July 14, 2008


Before recovery there was only one way to do things - my way. I was convinced I had the answers, knew the way, and thought that life would be easy, and that I would be happy, if I just got my way. After years of bullying my way through my affairs and manipulating others to get what I wanted, I was finally brought to my knees and admitted defeat.

When I began working my program, I was told it was the easier, softer way, but it sure didn't feel like it at first. There were steps, and commitments, and honest inventories, and lots of feelings, and new ways of acting and interacting with others. In the beginning I rebelled mightily against this new way of life and often longed to - and sometimes did - revert back to old ways of thinking and acting. And each time I did, my life became unmanageable once again.

As I persevered and worked my steps, something miraculous happened - I changed. And as I changed, this new way of life actually began working for me, and after a while the steps and the principles of the program became the life manual I had always wanted and had been unsuccessfully trying to write for myself. 

One day I realized that I had found the easier, softer way, and now I had the directions I always had longed for.

July 7, 2008


Whenever I hear this quote in a meeting, it brings the house down with a chorus of identifying laughter. We certainly know how to go to any lengths when it comes to relationships, a new hobby or project, going to the gym, avoiding the gym, even work or our careers sometimes, but when it comes to something that may restore us to sanity - we wouldn't want to rush into anything... 

And boy can this get us into trouble. Just this week I worked myself into a frenzy with my business, and then I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to complete all the parts of the second volume of these quotes until I reached a breaking point, making myself and all those around me crazy. Completely spun out, I went to my Friday night meeting, and a friend suggested I might be into self-will. And that's when I surrendered.

I'm so grateful to have other people in my life who understand the obsessiveness of this disease and can remind me to let go and let God. While I may not obsessively pursue recovery (and I'm not sure that would be such a good idea anyway), whenever I do work my program, it works on me by restoring balance, perspective and sanity to my life. 

Working my steps may be the only thing I do in moderation, but thank God I do it consistently enough to keep me sober and to keep me coming back.

June 30, 2008


Note: I want to thank my new friends, Jeff and Bill in Big Bear Lake for inviting me to their meeting and for this quote!

When I was in school we would spend weeks and sometimes even whole semesters preparing to take tests. We'd study lesson plans, read books, watch videos, all in preparation for midterms and finals. And how I did on the tests all depended on how well I studied the lessons. 

In life it's quite a different story. In life, we get the test first and then it's up to us to learn the lesson. And while this may be tough, what's worse is that if we don't learn the lesson, we get another test - then another and another until we learn the lesson.

One of the things I love about recovery is that I've been taught to look for and learn the lesson. When I get a test, I immediately look for my part, examine my motives and look for how I can either make amends, and or act better the next time. This is called a daily 10th Step inventory, and it insures that I learn the lesson quickly.

Life may be tough, and the test may still come first, but now I know how to learn the lesson and avoid taking the test again!

June 23, 2008


Before recovery, I had the God thing all mixed up. My conception of God was that if I was good and behaved myself, then good things would happen for me. When I prayed, I prayed for the things I wanted, and then I waited for God to deliver. Towards the end of my using, I was usually praying to get out of one mess or another, and then promising to be better the next time. It rarely worked. 

When I first heard this saying, I was several years in the program and I already understood the power of action. I knew from years of sober experience that I couldn't just pray to have my life get better, but rather I had to add action and right thought to my prayers. The old saying, "When you pray, move your feet" took on a whole new meaning for me, and I became much more efficient and my life starting getting better. 

As the years go by and I live even more in the 11th step, I have discovered the deeper wisdom in this quote. Today I now understand and embrace God's will for me which is to be of maximum service to others. In this way, God can do for me what I could never do alone - and that is to heal and enrich both my life and yours. 

Today I truly know that God cannot do for you what he cannot do through you.

