Have you ever gone hiking and suddenly realized that you’ve lost the trail. You try to retrace your steps and most of the time find the last trail marker on a tree that you somehow missed. No problem; you now make that left or right as required instead of walking straight ahead. Occasionally, you retrace your steps and realize that you have gotten yourself good and lost. You start to panic and then in the distance see the well worn path of the trail. Breathing a sigh of relief you head towards the path and resume your hike.
For many of us, drugs, alcohol or food was our map through the forest of life. Initially, it worked fairly well for us. It helped us buffer some of the pain, fear and loneliness that we often felt. At some point it stopped working. It was like straying from a path as we stumbled deeper and deeper into the forest.
When we had strayed very far from the path we suddenly came upon a trail marker. It had the letters AA, NA or OA on it. We began to follow that trail and a guide appeared who became our sponsor. He or she had also been lost in the forest but had found their way out. They acted as a compass for us on a daily basis.To make sure we didn’t stray far from the path they gave us a Big Book to study. It provided us with a set of directions for almost any path we choose to take. We also started to attend meetings where we met many other travelers who helped guide us as well. At some point we even began to guide others who had become lost.
Personal Reflection: Do I still stray off the path?
Why do people use alcohol, drugs or food? I’m sure that psychologists, psychiatrists and substance abuse counsellors have a boatload of answers. When you get down to it, people used because they were just to darned uncomfortable being who they were. Life went along with a lot of pain and suffering. To just get outside of themselves and experience a degree of comfort was the motivation of many. In fact, you will hear people say that in the beginning their drug of choice worked. What we found out out was that over time our miracle cure lost its potency. It no longer had the effect that we desired. In fact it caused even more pain, suffering and self loathing. It was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No real psychic or emotional change took place when we used. At best, it just deadened our feelings down to the core.
Sobriety has the potential to deliver that shift that we were so desperately seeking. There was finally a real possibility of accepting who we were and learning to love ourselves. Life still hit us with a daily barrage of challenges. Now, we were able to say, “bring it on”.
Personal Reflection: How have I changed in sobriety?
Comparison can be a very dangerous thing. We look at someone and sigh to ourselves, “I wish I was that person. They seem so happy and well adjusted”. For many of us, looking at others from this perspective was a very old story. When we were growing up, we often came from very dysfunctional families. Perhaps one or both of our parents were alcoholics or addicts. Even if this wasn’t the case, many of our parents were rage-aholics, or troubled in other ways. As a result, there was often a lot of drama taking place in our homes. We often looked wistfully at some of our friends whose lives in our eyes resembled “Father Knows Best”. This view followed us into adulthood where we continued to see everyone as somehow more normal and better adjusted than us.
In recovery, we saw some of those so called “normal people” at our meetings. When they shared our mouths dropped. Those so called normal ones often told stories that made our hairs stand on end. It quickly became apparent that everyone had their bundle of pain. Some hid it better than others, but in the final analysis we were all on that journey called recovery.
Personal Reflection: Do I tend to romanticize about the “normal ones”?
There have been many situations where we have been frozen in our tracks. Perhaps it just started as a dull aching fear of doing something. We knew it had to be done, but we just couldn’t get ourselves to do it. It might have been something as simple as telling a person “no” about a simple request or asking for a raise at work. Somehow, that small item ballooned into something much larger. As the days passed it seemed to take on a life of its own. We walked around with literally a pained expression on our faces. This triviality now loomed in front of us. At some point, perhaps after speaking to our sponsor or being reflective in a share at a meeting; we felt the resistance lift somewhat. Many of us also surrendered to our Higher power and asked that the resistance be removed for us. Then, we seized that moment and forged ahead through the fear. When we had pushed through to the other side we discovered that once we were able to cut through the resistance, the actual task itself was actually fairly minor in nature. All that worry, concern, fear and pain had been of our own creation, and had now lifted.
Personal Reflection: How do I deal with roadblocks to my moving forward?