Saturday, February 2, 2013

He was the same at home as in public --To Kill a Mockingbird

We often hear in meetings that our insides need to match our outsides.  That can be a bit confusing, especially having lived a life in addiction that was based on deception, secrecy and hiding.  In addiction, our outsides may have been a reflection of what we thought others expected of us.  Our outsides were a ruse and a suit of armor.  Inside was shame, isolation, pain, sadness, chaos, fantasy.  We were convinced that if anyone even suspected what we felt and experienced inside, we would be rejected absolutely.  As our disease progressed, we found chinks in our armor -- we may have been found out in a way that brought everything to a complete standstill. 

As we found our way to meetings and recovery, we found the courage to address our addiction and accept our insides.  If we can find that courage and acceptance on a daily basis, we develop an equilibrium, what we think and feel dictates how we act, how we act reflects what we think and feel.  Transparency.  Serenity. 

 I can travel the road of integrity, my program is my map.


You're not bad, you're just in pain --Scent of a Woman.  

How many times have we concluded that we are bad?  We tell ourselves that we are, at the core, unworthy, bad, even evil.  It can be harrowing, the lengths to which we go to berate ourselves.  And of course we lead ourselves down a path to a self-fulfilling prophesy of indulging in our addictions and endless shame.  But we aren't evil, or bad, or unworthy of sobriety.  We are in pain, often in such pain that we lean on our addiction to get some kind of relief. 

But in recovery, we learn to lean on our Twelve Step program, our peers who walk the same path we do, and our higher power.  We lift our heads out of the fog of addiction long enough to realize, we are not bad, though we may have engaged in bad actions.  And we begin to live lives that include pain, but also joy, and perhaps importantly, truth. 

I am not a bad person, even if I imagine that I am. 


Just had to keep getting up in the morning, who knows what the tide will bring --Castaway

There's more to recovery than trying to stay optimistic.  We've often mistaken our addictions as bad habits or depression or just a bad attitude.  Can't we just get with it, be more positive?  Is it that tough to clean up our acts?  To stay sober?  Next thing you know our efforts to help ourselves turn into anger directed at ourselves or even resentments of others and how they must have it easier. 

But remember the steps?  There's the answer.  Do I believe that my higher power has something in store for me?  Do I believe that my higher power is in charge?  Can I let go of my expectations and realize that God has a plant for me.  It's not easy, but we've seen God come through for ourselves and others many times.  If I can say "it could have been worse," then I know God was with me during my struggles.  And if I can stay alive, can stay sober long enough, God will bring to me exactly what I need -- probably something I could never have dreamed up for myself. 

 God is looking out for me, even if I'm convinced he's not.  All God asks of me is to be patient.


What we do in life echoes in eternity --Gladiator

In our addiction, we were convinced that nothing mattered.  Abstaining from our addictions was irrelevant either because we thought we could hide our actions or we cared so little about ourselves that indulging in our addiction couldn't make us much worse.  If anything, indulging seemed to help, if just for a little while, even a few seconds.  Then something changed, the dynamic was turned on its head.  Maybe our secrets were exposed, our hiding and lies were called out and we learned, often painfully that our actions do matter, our addictions harmed others.  Or maybe we found our addiction no longer worked, we couldn't even get our few seconds of oblivion before the shame and pain and secrets compounded again. 

In recovery, what we do in life matters, how we treat ourselves matters, how we treat others matters, whether we show up at meetings matters, standing up one single folding chair in a dingy basement meeting matters, even if it's the chair we will sit on.  And with more and more sobriety we learn that our lives will matter to others, even after we are gone. 

My life matters to me, to my loved ones, to new comers, to old timers; my life matters to people I haven't even met yet.


Your excuses are your own.  Glengarry Glen Ross

The truth is universal, our lies are our own burdens.  Part of being an addict is taking the extraordinary effort required to make room for our addictions.  This requires altering reality, it requires lying to ourselves.  I never get a fair shake.  I am entitled to reward myself.  No one has suffered the way I have.  Our excuses keep us isolated from the truth, and from the people around us.  And in that isolation, there's no one around to call us out on our excuses. 

In recovery, we let go of the false cover of our excuses and live in truth and reality.  We join in the fellowship of sober truth tellers, we let go of the patchwork of excuses that enabled our addictive behavior.  We dismantle the structure of lies that was our life.  And we create a new life that we can accept and share with all, because it is real. 

 I am a unique person, though my disease is not unique.


