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My own path...

Old 11-16-2012, 05:14 PM
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My own path...

Hi everyone,

I thought I would discuss my own path and my understanding of sobriety. Robbyrobot suggested I do the same so we can discuss our disagreements on the matter a little further. I hope this conversation between all of us can be civil and help us all in our own understanding and sobriety. I will also share my experience with AVRT and how I found it unsustainable for myself. If it works for you, I encourage you to continue it. This is just how it turned out for me.

After writing the below I noticed that I began to encourage others to try my way. Instead of editing that part, I can only leave you this caveat; never blindly follow any path. If my suggestions work, great. If they do not, also great. You will find your own way and that’s the beauty of our struggle, the continuous fire within us to find sobriety, one way or another.

I was a drunkard for 10+ years. I lost jobs, family, friends and almost my life. Over this last year I discovered AVRT. In that time I read RR twice, made a big plan, labeled my AV a beast and followed that path for several months. I discovered by following the dualistic, “me vs. it” process of AVRT I developed anxiety and fear. I had created another being that was never there before, a so-called beast. This had a profound impact on my psyche. I would fight night and day with this beast until eventually raising the white flag, and drinking again. Yes, I know you should not have to fight it because “it’s not me”, but tell that to the beast I just created.

I would keep returning to the recommended separation of the beast from myself, giving it substance and all the while being asked to also commit to never drinking again, ever. So, now I had the beast back. Add this to believing in a future of never drinking which also has no reality (show me forever) and I became overwhelmed and once again, started to drink again. The battle consumed me.

When I returned to my practice of zazen (meditation) things began to shift for me. I was a student of this practice for years, but only in the last several months have I returned to my sangha (community) and deepened my practice with my teacher there. Many years ago I practiced zazen to run from my problems, but now it was back to zazen to see my problems and touch them as deeply as I could. Things began to unfold this time.

What I discovered is this AV is just another distraction from this present moment, the reality of the here and now. By adding character or giving this AV separation and life, I added to my already temperamental suffering. I discovered that if I take away this attachment, this AV or “beast” I can sit with these cravings as just thoughts, entering my mind and leaving my mind.

I treated this “AV” as a guest, allowing it to rise in my mind, settle in for some tea if needed and allowed it to leave when it was ready without struggle and without a label. It was simply a thought which I created, as humans do. Over the months, the cravings would knock on the door, but by allowing them to enter, they began to stay less and less time in my mind. These thoughts had no substance and therefore passed through easier and easier as I worked harder at my zazen, until now, the craving quickly arises and exits as quickly as it arrived. I no longer struggle with alcohol craving, or if it does arise, I have a better understanding now of what it really is.

The important part of this new process for me was, thoughts are not real. You can not show me this “beast” anymore than you can show me “never”. This AV is no more than synaptic signals firing away in your mind, like anything else that enters and leaves your mind. I discovered when I no longer had a beast to run from I was free to allow myself to simply be with this distraction, allow it to enter my body and be present for it.

I would notice how these thoughts triggered tightening in my chest, elevated my heart rate and quickened my breath. But it was all healthy and natural reactions to certain thoughts or cravings. To see this for what it was was enlightening. It’s amazing what our minds can construct and fascinating to sit still and allow them to run their course in your body. Then, out of nowhere, it would dissipate into thin air and I would wave it goodbye, as everything is impermanent, an important note here.

In this I discovered the future was also so conceptually vast, that it was too impenetrable for my mind and discovered that this notion of “never” was again not real. Everything is impermanent, just ask science. So logic dictates I was adding anxiety by making assumptions that 1. I understood forever better than science, and 2. I could with absolute power, control the future and demand my sobriety last the entirety of it. I remember distinctly laughing to myself when this hit me on my zafu (meditation cushion).

I knew right there and then that there is no forever that I or any human can possibly grasp, only this moment, and in each moment I do not drink, I am sober and I could celebrate countless moments of sobriety with each breath I took. So, in this time I have managed to alleviate myself of the added anxiety of concepts, characters, delusional thought and control of forever. My practice and understanding is much simpler now and valid for me. I’m not drinking right now in this moment and that is beautiful.

