As an addict, I struggle with basic understanding of myself. I continue to return to basic ‘truths’ about myself, that are in fact, false. One of those truths is that my value comes from something or someone outside of me. Another is that I will never have a reliable connection to that external source of my value. In English? It means that I am always inclined to seek out someone’s approval – my dad, my sponsor, my therapist, my abuser. And because even the president of my fan club has to take a break once in a while, if I put my worth in someone else’s hands, they may not treat it as I want.
And the magical answer is . . . sorry, no magic. Just the old standbys of willingness, acceptance, faith, fellowship, program. Can I be willing to live another imperfect day? Can I accept that I am worth sobriety today? Can I have faith that God will not forsake me today? Can I reach out of my isolation that tells me awful things about myself? Can I let program in today? Not easy, but simple.
I can be my worst critic or my ultimate supporter.
Every man dies, not every man really lives. --Braveheart
It’s going to end. Some days we want it to. Some days we think it never will. Some days we think we are immune. But we will expire. We will become food for worms. And no matter what you may believe happens after that, we are all pretty certain that it will be different from what we’ve known all our lives.
Even when we have the clarity to know we will die, we don’t always have the clarity of how to live our lives. Yes, we’ve come to know that sobriety is a better path. But what does that mean? If addiction meant parties and being high and being reckless and having what we called fun, what does sobriety have to offer? Said another way, as an addict I always like to ask: any chance of me getting high but still staying sober?
The Program and fellowship have us covered. We are not saints. We have found a sober path, and we can line that path with friends, reconnections, tastes, sounds, sights, beauty, spirit –all the stuff that we have been dead to; all the stuff we’ve been avoiding; all the stuff that makes a life.
Today I choose to live, not die.
Two elderly women, one of them says, boy, the food at this place is really terrible. The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such ... small portions. --Annie Hall
In my addiction, I want more, no matter what. After a while, I want more even if I’m in pain, or can’t stay conscious. I want more even though the high I’m seeking becomes debilitating. I want more of the worst experiences of my life. I voluntarily seek out more poison, even as I watch the poison slowly kill me.
The program is a mirror. Step One helps me see that I am addicted to conduct that leaves my life unmanageable. And let’s face it, unmanageable is usually putting it lightly. Flat broke, kicked out of my home and fired is not just ‘unmanageable’ – it’s a red hot mess. Step One is about putting down the fork and ceasing, one day at a time, the constant ingestion of food that is really terrible. And the rest of the steps show me that there are not only other items on the menu, there are other restaurants, and even the option to make to eat in my home with my family and friends.
If I’m not sure if something is bad for me, I can ask someone else in program.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday?Woman: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?
--Play it Again Sam
As an addict, I am used to treating myself poorly. And I’m used to tolerating poor treatment from others. Let’s face it, it’s hard to hold out for decent treatment when I don’t think I’m worth it. We sometimes say, we’re willing to accept crumbs and call it a good meal.
With some sobriety and distance from my unmanageability, I can see clearly enough to learn what is healthy for me. Turns out, hanging around with people who disrespect me is not good for me. I don’t have to tolerate physical or sexual abuse. I don’t have to stay in a relationship with someone who is not trustworthy, or who belittles or uses me. There’s nothing wrong with me raising my standards for my life, my friends, and myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to exclusively date models and eat in 4 star restaurants. But I don’t have to accept dregs any more.
I can gauge my recovery by the fellowship I keep.
I made you up didn't I Eddie? You weren't real. --The Hustler
In addiction, I rely on fantasy. I depend on make believe. I have to. I need to make the true untrue and vice versa. I need to believe that more of my drug won’t hurt me, that I can control my problem, that my unmanageability is manageable. The lies I tell myself are what keeps me in addiction. Denial. That is why the way of the 12 Steps is a way of truth and reality at all costs.
And with distance from my acting out in addiction, I can see that I use denial in all areas of my life. I invent qualities in people that they don’t have. I believe facts that are blatantly untrue. I expect outcomes that I cannot control. Every day is a chance for me to leave denial behind and come into the light of truth. It’s not always an easy place to be – which is why I avoid it for so strongly. But with the light of reality, I can see more clearly, and I find there are peers there who can help me along the way.
My addiction is a lie, but my recovery is real.