Can you stay clean for one week?  Can you? --Less Than Zero

We may feel like non-addicts just don't get it.  And maybe they don't.  The program tells us it's a day at a time, we listen, or face peril.  And still friends and relatives may not get it.  A non-addict friend once said, "You don't want to get high, you just think you want to."  That's right.  He's right.  But that fact doesn't lessen the problem for an addict.  The problem we face as addicts is that what we think affects what we want and do and say.  And what we think is often destructive and isolating and damaging. 

And then there's the program, a room full of addicts or alcoholics or compulsive eaters who understand exactly the conflict between what we want and want we think.  Our stories are the same even when they are different.  And as we walk the path of recovery, everyone has a gift for us.  Our program is always there when we need it, along with our friends trudging the happy road of destiny with us, we can turn to them, to help us stay sober, one day at a time. 

 My brothers and sisters in recovery are at my side, even before I turn to embrace them.


Get busy living, get busy or dying --Shawshank Redemption

When you strip away the obsession, the compulsion, the high, the remorse, the cycle of shame, you can see the truth.  Addiction is a suicide.  A decision we make to put ourselves in peril.  A decision to not come to our own aid.  A decision to abandon ourselves, to be passive, to accept our death at whatever pace.  We may protest, it's not quite that dire, our addiction is not as bad as others'.  But as addicts, we know that we are given only two options, embrace recovery, or embrace addiction.  We do not have the luxury of coasting through life.  We have no talent for ambiguity.  That's because our diseases are deadly.  Once more binge could kill us, one more bottle, one more dose, one more purge, one more hit, one more high, one more indulgence could be our last.  The blessing of addiction is that the solution leaves us in a better place. 

 I am willing to embrace recovery, and as I do, I embrace life.


You've been down that road before Neo, you know where it leads -- The Matrix

Somehow we always tend to return to our addiction.  It always meets our expectations.  It always gets us high, although over time we need more and more.  But the cycle is also reliable.  The obsession, the regret, the consequences, the danger, the shame, the isolation, the fear, the return to what has hurt us over and over and over again.  Addiction is a different path.  Less predictable.  But ironically more safe. 

Recovery does not come with the predictability of obsession and compulsion.  Recovery may not always feel safe.  Recovery is usually a harder road for us to travel.  But it is a path laid down by our higher power, and God's ways are not predictable ways.  We may feel fear in the unknown, but we can find serenity when we leave behind the old road of pain and self-destruction. 

 I may not know where today will take me, but I can trust the path of recovery.


I just have to ignore my mind -- Beautiful Mind

Addiction is a thinking disease.  Addiction is a brain disease.  Our best thinking brought us to our knees.  The more we indulged, the more indulging seemed like a good idea.  The more shame we felt, the more we thought we needed to escape.  Not matter what the problem, the answer we always thought up was, go back to our addiction.  Our logic was always flawed, sometimes profoundly, amazingly, hilariously flawed.  But it was our thinking that was leading the way. 

Recovery is a process of dismantling that intricate facade of failed logic.  We come out of denial.  We face truth and reject deception.  We set aside the repeating chorus of flawed thinking that runs continuously in our minds and learn to be a bit more skeptical of our instincts, our brilliant first thoughts. 

 Although my first thought may be to rely on my addiction, I can make a program call and hear another point of view. 


The force is an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, binds us --Star Wars

Turning to God can sound like a crutch or a ploy.  A free pass from a magical force.  But all the literature is pretty clear, all the way back to the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous -- a higher power is at the very least an acknowledgement that there is something else in this world besides us.  We've heard all the versions, the ocean, a tree, a chair, our sponsor, the collective wisdom in the rooms.  Or maybe a traditional understanding of God from our religious lives.  The point is that there's something else out there besides our will, our addiction, our thoughts, our expectations, our fear, our character defects, our isolation.  The more recovery we experience, the more serenity in our lives, we may find our higher power showing up in more and more ways.  Coincidences seem spiritual.  Luck feels more like God's way. 

 When I follow my higher power's path for me, the opportunities for humility abound.


Lois, I never lie.  --Superman

A life of addiction is a life of deception.  The lies quickly pile up and sometimes we even need a moment before we talk to someone to remember, what do they know, what version of myself have I concocted for this person.  We develop a full-fledged double life, one life of addiction and indulgence, another life of lies to hide the version of ourselves that we cannot bear to show.  Then, one day the lies collapse on themselves, we are discovered, we are found out, we let our deception surface.  The reality is that that is a lucky day for us.  It gives us the chance to come clean and start a new way of life.  A life rooted in reality and truth.  We can, if we choose, live the rest of our days without ever telling another lie, we can choose to correct and admit any lies we tell.  We can live a life without the constant burden of deception. 

