am willing, I’m freer to learn from all of life’s lessons, not just the ones that hurt.”

How did I ever get here? When I began my recovery journey I was in so much pain I couldn’t see through the river of salty tears I was drowning in. I was consumed with sadness, alternately watching Angie slowly self-destruct and determining to save her from herself. We all know that unhappy place, and we pray to be released from our sorrow.

I’m one of the lucky ones; I stuck around long enough to learn how to laugh again. “whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not…”

I’m not angry at God anymore and I accept His will for her. I believe He is a force for good—it wasn’t His plan to visit the misery that we read about on people all over the world. His purpose in our lives is to teach us how to rise above it. With acceptance, faith, gratitude and humor.

I laugh a lot these days, at myself most of all. The problems I carry don’t seem very important in the grand scheme of things. Humility has given me a healthier perspective, and I’m thrilled to be able to see the comedy in life. It’s a great leveler.

“He who laughs, lasts.” Mary Pettibone Poole

Stirring The Pot


I love this cartoon from the New Yorker. But it’s not why I published my memoir. I suppose some authors put their stories out there for less than altruistic purposes. My motive was to heal from the disease that has crippled my family and me for generations. Many people still think of addiction as a choice or moral failing. So where I fully expect compassion from most people, I still feel judgment from some of those who have never walked in my shoes. And those are the people who will look at this cartoon and might say, “Hell, yes, she’s plotting to wipe out those people who nearly ruined her life!”

No, I’m not. “Those” people are my people, and we’ve all been swirling around in the maelstrom of addiction for a long time. Addiction is emerging from the shadows and people are talking openly about it. The shame and stigma are starting to evaporate, and people are viewing addicts in a new light, deserving of as much compassion as any other sick person.

And those witches stirring their cauldron, planning to poison the evildoers who wronged them? They’ll be out of a job.

Recovery Blog


This is a recovery blog, recovery from addiction—my own and a number of my family members. But I’m hoping that it will evolve into other musings about my life. Recovery is a big part of my life right now. But it doesn’t define me. I’m the sum of many parts—and I have more years behind me than in front of me.

You know, it’s a darn shame that addiction has such a bad rap. Is it an affliction found only in industrialized societies? Do pygmies in Africa, some of them, eat too much food? Do descendants of the Inca living in Peru still chew too many coca leaves? And how do their peers treat them if they do? Do they laugh it off: “Oh, there goes Kon again, racing through his chores. Shit, man, I could use some of that stuff he’s chewing. I could barely get off my mat this morning.”

Or, deep in darkest Africa, our pygmy pal Polyps finds herself ignoring her chores so that she can scrounge around for fallen mangoes that she stuffs into her mouth like a hungry dog. She waddles back to her circle of huts looking like she’s about to retire and have another little pygmy. How do her peers view her? Do they inflict shame and flog her with banana leaves?

I’m just wondering out loud if this disease is confined to Western civilization. I guess it doesn’t matter. Right now I live in the heart of New Mexico, one of our country’s hotbeds of drug abuse. When I was house hunting six years ago, I looked at one house about which my agent stammered in horror and full of apologies: “Oh God, this was a meth lab! Let me show you my next house.”

I had been living in the sleek and urban Washington, D.C. area where meth labs were certainly better concealed among the abundance of trees. This house had all the carpeting ripped up and huge empty vats, like witches’ cauldrons, sitting next to the back door. Six small rooms the size of jail cells dotted a corridor to the right. Was this a junkie dorm? Depressing. Nope, I didn’t want to buy that house. Bad karma. I’d heard that Albuquerque, New Mexico was a mecca for methamphetamine production (they filmed Breaking Bad here!), and there are more deaths to heroin overdose than car accidents. But enough statistics. Addiction in all its forms is epidemic in our society. Yet, unlike cancer, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, addiction carries considerable stigma and shame. Fortunately the medical community is trying to lead us out of the dark ages into a more enlightened understanding of addiction. Bloggers like me continue to add our voice to the other voices of recovery.

And maybe in my next lifetime—I’m gonna come back as a chocolate eclair that feeds on and reproduces itself simultaneously—there will be no more stigma around addiction. Just as there are whole hospitals devoted to cancer treatment (such compassion!), there will be whole hospitals (government funded) devoted to addicts and their families. In my next life it will be a no-brainer: of course the disease of addiction warrants as much compassion as any other disease!

Does anyone really believe that a heroin addict WANTS to stick a needle in his arm and live in the gutter? Think about it! Addiction is not a choice—it’s a horrible, cruel, illness that often kills our children before it actually kills them.