June 16, 2008


Before recovery, I lived in the problem. If things weren't going right, or if something went wrong, that's all I thought about. I'd dwell on it, talk to my friends about it, and think about all the ways it could get worse. It was as if I was addicted to the dark outcomes of my problems, and soon I couldn't see - and didn't even want - a way out.
 Once I began working my steps, though, I became aware of my negative thinking and I learned the way out. My therapist taught me that I couldn't solve my problems using the same mind that created them. She told me that I had to source deeper and turn to my Higher Power. And sure enough, as soon as I stopped thinking about the problem and started thinking about God, the solutions began to appear. 
Today I live in the solution much more than in the problem. Even though I can occasionally still go to the dark side, my program, my sponsor, and my friends in the fellowship are all focused on finding solutions and are quick to help me find the answers I need. I'm also quick to rely on my Higher Power, asking many times each day for inspiration and new perspectives.

Today I know the answer is not in the problem, the answer is in the solution.

June 9, 2008


I've always heard that alcoholism is a disease of perception. For example, when I first got sober I kept hearing that it was a disease, but I never really saw it that way. Once I started to work my program and learned more about it though, I began to look at it differently, and sure enough it changed! I now see it as the disease it is. 

As I continued to work my steps and recovery, I began changing the way I looked at a lot of things and they, too, began to change. For example, my past used to be a source of shame and regret, but when I looked at it as a source of experience, strength and hope that I could use to help another, my feelings about it changed as well. Looking at it this way, I gained a new appreciation for it and my very past seemed to change as well.

 Today I know that every situation in life is open to interpretation depending on how I choose to look at it. To help me gain perspective, I sometimes pretend I'm part of a debating club and have been assigned the task of building a case for the opposite point of view. Forcing myself to look at something differently changes my opinion and, seemingly, the thing itself.

It always comes back to how I look at things. Once I change that, everything else changes as well.

June 2, 2008


Before recovery in Al-Anon, I always thought I knew what was best for everyone. I spent a lot of time working behind the scenes trying to control and manipulate situations and people, sure that if only I could get you to do what was right, then I could help you avoid getting hurt and both your life and mine would be better.

After years of this exhausting strategy, I dragged myself into the program and admitted defeat. Not only were you not taking my advice, but I was growing even more miserable than I was making you. When I asked my sponsor what was wrong with trying to protect those I loved, he told me that denying people the dignity of learning and growing from their own experience never helped anyone, and that all I was really doing was interfering in the experience God wanted them to have. 

It took me many years to understand the truth and wisdom in these words. Today though, I know that we each have our own path and our own Higher Power, and I realize that my job is to try to improve my own life, to set a healthy example, and to love you unconditionally.

Today I've learned that all experiences are teachers and that it's up to each of us to learn our own lessons.

May 26, 2008


Before recovery, anxiety was the master of my life. Without a relationship with God, I faced life alone and was in constant fear of not getting my needs met or of losing something I had so desperately fought to get. The past was a constant source of regret and shame, and the future was filled with countless unknown dangers that would surely overwhelm me. All this made the present intolerable. 

When I entered recovery, I brought my constant obsession with the past and future into the rooms with me. My sponsor taught me about living one day at a time, and he showed me that was where I would find God - today, right here, right now. He told me that if I could get present and so be in the presence of God, my anxiety would go away.

 This was simple advice, but not so easy to do. The more I worked at practicing it, though, the more I found it to be true. Over the years I've found that the more I use the tools of the program - prayer and meditation, pausing and asking for God's guidance, and acknowledging in the moment that God is here - the more I find myself in the peace and serenity of God's

Today I use the degree of my anxiety to measure my distance from God.

May 19, 2008


I'm a three meeting minimum a week kind of guy. Anything below that and I begin feeling, well, kind of vulnerable. Oh, not that I'm going to pick up and use, but vulnerable to what my head tells me, and vulnerable to feeling more irritable, restless and discontented. I'm quicker to judge, and I begin storing resentments. 

After a few weeks of that, it begins to get harder to make even two meetings a week. Soon I'm not answering my phone very much and calling my sponsor doesn't even occur to me. Work pressures mount, and on the way home you're not driving fast enough, and the parking lot is full, and Blockbuster doesn't have the movie I want. Suddenly the world is out of whack, and the idea of a drink seems not only natural, but completely reasonable as well.