When I live a life without lies, all I have to remember is the truth.


You complete me.  --Jerry Maguire

There's a story that we believe as addicts.  It goes something like:  I'm defective.  I'm unlovable.  I need something else to be okay.  Once I get this drink, or this food, or this money, or this hit, or this lover, I will be okay.  We feel like there is a hole inside of ourselves and our lives in addiction is a futile mission to fill the hole with as much of our drug as we can. 

Recovery teaches us that we are okay, as is, with all our faults.  Turns out that what's primarily wrong with us is our obsession with the thought that there's something wrong with us.  We learn to accept ourselves, as addicts, and as imperfect human beings.  We can fill that hole in ourselves with our program, our love for our supportive family and friends, our hopes for ourselves, our higher power.  Rather than feeling we need something from the outside to complete us, we learn to complete ourselves.  And as we do, we find more and more room to connect with others. 

 Today I accept myself as I truly am.


I want things to be prettier than they are.  --Days of Wine and Roses

There was a time when the high we got was enough.  Wasn't there?  The first time maybe.  We were content with a few drinks, or one night of excess in a week, or one bag of chips.  Then, quickly, before we were aware, or admitted to ourselves, we needed more.  We couldn't even imagine an amount that would be "enough".  One hour of obsession turned into a full weekend of obsession.  A few cigarettes turned into a pack, and then another.  We came to expect it, to demand it.  And that expectation began to affect how we saw our lives.  Not enough control, not enough money, not enough power, not enough perfection.  Until we learned that we weren't really in life, we weren't in the reality that most of the rest of the world was sharing in.  Our program taught us that what we receive is all we need.  That imperfection is the true mark of humanity.  That beauty is in the margin between what is within us and what is in a power greater than ourselves.  

 Today I will find the beauty in the things I say I don't like. 


We carve an idol out of fear, and call it God. --The Seventh Seal

We are scared.  We are afraid.  It is an ancient feeling for us as addicts, perhaps the first emotion we ever felt.  And when we were young, it was probably the right emotion.  And the surge of energy we feel in that fear was our first addiction.  We bonded with fear and it became our sole operating principle.  No matter the events in our lives, we were afraid, we clung to our fear.  Our false god, our idol.  The difficult truth is that we will continue to pray to that idol until we make a choice to do otherwise. 

But our higher power is there for us, was there for us even as we prayed to our fear and addiction instead.  Our higher power is large, it encompasses our fear and teaches us anger, and sadness, and joy, and compassion, and love. 

 God has been with me every step of the way, I can see that now in recovery.


Then you start to miss the pain, for the same reason that you miss her, because you lived with it for so long --Swingers

If we are honest about it, our addiction has not been an easy road.  A hangover every morning is exhausting.  Purging over a toilet bowl is not appealing.  Paying for sex is ultimately sorrowful.   The desperation of our need drains our souls.  And yet we clung to that path believing our survival depended on our drug.  And when we finally find the willingness to choose a different path, the road gets harder, not easier.  Withdrawal is real and it is painful, maybe even excruciating.  And still our fouled up logic tells us that we want to go back to addiction, we want to ease our pain. 

And the truth is that even in recovery, still turn to our drug.  Not because we think it's healthy or good for us or the next right move.  But because we thought, once, that it was the only friend we could rely on.  Although it may have seemed loyal to us for many, many years, we now know that true friends do not hurt us. 

 I make new friends in recovery, I am choosing to rely on my program instead of my addiction.


I must break you.  --Rocky V

Part of our addiction was our repeated attempts to break our addiction.  Really, it was a trap of our addiction -- filling us with the belief that we had to prevail, we had to overcome, we could fight a solitary battle and win, not just reward of recovery, but the accolades of a victor.  In recovery, the first step, the very first thing we must do, every day, is to surrender that fight.  In a one-on-one battle against our addiction, we will lose every time.  Given the odds objectively, even we would bet against ourselves.  And yet we still want to fight that battle.  And that is what it means to be an addict. 

Our program shows us how to forgo the fight, how to save our energy up for the effort to find willingness instead of wasting all our resources on a battle that is doomed.  We cannot lose a battle if we do not fight it.  

If I have the courage to surrender, I will win back my life.


