What Inspired Me To Write Bohunk’s Redemption?

Not long after I took my last drink, popped my last pill, and entered recovery, I said to myself I told myself I’d write a book about my life with alcohol and drugs. I had survived countless encounters with death, and actually was brought back to life towards the end after a drug overdose in a suicide attempt. I felt I had a lot to say about my experience with alcoholism and drug addiction, and had lived to tell it.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I had little to say about recovery. That soon changed after starting to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. A few months or even a few years didn’t qualify me to talk about how I had finally learned how not to relapse as I had done so many times during my active years of addiction. I had little in the way of hope to offer another person who was experiencing what I had experienced. One thing I learned as a doctor is you don’t want to tell someone they have a life threatening disease without offering a solution, especially alcoholism and drug addiction, both hopeless conditions.

As I accrued time in recovery, I had more advice to pass on to the still suffering addict. Just exactly when I would try to do that in a book was not clear to me. I had grown to realize anonymity was key to my recovery so telling my story to the world with my identity was potentially a deal breaker. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous has traditions which members follow, namely, tradition eleven states “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films, and Tradition Twelve states. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” 

In the short form,  I should remain anonymous for the sake of my recovery and AA as a whole. These traditions were learned the hard way when early members of AA broke their anonymity and publicly announced their alcoholic identities, some high profile, and later relapsed. For many years, I was reluctant to write my story for public consumption. However, AA also has Tradition Five, states “Each group has but one primary purpose: to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. In the short form, helping others is central to the purpose and existence of AA, a magical inspiration that makes recovery work.

Why the Name Bohunk?

Bohunk is not my chosen name. I was given the name while a member of a fraternity Beta Theta Pi  at the University of Michigan. It was custom to attribute a derogatory name to a new member as practice of assimilation, usually at the time of “hell week” or initiation from pledge status to active status in the fraternity. The whole idea was to humiliate or humble the members. Why? I never bothered to research the answer. Whether I approved it or not, my fraternity name was intended to disparage and degrade the recipient. 

When I joined the fraternity I was majoring in philosophy, having gone through a particularly traumatic transformation from a devout Catholic to an agnostic. That happened when I attended a Catholic men’s college, St Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa. There I received a steady dose of orthodoxy from the priests and professors that crystallized Jesus Christ as central to Catholicism. Whereas I viewed God as one, and not split into a trinity, the Father, Son 

That created an upheaval in direct conflict with the Judaic Religion from my earlier Jewish practice and education. I had a fundamental falling out or emotional crisis that created an abyss similar to that described by Frederich Nietzsche. I experienced my own “Death of God” and crisis of nihilism, particularly Christendom. Although I was in a profound depression, I appeared and sounded lost and confused. 

Unknowingly, I became addicted to alcohol and later drugs similar to Nietzsche who used opium in dangerously high doses. He was also a heavy user of other psychoactive drugs including potassium bromide, a mysterious “Javanese narcotic”, and most unremittingly, chloral hydrate, a known hallucinogen. I took bottles of opiate drugs and chloral hydrate. Thus, I stared into the abyss of intoxication, despair and hopelessness. I had not only studied philosophy, I had adopted a philosophical perspective. Thus, my fraternity brothers called me Bohunk instead of Addict.

To some, Bohunk is a disparaging or offensive name for an immigrant from central or eastern Europe, especially a laborer. To others, it was just another way to say “uncivilized.” My heritage was Romani, Polish, and Lithuanian, so I fit. Bohunk has another derivation that fit me at the time, as a philosophy major in a conformist fraternity environment, I was unconventional and a nonconformist. My limited brothers were sages unwittingly and showed uncharacteristic clairvoyance.

While studying philosophy, I identified mostly with Plato from my universal religious backgrounds, though my addictions plunged me into the more negative and pathetic philosophy of existentialism and nihilists. As others I had rejected universal forms or established deity or truths accepted as self-evident. Afterall, Plato’s proof for the existence of God was merely that most people believed in a greater power than humans. 

Alcohol and drugs became my higher power, my abyss and ultimately my destruction. I definitely earned and lived the name, Bohunk.

never stop searching for your purpose

Finding one’s purpose is a common theme in recovery. Purpose gives meaning to life – it gives us a reason to live, a reason to get up every morning. For those of us who have been mired in substance abuse, it can be a positive change to a routine structured around an addiction that is negative and destructive.

“Changing our thoughts, actions, experiences – and in the process changing our brains – is what will finally help us feel satisfied and free of the desperation of not being angle to get enough.”

