Archive for category: Addiction

Four Years Sober

It’s the fourth anniversary. What a sentence to write.

The first year of sobriety snuck up on me. It was September 21, 2014, a day that grabbed me from behind, reached up and wrapped its hands around my throat. It’d been the hardest year of my life, and the thought of running dry for another sixty-or-whatever years threatened to choke the life out of me.

As it went, though, I kept on living, and in that living, I added a few days to that year. Then a few months. The second year passed with less violence. Then the third. Today, the fourth year snuck up on me, but it’s not threatening to choke me. It’s a sweeter day, somehow gentler. Four years without approaching even tipsy, and I’m most grateful. I might even say I’m at peace.

From that well of gratitude, I’ve decided to give away 10 copies of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith to one person. Winner-winner-chicken-dinner, use them however you wish. Use them in a group study. Give copies to friends in AA or NA or SA or any other twelve step program. Gift them to your business or church. Whatever. It’s up to you.

If you want to be entered into the drawing do any of the following (you’ll receive an entry for each):

1. Drop me a line in the comments below, letting me know you’d like your name entered;
2. Sign up to receive my bi-monthly TinyLetter;
3. Become a patron of my work (any level).

All the entries will be sorted in a virtual hat and the winner will be drawn at random.

Thanks again for reading along, for following me in this journey. You’re good folks.

 

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Addiction, Dependency, and The Sacred Enneagram

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We’re all drunk on something. Perhaps this statement is too simplistic, you think. Perhaps you’d claim no dependencies, no addictions, no compulsive habits. But ask yourself this: What is addiction?

In his new book, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Chris Heuertz offers unique insights about addiction. And he’s not writing of the common addictions—booze, pills, porn gambling, whatever. Instead, Chris digs deeper, takes a more holistic approach. Describing deeper addictions, Chris writes:

“It’s important to remember that power and control, affection and esteem, and security and survival aren’t bad needs in and of themselves. The problem arises when in our adult lives we become addicted to one of these programs to maintain our happiness. The word addiction comes from the Latin addicto, which suggests being literally given over to something in devotion. As the term evolved, it took on the legal connotation of enslavement as a form of debt.”

See? Addiction isn’t just about chemical dreams and coping anesthesias. Even if your not prone to lining up rails or knocking down shots, you can become addicted to some underlying basic need. Doesn’t this make sense? Don’t you know control freaks or folks obsessed with security or self-esteem junkies? Don’t you know men who’ll do anything for another hit of power? This, Heuertz argues, is a soul addiction, a place of attachment, a place of soul slavery.

So often, when our underlying soul addictions fail us, the pain comes roaring in. And though Chris’s book is not a book about addiction (per se) his discussion of addiction within the Enneagram framework—a sort of spiritual personality test (though Chris will kill me for this reduction)—gives us some real insight. (As an aside, a working knowledge of the Enneagram isn’t essential, here, though it might be helpful. Stick with me.)

According to the Enneagram, I am a type Five. I’m marked by a need to form thoughtful conclusions based on investigation. So often, my search for knowledge stems from my own hyperactive need for security. So, when my son was ill, when my soul addiction for security couldn’t be satiated, a deep, existential pain set in. Heuertz aptly recasts my story:

“One of the clearest tales of type Five in disintegration is Seth Haines’s book, Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, the heart-wrenching memoir of a young man whose child is facing dire health risks and likely death. Seth knows what to do: he finds the best doctors, has his faith community say all the right prayer, and commits to being a loving and present father as he cares for his son. But nothing works.

And so he wades into the murky waters of [alcohol]. The constant buzz of the booze is Seth’s way of dulling the constant mental activity his mind is addicted to—the continual churning and turning over the problem in pursuit of solutions. In his own disintegration, Seth adopts type Seven’s propensity to overuse or overdo anything that offers pleasure as a way of rescuing himself from the mental and emotional agony.”

With security in short supply, unable to find answers, I felt the pain of scarcity. Where were the answers? Where was the healing? Where was God?  Pain being too much to bear, I turned to the “propensity to overuse or overdo anything that offers pleasure as a way of rescuing” myself. Gin was my anything of choice.

Heuertz’s work is rich on so many levels, but for those of us coming to terms with our own addictions, especially those with some interest in the Enneagram, its richness lies in the fact that he draws us to the deep truth. The true addictions we all battle lie beneath the alcohol, beneath the heroin, beneath the shopping or social media injection. These addictions rise from deeper addictions, the need for power, control, affection, esteem, security, and survival.

Consider it. Doesn’t this feel true? And if it does, ask yourself this: Can I name my deeper soul addiction?

***

Buy your copy of THE SACRED ENNEAGRAM: FINDING YOUR UNIQUE PATH TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH by following this link. (P.S. This is a completely unpaid, unsponsored, un-affiliated post.)

