Indiscriminate Addiction: Part 2
(continued from Part 1)
I did as I was told. I found a sponsor, worked the steps, listened to those around me, followed suggestions and had my pride smashed by hearing about myself time and time again. Slowly but surely, I began to understand the things I saw those other young guys comprehend. I completed the program and moved out with two of the guys I had gone through the house with. We got jobs and cars; we went to meetings, we flirted and had fun at the young peoples’ meetings. We stayed up way too late on work nights and did all the things we were told not to do. I had some small reservations that I had clung to, even through all that time in the house. I still maintained the idea that once I left there, I was entitled to do whatever I wanted, and that I had earned it. What happened next almost pulled me off the wagon. My best friend and roommate started drinking again. Our other housemate hated us and was moving out. I had lost a job. I was in a bad way, but I knew that going out and using drugs wasn’t an option. The thin standing I had with the house and my family would evaporate in an instant if I did that, and that would really land me on the rocks for good. Just when I had given up hope, my phone rang. It was my old director, offering me a spot back at the house. He took me back in, dusted me off, and set me back on my feet. I also had my pride smashed to bits one more time. It worked. My role now was to be of service – to feel what it was like to be in a position of constant service. I was able share my experience with guys much newer than me. I left again at 3 years sober and this time for good. I had a new sense of self. My little experiment about doing things my way had failed utterly. But that’s not to say I was suddenly rendered pure and complete and I would never take my will back ever again. As with most addicts, that process is slow. I was granted enough clarity and self-awareness to achieve a self-determined objective. By no means had I set my bar at the perfect ideal, though I had no way of knowing that at the time. Had you asked me then if I was working the best program, I would have said ‘yes’ without a blink. You just don’t know what you don’t know.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about the delusion that comes with working steps with reservations. “They took inventory alright, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness, and honesty in the sense we find it necessary.” Therein lies the bewilderment that comes when you have a lot of physical time sober, thinking you’d worked steps, but still you just don’t feel free.
This was my experience, and the experience of many of my friends, that something happened between years 4 and 6. Sobriety had brought me this far, but it was just not going to cut it going forward. I was growing more and more desperate for a solution. I was going to meetings, had a host of friends, but inside I still wanted to die. There was a war going on inside of me. I felt lonely, disconnected, in need of a hug and yet I was told that I was already good enough. But what I knew in my head was that alcoholism is a disease, so drinking is no longer an option. If I feel fucked up I had to go to a meeting. I thought relationships and prestige would fix me. I was in much better shape than when I arrived in AA. I saw others around me doing what I was doing, and they seemed happy and content, so why did I feel so incomplete? What I quickly discovered was that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
I had a friend who I had looked up to throughout my sobriety. We had almost identical stories of sobriety, yet he had all the things I wanted but felt I didn’t have. He constantly offered to take me through the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I always turned him down because my pride said I’d done it already and doing it again would be admitting I was still not good enough. But I was beaten into a place of reasonableness. I surrendered to the process with a desperation I never had before. I knew my best thinking was based on warped perceptions, and I gave up this idea that I knew what was best for me. I started on the path that I thought I had already travelled on and discovered, it was completely new.
As a result of this approach to the step work, all the missing pieces began to fall into place. I learned that the program of recovery is laid out in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, not in the meetings. I learned that there was nothing wrong with me other than the fact that I was an alcoholic who had yet to find a spiritual process effective enough to defeat my alcoholism. I learned what it truly means to be an alcoholic. It means that I have an allergy of the body that manifests in a craving for drugs and alcohol. When I put drugs and alcohol in my body, I lose the mental ability to control it. I have a mental obsession. Not an obsession in the sense that I think about using all the time, but in the fact that I believe the lies I can tell myself, mainly that I don’t have the allergy, that I’m not an alcoholic or a drug addict, that this situation is not my fault and that I don’t need to hold myself accountable. These lies, rationalizations, and justifications always lead to judgments and resentments, which keep me separate from others. Now I understand that I was actually suffering from a spiritual malady. I was spiritually sick. I had always felt disconnected and as if other people had been given a playbook for life, but not me. I felt I was less than others; that I was not enough; that I was worthless. These are feelings and core beliefs that I’d held long before I picked up a drink or a drug. These were same feelings and beliefs that I medicated using drugs and alcohol, which created the vicious cycle I had been unable to escape. When I felt worthless, my mind told me that using would fix that immediately and that nothing bad would happen as a result. So I would drink and drug and when I sobered up that terrible self-loathing returned. And on and on it went.
What’s the solution? I take my body to meetings to keep me physically sober and I treat my mind with new information found in the textbook of Alcoholics Anonymous. I find self-worth and purpose through carrying this message to others so that they might join me in a new life. I find that God is everything – a faith that works. I am being taken care of at all times by a loving God. When I accept these facts of life, my spirit is joyful all the time, free from worry about the past or fear of the future. If I find myself having a different experience, I realize that something about my belief system is not big enough and I have forgotten that everything is as it should be. Being in the present in the moment is the key, as it allows me to be available for every opportunity to be of service. By accepting these opportunities, I feel at peace, connected, and whole.
So for those who have been around recovery for some time but just not feeling it anymore, I understand you. I love you. For those who are new and not sure if this can work for you, I love you too. I’ve tried it every way there possibly is, and I have found a process that works every damn time. There are no limitations. This process works for everyone you can’t be too young, too old, too anything. All that is required is an open mind and a willingness to make yourself uncomfortable. And I hope I meet you on your road to a happy destiny.