March 22, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

It’s Sunday, so this letter will be a bit shorter than previous ones. One other difference is it’s taken completely from things I’ve heard in various church basements, meeting halls and repurposed classrooms. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, I know there’s nothing new under the sun, but usually, I try to rearrange thoughts and words to make some kind of point. Here, the words are the point.

One of the first people I met when I got into recovery told me about a slogan he’d printed and taped to his bathroom mirror. When I heard the slogan, I thought, “What a complete lack of self-esteem this guy has! Why the hell does he want to begin his day with that thought?” Over time, as I cracked and peeled off my outer shell to discover the nut within, I recognized his wisdom and today it is taped to my mirror. The slogan?

“You’re looking at the biggest problem you’ll face today.”

Today, in this world where unknowns rule and knowns terrify, that slogan is still completely true. It is my response—spiritually, emotionally, physically—to the world that controls the problematic nature of the universe. Whether it’s a temporary lack of flour, the possibility of coronavirus infection or the certainty of death, I alone respond—with anger, denial, acceptance, resignation, gratitude, curiosity or wonder. While I want to see what tomorrow holds, even more I’m glad to be present and alive today.

And I’m happy you are too.

Slogans are recovery’s shorthand. Phrases that can sound hackneyed and shopworn when repeated over and over in a particular meeting by the same person can take on new wisdom when given a new setting. Here are some slogans I’ve picked up, authors unknown to me. Take what you need and leave the rest behind.

  1. Drugs gave me the illusion that I might be alive.
  2. The secret to long term recovery: Don’t use, don’t die.
  3. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides
  4. Our defects of character are the bars of a cage. The central point is not to study the bars, but to get out of the cage.
  5. Take an action, then let go of the results.
  6. If you hang around a barbershop long enough, eventually you’ll get a haircut
  7. Expectations are preconceived resentments
  8. Addiction is nothing but voluntary madness
  9. The chains of addiction are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
  10. It’s hard to spot a spiritual crisis: Usually it is disguised as a crisis in our relationships, finances, career, or family.
  11. Look for the similarities, rather than the differences
  12. In recovery, first we remove the anesthesia, then we operate
  13. Relapse begins long before you pick up the drink/drug
  14. I thought I wanted to commit suicide, but all I needed was a cheeseburger.
  15. The most natural state of an addict is irritable, restless, and discontented.
  16. Every recovery from addiction began with one sober hour
  17. The road to disappointment is paved with expectation
  18. If you want what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.
  19. You are not responsible for your disease, but you are responsible for your behavior.
  20. Insanity is not doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results; insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing full well what the results will be.
  21. The healthy person finds happiness in helping others. Thus, for him, unselfishness is selfish.
  22. You don’t get drunk making mistakes – you get drunk defending the mistakes you’ve made.

I hope one or more of these speaks to you, helps you make wise choices or at least reminds you that online meetings are WAY better than no meetings, and at least you’ll have a chance to see a new face passing around the same old wisdom.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Best,

Keith