I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people who relapse tell a story similar to the one above. It always scares the heck out of me because there have been times when I've begun to go down that same path. Thank God for my commitments, a strong support group, regular meetings I look forward to, and sponsees who continue to call me. 

Today I have four meetings a week I go to - whether I need them or not - because I want to keep the distance between me a relapse as far apart as possible.

May 12, 2008


I can clearly remember what I felt like before recovery. I was anxious, on edge, so uncomfortable with my life that I wanted and needed to escape. I can also remember the immediate sense of ease and comfort that came from the first hit of my drugs or alcohol. Suddenly, everything was OK, and the future actually had some hope in it.

This was my solution for a long time, and when it stopped working, I was truly at a jumping off point. In the beginning of my recovery, meetings and fellowship offered me temporary relief from the near constant dread and anxiety I felt. The problem was how to get by in between meetings, and I'll tell you, it was rough going for quite a while.

And that's when I heard someone share that "we go to meetings for relief, but we work the steps for recovery." As I worked my program, I found this to be true. The relief and sense of ease and comfort I used to get through using now began to be part of my everyday experience. After a while, I actually had peace and serenity and most of the time felt comfortable in my own skin.

One day I realized that the program had done for me slowly what drugs and alcohol had done for me quickly.

May 5, 2008


It's easy to let go of things that are causing more pain than pleasure. Like when my drinking and using was killing me, I stopped, and even though it was hard at first, I found that being sober really was the easier, softer way. But I still had a lot of old ideas and behaviors that still worked sometimes, and letting these go was not so easy.

As I sat in meeting after meeting, I would hear that "the result was nil until we let go absolutely", and I never really got it. I mean, I was certainly getting results - I was clean and sober; I got my job back, and I began repairing broken relationships. But there were also times when I was intensely unhappy, irritable, and needed and wanted a drink. It took a long while for me to see that these feelings almost always followed old ways of thinking and behaving.

The longer I'm in recovery, the more I understand the value of steps six and seven. My old behaviors will continue just so long as I remain unwilling to give up the character defects that cause them. But when I do become willing, something wonderful happens - my Higher Power does for me what I can't do for myself - and that is relieve me of my old ways of thinking and acting.

Today I understand when they say, "It's not an old behavior if you're still doing it."

April 28, 2008


Tolerant was one of the last words you would have used to describe me before I entered the program. Instead, I was quick to judge you and could always find fault with what you said, or how you dressed, or what you did. My opinion of myself was so low that I constantly had to rip you down to build myself up. Living this way made me bitter, isolated and resentful.

As I listed my resentments in my fourth step, and more importantly my part, I began to see how much my fear and low self-esteem drove my decisions and actions, hurting both myself and others. But as I listened to others sharing honestly and openly about their struggles and fears, I began to feel a connection, and for the first time an empathy for others.

I once read a description of empathy as being an emotional echo that is sent out to the inner center of another person and that returns with pieces of yourself. And once I began finding pieces of myself in other people's stories, I began to look for the shared humanity in our experiences. And that's when I began to develop tolerance and compassion for others as well as for myself.

Today I understand that without tolerance for another, it's hard to have empathy for myself.

April 21, 2008


Boy this quote gave me a jolt when I first heard it. For years I'd been so wrapped up in the drama of my life, I never stopped to look at what I could have learned from it. Events seemed to descend on me, each like the one before it, but because I wasn't learning the lessons, I didn't know I was destined to keep repeating the experiences.

When I was new in recovery, I used to complain to my sponsor all the time. "And then this happened to me, and she didn't do this, and they told me this..." and on and on. He would listen very patiently then ask, "And what is your part again?" After I'd figure out where I was at fault, I'd find the solution - and that always led to the lesson.

Today I don't have to keep reliving experiences, and I don't have to drag the past into the future either. Because of the 10th Step, each night I can review the experiences of the day, look at my part, and discover and grow from the lesson. It's always there if I'm willing to be honest.

Today, I've learned to keep the lesson but throw away the experience.

