Thursday, July 21, 2005

12 Steps for TV Addicts

This is adapted from the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which you can read in Chapter 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous. The text before and after the steps themselves is also from Alcoholics Anonymous; in many groups, it is read along with the steps. My only adaptations were changing references to alcohol to "compulsive TV viewing," and changing the masculine references to God ("Him") to "God." These are the same adaptations that other 12-Step groups have made to create a version of the Steps for themselves.

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it -- then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with compulsive TV viewing -- cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power -- that One is God. May you find God now!

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked God's protection and care with complete abandon.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over compulsive TV viewing -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a conscious to decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to TV addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Many of us exclaimed, "What an order! I can't go through with it." Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
  1. That we were compulsive TV viewers and could not manage our own lives.
  2. That probably no human power could have relieved our compulsive TV viewing.
  3. That God could and would if God were sought.

I'm going to start working these steps, with one condition on myself. My primary addiction (which I haven't said anything about yet; I will in the future) comes first. And I will not work any step for my TV addiction until I've worked it first for my primary addiction, unless my sponsor tells me to.

Don't hold your breath. Working the steps is a slow, hard, and often painful process. I've seen few addicts complete them in less than two years; most take far longer. (A standing joke in 12-Step groups is the newcomer who arrives expecting to finish his recovery in 12 weeks. He'll do one step a week, and be done.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What else sucks?

You know what else sucks besides grief and loneliness? Depression, that's what. Depression sucks mightily. I feel so much at the mercy of my body, or my mind, or whatever combination it is that creates my depression. Sometimes the smallest things bring me down.

I got another cat last night. That was fast, huh? Well, I answered an ad on the Freecycle group here, and it just came together right away. Her health was questionable -- she was a stray, she was skinny, and she had obviously had a litter of kittens very recently -- but she grabbed my heart, and I decided to take a chance on her. I took her to the vet today, prepared for some pretty bad news, but it turns out she's fine. All her blood tests came back negative. She's had a worming treatment and her first shots, and I got her microchipped, and she's scheduled to be spayed in a little over three weeks, as soon as her mammaries return to normal.

That's all great news, yes? I should be happy, yes? But I'm not, because in my depression, what I keep focusing on is that my other animals aren't reacting well to the new cat. Well, duh, that's what always happens. Some distant part of my rational mind knows that. It also knows that I know how to work with the animals to overcome this, and it's just a matter of time and patience. But the depressive part of my mind overrides that, and here I sit, feeling miserable.

The depression seems to leak out all over everything else, too. I keep feeling that my animals are depressed too, and they're moping around waiting for me to pull them out of it.

Fuck my MTV, I want my TV. I want my security blanket, my 24-hour, 50-channel drug. I want to deaden the sadness and loneliness and depression. I want to not think and feel so much. Remember that Pink Floyd line? "I have become / comfortably numb." I want to go back into my comfortable numbness.

I won't, at least not tonight. But I want to.

If it were earlier in the day I'd make some coffee to give me a boost. But it's late, so instead I'm going to take my dog out for a good long walk, and then have a session on the Gazelle. I'm not scheduled for that 'til tomorrow -- I'm building up my time on it slowly -- but maybe the workout will help lift me up too.

Fun blog, huh?

Monday, July 18, 2005

The blahs

I haven't felt like blogging since my kitten was killed. Almost five days now since it happened, and the raw edge is off my grief. But those first three days were pretty bad, and I still miss her a lot. The worst moments have been remembering the last time I saw her alive, sitting outside by my car ... and realizing that if I'd only brought her inside right then, she'd probably still be alive.

My dogs seem to have forgotten about the kitten already, but my other cat hasn't. He still looks for her, inside and outside, and meows loudly when he can't find her. I know he needs a new companion, so -- surprised at myself that I could even face this so soon after losing my other kitten -- I'm starting to answer ads on Freecycle and craigslist for kittens that need homes.

I've had a few moments these past five days when I badly wanted the pseudo-company of the TV, but mercifully, they all passed quickly. My abstinence seems remarkably resilient so far; 3-1/2 weeks now, and two big emotional crises, and I haven't turned the damn thing on again yet.

But ... I know I'm just in that first eye of the storm that I've been through with all of my addictions. I've fought the initial battle, the withdrawal. I'm relieved to be free of all the bad things that watching TV was doing to me, and happy with myself for getting through the 3-1/2 weeks. I'm in a calmer place, and it's good. But I haven't begun my real recovery yet, and if I don't get on with it, the storm will come right back on top of me. (It probably will anyway, eventually ... but the farther I'm into my recovery, the better I'll weather that.)

So, stay tuned. Recovery marcheth on.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thank God for my recovery

Last night my kitten was hit by a car and killed. She was 4 or 5 months old, and I had only had her for a month ... but how long does it take to fall in love with a cat? She was one of the sweetest, most affectionate kittens I've ever met.

I miss her terribly, and I feel lonelier than ever. Grief sucks. Loneliness sucks. This is why people turn to the bottle or the needle, or go on spending sprees, or lose themselves in sex, or zone out in front of the TV. Our culture is afraid of painful emotions -- frustration, fear, anger, loneliness, hopelessness, despair, grief. It doesn't know how to handle them in a healthy way, so its response is, Get over it and cheer up! And to help us do that, it offers us a huge array of drugs to dull our pain -- for cheap -- and encourages us to use them.

I was lucky, last night, to have two friends who came over to be with me as soon as I called them about my cat. They didn't try to minimize my grief or talk me out of it. They sat with me while I cried and stroked my cat, and then when I was ready to be alone with her, to say goodbye and bury her, they left. Friends like that are rare and precious, and I'm going to make sure they know it.

I am also fortunate to have years of emotional work behind me, that have taught me that the only way through grief is through it, not around it or over it. Pushing grief down or medicating it doesn't make it go away ... it only pushes it down deep so it can fester and grow. The way to get through my grief is to feel it, all of it, as it comes to me, badly timed and painful and messy as it is.

Thank you, God, for all of that. Thank you for giving me the courage to face my addictions and recover from them. Thank you for guiding me down a path of healing old hurts, dealing with new ones as they come up, and through all of that, becoming a better instrument for spreading your love in the world.

The next few days are going to be hard. There are reminders of my kitten everywhere I turn -- things I bought for her, things she played with, favorite places where she slept and played -- and in my daily routine. My dog and my other cat know something is wrong too. They're anxious, looking around for the kitten, and acting out of character in various ways, so I have to help soothe their anxieties.

I'm going out with my two friends this afternoon, tagging along on their errands, and that'll be good -- both getting out of my house and being with people. And tonight, if I can gather my energy, I'll go to the weekly meeting of a Spanish conversation group I recently found. Be with people, eat good Mexican food, and try to take my Spanish up another notch. Sounds like good therapy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another load off

A week ago I wrote that I was eating less since turning off the TV. I thought my clothes were feeling looser, so I decided to start tracking my weight. Well, last week I was at 275. Today -- with the same clothes, pocket contents, etc. -- I weighed in at 270. I'm kind of stunned. If that's accurate, then not only is it the most weight I've ever lost in one week, but I did it without even trying.

One week and two measurements makes it a little premature to get too excited, but ... damn! Wow! Cool! YA HA HA HA HA!