A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The First Step

1.  We admitted we were powerless over our addictions (including to other people) -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

To admit to something is to “confess, acknowledge, own, concede, grant, accept, allow; reveal, disclose, divulge; plead guilty.”  It is the opposite of denying something.  And denial is what we are nearly sealed into when we first consciously realize that our lives keep going out of control because of our addictions.  In denial, we accept the unacceptable from ourselves and others, we adapt to the insane pattern of doing things the same way over and over, each time expecting a different result.  For me it was continuing to return to my co-addicted alcoholic partner when he would not seek outside help and kept acting out against me and ultimately himself.  We each were responsible for choosing each other, but after we made that choice we sank into quickly into the addictive system of self hatred and blame, a no win situation.

Addiction is a no win situation, a no way out situation.  One of the definitions of addiction is trying to control a behavior that over time becomes obvious that we can’t control.  When we can admit this powerlessness to ourselves after each failure, we begin to approach a path back to healthy personal power, the power of self honesty, from a place of humility.  We can acknowledge that the sickness we have is indeed an addiction.

The nature of addiction is that it goes in cycles.  When we’ve crashed down to the bottom of the cycle, it is possible to admit to defeat and to know that we are helpless and need help.  That’s a window of opportunity.  Some of us wind up in hospitals or jails and from there get court ordered to deal with our devastating illness.  Others of us suffer in isolation until we reach out to support groups and literature and possibly therapy.  But many more seem to make an illusory “recovery” without once reaching out for the help that is available.  At that stage we deny powerlessness, we deny that we are addicts and we continue to hide in the very deep holes we’ve made for ourselves.

I think that it is part of human nature to keep falling for the illusion that we are in control over our lives.  What is the truth?  We don’t know when we will die, only that we will die, that is the real powerlessness we face, this foreknowledge.  Our fear of death is the fear of the unknown.  We cling to comfort to hide from this.  Unfortunately the many behaviors we generate to comfort us from time to time often turn into addictions:  drug use, sex, relationships, gambling, overeating, overspending, working too much, etc...  We look outside of ourselves for meaning and for solutions to problems, while our meaning and the solutions to our problems are inside of us.  No person, place, activity or thing can give us what we need to grow and heal.

This increasingly compulsive need to control our environments and the people we encounter within those environments is back to the no win cycle.  Admitting to powerlessness puts us back in the right relationship to the world.  We are small and vulnerable and the universe is vast and a mystery.  That’s the way we began and that is the way we will end this life.  But look around you at all the even smaller elements, smaller lives;  all valuable, all meaningful, all part of the great whole.  We count, but to delude ourselves that we have God like powers to design our lives is to be lost and even weaker than when we started out.

And so those in recovery from addiction admit powerlessness, admit to defeat and are freed to reach out, most likely over and over again.  It is a retraining of ourselves away from addictive thought/feeling patterns and it brings with it relief.  To aspire to be powerful figures is to take on a great weight, a weight we cannot carry that will direct us to taking on other people’s responsibilities while dodging our own.  It’s both a pressure and an excuse to avoid the one person we really need to face, ourselves.
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