I have no control over time or the future (ask any scientist) and therefore have dismantled that anxiety as well. There is no beast, no AV, no books and no process. I also concluded that a big plan was to suggest I again could control what has not come to pass. There is only now, and I have learned to appreciate every moment by being present for myself, my family, friends and all sentient beings. I breathe in and out and have touched reality and my senses deeply through my practice of zazen.

I have discovered my path as being one of unique simplicity and focus. I have dropped my attachments to commercial trappings set forth by companies who sell their ways of sobriety. Sobriety is right now, as you read this, as you respond. Each moment is your sobriety and once you can recognize your thoughts as passing clouds in your mind, nonthreatening and simply be available in the quiet to be here with yourself and life, you will begin to unfold as an onion does, layer by layer.

The work for me has been incredibly difficult. I sit zazen every day, I attend my sangha 3 days a week and I work, work, work at seeing my (our) true nature and more importantly seeing all the stuff we add to our suffering to fix it. There is nothing to fix, I am already perfect as are all sentient beings. When we can truly touch this within ourselves and detach from all these books, programs and concepts we can see that there’s not much to figure out. We must chip away at our self-centered ego driven desires, and that’s all they all. There’s just this, right here, and our cravings are delusions, passing through our mind like any other thoughts, an intangible part of the vast nature of life.

Just sit there and let those cravings enter your mind, and then allow them to leave. When you struggle against them, you separate yourself from them, creating you vs. it, giving them substance for which is simply untrue. Focus on your breath and your sensations. Notice them when they arise and learn from them. I found no need anymore to struggle against the stream of beasts, and imaginary voices. I found peace and I am completely sober right now because of my new understanding.

With all of that said, if AVRT works for you, I wish you nothing but the best. This was my experience and how I discovered non-duality and no more “me vs it”. There is no it, no beast, big plan and no forever. There is just THIS for me, and how I choose to live within each moment. I welcome all thoughts on this. I’m still learning and I hope you all are as well. There is no finite answer to anything, we’re all drifting around this planet looking for answers to our suffering. I have decided to try this path, and it works for me.

Take care and be well.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:03 PM
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Hi Vinyl,

Good to see you've started a fresh thread. Interesting. I'm sure we can have a great discussion even though we have distinct differences. I'm taing in what you have shared. Thanks, its good to get detailed background to your experiences with AVRT,

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Old 11-16-2012, 07:04 PM
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Really interesting post, I love it ;-)
I'll lookup the zazen meditation! Indeed any method is appropriate. I wish this site had a "menu" to choose from. So many things can work for each individual! No matter what the path is, sobriety is what counts!

What I like about this site is the huge amount of different knowledge, sharing and respect. Everyone want's to help each other. My car could break down and not a soul would come, but our common challenge brings us closer as humans.

Think I'm forming and addiction to this site! LOL!
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:42 PM
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I had a few folks PM and ask about Zazen.

Zazen is rooted in Zen Buddhism however you don't have to be Buddhist at all. At my center we have Christians, Athiests, Jews and all sorts of cultural, religious and secular backgrounds. We all sit in Zazen and experience the meditation together.

Here is a simple tutorial I found if you wish to try it at home... How to Meditate - Beginners Introduction to Zazen - YouTube

Keep in mind, if you do find it beneficial I highly suggest you find a center near you so you can sit with others under the guidance of a teacher to help grow your practice. If you want to find a center near you, I can help you find one.
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Old 11-17-2012, 06:12 AM
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vinyl,

Your post is actually the one I have related to the most in the last few months. I had 7 years sober as a practicer of Soto Buddism which practices Zazen. I only have 3 months now. When I truly stayed centered on the practice of buddhist Zazen I did well and had a good life.

I live in Kansas, in a very concervative town...and I'm truly a Soto Zazen Buddism practicioner (although haven't been "practicing it correctly" for a long time. Most Buddist's here are "god" and "magic" believers. It's been hard to stay connected and my "teacher" who I related to died several years ago. I'm struggling. But your post really keyed in on why I really can't fall in line with the support of AA or AVR or many other forms. And I recomend these programs to many.

