Connecting the Dots | Recovery river

In life we are given just the dots and they aren’t numbered. How do I know which dot is next in the sequence? I don’t. I have to trust the process, trust in something other than me that is guiding me to what I need to connect to next.
— Read on

Fearless and Searching Perishable Inventory

Exactly what is a “moral inventory”? Drop that term into a Google search box, and Google returns over eighteen million hits.

To be certain, opinions vary.

One source says the following: “Once we identify our role in each situation, we put pen to paper so that we can see our role.  At this point, we have to find willingness to honestly and openly admit our wrongs in order to set these matters straight. While this can be a difficult task, it is imperative if we wish to recover. An unwillingness to address these issues, has the potential to lead us right back to the drink or drug.” (Source: As of October 1, 2018)

We are still left with a question: “why?” Assume, for a moment, that abstinence is no longer an issue. Regardless of the problem, whether alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other problematic behaviors, assume that our abstinence is in place and strong.

Given that, the question remains: Why?

No doubt the answers would vary. Chances are good that, if abstinence is not an issue, that the opinions would vary. Google tells us that chances are good that we will find over eighteen million different answers.

Assume, for a moment, that seventeen million of those answers are essentially identical. If so, that still leaves a million or more different viewpoints. With a million or more opinions, we could spend a lifetime searching them and still not reach a consensus.

For some of us, particularly those with more than five years of recovery, and some with as little as a two years, we need clarity on this issue. The first two years of recovery, and as long as five, we need to stick to the program as originally written. During that period of our growth and development, the basics of the program will answer most of our questions, maybe all of them.

But somewhere north of five years, some of us find that we need more. Alcohol, drugs, gambling and other similar issues are no longer core issues for us. As long as we do the basics and stay away from slippery people and slippery places, chances are good that we will be safe.

“Safe” may not be enough. We look around and realize that we have too much debt. Maybe we are unemployed or only working part-time at a job that does not allow us to perform at our highest and best level for ourselves and for society. Maybe we are “stuck.”

At this point, an inventory may be helpful, but the traditional “searching and fearless moral inventory” may not be enough. Maybe we need an Ishikawa diagram to map out some problem where we are stuck. Maybe we need a “mind map” to dump what is in our head, and use that mind map to draw flowcharts or similar diagrams of the repeating patterns in our life where we are “stuck” and unable to move forward.

Other aspects of inventories may apply. In formal inventory management, one common problem is the “Newsvendor” problem. The question is this: how to handle perishable inventory. If we have too much of some capacity, we have spent time or money or other resources on something, maybe several somethings, which we cannot fully utilize and which may be perishable.

That is the point of the Newsvendor problem. If a Newsvendor on the street sells, on average, fifty newspapers per day, then ordering one hundred newspapers is foolish. It means that will go unsold. The only “benefit” of the unused inventory is to recycle is or find some other use other than the original intended use. Excess capacity is wasteful.

On the other hand, if we only order twenty newspapers, knowing that we can sell fifty, then we have lost profits. Opportunities that would benefit us, and maybe others, are gone. The opportunity to sell a newspaper and make a profit while fulfilling the needs of our customers vanishes. The Newsvendor problem addresses what is called “perishable inventory.”

While the traditional “searching and fearless moral inventory” is perfect for beginners who are new to the recovery process, other tools may be more useful to those of us beyond a certain point. The point is often reached by five to ten years into the recovery process though some may reach it as early as two years. Once there, we need to look at other inventories. One of these is to list the “perishable” items in our life. Where are we being wasteful by having excess capacity, something that typically manifests as “clutter”? Where do we not pay sufficient attention to the opportunities that face us, having the window of opportunity close and vanish. These questions, questions of a “searching and fearless moral inventory of the perishable” in our lives can prove helpful if we are willing to make the effort.

Worth noting is that the traditional columnar model of such an inventory may not be sufficient. Diagrams of repeating patterns or network diagrams of important projects in our lives may shine lift on topics that are otherwise in a muddle.

Sometimes the most important questions to ask are not questions of “what should I add” or “what should I remove.” Sometimes the best questions to ask are ones that look at the sequences of the patterns of our lives, as we repeat our cycles day in and day out, week in and week out. As the seasons and years unfold, at certain critical junctures we can see a brief lived opportunity to “jump ship” and take on a new voyage that brings us to previously unexplored shores.

Have you asked yourself these questions? “Where do I have excess inventory that manifests as clutter?” “Do I have clarity on my finances and what I am buying or saving?” “Am I in the job or business that permits me to work at my highest good to myself and to others?” Pursuit of these questions, possibly on a daily or weekly basis, may shine the light on areas where change can help you along your path of growth and self-discovery.

An open letter – Week 35 as a PhD student

Learning to write

Dear Weblogger X,

I had a visit from my parents yesterday. Whenever my parents are in town we go out for dinner, yesterday was no exception, and I booked our favourite restaurant. They asked me all the usual questions, but when they asked: ‘how is it all going?’ And I replied with ‘ Well, it is just work now. I am fully adapted to my situation’. They did not bat an eyelid, and there it was, everyone in my life is now blasé about me doing a PhD. It is now the new normal; where do you go from here?

The older I get, the more I believe that ignorance is bliss. If the idea never came into my head that I should do something that is helpful society, I may be much happier with a happy go lucky attitude to life. I could drift through without doing anything challenging…

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The gifts are only ours for a short time.

