Messin’ With My Own Head

Every so often around the 12-step rooms you’ll hear someone say, “My name’s X, and I’m a grateful recovered (alcoholic, addict, codependent, etc.)” I think you probably hear it more around the rooms of AA because there’s a reference to being recovered, as opposed to recovering, in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A few months ago I decided to try it on for size. I began referring to myself that way — as a recovered person, a recovered alcoholic/addict, and so forth. I stopped after a bit, though, because it made me uncomfortable and I thought it made me seem like an attention-seeker in the rooms, where most people still refer to themselves as “recovering.” What brought it to mind was having it brought to my attention that I’d inadvertently done it again on the bio at a web site. It still felt uncomfortable, and I changed it this morning.

I do understand the reason that some people do it. The concept of “recovered” is meant to remind us that there is more to life than meetings and hanging around with people from the rooms — that recovery is, as much as anything else, learning to live the way “normal” people do, and moving back into the mainstream of life. Healthy people who work a good program have nothing to fear from this, and much to gain: continued renewal of self respect; new associations with people whose main focus is life in the world rather than just the rooms of recovery; business advantages; broader horizons, and myriad other things.

However, it’s dangerous for me, blessed as I am with a genetic “disorder” that can throw me back into my addiction any time I forget where I came from, to…ah…forget where I came from. That’s why I continue to go to meetings more than eightteen years after my last drink and drug: to remind myself, by that act of humility, that I still have all the “isms,” although many or most of them may lie dormant at any given time, and also to give back, in whatever way I can, what was so freely given to me in the beginning.

I am one of those people who has had the good fortune not to relapse officially, although relapse begins long before one “picks up” a drink or drug, and I’ve been on shaky ground a few times. I came to recovery a physical, emotional and spiritual wreck, with just enough brain power left to recognize the facts of the origin of my troubles and the way out of them. When I tell my story, I say that with tongue in cheek, and then explain that while it’s technically true that I haven’t had a drink or drug since 1989, it isn’t strictly true that I haven’t relapsed. I then go on to explain that relapse begins when we fall back into the old unhealthy behavior and ways of thinking, whether or not we go so far as to pick up our drug of choice. Given that more realistic definition, I’ve relapsed several times–and so have you, whether you’re in recovery or not.

One of the things that leads to the old behavior and ways of thinking and living is getting too big for my britches. That’s why “recovered” feels uncomfortable. In my gut I know that I’m not recovered, that my continued recovery depends on maintaining myself in a healthy mode, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The gut knows. One of the most valuable things I was told early on in my recovery was “trust your gut.”

And that gets to the point of this article which is, after all, about Mind, Body and Spirit, not addiction and recovery per se. There is nothing mystical about hunches, intuition, and trusting your gut. We are all the sum total of millions–billions–of experiences, and we remember most of them on some level. We are well-equipped to let our subconscious minds help us out with problems, armed as they are with that wealth of experience, but we often–if not usually–force ourselves to ignore those gut feelings, the feeling that something is just sort of “icky.” We want to do something, say something, buy something, to fill that empty place inside, and we think up all sorts of ways to justify our wants to ourselves and ignore the message that our subconscious mind is sending–loud and clear, if we choose to hear it. Then we go on with the self-deception and make up ways to justify whatever it is to others–our partner, our business associates, our sponsors, our friends–but, ultimately, to ourselves again.

Good, healthy ideas seldom need justification. Feeling a need to explain, to justify, should tell us that something’s wrong somewhere. It may simply be a neurotic need on our part to assure ourselves and everyone else that we’re really OK, but there’s also an excellent possibility that we’re about to venture where we ought to fear to tread, guided by the child inside who is telling us it’s OK because I Want, I Want, I Want. In either case, there are two possible clues: the urge to hide whatever it is, or the urge to justify it. Both should set off our alarms: King Baby Alert! King Baby Alert!

So that’s my New Year’s message to you. Forget about the resolutions, the “should haves,” and “ought tos.” Learn to trust your gut instead, and live accordingly. A happier life is guaranteed.

Happy Holidays, and a New Year blessed emotionally, physically, and spiritually…

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