 

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Son of a Fix.

By now, you know it’s National Recovery Month, the month dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who find recovery. (People like all of us.) In sober celebration, I’ve taken a hard look at my own recovery (alcohol was my lover). I’ve reviewed my old journals and asked whether I’m keeping my own inner sobriety fresh. Recovery, see, is a sourdough starter; you have to keep feeding it or it’ll die a stinky death.

Yesterday, I reviewed some Jesuit materials that have shaped my thoughts on true sobriety. I read and contemplated the Jesuit Principle and Foundation, which goes something like this:

“Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.

God created all things on this earth [even wine, food, sex, etcetera, etcetera] to help us fulfill this purpose.

From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.” (Bracketed portions are my additions.)

I sat in the quiet and meditated on the Principle and Foundation. I considered my own journey toward inner sobriety in light of it. (Only toward; do we ever reach the finish line?) As I did, I found myself high-centered on the notion that God has created things for our good.

Beer?

Wine?

The human ingenuity that gave us pain pills, social media, the wheels of commerce?

Yes, I reckon, all things were made for the good of men, but men seem to have minds of their own; if a little of something is good, a helluva lot is better. And if that ain’t you, count yourself among the luckiest of saints.

I considered God’s creation of the fermentation process, how he knew men would make wine and brew beer. And doesn’t a little wine an beer make the heart merry? Isn’t imbibing amoral? And yet, if my desires lead to over-use, to lack of presence with friends and family, to disruption of my scruples, it’s a hinderance from my chief end to “praise, reverence, and serv[ice] to God….” The Principle and Foundation then requires I put my desire to death.

Burn the booze at the stake.

Send sex to the firing squad.

Shove shopping through the meat grinder.

By killing the desire to overuse, to supplant God with the materials of his making, we incarnate the reality that God is our primary fixation. Everything else is secondary.

And that brings me to the most humbling part of my reflection. I came up with no less than a half-dozen things I misuse, abuse, or use to get a fix.

Son of a fix.

Good thing, I suppose, that it’s National Recovery Month.

Today, would you ask yourself these questions:

What are the things that hinder me from praising, reverencing, and serving God, even though they might be perfectly amoral otherwise?

Can I list them?

Can I come up with strategies to let those things go?

 

Bonus:

1. Coming Clean: A Story of Faith shares my 90-day journey into recovery. And isn’t it fitting that it began in September (2013). This is my story, sure. It’s your story, too. Grab a copy. Grab an extra copy for your friends.

2. Yesterday I asked my Facebook community what they’ve learned from others in recovery. The responses were amazing. You don’t want to miss this thread.

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Do you like the content here or in my Tiny Letter? Then I’d like to invite you to join my Patreon community. What is Patreon? It’s a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive behind the scenes content in return. Visit my Patreon page for more information. And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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It’s National Recovery Month. Come Clean?

September is National Recovery Month, a month raising awareness for those struggling with addiction, dependency, and compulsive habits. What’s more, September is the month I came clean four years ago. It’s the month I stepped into my own exploration of sobriety. That exploration has led me here, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Around these parts, we don’t limit discussion of recovery to alcohol or drugs. Instead, we look at recovery as something for everyone, something for the chemical addict and the over-shopper, over-eater, under-eater, video-game freak, or people pleaser. We all have our own bags, see. We all have different ways, different habits of avoiding pain. In part, this is the reason I curated the Recovery Room series years ago. (Check it out. There’s something there for everyone.)

Today, I’m asking you to take an inventory of your life. What are the habits and dependencies you use to numb anesthetize the pain of your life? What are the things you use to hold the presence of God at arm’s length? Can you identify a primary dependency? For me (and many of you) it was drinking. For some, it’s something wholly different. Get alone. Be honest. Jot down your dependency. Then? Get some resources, get a community, and get to work.

And as you move forward in an exploration of your dependency, compulsive habits, or addiction, I’m asking you to participate in my journey (and in National Recovery Month). It’s a journey I’ve written about in Coming Clean: A Story of Faith. There, I share the first 90 days of my own recovery journey with you, and show the practice that helped set me free. It’s raw at times, tender at others, but it’s always honest.

What are some ways you can participate in the journey of Coming Clean? What are some ways you can share the message?

COMING CLEAN RESOURCES FOR RECOVERY MONTH:

1. Coming Clean
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith shares my 90-day journey into recovery. And isn’t it fitting that it began in September (2013). This is my story, sure. It’s your story, too. Grab a copy. Grab an extra copy for your friends.

“Seth writes with a distinctly Southern sensibility—elegant, evocative, lyrical–and his wisdom and honesty shine through every page, gently illuminating our own fears and secret hearts along the way.” ~Shauna Niequist, author of Present Over Perfect.

