Reservations, Powerlessness and Surrender

I surrender!

Reservations are little ideas, beliefs and loopholes that we leave for ourselves. We reserve the right to hang on to them, not realizing that we are really protecting some aspect of our addiction. Most of us started recovery with some reservations. They may have gone like this:

  • Opiates are my problem, a little drink now and then won’t hurt me;
  • Alcohol just about ruined my life. I don’t ever want to drink again–of course, I’ll still smoke a little weed when I’m feeling stressed;
  • I don’t relate well to other women, so I’ll need a male sponsor;
  • If my mother died, I don’t see how I could handle it without picking up;
  • They say we’re as sick as our secrets, but they can’t mean everything. I’ll never talk about that!
  • They say no relationships for the first year, but a hookup isn’t a relationship!
  • But I’ve found my soul mate! (Another one?)

We may be sincere about wanting recovery, and may be working diligently toward it: going to meetings, doing step work, and almost giving ourselves fully over to the program’s recommendations. But as long as we hold reservations, consciously or unconsciously, we are fooling ourselves.

One of the worst effects of reservations is that this kind of thinking keeps us from bonding with other recovering people. Recovery works because we are a fellowship with a common purpose: to stay clean and sober, and learn how to live that way. We do this by accepting that we can’t do it on our own, and that we need the guidance and support of others who have been successful at what we want to do. Reservations  prevent us from developing the close, trusting relationships that make those things possible.

Fighting is so much a part of addiction—fighting for the next fix, the next drink, the time to use, protecting our ability to keep getting high—that we forget how to stop fighting. When we are able to relax and stop struggling, we begin to gain the benefits of our recovery program, along with a huge sense of relief.

The problem is that we may still be trying to control our addiction, when what we really need is to let go of that control, let go of our reservations, accept the reality that our addiction is far more powerful than we are, and that we must move away from our addiction, not stay and fight.

Once we are able to surrender, the feeling of relief is amazing! We are no longer forced to twist our thinking around so that we can try to have things two ways at once. We no longer push, push, push back against our program. We no longer have to deal with the stress of always trying to be right in the face of massive evidence to the contrary. We are, at last, able to relax and recover.

We must surrender before we can win!

Is Something Gaining On You?

The past is behind you; watch where you’re going!

I was just reviewing old bookmarks, and ran across the last blog entry of a writer friend who is no longer with us.  If you want to read it, you can find it here.  Marsha was a fine writer and teacher, and a good person to have in your life.  She brought the pleasures of poetry and literature into the minds and hearts of thousands of students.  A pretty darned good legacy, when you think about it.

Reading her poignant post got me to thinking about the idea of a “life well-lived.”  Who decides about that?  I am agnostic, so I don’t look forward to some Great Beyond.  As far as I know, this is it — the whole show, not a dress rehearsal.  (Although I generally hate being wrong, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken about that; however, logic prevails.)  That being the case, the only life I expect to have beyond the grave is in the memories of people, slowly to fade until the wisps are carried away by the winds of time; a tiny part of the whole, but unnoticed down the years by those to come.

So, unless I want to indulge in magical thinking I have to accept that the sum of my life is my legacy as well, and I have to ask myself whether I’ve lived that life so as to leave something worthwhile behind, however ephemeral.

My desire to take a hard look at that question has varied over the years. I stopped drinking and drugging in 1989 and thought I was sober. As it turned out, I really wasn’t. (Think unaddressed process addiction that far preceded the chemicals.) Only in the past few years, after another “rock bottom,” have I started to deal effectively with that one.

Overall, though, I think my total progress and some of the things I’ve accomplished are probably not to be ashamed of. Whether others share that opinion is none of my business. I’ve slowly come to understand, at least intellectually, that I live in my reality, and what’s going on in someone else’s is not my concern.

However, I think it behooves us all to occasionally look back, think of our lives to date, and decide if they’re something we can be satisfied with.  If we feel as though we’re on the right track, maybe we can attend to the details a bit more closely. If it seems as though we are a bit short, then we might sit back and consider how we can re-map our journey. Perhaps our criterion should be something like, “Have I helped others as much as they’ve helped me.”

I don’t know.  What do you think?

As Sick As Our Secrets

Addiction is all about secrets.  By the same token, recovery is about letting sunshine and fresh air into the hidden corners of our souls.  In addiction we build ourselves a little fantasy world, a totally imaginary place where we go to hide when we act out. Continue reading “As Sick As Our Secrets”

Slippery Places

Most of us wouldn’t stick our hands into a bag of rattlesnakes to find out if they’d bite.

If you don’t want to slip, stay out of slippery places.
Heard around the rooms

No plan survives contact with the enemy.
Ageless Military Adage

It is in the nature of human beings to try out new things. We hate change, but we love discovery. While this has led us to great advances, it can also get us into big trouble. Another adage that comes to mind is “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Continue reading “Slippery Places”

An Unsolicited Plug

For several reasons I make it a point not to review books or accept ads, “infographics,“ and guest posts on this blog, except in extremely rare situations.  When I tried it the first one led to more, and to requests that didn’t meet my standards (never easy to refuse for a codependent like me), plus other complications, like conflicts of interest, etc.  I don’t like hassles, and promoting business in whatever fashion is not the purpose of this site.  However, it’s my blog, and I occasionally make exceptions for myself when I think it’s important enough.  This is one of those times.

My long-time readers will probably have noticed the blurb in the sidebar for Joe C’s book, Beyond Belief, Agnostic Musings For 12-Step Life.  No doubt the word “agnostic” turned some of them off.  I’d like to comment on that, and explain why the ad, recommendation, or whatever you want to call it is there.

Continue reading “An Unsolicited Plug”

Okay, God . . . what am I supposed to be learning this time?

There’s an old saying something like, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”  That’s certainly inarguable logic, but most of the time it fails to lead to a valid conclusion.  Most people don’t care about us one way or the other.  Those who do care usually wish us well, as long as we’re not standing in the way of their comfort somehow.  The fact is, we’re not powerful enough — most of us, anyway — to make ripples in the lives of those who aren’t pretty close around us.

Assuming that we’re not annoying other folks enough to make them want to take time to mess us up, things continually going wrong in our lives usually mean that we aren’t properly interpreting the lessons that life is trying to teach us.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but most often they boil down to our not wanting to hear what the teacher is saying.  After all, it’s not only easier but far more comforting to attribute our misfortunes to bad luck or to someone’s ill-will or mistakes, rather than to look honestly at the part we had in them.

Everything that happens in our lives is a lesson.  Good, bad, or indifferent, there is always something to be learned.  The big question is not “Why Me?” but rather, “How can I honestly interpret this lesson and learn from it?”

Integrity

Definitions are well and good, but when the bag man shows up with 50K and you have kids in school and a mortgage, it’s simpler than that….

Dictionary.com defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”  

Way back in the ‘80’s during the real Miami Vice days, I knew a Dade County police officer whose beat was along the Miami River.  “Jorge” was offered $50,000 to take his lunch break at a particular time — one day, one time.  In those days, that was roughly equivalent to a year’s pay for a patrolman. Definitions are well and good, but when the bag man shows up with 50K and you have kids in school and a mortgage, it’s simpler than that: do I do the right thing,  despite the cost, or the wrong thing?

Continue reading “Integrity”