April 14, 2008


The last few years of my drinking and using sure were ugly. It had stopped working long before I got sober, but I had failed to realize it. Instead, I obsessively pursued oblivion, and all those things I said I would never do passed by as quickly as do the stories of a building to a man who has just jumped off. Hurtling toward real oblivion, I had lost all self respect, self control, and was about to lose my life.

As I sat in meeting during early recovery, I used to hear people talk about hanging out with their "lower companions." This brought to mind all the 'nowhere' people I had taken to hanging around with, too, and I was disgusted that I had stooped so low. I'll never forget the shock I felt when my sponsor pointed out that I had been their lower companion as well. Boy did that put me in my place.

When I look back on my past, a wave of deep gratitude washes over me. I don't know why I get to be one of the lucky ones, but I do. As I look at my life today, I smile because most people think I'm a pretty OK kind of a guy. And today, not only do I have standards again, but they keep getting higher.

How's that for a true gift of recovery?

April 7, 2008


I can't tell you how much time I've spent trying to figure out who or what God is. I've spent years trying to understand the Catholic God I was raised with, and more years trying to define God from a philosophical perspective, then years denying the whole idea of God by becoming an agnostic and even a part time atheist. It seemed the more I tried to understand God, the further away from Him I got.

Even in early recovery I tried to figure God out - this time through the 'open assignment' of defining a God of my own understanding. You can imagine how that went. I thought about, analyzed and tried once again to understand who or what God was. After a while I grew just as despondent and felt just as far away as before. And that's when I finally surrendered.

Once I gave up trying to understand God and instead looked at the evidence of God's presence in my life, I began to develop a knowing that went beyond understanding. Suddenly I just knew that a force was working miracles in my life, that it was always available to me, and that it would never let me down.

This knowing is what I now call faith, and now I understand why trying to figure God out just makes His job harder...

March 31, 2008


When I first heard this saying I instantly thought of all the nights I used to lay in bed worrying, rehashing, or trying to solve all my problems. In fact, before early recovery it was actually easier to sleep because I would use drugs or alcohol or even enmeshment with other people to help distract me. But when I entered the program, it seemed like it was just me and my problems - I didn't get a lot of sleep!

It took a long time for me to develop enough faith to turn my will and my life (and problems) over to my Higher Power. The idea of it sounded good, but it proved very difficult to do in practice. Oh I could turn it over in my morning meditation, but by noon I had usually taken it all back. And by night? Whew! It was just me and my problems again!

As I progressed in my recovery, I learned that the definition of faith is believing what you cannot see, and the reward of faith is seeing what you believe. Through faith and a developing practice of turning situations, people and problems over to God, I've been rewarded with a life that is, for the most part, happy, joyous and free.

And now when I go to sleep, I give all my problems to God because my faith tells me he'll be up all night anyway!

March 25, 2008


This is still hard for me to accept. My ego tells me that my plans and ideas about how things should go, and how you should act, are 99% right, and that if everybody would just fall in line, then everything would be great and I'd be happy. But how many times has my self will twisted or bullied things into place and got me what I thought I wanted, when I'd eventually realize it wasn't what I wanted? Most of the time is the short answer.

There's an old gypsy curse that goes, "May you get everything you want." Once again, my ego hears that and says, "That doesn't sound like a curse!" but my experience understands the wisdom in it. And one of the gifts I've received in recovery is the willingness to pray for the knowledge of God's will (not mine) and the power to carry that out.

And that's when the miracle truly happens for me and countless others. You see, the wants and needs of my ego are limited and short sighted. But God's will is vast and includes infinite possibilities for happiness and fulfillment. By developing the faith to truly seek God's will, I've been able to let go of controlling others, to show up and look for ways to be of service, and to let go of expectations.

And doing this has enabled me to see that, "Things aren't necessarily going wrong just because they're not going my way."

March 17, 2008


I was reminded of how true this is just yesterday. I have been really sick this past week - I mean in bed sick. As such, I haven't been to a meeting all week which is unheard of for me as 3 meetings a week is my usual minimum, while 4-5 is more common. So there I was at my local Rite-Aid staring down the cough syrups when all of the sudden I saw one that said "Alcohol-free". So that's the one I automatically choose, right? Not at all!