(Patrons of my work at the $6.00-$10.00 tier receive a free copy of Coming Clean.)

2. Audio Readings
Would you like to listen to sample chapters of Coming Clean? Click on the photos below to listen to the first two chapters. (For more samples as they’re available, join my Patreon Community.)

3. Facebook Group
Would you like a place to discuss recovery from any old thing? Join this little Facebook Group. There are some good discussions there from time to time.

4. Coming Clean Journal
Receive thirty days of email prompts leading you to examine your own addictions, attachments, or dependencies and leading you into your own recovery.

Please feel free to share these resources with others who might need them. And if you have any question about whether someone might need them, remember this: We’re all drunk on something. 

 

***BECOME A PATRON***

Do you like the content here or in my Tiny Letter? Then I’d like to invite you to join my Patreon community. What is Patreon? It’s a way for you, the reader, to become a patron, a person supporting the arts (my art to be precise), and receive behind the scenes content in return. Visit my Patreon page for more information. And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, feel free to sign up below.

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Normalizing Therapy (Or How To Ungoop Your Noggin)

In the autumn of 2013, I found myself walking into a new season, a season of sobriety. If you’ve followed my work for any amount of time, you know the story, how my inebriation grew from a great pain. (You can read this story in Coming Clean.) You know, too, that I was able to untangle my mental morass of pain and alcohol dependency only by way of a good therapist. That good therapist–he helped me find the road to recovery. For that, I’m grateful.

In these years of different life, I’ve continued to share my story of sobriety and have praised the virtues of therapists. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it ad infinitum: if there are experts in the human psyche, in mental health, pain, or recovery shouldn’t we use them? On so many occasions after I’ve shared my story, I’ve heard from others who’ve failed in their own attempts to unwind their tangled black brain threads, who only found clarity by way of their own therapist.

Last week, fortune smiled, and I was invited to share my story at a local clinic. I gathered in a group room with some of the best therapists and counselors in Northwest Arkansas, and I shared my story of pain, shared how it gooped up my noggin for a murky few years. I encouraged them in their work, told them how a member of their profession helped me live into a new reality. He helped me find the path to true sobriety, a sobriety characterized less by the to-drink-or-not-to-drink questions and more by the to-live-whole-or-not-to-live-whole questions. I could not be more grateful for their profession, I told them, and I meant every word.

These therapists were gracious, and they fielded my honest, rootsy, real confession. Maybe I cried once or twice while I shared my story (sometimes the pain still comes calling). Maybe one or two of them did, too. Maybe I cussed once or twice (pain pulls tears and curses from even the best humans), and not one of them blushed. Maybe I found empathy in the faces of these very human therapists, and in that empathy, I saw the beauty of people who cared about my story, who care about the stories of their clients. I saw folks who carry the hope of stability to folks who’ve gone awonk.

These therapists–they have a calling.

There are those who believe they don’t need therapy, the John Wayne types who six-shooter their way through any issue and come out smelling like gunpowder and Old Spice. Likewise, there are those in the Christian faith (perhaps pastors, priests, and deacons) who believe therapy is little more than applied humanism, that it supplies thin excuses for sin. “Repent and quit,” they say, as if it’s that easy.

Dear Mr. Wayne, Mr. Pastor, Sister Christian, let me be clear: your bootstrapping hornswoggle ain’t worth the bluster that blows it.

Weeks ago, I spoke with a pastor about my sobriety, how it was born from more than a handful of visits to a therapist who didn’t beat me over the head with scriptures on repentance. To his credit, he wasn’t dubious, wasn’t critical of my process. In fact, he showed great deference and support. At the tail end of the conversation, he asked how the church could normalize therapy for its parishioners. I choked down my immediate answer–does the church really think there’s something abnormal about therapy? I muddled out some answer about vulnerability in leadership, about pastors and leaders needing to lead the way to the therapists’ office, which is true. To be frank, though, I failed to give him a clear answer.

I’ve mulled the pastor’s question over, and I think I found my answer in the clinic visit last week. Normalization of therapy (in or outside of the church) happens when we admit that sometimes we can’t sort out our own noggin-goop, our own tangled black brain threads. Normalization of therapy happens when we watch therapists exercise their gifts, flex their empathy, when we participate with them in that process as patients. Normalization of therapy happens when leaders (read: pastors and priests) use their platforms to speak of their own therapeutic experiences, when they admit that they’re no John Wayne.

There’s no magic to normalizing therapy, whether in or outside the Christian faith. There is this, though: go, and you’ll see how normal it is, how magical it is, too.

If you’d like to read more about recovery from any addiction, habit, or dependency, please check out my Recovery Room series. No matter the vice, I think you’ll find something there for you.

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