• Hazelden Renewal Center

Do Manners Still Matter?

“Stop the insanity!” That’s what I wanted to yell at the woman who sat across from me at the beauty salon a few Saturdays ago. She insisted on having her laptop computer in her lap, which forced her stylist to work twice as hard at coloring her hair, because she had to fight to keep the dye from dripping onto the device. After this customer shut down her computer, she stayed in true self-absorbed form, placing call after call on her cell phone, and speaking in such a loud voice nearly everyone in the salon was subjected to her conversations. … Continue reading

The Devastating Consequences of an Addiction

It’s hard to imagine myself drinking or using again. It’s been so long since the last time I got drunk or high that it seems like an alternate life. The old me is a far away, distant memory. No more hangover headaches punishing me for the previous night. That past life of alcohol and drugs is gone and I’m so much happier for it. My battle with addiction started as a battle with depression. I started having depressive thoughts in 8th grade and, over time, those thoughts slowly ate away at me until my depression became all-encompassing. I began to … Continue reading

The Gift of Self-Forgiveness

“If I had to live my life again, I’d make all the same mistakes—only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968) One of the most hidden and powerful aspects of human identity is how many of us have shame and harsh judgments towards ourselves. Some of us are barely aware of our self-contempt; others are drowning in a sea of self-revulsion and have no way to save ourselves. Most of us alternate between denial and harsh self-criticism. We are so overwhelmed by this self-devaluation that we often unconsciously choose to not acknowledge it in ourselves. Often, we don’t know why we hate … Continue reading

Prayer Primer

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God….” Step 11 What is prayer? Prayer is conversation with an inner voice, a higher power, a felt presence. Many call this conversation partner God. Some use other names: YHWH (Jehovah), Allah, Gaia, Spirit. Whatever the name we give it, we seek contact through prayer and meditation. I learned the basics of prayer as a child. Since then I’ve learned to read beyond Dick and Jane and solve problems beyond arithmetic. Too often our prayer skills stop at a third grade level. As I age, my conversations with friends … Continue reading

12 Steps to Humility: Seek Progress Not Perfection

12 steps to humility

It’s all very simple. You set a goal for yourself; you determine how you’ll meet that goal, and then you follow some tried-and-true strategies that will help you reach it. Will power! That’s all you need. Determination. Discipline. Ah, if the road to recovery were only that easy. Anyone reading this article, anyone recovering from addiction, anyone seeking the divine in their daily lives knows recovery and re-finding God is more about surrender than struggle, more about journey than destination, more about making progress than achieving perfection. Our puny will power is no match for what God really wants for … Continue reading

My Recovery Story

Hi, my name is John Tolo. Here is my recovery story. I grew up in the toughest ghetto in New England outside of New York City. My family was the only white family in a neighborhood that was mostly Black and Hispanic. We moved there in 1972, at a time when racial tensions were high. Many Afro-Americans were angry and some felt pushed to the point of a violent lashing at the systems they believed were abusing them. I was nine when my father became part of an inner-city church and we moved into the middle of the area. It … Continue reading

After Treatment, Then What?

what to do after treatment

Treatment for addiction is only the beginning of recovery. What happens when you go back home? If you even have one anymore. Here are four stories of recovering addicts in midlife and how they meet their daily challenges while staying sober after treatment. Chris Arrowsmith Bagdon smoked off-the-street cannabis for two years to relieve ongoing pain from a brain concussion and to offset war combat flashbacks. One night he hit a batch that he suspects was laced with the drug PCP. “I started freaking out,” says Chris. It took four cops and a taser to intercept his violently out-of-control behavior. … Continue reading

A Good-bye and Thank You

Julia Edelman

“You’ve got to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.” — Lyrics by Don Schlitz, 1976 Used to be, I enjoyed risks. The higher the stakes, the bigger and better the adrenaline rush. The bigger and better the adrenaline rush, the higher the enjoyment. It was the perfect cocktail: risk plus adrenaline = fun. And thus, the pleasure center in my brain got used to a healthy dose of thrill-seeking adventures. In my youth, I enjoyed the dopamine surges provided by outdoor water sports. A perfect day … Continue reading

Social Phobia: When You’re Too Scared to Show Your Inner Life to Others

I hate being in a group of people I don’t know. If I can find a way to get out of such gatherings I will. My mind gets nuts with anxiety. I fear that I will be seen as abnormal—that people can see my flaws. My voice usually cracks, sweat pours off my forehead, and I have a hard time thinking of what I want to say. I wish I could be cool like my brother—the golden boy—who can walk into a room and have everybody eating out of his hand. It’s so easy for him; so dreadfully hard for … Continue reading

Channeling Your Addictive Energies: Enabling Possibilities

addictive energy

When we are immersed in recovery, our healing journey is a moment by moment experience. Over forty years ago, I was introduced to the Twelve Step program because I wanted my husband to quit drinking. It was evident his behavior was destructive. The Al-Anon program revealed that mine was crazy too. Unaware that my fears were at the heart of my co-dependent behaviors, I was sure that if he changed, I would be happy. When I started recovery, I wanted simple things like having enough money to support me and our three children. Often on Friday nights my husband would … Continue reading