I'm not expressing this well, but you gave me a bit of encouragement that I need to look at my own expereince with a critical eye and find the path. I thank you for your post! It's sad to me that SR has so many split out areas. For me sober recovery is about each individual finding a path that works for them. We all have things we can post to help others...whether you are religious or not, 12 step or not, alkie addict or codependant.

What I do know is that I am no different than any other human being on this planet and my human justifications to build up a since of self against or for anything is what ends up causing me pain and short circuts connection and health.

I'm writing this from free flow thought so it probably has errors (Oh my god! I'm human! lol)

Thank you for posting. I feel a kernal of growth toward my path being planted
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Old 11-17-2012, 06:48 AM
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Vinyl,

Thanks for your detailed and well-thought-out post. It's fascinating to read.

I agree with you that it's a shame different recovery pathways are so at odds. I think some of it has been caused by the exposure many of us have had to the "one-size-fits-all" recovery treatment system in the US. Some of it is because those of us who've recovered are very protective of how we did it, almost as if other pathways make our own less real or valid. And some of it comes from a genuine desire to help. When we see someone struggling, we want to help and really, all any of us have to offer is an explanation of what worked for us.

The reality is that there REALLY is no "right" way to do this. Even people who follow a particular, recognized program or path differ in how they interpret the principles or tools recommended by that program or path. This truth can make the recovery process seem confusing and lonely at times. We hear that we are not alone, but we can feel very alone indeed if we feel that there is some elusive "right" way that we are just missing.

I recall years ago when I was in a recovery program that used sponsors. I was sponsoring a young woman who very badly "wanted what I have". I told her everything I knew or thought I knew. I held nothing back from my own understanding as it stood at that time. And one day this young woman, struggling through a difficult time, asked me when I was going to tell her the secret. She truly believed that there WAS a secret, and that I was withholding it from her until she passed some sort of test.

I said: "the secret is that there is no secret." I ran into her the other day, and she told me that this has been her own mantra for years......
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Old 11-17-2012, 09:19 AM
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Hi Vinyl,

I'm supportative of anything from the various schools of Zen. I appreciate the inherent "senselessness" of Zen. I understand how Zen is experientially beyond words, and ideas, and "self." Zen is a spiritual mediatative "now" experience directly with myself that can be re-affirming and strengthening as I become more aware of well, my awareness of being present and having presence moment to moment and within a single moment. I have faced the dragon in the cave and often found myself alone. Alone is a good outcome, as we know.

Having said that, let's be clear I'm no student of Zen. I'm simply aware of Zen as a worthy and difficult path in coming f2f with myself.

AVRT is also interesting for me. I enjoy how I can also find myself alone with myself by adhering to my Big Plan and have 100% confidence in myself to become dis-entangled from my addictive self. With my addictive self on the other side of my awareness, I'm free to enhance those boundaries with a sureness of knowing I'll now not ever drink again and I'll never change my mind about my not drinking. This has worked for me past 31 years now. It will always work the same for me. I have zero fear of ever drinking again. My Beast still has a barking voice, and still has it's abnormal animal desires, but it suffers alone. We are separated now. And forever more. I am me and my Beast is not me even though it is of me. My AV is the voice of my Beast even though it's voice is simply a harvested collection of my own thoughts twisted into guided weapons of rhetorical devices and persuasions against me, myself, and I.

My enduring indifference to my Beast's desires and boring insistent voice is my best action in answer to my Beat's existence.

I choose for my Beast to exist. I choose to have awareness of my AV. These things of creation are of course of my own making. As well, there is scientific fact of the physical lower mid-brain of all humans - our animal brain if you will. The lair of my Beast, no less. This is where my survival drives originate - air, water, food, shelter, sex, companions, and for me additionally this would include an unhealthy unnatural appetite for alcoholic drinking.