It was the getting away with it part that I couldn't stand --Quiz Show

Many of us in addiction got away with our secrets, sometimes for years or even decades.  We developed a lattice work of lies, half truths, misdirection and it worked.  We presented ourselves as innocent, unremarkable.  Sometimes people closest to us did not suspect anything at all.  We had successfully manufactured a parallel life.  We may even have felt untouchable.  But then we were found out.  We got sloppy or arrogant or we wanted to get caught.  The carefully structured lattice work of lies was crushed by its own weight.  The secret was out. 

After the shame of discovery lessened (or for some of us, even before), a sense of relief set in.  Like an early glimpse at the serenity the program offers, we were finally able to stand upright, to stop the old lies and not create any new ones.  And we learned that in active addiction, the lies, the double life was as unbearable as the pain and insanity of our obsession and compulsion.  We discovered that there is no peace in deception. 

I choose truth and honesty today, because I have integrity.


Bravery comes after doing the thing you’re scared of.  --Three Kings

One of the reasons we couldn't let go of our addiction is that we were scared.  The fact is that addiction is how we coped with fear and uncertainty.  Instead of facing the pain and shame and anger in our lives scared us nearly to death.  The concept of letting go of our one coping mechanism for fear was unthinkable for us.  In addiction we knew two truths:  Fear is real and obsession and compulsion bring a measure of relief.  But the relief is short lived and comes with more consequences than we could ultimately handle. 

In recovery we learn to let go.  And almost instantly, fear returns.  And yet we now have tools to address our fears -- we pick up the phone, get support from someone in the program, we call our sponsor, we pray, we remember what we are grateful for.  With each day, the fear subsides a little.  It comes back and we bring out our tools again.  We dance on the shore of recovery with our fear, learning to let go of this partner.  We may find that only when the fear begins to fade do we recognize that we are brave. 

 Asking for help is evidence of my strength not my weakness.


Worship all you can see, and more will appear --Equus

Addiction is a progressive disease.  We may not have even noticed, but the key to our obsession and compulsion was more.  We learn the same if we relapse.   When we return to addiction after abstinence, we don't return to the beginning stages, we go straight to our most progressive stage, maybe we even go beyond it. 

Turns out recovery is progressive too.  At first it feels tenuous, or frankly worse than addiction felt.  We stick to the program a day at a time.  We learn to pray.  We find our higher power was always with us, that's what kept us alive.  And the more we pray, the more we stay sober, the more the program has to offer us.  We learn about bounty and humility, we see god in a share at a meeting, a phone call from a sponsee, a friend's smile, a plant we get to water.  We learn that there's more life in a single day than we can imagine.  We learn how to accept abundance. 

 My higher power gives me more than I need.


Without other people, you're just a zombie.  --Zombieland

In our addiction, isolation served as the soil.  If we could just get some time alone, even a few minutes, we could get back to our obsession and compulsion.  Of course, a few minutes would never do for long.  Instead we stayed up all night, binging on empty calories, looking at pornography, taking hit after hit after hit.  Our indulgence could last for days.  Days of constant addiction.  Days in isolation.  We turned into the living dead. 

Reaching out can help.  And boy do we addicts dislike reaching out.  But pushing through the isolation, even just to leave someone a message, can arrest our addiction.  We remember that everyone in our program has struggled with isolation.  No one in recovery has done it perfectly.  And breaking out of isolation brings us back to the living. 

 The more I connect with other people, the more alive I feel.


Andy:  There's something inside, something they can't touch.

Red:  Whatchu talkin about?

Andy:  Hope

--Shawshank Redemption

            Addiction is a prison.  A uniquely crafted set of bars that we continue to slam into every time we reach for a beer or a bud or a body or a burger thinking it will help us get out of prison.  We will continue to bang our heads into those walls until we take the scariest, craziest risk we could ever conjure:  lie down in that prison and let it go.  Let it go and ask for help.  At first it seems insane to believe, to have hope, to ask for help.  Hope seems like the worst idea to consider.  For suckers only.

            Yet it is working isn’t it?  When we have hope, the prison walls don’t disappear, but it turns out there were ever three walls, or the door was always open if we just gave it a tap.  We see smokers that quit.  We see prostitutes that become students again.  And no, it doesn’t work just for others.  And the hope we need – it is always available to us, it is a choice we can make every day and every second and no one can take that choice away from us.

             Hope is sane; addiction is insane.


He is starting to believe.  --The Matrix

            Recovery is a process.  When we start, it all seems like trick we’re not getting, with everyone speaking a foreign language.  It is a revolution in our thinking and living that is a bit much to accept.  We are asked to do the opposite of our every instinct.  In disease, the answer is to isolate, and conceal all to be acceptable to others and to save the feelings of our loved ones.  We create an alternate reality where alcohol, or drugs, or sex or food or pleasing others is the only thing we rely on.