– Omar Manejwala

Purpose doesn’t need to begin as a monolithic adjustment. It can begin as a small, seemingly insignificant task, ritual, or practice. We might not identify the meaning in it at all, initially. Over time, though – with consistency and resilience – we will come to see the value in our efforts and our purposes will evolve.

Bohunk’S Redemption: Chapter 2 Exerpt

“An important but overlooked explanation [for addiction] is that addiction is a brain disease. Addiction starts and continues in chemical centers in the brain. The main locations are – of all places – in parts of the brain for unconscious activities like sleep, eating, sex, thirst, and the instinctive drive states. That makes sense, because addiction is an unconscious drive, and is also why conscious control is difficult. Especially if the addictive drive state for drugs and alcohol are associated with basic instinctive drives, as it does. Instinctive drive states express themselves daily. We eat, sleep, think about sex, drink something, reproduce. I like to call drug and alcohol addiction as an aberrant drive state gone crazy. Only in this instance, conscious control is difficult – if not impossible, because the aberrant addictive drive for drugs and alcohol is abnormal, unconscious and uncontrollable. Certainly, I could not control alcohol or drugs at all.”

Addictions [...] started out like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did  extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn't seen, were fun. But came,  through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for

Bohunk’s Redemption: Chapter 4 excerpt

“Wisdom comes by disillusionment.” -George Santayana

Photograph by Rakicevic Nenad

“My drinking began unceremoniously when my new (college) roommate asked if I wanted a drink. I had had little drinking experience to know what to do, while drinking the better part of a fifth of vodka or gin. I just recall clear liquid containing alcohol. My faint recollection was wrestling with my new roommate, obtaining a noticeable flesh wound in the bridge of my nose. Which left to this day, a telltale scar. With that badge of debacle, you can imagine what stories I made up to explain the first thing someone saw when they met me. Maybe fraternities wouldn’t judge me if I explained I was drunk, as that turned out to be a common occurrence in fraternities.

The morning after I hurt all over, even my hair, from a hangover. From the bout. I was terriblly sick when I rode my bicycle to the church for Sunday Catholic mass, clinging to the last vestige of hope. You’d think I wouldn’t ever try drinking like that again anytime soon, but I did. As it turned out, over and over, repeatedly, and got sicker and sicker. Had I known what I know now, I would have recognized I was an alcoholic from the start, putting family history, genetic makeup, initial black out drinking, fighting, malignant hangovers, and many, many regrets.

My hopeless gloom continued as I meandered around campus, searching for my God who was dead. I was spiritually lifeless, and emotionally helpless. So, I turned to the study of philosophy, to understand why I felt lost as I did. To unearth what happened to my God or did a God, or I, ever really exist. These were my questions I never contemplated before, nor knew existed. Why would I ever doubt I existed, or whether I was mind or matter, being or nothingness, an idea or forms? My introductory philosophy course focused on Plato, as most philosophy courses do, and did not ask many questions about God, not religious based. Still, I discovered questions about reality, if it existed, as well as knowledge, if we could know anything, and what was matter, if it even mattered.”

***

Bohunk’s Redemption, my recovery memoir, is now available to purchase on ebook and paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

You can even read a free instant preview of the first couple of chapters: here!

Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths in 2020

I don’t think it is shocking news to anyone that there were more overdoses during this past year than in previous years. Despite knowing this intuitively, calling attention to the numbers is still important work that needs to be done. Between the stresses of a global pandemic and the isolation we used to keep the virus from spreading, many people lost their lives in different ways. The data shows a raw, honest look at how drugs ended lives and it didn’t start in 2020.

Overdose deaths rose during the second half of 2019, and experts feared the pandemic would produce conditions that would further increase overdoses and deaths: economic shock, social isolation and increased mental health distress, and disrupted access to addiction support and medications that require face-to-face visits… The most recent data reflect September 2019 through August 2020. During that period, there were 88,295 predicted deaths, a record high that is almost 19,000 more deaths (27%) than the prior 12-month period.

https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/spike-drug-overdose-deaths-during-covid-19-pandemic-and-policy-options-move-forward

Addiction support had to change as people could no longer attend in person meeting for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help through their recovery process. My personal experience with addiction was that the beginning was centered in overcoming my shame. If I had had to hide away for other reasons my shame would have kept me quiet when I most needed to be heard. Increases in deaths related to addiction would have been a difficult fact to face.