My Beast wants its desire for alcohol be satisfied only by my drinking and nothing else will satisfy. So my Beast wants to use me, because it itself cannot of course drink, and since I refuse, my Beast is of course against me in its ignorance and arrogance it does it's thing to survive.

I am not against my Beast though. We are not enemies. I can make better choices than to fight. I can easily render my Beast harmless and ineffectual in spite of all it's wailings and thrashings about. I am separated from my mid-brain on many personal and realistic levels of experience and so then of course I'm separated from my Beast as well. This simple ideal separation is sufficient. I'm free to chose to not drink now and in the now and forevermore.

AA is off topic for discussion in this forum, I still feel it important to be transparent with you Vinyl of my experiences. Indeed, I'm a recovered alcoholc drug addict as well. I have within me the arrested illness of alcoholism, as defined and detailed by Alcoholics Anonymous. My alcoholism is presently unempowered. My dead alcoholic mind is found in the bowels of my alcoholism illness. My alcoholc mind is in a coma and has been for almost my entire sobriety. It took a bit of time, three months, for me to complete the AA program and change out my alcoholic mind for what I have today: sobriety ensured by my living a continous spiritual life. Again, this too brings me to being alone with myself.

I can't go much deeper with my experiences, as this forum has distinct boundaries, and I respect those boundaries. I have other posts in other forums which detail my unspoken of here experiences with quitting drinking and staying quit.

I also practice Gestalt therapy, an entirely experiential therapy, and have for decades now. It really is my cup of freedom in understanding the me that I was, and that I am, and that I will become.

So...

I present as one with many hats. I have chosen to be as I am. It works for me in ways that have completely enriched my life many times over and over again. I hope you can come to an understanding that I champion and encourage all those who seek their own answer to their own questions when it comes to quitting drinking today and always.

If you're still interested in having a direct discussion, with me, in this thread, I'm open to your shares and experiences. There will be no winners or losers from such a discussion. We may all have something to learn from our disagreements, lol. If perhaps otherwise, if you prefer to shake hands and we move on, I'm likewise good for doing that too.

Either way, I feel we respect each other enough to choose wisely for ourselves. We've all been there, and we're all going somewhere.

Robby
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Old 11-17-2012, 10:05 AM
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Well Robby, it comes down to this. Your path works for you and how could I possibly argue against it, or begin to imply what you are doing is incorrect? That would be silly of me. What you are doing is great for you and I applaud your hard work and sobriety. The important take-away here is though we have some fundamental differences in our paths, we are clear in our own understanding of our path and how we function within it. That is amazing and something we do share in common. It is the person who does not understand their path and questions AVRT or any other path that I feel debate is justified and should be welcomed.

On a side note, just to clarify something you mentioned at the top of your response. You mentioned you admired the "senselessness" of Zen. I just wanted to clarify for anyone whom might misunderstand that. Zen is quite the opposite of senselessness, in fact, after hard work you begin to open up all senses and truly be aware of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. During zazen the student is encouraged to be completely open to all senses and truly feel each one with clarity.

There is no escape from life and this moment in zazen, which is the perfect vehicle for folks who like to run away from things, hide behind alcohol or crawl into the shadows. Some think of meditation as mystical and la-la hippy stuff, but in fact, zazen in particular is very real and there are no frills or dream states. You are awake, experiencing pain and working to stay still, focused and alive with all the crap that comes with it. We don't run from anything in zazen! There is nowhere to hide.

The problem with most of us, especially those who suffer with addiction is, we delude our senses so much we forget we have them and forget how important they are to function in the present moment.

Good luck to you buddy, sincerely.
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Old 11-17-2012, 10:13 AM
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I appreciate your distinctions with my comments on Zen. I was though referring not to our physical senses, but that Zen is beyond one making practical "mental sense" of a Zen moment of experience. Zen is beyond reason and practicalities was the intent of my comment. Thanks for clearing that up.

I thank you for the good luck wishes, and in return I say be well, Vinyl.
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Old 11-17-2012, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by RobbyRobot View Post
Zen is beyond reason and practicalities was the intent of my comment. Thanks for clearing that up.
This is not my understanding of Zen. From my experience, zen is not beyond reason or practicalities at all. In fact it's quite reasonable and practical. We sit, we are present and there is no frivolity or unanswered questions. When we walk, we walk, when we talk, we talk, clean, clean, etc. Everything is practical, nothing is extra. Adding anything "beyond" is not this moment and therefore not zen at all.

I do appreciate your understanding of zen, I just want to make sure mine is clear because there is no confusion with this practice and there should be no misunderstanding of it for anyone who is being introduced to this type of practice.
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Old 11-17-2012, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by vinyl View Post
I do appreciate your understanding of zen, I just want to make sure mine is clear because there is no confusion with this practice and there should be no misunderstanding of it for anyone who is being introduced to this type of practice.
No problemo, and I welcome the distinctions you are sharing from your experiences. I have respect for your experiences, even though they differ from mine. And I understand your cautions of not wanting added confusion for others being introduced to Zen.

Awesome.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:04 AM
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As a child, and a teenager, I had several occasions to find myself encased in plaster from foot to mid-chest. My longest experience endured for nine months. This means not getting out of bed or walking around, or whatever. Not even to the bathroom. Same room. same bed. I actually outgrew my plaster cast and needed a new one wrapped around me. It was a difficult day to have it removed and replaced as you might imagine for me. I was twelve years of age. And so began my early drinking with a vengence.

Just relating this to say I completely have knowledge and experience of being still with my physical senses, before my drinking. Very awesome. I was free even though I physically was not free. I was in jail, but I also wasn't. After I got into drinking, things of course took a different turn in my life.

I'm pretty sure i understand how Zen is a real experience of our true human selves with our natural senses. I also understand I have additional experiences that are beyond making mental sense of, and are best simply experienced as being beyond myself and my physical realities.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:09 AM
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Wow Robby thanks for sharing that. Can I ask why you were always put into those casts? Sounds grueling, especially for a 12 year old. So glad you have the insight now and perspective. I admire your length of sobriety and hope to reach that sort of longevity too someday.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:13 AM
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I'm starting to drift away from the whole AV concept, maybe for the same reason I reject the higher power concept. I'm creating this outside force for parts of me that I don't like, but really all I'm doing is hating myself in a way. There's ME and then there's my AV, that sneaky *******. Some part of me knows that it's just a way of thinking and that it has no basis in reality and I guess I just feel like I'm lying to myself.

You talked about inviting your addictions in for tea instead of fighting them and I kind of understand that, I've started to arrive at the same conclusion on my own. I have reasons not to use, but over time those reasons aren't so clear anymore and when I get cravings those reasons seem impossible to draw inspiration from, as if my judgement is already clouded over. The result is me pacing around fighting with myself forever. I found it easier to not have the fight at all, I don't have to justify my reasons to quit drinking, it all boils down to simple logic; drinking and using drugs is damaging both physically and mentally, and it has absolutely no benefit at all, so there is no logical reason to do it. Instead of try to justify my sobriety I just don't have the argument at all. It's something that I've started to do but haven't fully wrapped my head around or mastered.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:28 AM
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Well said Admiral and I think you're on a good path. For some, constructs are just that, extra stuff we create to fix us. But I found that I was never broken and that most of these programs are perpetuated by a group of people who abide by one way that works for them, and it's difficult to separate from that when there seems to be no alternatives. These days it seems like it's either AA, AVRT, some smaller "program", or you're just doomed to alcoholism, and that's just not the case!

There is a much simpler way through hard work and being present, without the attachment of a book or program. Not fighting anything at all, but rather opening yourself up to what is right now, your senses and your body. Sitting very still (see video I posted above) and listening to what your body is telling you. Allowing those cravings to arise while you are very still and noticing how it affects you.

Through this practice, over time and if done every day for at least 10-20 minutes, the space will begin to open up and the bottom will drop out! Those long, difficult windows of craving will slowly close, inch by inch, until one day the thought doesn't even bother to visit you anymore, because you understand it is just that, an intangible distraction passing through like a cloud, and no more.

