Although we may believe that we have left our pasts in the past, unless we deal with childhood issues they will eventually catch up and bite us on the ass. That happened to me recently. Without going into details that are frankly none of your business, I’ll simply say that recent circumstances forced me to look at some major issues that I’d managed to ignore during nearly 24 years of sobriety. To put it in simple terms, I thought I’d gotten into recovery from my addictions many years ago. However, I discovered that I’d transferred my obsession from drinking and drugging to other areas — areas that predated my substance abuse by many years.
In my case, circumstances at an early age caused me to look for comfort and peace outside myself, and I continued to do that in a variety of ways for more than 60 years. I was unable to overcome the obsession because I didn’t allow myself to understand that it was a problem, but in fact it seriously affected the entire course of my life. A “searching and fearless” inventory in early recovery might have uncovered some of the problem, but the old argument “I’m not hurting anyone” gave me all the excuse I needed to avoid mentioning things that, in truth, I was largely unable to admit even to myself.
No matter how long we have been in recovery, there are always improvements to be made. As we spend more time trying to do the “next right thing,” we often discover that the next right thing simply doesn’t compute. Often that is because we didn’t have useful behavior modeled for us by parental figures and others, or we suffered some kind of early trauma that rendered us unable to look at the big picture when it came to things involving emotions. Both were true in my case. The reasons don’t matter, for the purposes of this discussion, but I will say that my parents loved me and did the best they could. That they lacked certain skills and understanding is a function of their being born, both of them, well over 100 years ago, combined with their own life experiences.
I don’t blame anyone, actually. I’m not responsible for the origins of these problems, but I’m damned well responsible for getting my head on straight now that I know it needs it. The point I’m making here is that 23 years of recovery, much of it spent in and on the edges of the treatment field, didn’t teach me what I needed. Many of the addiction fellowships shy away from other than their own specific issues. I needed some of that outside help that Bill Wilson wrote and spoke about, but that so many in the rooms seem determined to ignore.
*The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald