This site is not about will-power, but about the power of spirit — what Bill W., the man who invented the 12-Step Program called the God of your own understanding — to lead you to a new understanding of yourself and a new way of living, thinking and being free from demons that might haunt you now. Again, welcome. We hope you will begin an exploration of your own of addiction and recovery.

Growupus Interruptus: Spiritual Cancer.

Addiction is not so much about alcohol or drugs or gambling or sex as it is about the soul of the addict. Addiction is a malignancy that grows in the spirit, spiritual cancer — a disease Steve Rookie and I named growupus interruptus. The tumor starts to grow when we begin to indulge the addiction, whatever it is, that thing that brings a kind of warm haze over our mind and shuts out all the whirling world for the length of time that we indulge it.

At that point in our lives, whenever it is, unless something or someone intercedes, we contract growupus interruptus. When the addiction is firmly planted, we cease to mature emotionally or spiritually, for the addiction rechannels the nourishment meant for those things into itself, and it matures instead of the addict.

At one point or another, the addiction tries to assert itself as the primary force in the individual — in other words, kill its host, the addict. Then, the addict has to make a choice; quit or die.

If this seems dramatic, consider this:

Just after I joined my first 12-step program and had quit my symptom addiction, I met a man who taught me the word “pustiny.” It is a Russian word and it means two very different things, at first glance. The first meaning is “desert,” in the most deserted sense — a flat, arid place, devoid of life. The second meaning refers to a tiny, one-room house, very basic, with a single source of light and a religious icon of some sort on the wall. The second meaning makes perfect sense, though, if you consider the sacred tradition of vision quest or the revelatory journeys of the great prophets from Moses to St. John the Divine. Pustiny, the desert, the wilderness, is where people go for spiritual centering.

He who taught me about pustiny was about to take his vows as a Catholic monk — not a priest — and he was desolate. In retrospect, I think he was suicidal, and that his reasons for joining the order might have been the same reasons that I was an addict.

I was in my crazy days of withdrawal just then, and I knew of some cabins near the airport; small, two-room efficiencies set on a lot with some mesquite trees and not much else. I liked the idea of living there in one of them, away from the main part of the city and not attached to any other apartments. I thought they might be my pustiny. When I drove there, though, they were being torn down, which didn’t surprise me, the way my life was going at that point.

It was a Saturday, and the work crew wasn’t there, so I got out and walked around the place and discovered that one of the buildings was still full of someone’s possessions. Here was a small house with the back wall ripped away and the entrails of someone’s life spilled through the hole onto the desert. Whoever was not there had thought he would come back, but had not. From the calendar on the wall and the condition of the food in the refrigerator, I concluded he had been gone about three weeks. He might have gone to work one morning, or out for a night on the town, but he had no thought when he left the dishes in the sink and the bananas on the counter that he would not be back.

Something caught him by surprise.

There were books there: How To Make Friends and Influence People, When I Say No I Feel Guilty, and a Living Bible inscribed “From Mom.” His clothes were there, his shoes and pants and shirts. His dishes were there. He was not there, and I somehow knew he would never come home again, that he was dead, insane or in prison.

The image of that place became a touchstone, an impression of how close we can come to disappearing into our troubles; to being eaten alive by the tumor in our soul, and how one day can make a difference in the life of a person or the world.

That day is today.

I came to think of that missing occupant as the Unknown Addict, and he haunts me to this day, for I know that I might as easily have ended up like him — and he might as easily have found salvation, had not that one day got in his way.

There are millions of addicts out there who might learn something by reading this book, and there are more than a couple of million friends and family of addicts who might, also. I want to say to you that there are no easy answers, no magic formulas, no one-track programs to get better. I want to tell you it isn’t easy being an addict in recovery, but it’s better than the alternative, better than the fate of the Unknown Addict.

Part of my mission in this world is to recognize the hand of God in my life and help others do the same, but I must tell you that there is no mixture of dogma and ceremony that equates a complete and easy course for reaching personal peace. When I first began this process, I took up some pretty hard-edged beliefs that I felt explained it all, but, as M. Scott Peck points out in A Road Less Traveled, life isn’t that easy, and part of the addicts’ problem is thinking that it can be if we act a certain way, do a certain thing or hold the candle just right when we pray. It is thinking that way that helps make us addicts. It is a circle of self-deception that spirals downward, carrying our souls to Hell, and I think that the only way up out of the Pit is to spread our wings and take our lives in our own hands. In fact, to learn about God, it was necessary for me to realize that I knew nothing about God, to put away most of my preconceptions about faith and salvation and begin at the beginning.

This meditation is from Addicted, Instead, Chapter 10 of Side Trips From Cowboy.