You see, because I hadn't been to a meeting in a week, my key alcoholic mind was thinking again. And without my conscious permission, it was arguing with me as to why the non-alcoholic version obviously couldn't be as good as the one with alcohol. In a flash it had me convinced that it must be the watered down version, probably didn't have as much of the active ingredient in it, and without the alcohol I wouldn't even get the rest I so desperately needed to get better. I was sold...

As my hand reached down to get the 'right cough syrup', a tiny, far away 12-year sober voice whispered, "That might not be such a good idea." I almost didn't hear it, but its truth was powerful. I snapped out of it and in a moment of clarity, grabbed the 'Alcohol-free' one and quickly got out of there. Now I'm pretty sure that if I had been to my regular meetings that week, the choice would have been clear.

It just goes to show that if you don't want a (Major!) headache, then keep taking your aspirin regularly.

March 10, 2008


Before the program, I wouldn't even let God on the plane. I was the pilot and co-pilot of my life and, fueled by self-will and self seeking, I took off and flew through the lives of others like a tornado. My thoughts were all about what I could get, take, or how I could control you to get what I wanted. What seemed strange to me at the time was the harder I tried, the less I got what I needed or wanted.

When I started working my program, the idea of putting God in charge of my life seemed downright irresponsible. Fueled by a hundred forms of self-centered fear, I couldn't fathom giving up control of my life. I was still under the delusion that I controlled not only my thoughts and actions, but the results as well. For me, faith was slow in coming. The key was willingness, and the more I turned over, the better my life got.

Today, one of the biggest gifts I have been given is a life of true freedom as the result of turning my will and life over to the care of my Higher Power. Through proven experience, time and time again, my life and the lives of those around me always flow more smoothly and turn out better when God is the pilot. Plus, it's easier being the co-pilot, I'll tell you. My job now is just to suit up and show up and let God take care of the rest. And He always does.

These days, when my life is getting a little turbulent, I look to see if God is my co-pilot, and if he is, I change seats!

March 3, 2008


Accepting that I was powerless over people, places and things was a concept I rebelled against on almost every level in the beginning. Before recovery, I labored under the belief that I could not only control others (especially those I loved and cared for), but that it was my duty to do so. Despite the fact that it rarely worked, I stubbornly persisted, frustrating myself and irritating and alienating those I was trying to control - er, I mean help.

When I entered Al-Anon, I was told that the reason I had been unable to influence, help or control another was because I was in fact powerless over other people, places and things. "If that's true, then there is absolutely no hope for this situation!" I thought. Accepting this was contrary to everything I believed and meant complete defeat and sure ruin. What was I to do?

By working my program, I soon learned that surrendering to this powerlessness was actually the gateway to a new freedom. Once the untenable burden of controlling or fixing others was lifted, I was suddenly free to invest my energy where I did have some power and influence - over my own life. And that's when I realized I was no longer helpless to really fix my life and situation.

Today I understand and truly appreciate that I may be powerless, but I'm not helpless.

February 27, 2008

Mark Your Calendar: Radio Interview March 7, 2008

Though many of the concepts in The Wisdom of the Rooms are universal, and thus accessible to other truth-seekers besides 12 Step adherents, Michael Z has chosen to openly discuss the book and its significance with 12-Step and recovery-based internet radio station Take12Radio.com.  The station, owned and managed by Montgomery Dale Meyer (aka Monty Man), maintains a format of recovery talk and positive music, and will be speaking with Michael Z for Take12Radio.com.  The interview will be available for listening on Friday, March 7, 2008.  Tune in and get a dose of Wisdom!

February 26, 2008


I came into the program with so much fear. I didn't even know how much fear dominated my life because I used drugs, alcohol, food, sex, people, anything I could to hide from it. As I began to get clean and sober, the fear bubbled up to the surface of my life and quickly manifested itself as anger, rage, irritability, discomfort and depression. I was not a happy camper in early recovery.

