National reports estimate over 25 million Americans have a substance use disorder. This includes illicit drugs, prescription medications, and alcohol. In fact, when it comes to alcohol it is estimated that one in eight American adults have an alcohol problem.
I’m writing this on a morning in March when the news media is full of coronavirus, or Covid-19 stories. Today’s Star-Tribune newspaper reports that the Costco store near The Retreat is out of toilet paper and won’t have any more for five days. They are also out of hand sanitizer, plastic gloves, and bleach wipes. The food aisles are decimated, as well, with non-perishables in short supply. It isn’t a full and complete panic, but it is certainly a lot of anxiety for a state that has no known cases of the virus.
It’s Friday, November 1st, and I took the day off. I flew with my wife, Priscilla to Los Angeles. This fall I joined “The Magic Castle” in Hollywood. It is a private club in a castle, located in the Hollywood Hills. I sponsor a 94 year old psychologist who lives in California, and he both introduced me to the Magic Castle, and sponsored me for membership.
“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
- Step 7 from the Al-Anon Family Groups
"I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world."
- Leigh Standley
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
When I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting fourteen years ago, life as I knew it was over. I didn’t understand that at the time, and I continued to fight desperately against that reality for quite some time. But, still, it was over. The gift of the 12 Steps of Al-Anon is that the life I have today is SO much better than the life I had planned, and the life I thought I should and could have, if only I fought a little harder, and a little longer.
I never asked this question when I was getting sober, but I have heard other people ask it. I thought they were raising unreasonable objections to getting sober or expressing resistance to recovery. Over the years, patients at Hazelden and guests at The Retreat have spoken of their reluctance to recover by saying that they are afraid to recover, because they are afraid of who they might be if they stop drinking or drugging. What will happen, they ask, if they get sober and don’t like themselves, or don’t like who they have become?
When I was a boy, I eagerly read each issue of Mad Magazine. It’s fictional editor, Alfred E. Neuman, had a quote above the index of each issue. One of my favorites was “Some minds are like concrete: all mixed up and permanently set.” A Peanuts cartoon of that era had Lucy shouting “If you can’t be right, be wrong at the top of your voice.” I’m writing this newsletter during the Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nomination. It seems as if nearly everyone is sure that they know what happened at a high school party long ago: the nominee is guilty, or innocent, depending upon whom you ask. I’m not hearing the more humble opinion of “I don’t know, I wasn’t there.”