            Then there’s a crack in that false reality.  We enter program and try something new.  We consider that we can get something other than shame from those around us.  We start to believe that the answers we have been seeking are all around us, available to us in the true reality.  A reality where our belief in God is a strength, not a weakness.  When we start to believe, the world all around us conspires to support our recovery, and in return we allow the world to change us.

 When I believe, I embody the change I seek.


I've always known the right path, but I never took because it was too damn hard.  --Scent of a Woman

            We have been told so many times that it’s a simple program, but not an easy one.  The solution of recovery is not necessary a revelation.  Often the right next step is just what we knew it would be.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.  In fact, knowing the next right thing can be yet another source of resentment and resistance; an internal voice of ‘I told you so’, or ‘can’t you get it right’.

            Oh if there were only an easier path.  That’s another admission we can make – we can admit that we expect more, more magic, more coasting, more feeling better.  And our expectation is not exactly a surprise – as addicts we have always believed in that easy answer, maybe because we have in fact been overwhelmed for so much of our lives.  So say it out loud, check in about it – it’s too hard for me today.  Someone else is probably feeling the same thing.  And sharing that truth may be the help you need to make it easier.

 I can pray to have an easy day; and then I can seek the help I need today.


That's your problem ...  You don't look at the things that you have.  You only look at the stuff you don't have.  –Swingers

            A fundamental struggle in addiction is an inability to perceive reality.  I’m often convinced that I’m just no good, or that my higher power just won’t help me, or worse, doesn’t exist.  In that ‘reality’, there will never be enough.  I’ll never be sober enough, or happy enough, or safe enough, or willing enough.  And then if I turn to my addiction, I’ll never be high enough, or have enough to eat, or get enough sex, or be loved enough.

            Speaking at a meeting, or making a call, allows me to share my emptiness.  I can share how I feel.  I can experience that feeling of insufficiency.  And then I can see there is another explanation, another story.  The other story is closer to the truth; that I have bounty in my own way, that God has been there for me, that the glass may not be overflowing, but it is at least half full.

 I know how to fill my glass, it starts with accepting reality and relying on my higher power.


See you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly day by day --Godspell

            The more we experience God’s presence, the more there is to experience.  We get out of God’s way and find our higher power has more to offer us than we could have imagined.  We are able to see God’s intricate simplicity all around us, in the vastness of grains of sand or flakes of snow.  We experience God momentum, a machine of perpetual motion.

            Recovery begets more recovery.  We focus on the simple, God shows us the multitudes.  We find more to love in the world, God gives us more bounty.  We follow God’s path, God shows us how to lead with humility. 

 God will give me exactly what I need, and then show me how much more there is.


Praying is something we do in our time.  The answers come in God's time.  --Rudy

            Seems as if everyone talks about prayer like it’s panacea; it solves all problems magically.  When I tried prayer early in recovery, didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  I did not seem to have my prayers answered.  My character defects did not magically fall away.  My problems did not ease just from asking God to ease them. 

            Safe to say that God changes us, the program changes us, even though we may feel little of it along the way.  Those changes have collected and in that collection we find the answers that we asked God about in the first days of recovery – How can I stay sober?  Why did addiction happen to me?  When will all this get easier?  Can I trust the program? 

We have gotten answers to those questions from our recovery programs, our trusted advisors, our higher powers.  And the answers are dynamic, changing as we change, but consistent in their message – acceptance, faith, service.  

If I don’t think God is answering my prayers, I can pray for patience.


Hope is a dangerous thing. Drive a man insane. It's got no place here. Better get used to the idea. --Shawshank Redemption

Step 2 is a son of a gun. As addicts we have run from pain, from our past; in many cases, we are running from trauma and brutality, whatever form that has taken. Where was a higher power during those times? Or let’s say we have come so far that we believe there is a higher power out there – we have seen her working. Do we think she is really working for us? Wouldn’t things be different if God was really returning us to sanity? Why for example are we still struggling with addiction and with life?

There’s good news and there’s the truth. The good news is . . . our higher power has saved us from untold horrors, large and small. There are the ones we know about– the last second calls that saved us from going back out there. And the truth? When we run from pain, we run from reality, we escape our lives, we turn our backs on God, we reject what our higher power is giving us, we discard the sanity that our higher power is offering us. At the depths of our disease and isolation and stinking thinking, that is when we turn to God’s strongest offering – Hope that things can and will change.

Hope is sane thinking, backed by God.