What amazed me about the people who would share in meetings was how they were able to walk through real life stuff that I knew would devastate me if I was faced with it. Deaths of those near to them, losing jobs, houses, spouses, illnesses, suffering, pain, etc. "How do they deal with all this and stay sober?" I wondered. "Where do they get the strength to face all this with peace, dignity and courage?"

Today I know this courage comes from God. Today my fear has been replaced with faith in my Higher Power and I now know - from watching others and from my own experience of letting God lead me through my own difficulties - that I, too, can face life on life's terms and go through it all with peace, dignity and courage.

Today I know the truth in the saying, "If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it."

February 22, 2008


When I came into the program, I had a lot of problems and most of them were your fault. My girlfriend didn't understand me; my boss didn't appreciate me; the police didn't like it when I drove after just a few drinks (I was fine!), and on and on. If everyone would just get off my back, then I’d be fine I thought.

When I began working my program, I was introduced to the 4th Step - made a searching and fearless moral inventory - and my sponsor showed me how to make a list of all the persons and institutions I resented. Finally I could put down on paper and document how I had been wronged. Perfect! I thought. But then he slipped in a fourth column called, "My Part", and told me to document my role in all my resentments and interactions.

Now that was a tough pill to swallow. With his help though, and a willingness to be fearless and thorough, I was able to see that I did have a part in them all. And what a gift that turned out to be! I discovered that if it was all your fault - and I certainly couldn't control or change you - then I would forever be a victim and nothing would change. But if I took responsibility for my part - which was something I could control and change - then I was released from the bondage of resentment and was finally free to live a new and better life. Thank God!

Today I understand the wisdom in the quote: "If I'm not the problem, then there is no solution."

February 20, 2008

Podcasts Now Available!

You can hear the first two episodes and subscribe here: 


 Please tell others you know who might enjoy it, and sign up!

February 12, 2008

Press Release: Betty Ford Center

World-famous drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, noted for being the "rehab to the stars" now carries "The Wisdom of the Rooms" in its book store.

First Book Signing!

Hello everyone.  First, I want to thank you all for your kind reviews and emails about how much you like my book, and about how much you enjoy getting your Weekly Wisdom Quotes.  In fact, I'm posting one today, Saturday, that is coming out next Monday - so you'll get a first reading of it!

Also, I wanted to let you know of some exciting news in regards to The Wisdom of the Rooms.  First, I'm having my first Book Signing on March 29th, Saturday from 2pm to 5pm, at a store called My 12 Step Store in West Hollywood. (visit:www.my12stepstore.com) for information on the store, address, etc.  You can also buy the book here:   The Wisdom of the Rooms 

I'll be reading from the book, answering questions, and signing copies.  Be sure to attend if you can.  Also, My 12 Step Store is a wonderful resource for books, cards, medallions, clothes, and all sorts of things - and they also have copies of my book right now! - so do stop by.  You'll really enjoy it...

Coming Soon: Wisdom of the Rooms Podcasts!

Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for Wisdom of the Rooms podcasts, enabling you to hear The Wisdom from the author, Michael Z, himself. Stay tuned!

February 4, 2008

"If I keep doing what I was doing, I'll keep getting what I was getting."

I remember when I was new to recovery I was very willing to follow suggestions. I went to 90 in 90, and I got a home group, and I got 4 commitments, and I got a sponsor and worked the steps, etc. I did a lot and I got a lot - my life got better, I felt better, situations improved and I began to recover. Even the promises began to come true.

Now that I'm deep in recovery, I find that I'm not as active as I used to be. I still go to meetings and I have commitments, but I find I'm not doing all the things I used to do. And I've also found that I'm not getting out of the program what I used to get. When I heard this quote I immediately made the connection.

When I spoke with my sponsor about this, he reminded me that I didn't need to go out to restart my program. There are always new comers who need sponsors, meetings that need help, and I could always add a meeting or two. And the good news is that as soon as I start doing what I did, I'll start getting what I got. So if you're not feeling it these days, just think back to what you did and start doing it again.