I think of this as Gratitude Day. (No, I’m not making a list.) Six years ago today it was forcefully brought to my attention that, after 23 years of thinking otherwise, I was not really sober.
I stopped using substances in September of 1989. It was easy. I detoxed in a treatment facility and hit the ground running. For many years I wondered why it had been so easy for me and difficult for many others. Sometimes I felt a little embarrassed that I couldn’t come up with any white-knuckle recovery stories. (There were plenty from “back in the day,” because I was unquestionably an addict.) Other times I fell into the trap of comparing rather than relating, feeling superior rather than examining the reality of my so-called “sobriety.”
I learned a lot about addiction – book learning. I showed it off, rather than knuckling down and putting it to good use in self-examination. My 12-step group wasn’t much help, because (a.) I never leveled with anyone about how my life was really playing out, and (b.) that fellowship really wasn’t equipped to address my particular issues, for whatever reasons. I was also a great bullshitter (imagine that), so you didn’t know what I didn’t want you to know. But, when you come right down to it, that 4th Step inventory wasn’t really searching, it certainly wasn’t fearless, and it was essentially a dismal failure.
Being “outed” was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It forced me to look at my real addictions. I came to understand that recovery from my chemical addictions was easy because I simply switched over full-time to what had been my primary issues all along. The chemicals had facilitated the other behaviors, but they hadn’t been the underlying problems.
As I progressed in my new program of recovery, I was able to see how things I’d never even considered to be character defects had shaped my entire life. I not only discovered that my recovery had been a sham in large part, but that I wasn’t really the person I had imagined I’d been for the past quarter-century.
In short, I finally got honest with myself and others, really honest. That’s why I’m grateful. Today I pretty much know who I am, and I’m on the way – still working on it, but on the way – to being who I always wanted to be.
It all comes down to the old saw: If something repeatedly causes problems in our lives and we continue to do it anyway, there’s an excellent chance that we have an unrecognized addiction.
And there’s that other old saw . . .
Denial ain’t a river in Africa.