The CDC reports:

Opioid-related deaths drove these increases, specifically synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Opioids accounted for around 75 percent of all overdose deaths during the early months of the pandemic; around 80 percent of those included synthetic opioids.

https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/spike-drug-overdose-deaths-during-covid-19-pandemic-and-policy-options-move-forward

Synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths, increasing 38.4 percent from the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020. During this time period:

37 of the 38 U.S. jurisdictions with available synthetic opioid data reported increases in synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths.

18 of these jurisdictions reported increases greater than 50 percent.

10 western states reported over a 98 percent increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths. Overdose deaths involving cocaine also increased by 26.5 percent. Based upon earlier research, these deaths are likely linked to co-use or contamination of cocaine with illicitly manufactured fentanyl or heroin. Overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, increased by 34.8 percent. The number of deaths involving psychostimulants now exceeds the number of cocaine-involved deaths.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html

It is hard not to see these deaths as having been preventable. The work the CDC is doing with states and cities is helping bring attention to the need for more recovery centers, access to these centers, and money to help them grow and thrive. “The increase in overdose deaths is concerning.” said Deb Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “CDC’s Injury Center continues to help and support communities responding to the evolving overdose crisis. Our priority is to do everything we can to equip people on the ground to save lives in their communities.”

In 2020 people moved to online meetings, reached out on social media, and grew their networks where they could. It has been beautiful to behold but so much more work needs to be done., including not losing focus when the pandemic is over. I have never been one for silver linings, but if these efforts can continue after the pandemic has passed maybe we can continue decreasing the trend, past what was normal before Covid and into a new realm of health and safety. The pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes to how changes can be made to assist people, from working from home to creating more access to online networks we all saw adjustments made that I hope can continue as we create our new normal.

The official data is not yet available to tell us if this increase in overdoses has started to level out. Please continue to stay the course in your recovery and reach out to those around you. If you have a loved one in crisis reach out and let them know you are there for support however *they* need that support. Please keep these numbers and the individuals behind them in your prayers. Together we can get through.

For more assistance in your recovery please use the links below:

Please note: This blog post is to be used for inspirational use only, and not to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Quitting an addiction is fantastic, but it’s also important to know the safest methods for quitting your specific addiction, while minimizing any withdrawal effects.

Bohunk excerpts part 3

My redemption, which began in Steps 4 and 5 by identifying the sources of my mental anguish, and continued in Steps 6 and 7 to becoming willing and humble to have my mental anguish removed, was now on the brink of release; the beginning  of the end and a return to society. Up to then I had denied any conscious feeling of sin or devoutness even after I had admitted my wrongs, and not yet achieved redemption or even understood what amends could offer me. But I had begun on the path toward recognition of the wrongs I had committed and sources of my guilt and shame … I began to examine many of His questions about existence with respect to my life of addiction. I was living in hell occupied by myself (who I could not stand), as divided into three people in my id, superego, and ego. The id drove my addictive use of alcohol drugs, the superego condemned its use, and ego kept failing to find a way to control the chaos and confusion. I examined such issues as freedom, self-deception, and the nature of time in my pursuit of listing and making amends.

Throughout my whole story and recovery, I looked back to the past and to the present, trying to make peace with myself about the evil things I had done to loved ones and not so loved ones. Guilt and shame ruled my life for many years during my addiction, now I painstakingly faced my anguish head on. I had made a decision to live, and had to find a way out of my living hell or die. I had to learn to live in the here and now. I had to forgive the past, and face the future, the two most dangerous places for me. I had to accept the present without fear and trembling or drink or drug, which for me was to die. Living in the present was my exit from my hell.

As I was making amends, I realized I was carrying the message for recovery in AA as explained by my purpose and recovery…I started to feel God was doing for me what I could not do for myself, and I felt a great uplift and euphoria. I had my spiritual experience and communion with a force greater than myself.  

—Chapter 10 “Mission from God” Bohunk’s Redemption, From Blacking Out to Showing Up: A Doctor’s Adventures

One Day at a time/odaat

“First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do.” -Epictetus

One day at a time is a familiar phrase for anyone in recovery.

Looking out from a place of addiction to the monumental task in front of you is daunting. I know that the struggle didn’t always seem worth the effort when I was still deciding to dump addiction for good. The idea of one day at a time helped me immensely.

Breaking any task down into small steps is key to success. But recovering from addiction is different than most tasks because there is no end. You will always be in recovery and should always be proud to announce what day you are on. We have all gotten to our current number moving forward one day at a time.

Part of the odaat philosophy is that it is part of never giving up. You are staying vigilant but you only have to see today as the goal. It is key to preventing yourself from getting overwhelmed.

Even though I am on year 40 of being sober I have to make the decision every day. Somedays it’s as easy as breathing, as a heartbeat, I do it without conscious thought. Other days it is a more tangible decision, like getting out of bed, something I have to actively choose. Having chosen to stay sober for decades helps me make that decision but there is a pull somedays that I think we would all do well to remember as we move forward.

I don’t want to give false hope that one day you will be free and clear of it all, temptation can surprise you at any time. Everyone who knows me knows that there have been very stressful events and memories that awaken that voice in my head suggesting I give in to temptation. One day at a time speaks to me as an important phrase at the beginning of the journey and throughout. All we can do is face today and do our best to end up ahead.

Please note: This blog post is to be used for inspirational use only, and not to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Quitting an addiction is fantastic, but it’s also important to know the safest methods for quitting your specific addiction, while minimizing any withdrawal effects.

Walking Away from an Addiction

I felt like someone was holding onto me and dragging me up, down, everywhere.  I was on a roller coaster out of control, heading towards crash after crash.” –Bohunk’s Redemption

Leaving an addiction can feel like an impossible task. However there are ways to make it easier, manageable, and even achievable. Here’s a few ways that can help:

1) Don’t look at who you are now, look at who you want to be.

Negative thoughts and guilt towards yourself are not helpful, especially since you’ve already decided you want to change. Instead, channel that energy into setting new short and long-term goals on helping yourself become free from the addiction.

2) Remove easy access to the addictive substance(s).

At some point, you will likely want to go back to your addiction, even when you know it isn’t in your best interest. If you have the ability to easily access the addictive substance, it will be even more difficult to resist the temptation. Make it difficult for yourself to go return to the addiction, so it will be easier to stay on the path of quitting.

3) The first step is usually the hardest.

Being aware and reminding yourself that it will get easier over time can be significant motivation when trying to navigate through the beginning.

4) Reach out for support.

You don’t have to go through this alone. The knowledge that other people care about you or know what you’re going through can help strengthen your resolve. There is no shame in seeking a support group, or opening up to a close family member or friend.

5) Consistency

Above all else, keep trying, keep chasing your goal of sobriety. If you stay on your path, you will reach it!

Like this post?
Check out the new memoir: Bohunk’s Redemption, a captivating story of the struggles through extreme addiction and the ability to recover, an inspiration for everyone in recovery: You can still achieve great things!

Check it out here!
https://www.amazon.com/Bohunks-Redemption-Blacking-Showing-Adventures-ebook/dp/B07RT6QD65

Please note: This blog post is to be used for inspirational use only, and not to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Quitting an addiction is fantastic, but it’s also important to know the safest methods for quitting your specific addiction, while minimizing any withdrawal effects.

Recovery is Always in your Reach

When suffering from an addiction, recovery can feel like one of the tallest mountains you could ever climb. It can be a challenge that you can overcome though, and it is within your reach. Following these steps can help you along the right path:

STEP ONE: Set short-term and long-term goals for yourself.

Expecting to get better overnight can be setting yourself up for failure. Quitting an addiction is not an on/off switch, it’s a process. Having short and long term goals can help keep you on track and give you more control over your progress. What will you accomplish today? What will you accomplish tomorrow? What would you like to see 3 months from now?

“Fortunately, I didn’t expect and demand results overnight, and gradually began to see that I accomplished movements towards my goal.” — Bohunk’s Redemption.

STEP TWO: Be proud of each step you take, no matter how small.

Recovery isn’t a competition or a race, it’s your own personal path to healing. Every step you take down the path is one step closer to your goal, so be proud of yourself, you CAN do this!

STEP THREE: Be positive and productive.

It can feel discouraging not reaching your goal as quickly as you would like. But as long as you making progress in that direction then you are on the right path. Keep your focus on the destination and your hopes high; we can accomplish great things if we simply continue to believe in ourselves.

STEP FOUR: Keep going!

Recovery is a journey, but the empowerment of gaining control over your life is worth it. Be consistent in your goals, be proud of your progress. Keep up the great work! You can achieve this!

Like this post?
Check out the new memoir: Bohunk’s Redemption, a captivating story of the struggles through extreme addiction and the ability to recover, an inspiration for everyone in recovery: You can still achieve great things!

Check it out here!
https://www.amazon.com/Bohunks-Redemption-Blacking-Showing-Adventures-ebook/dp/B07RT6QD65