Monday, March 31, 2008


Gossip – we’ve all done it, and while it may seem like a harmless pastime, we need to resist the urge to engage in it, if we want to maintain a sober mind.

Gossip is damaging and degrading to the person that gossips, the person that listens to the gossip and the person gossiped about. The wisdom of anonymity in the twelve step recovery programs goes far beyond just guarding the identity of the addict. It emphasizes the importance of an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality.

There are many kinds of gossip and many reasons to gossip. We all want to feel that we are important, that we matter and that we are a part of something. To establish a sense of intimacy with friends and acquaintances we'll talk about the details of other people's lives. Many of us use gossip to have something to say in social situations; to appear informed; to be understood or to impress others.

What is gossip? I think of gossip as talking about someone when they are not present. It can be “positive”, like “my husband stopped drinking”, or it can be negative, like “guess whose husband got a DWI”?

In the addictive/alcoholic family system gossip can sometimes be the only form of communication. Often the family is so enmeshed that what goes on in one family member’s life is the business of everyone else, particularly if they’re in crisis. They’ll talk about each other instead of to each other because they fear being direct and confrontational, or because they’re addicted to chaos and excitement. Confiding is not gossip - there are times when we need to talk about someone for our well being, or for theirs. In that situation it is necessary to seek the help of a counselor and/or a trusted twelve step program friend.

To break away from the gossip habit requires awareness, courage and self disciple. Avoiding gossip is very difficult and anxiety producing. We don’t want to be left out and we may feel that if we don’t engage in gossip someone might get angry and reject us.

When we gossip about someone we reinforce and perpetuate a reality about them that may or may not be true, and once that reality is created it’s difficult to change it. The image of that reality can be an obstacle to recovery for the alcoholic/addict. Even in sobriety addicts are stuck with an image of themselves that interferes with healing many of the hurts incurred during their active time.

We justify gossip by saying “everyone does it” or, “we are only talking out of concern for the person." In dealing with someone suffering from addiction, gossip can prevent us from focusing on ourselves and it can reinforce our victim role. It can lead to dishonesty and can damage our relationships with friends and family.

My #1 Rule for a Sober Mind is "Do what is right for you". Talking about other people doesn't serve us or others in a positive way. Instead, we can put that same energy into better use by figuring out our own lives, and pursuing our passions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome Spring!

This morning at precisely 1:48 A.M. EDT the sun crossed over the Earth’s equator (Vernal Equinox) and for the northern hemisphere marks the first day of spring. Winter is a very difficult time of year for many of us. Spring brings the promise of enduring life and for many of us renewed hope. It also reinforces our powerlessness over all but our own mental sobriety.

"Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself."
Zen saying

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Without fear there would be no need for courage. Being afraid does not mean we don’t have courage. Fear is a genetic instinct necessary for human survival. Courage is a learned behavior - there is no such thing as a born coward. It is possible to teach ourselves to have courage. The kind of courage it takes to achieve and maintain a sober mind is very conscious. It isn’t a knee jerk reaction. It is the ability to confront a situation and ask yourself, “If I take this action or decide to do nothing at all, what is the worst possible outcome, and can I live with it? To accept that I am not responsible for nor can I control the outcome once I have made the decision, I just need to have courage.

Many individuals in recovery were raised is very unstable homes. We spent a great deal of time feeling afraid. Often we were afraid for our physical safety or we experienced severe financial insecurity. Many of us feared disapproval and rejection from our parents or caregivers. These early childhood fears become a crippling force in our lives. As adults we are afraid of being alone, of rejection, of humiliation, of failure, of not having enough money, to mention a few. We have become skillful at avoiding what we fear, but by doing that we become its prisoner.

A courageous act may involve being honest and not agreeing with a friend or loved one and risking rejection; it may involve practicing being alone for short periods of time each day; it may involve trying something new and taking a risk. Courage doesn’t always require a heroic act. Sometimes it takes more courage to sit there and do nothing, like when we resist the impulse to enable a loved one. To watch someone we care for suffer the consequences of their own actions can require all the strength we can muster.

It is possible to acquire courage and overcome our fears; especially the one I believe is the greatest of all, the fear of asking for help. Participation in a twelve step program and/or psychotherapy can help us to identify our fears and develop skills for facing them courageously. Sharing our fears with someone we trust is an act of courage. Each little act of courage can build on itself and gradually liberate us from the immobility of fear.
Fear is not our enemy; we are born with the ability to fear in order to survive. We can use fear as an opportunity to grow and to develop courage, and to empower us to live a sober life.

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."- Mark Twain