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Personally, when I take what the Muse gives me and I shape it as best I can for other people, it seems that she gives me more and more…

I suspect that it’s because that what I was originally given was never really mine, and giving it away is the best way to ensure that I’ll keep receiving.

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Touching the Moment at Hand

We all have an inventory of time, and, as is true with any inventory, it is finite. We can laugh or cry, focus or daydream, or whatever else is within our given capacities of the moment given the situation we are in.

Oddly, these moments can touch the infinite, other moments gone and those which are yet to come. With each decision of the moment, we craft the past and set the stage for the future. The Romans said “carpe diem.” Twelve steppers call it “one day at a time.” Many have seen it, experienced it, and named it. Indeed, if we so desired, we could compile an inventory of the names for seizing the moment of time that is at hand.

Ilya Prigogine won a Nobel Prize in 1979 for his ideas about closed systems, “self-organizing systems” exporting entropy to the surrounding environment. A self-organizing system, whether an individual human being, city, highway system, ecosystem, or puppy dog, creates order within their boundaries and exports entropy, disorder in a sense, to their surroundings. This has practical applications for landfills and recycling and controversial topics such as “climate change.” For Prigogine, time was a unidirectional function of self-organizing systems exporting entropy from within their boundaries. Without an observer, time cannot exist. And any given observer, inherently, must be a self-organizing system that can create order within.

Gregory Bateson spoke to questions of order and disorder and how people, both individuals and tribes, organize that which surrounds him. His work pre-dated Prigogine. But, in “Steps to an Ecology of Mind,” he addressed this question in his first “meta-logue,” a presumably fictitious dialog between himself and his daughter. Given any particular group of items that can be organizing, a large number of ways of organizing them exist. The process of organizing requires time, and in the as the process of organizing continues over time, disorder is exported, at least in the form of body heat but often in terms of discarded items or “clutter” that is no longer needed.

But the key takeaway of Bateson’s meta-logue, “Why Does Everything End in a Muddle,” is this: we all believe that our particular way of organizing something is the “right way.”

Time Sponges, Monkey Traps and Open Loops

Sometimes we wake up to the idea that continued attention or activity to certain people, places, or things do not represent good choices for us. “Solutions” can become “problems.”

Growth and development makes the need to drop certain people, places, or things from our inventory a universal necessity. The toys of toddlers do not fit teenagers, nor are the teenagers ready for the cane or walker yet. People add and delete. This is true for any person, place, or thing that takes much but gives little back. The expense, a “carrying cost,” becomes too much to bear. Release becomes advisable, then necessary, and then unavoidable.

Stretch out your hand to help, but keep in mind from the beginning that all human beings have finite capacities. At some point, the time comes to pass them on, maybe to someone better equipped.

Failure to do that can transform the person, place, or thing into a “time sponge.”

Time sponges do not have very good “ROI.” (“Return on Investment” see, also: They will take and take, sucking us dry of every resource they can attach. Whining about them being a “narcissist” or a similar complaint is worse than useless. Former friends flee from our whining as they recognize our ear pollution for what it is: time sponges sucking the life out of them. The answer is simple: cut the cord.

Time sponges are almost always subsets of “monkey traps.” (See, also: As we “invest” more time in them, we chase a “sunk cost” that can never be recovered. Our loss aversion leads us to clench ever tighter, losing more as the costs of holding on mount.

In a broader sense, time sponges (and other monkey traps) are “open loops.” (Less formally and more applicable: ; more formal: ). Feedback is absent. A good sponsor can help, if we are willing to listen. Sometimes a second opinion, a “fresh set of eyes,” can help.

Twelve Step programs themselves are open loops, and they can be time sponges. Even the most casual observer will agree that a beginner who is in every possible meeting is doing the right thing. By a year later, most of us are finding jobs, making amends, and begining to build a life. Two, three, four, five years and beyond, we should begin to look “normal” to most people, if that is possible given our personal circumstances. Some people may have no choice but to make four or five or more meetings a day for the remainder of their lives. But, eventually, most of us should “test our wings” and leave the nest, at least a bit. We begin to fit into what has been called “our place in society.”

The problem with most in a program of recovery who have only a year, and sometimes two, is they fly too far, too fast, and too high. That is common. But that is not the problem we are discussing here.

For the diligent and persistent, after some period deep into recovery, years into the process and after multiple inventories, many reach a point of diminishing returns and should consider a different approach: begin to focus more attention elsewhere (maybe a different fellowship that drills into certain targeted issues, or some other program, but still elsewhere). Repeating the same behaviors expecting the different results (expecting continued or increasing benefits in the face of diminishing returns) is notoriously unwise.

Note that “quitting” a program can also be unwise at this point. That is not our point. That is not our recommendation. What works is focusing efforts on resolving certain well-defined key issues, such as becoming debt free and employed continuously. By employment, we include the small business, and “continuous” may not apply to fields such as acting or music.

In a single sentence: identify the time sponges in your life and drop them.

Again, some will mis-read this passage. Drinking is not safe for alcoholics; using is not safe for addicts. Meetings are essential for almost all. But stagnation is just as dangerous. Abstinence and meetings should provide a foundation for further growth rather than a final destination.