Many years ago, Dr. Robert Lewis, my pastor at Little Rock’s Fellowship Bible Church and founder of the international Men’s Fraternity program, spoke in a sermon about the fruitful life of the prophet Abraham and about his death at a very old but still active age.
Dr. Lewis, who helped me a lot with my recovery from alcoholism and the restoration of our family, said with some passion that when Abraham died he was “satisfied.”
At the time, I underestimated the power of the message, but now as I approach the age of Abraham I get it. Death with minimum misgivings is, indeed, a worthy goal.
I wrote a book about my experience in overcoming alcohol and prescription drug medications in the hope that others who may be struggling with alcohol and/or other potentially lethal drugs might find it useful.
My book, over 300 pages and recently edited, is titled “Pathways to Serenity. Overcoming your addictions One Day at a Time.” It has been sold on Amazon for several years.
I have spent about six months editing the book and have begun e-mailing copies of it free to visitors requesting it on our site, “Onedayatatime.com.
We would welcome your application.
Sample contents of Pathways to Serenity
Twelve Step programs
“Twelve step programs, most psychiatrists agree, work as well as professional interventions and have the advantage of being plentiful in most communities and available at various times, often when addicts need them the most. AA meetings are free, there’s no paperwork, and patients can attend as intensively and as long as they desire. Also, meetings are available at high-risk times.” (At the cocktail hour, for example, or at daybreak when hangovers raise the ante).
Twelve-Step programs are excellent predictors of long-term sobriety. If you can stay clean and sober for a year, the chance of a “slip” drops dramatically. In the short term—less than a year—only one in ten 12-Step newcomers is there and still sober one year later.
“Eighty percent of substance abuse problems like alcohol, pot, and prescription drugs are complicated by mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. In these “co-occurring” cases, both the addiction and mental health problems must be treated.
Most psychiatric hospitals have been doing this as a matter of course, usually with staff psychiatrists, but many substance abuse treatment programs have had to add that capability to their staff or make arrangements for it.
Going to free 12-Step meetings like AA, Al-Anon, and Celebrate Recovery are effective ways to deal with an addiction problem, but frequently medical help is also needed. It was in my case, although I denied it at first. Turns out I had a depression/anxiety problem I was attempting to treat with alcohol.”
War veterans have been especially susceptible to substance abuse problems.
Bob G. is an example.
Bob served with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam for sixteen months and for many years has been treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD) stemming from his combat service during the late sixties. During the thirty-two years after his service, overcome by his fears, anger, and addictions, he lost his family and went to prison three times—once for murder.
He also attempted suicide ten times. At one point, he was given a year to live because of his numerous afflictions. There’s even more bad stuff to report about his experiences, but you get the picture.
The symptoms of PTSD include: re-experiencing (e.g., relentless nightmares), unbidden waking images (flashbacks), hyper arousal (e.g., enhanced startle anxiety, sleeplessness), and phobias. Many veterans who are afflicted with PTSD try to self medicate with alcohol and illegal drugs—with predictably bad results. Bob was one of them.
But here’s the good part: When I last saw him a couple of years ago at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Bob was a happy man with a family and a mission. Because of his service to others, he is loved by many who know him. And he loves them back. He is the unofficial face of Recovery Central, a Little Rock facility for 12-Step meetings, mainly Narcotics Anonymous.
“My neighbor’s son died the other day. He was a beautiful kid only twenty-one years into this world. Police and ambulance sirens blared as they raced up our street in an effort to revive him, but the sirens served only as an alarm that a life had been extinguished much too soon.”
Steve Straessle, principal at Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, wrote these moving words about a young student’s death several years ago, and we ask ourselves, “How on earth are we to respond as parents to tragedies like these?”
The simple answer is that parents must talk to their kids more and be more aware of what they are doing. It could cut the odds against them in half.
The book, High Society by Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Sustance Abuse at Columbia University was written almost a decade ago but remains a good resource. Here are eight tips from High Society.
- Be there: Get involved in your children’s lives and activities.
- Set a good example: Actions are more persuasive than words.
- Set rules and expect your children to follow them.
- Monitor your children’s whereabouts.
- Maintain family rituals, such as eating dinner together.
- Incorporate religious and spiritual practices into family life.
- Get Dad engaged—and keep him engaged.
- Engage the larger family of your children’s friends, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and the community.
Califano also provides a glossary in the back of his book to help parents understand which drugs are which and how they work. Here’s a sample:
Marijuana: particularly damaging for the developing minds of adolescents. Marijuana can impair critical cognitive function related to attention, memory and learning.
Inhalants: popular with young teens and pre teens Chronic use of inhalants can cause serious damage to the brain, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. In rare cases, abuse of inhalants can be fatal.
Ecstasy: Research has shown that ecstasy can cause long-term damage in the parts of the brain that are involved in mood, thinking, verbal memory and judgment.
Opioids: Taking a large dose of opioids at one time can cause severe respiratory depression and death. Fentanyl, for example, is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Fri.
The Prison problem
It is ironic that here in the land of the free, America, three million citizens are in prison. That’s roughly one in a hundred at a total cost of close to $50 billion a year. The emotional cost can’t be measured.
If we are to make any headway in reducing prison populations, we will first have to do better addressing mental illness and drug abuse and secondly focus more on rehabilitation with prison inmates and less on punishment.
Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify. There are some truly bad men and women in prison who are likely to remain a danger to the public. Efforts can still be made to help them, but not at the expense of public safety.
There are also many who, usually under the influence of drugs, used very bad judgment. Properly rehabilitated, they can be restored to life on the outside.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with Larry Norris, at that time the director of the Department of Correction in Arkansas about relieving crowded prisons while protecting our citizens.
A good rule of thumb, Norris said, is to mentally divide the prison population into two groups: “Those we are afraid of and those we are simply mad at. Those we are afraid of we should keep locked up. Forever if need be. Conversely, if we are simply mad at them we should focus more on rehabilitating and ultimately releasing them.”
Live one day at a time (tops)
Taking life one day at a time is a concept well known to people in recovery from alcohol and other addictions. Newcomers to 12-Step programs are told by old-timers to make no more than a daily commitment to sobriety—maximum–lest they be overwhelmed by contemplating a lifetime loss of their alcohol, pills and powders.
On a closing note, I do not find that promoting self-esteem, especially when it is unearned, is of much help in building character. As my friend at the Thanksgiving retreat in Georgia many years ago said about flattery in Chapter 1. “It’s okay if you don’t inhale it.”
I began the book with the short version of the Serenity Prayer which is recited at the beginning of most if not all of every 12 Step meeting I have attended. I would like to end with the longer version.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
And it ends with: “Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
As the late Joe McQuany, who changed the face of recovery in Arkansas once said, “I look at the battles that go on in life, and I look at the resentments and fears, guilt and remorse, and how things block us from God and shackle us to the self. Then I look at love, tolerance, patience, courage and wisdom. These qualities have come from God and they are always with us. In our outer and inner conflicts, we can see the powers of self contending with the powers of God.”