Good luck to you!
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:44 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to write that Vinyl and glad you have found what works for you.

I have come to realise that there really is no right or wrong way and that different people are going to have different reactions to different methods. I had the opposite reaction to AVRT as you. Before I learnt to identify my AV I always thought it was 'me' and I would be traumatised that I still 'wanted' to drink, whereas now I can dismiss those thoughts easily. No fighting involved.

I noticed snippets of other recovery methods in your post too. I think that so much of what we use to recover is like what ordinary people have cultivated growing up and we need to learn it to catch up. My sis gave me some advice the other day which was just like it was out of the Big Book. I don't think we need anything specific to recover, just the tools which everyone needs to live a happy healthy life.

Glad you're doing so well x
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:54 AM
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Born in 1957, and at 11 months old, i was in hospital fighting for my survival against poliomyelitis, a viral disease, which can destroy the natural ability of muscle nerves to transmit information, which can lead to permanent paralysis of the infected muscles/nerves. Polio can also be fatal for those who suffer destruction of their essential muscles nerves for breathing, for example. For me, my entire body from head to foot eventually became paralysed, and I was removed from one hospital to another in an effort to save my life. I was saved from being in an iron-lung. With fresh eyes and more informed medical expertise, my polio was arrested, and cured, and i slowly recovered, more or less. I stayed in hospital for over a year, and was returned home just past my second birthday. I recovered with normal use of my arms, less then normal with my left leg, and zero use of my entire right leg.

You can imagine how I felt. The hospital was my home. It was all I really knew. On my return home I promptly suffered separation distress and this eventually developed into full blown attachment disorder which has followed me more or less throughout my life. I have many layers of boundaries around me to this very day, even though I have knowledge of these antiquated defenses, they yet persist, and that is simply the way of it for me. Awareness of my enduring successes is always my best way forward in spite of my overwhelming experiences with personal failures.

Just over two years of combined stints in plaster casts is my experience. Corrective surgeries as orderd my my various orthopediac surgeons throughout my early childhood, mid-childhood, and teen age years. Sometimes things worked well, and progress was achieved with these "corrections." And sometimes, not so much, and I was left worse than I had started. The worst outcome was when i was twelve, and they fused my right hip. This is somewhat detailed in a thread of mine: http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...rupted-ii.html

I have successfully put all that misery behind me, and I'm now in a very happy place with my medical history. I have finally become an unbroken man, relatively speaking, even though the outlines of my inter-connected puzzel shapes can be still defined, I am so much more than the sums of my distinctive and myriad puzzel ongoing experiences. This has been a long time coming, my recent medical achievement, and I'm grateful I have surpassed my failures with creating new success from the ashes of my miserable past.

Hey, more than you asked for as an answer, I'm sure, lol. Thanks for asking though, Vinyl.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:56 AM
  # 18 (permalink)  
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Great post, hypo and thanks. I agree on all counts. Good luck to you too! I admire your ability not to struggle with the AV. I don't think that's the case for many.

What I'm learning from some of you is, the one's who treat the beast as a more tame "it" have found more peace, over those who have created the same separation but found their beast becoming aggressive and dualistic in it's behavior until they give up the fight.

I guess I posted all this for those types of folks who find AVRT isn't quite working the way it was intended due to this creation of a "me vs. it" concept. I think it's fascinating how our minds can all differ in this way, some finding peace with this duality and some finding it impossible.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:01 PM
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Wow Robby, that's quite an ordeal you went through and so glad you came out stronger on this end. I spent a year with cancer, just a few years back. I went through radiation and my family was on edge. It was a scary, very real experience dealing with mortality and pain. I'm now in complete remission. I too think I came out a stronger person because of this experience.

Be well.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:02 PM
  # 20 (permalink)  
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I need to keep things simple or I vanish into my head. I like this

One time, Zen Master Seung Sahn said:

I don't teach Korean or Mahayana or Zen. I don't even teach Buddhism. I only teach don't know. Fifty years here and there teaching only don't know. So only don't know, okay?
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