In recovery, isn’t it curious how our lives begin to fall right into place after so much drudging during our addiction? Even in our wreckage, we receive clarity. Endless possibility accompanies our restoration. What we used to dread dealing with, we become open and willing to manage through now; and what we once deemed impossible, is very much possible today. Life is not as difficult as we believed it was while we were twisted in our addiction. Moving into serenity isn’t only plausible, it becomes a natural state of being.
I have pondered this phenomenon often. It goes without saying that if one is struggling in their addiction, then the obvious solution is for them to get clean and remain sober. What is so difficult about this course of action? Why don’t more addicts become and remain sober? During my addiction, many people suggested that I just stop drinking, or just don’t drink, as if I’m throwing a feather into the wind. It should be a breeze, right?
The truth is, getting sober is not easy. In fact, I’ve discovered for myself that remaining sober has been much easier than becoming sober. I think of an addict getting sober as being equivalent to someone who has been running away from an impending train for quite some time. The train is always right at their heels, but every time they take a hit or drink or pop a pill, the train seems to back off. The speed of the train subsides. The noise of the strain subsides, and the fear of the train hitting also subsides. The drug or drink keeps that train at bay every time the addict uses.
Inadvertently in late addiction, the train has already hit the addict and caused a lot of wreckage, but the addict continues to run and hide from it. As a result, the drug or drink no longer has the same effect as before. The drug or drink no longer drowns out the noise or the speed of the train. It doesn’t reduce the fear. In fact, all of these things become amplified. When we finally acknowledge that the train has wrecked, we have a choice to either face the train or to get buried in the wreckage. When we face the train, it is called surrendering. When we choose to get sucked into the wreckage by ignoring it all, it is called denial.
The train represents life. A significant difference between an addict and a non-addict is that an addict, at some point in their existence, purposely jumps off the train and begins running away from it. Ironically, the train is always moving and it’s never apart from the addict, who is completely delusional. The addict truly believes he or she can forever run from himself, from emotion or from pain and sorrow. All of the troublesome things arising from within the addict, is what the addict wants to hide from, completely.
When it finally occurs to the addict that his or her only alternatives are to surrender, or to die, we must make a choice. When we choose to surrender, our guard is then eradicated; we become vulnerable and open. We face the train wreck and then uncover what has always been there. What has always been there is our emotional responses to our experiences. What we discover in our moment of surrender, is the capacity to stand before the wreckage and admit that we have absolutely no control.
You see, we were never the conductor of our life; we were simply a passenger on a journey. When our experience of that journey became uncomfortable or unbearable, we heedlessly tried to take control. We got off track and created a disaster, but in the spirit of surrender with minimal resistance, the train is eventually restored and we, the addicts, are restored. We get back on the train, as wrecked as it may be, but this time we begin to accept everything along the way, in a state of constant surrender.
What exactly, are we surrendering to?
We are surrendering our self-will and re-connecting to Spirit. We are re-aligning ourselves with that gentle flow of life that always was and always is. What happens when we surrender our self-will and decide to face the wreckage of the train, is that our perspective becomes much clearer. We are raw and facing the truth. Finally there is potential, because we are no longer running away. We are no longer heading off track or headed in the wrong direction. Although the train may seem un-restorable at the time, something within us has shifted because we are at least facing the train wreck. This is the point where we begin trusting in a process which we know nothing about, and we begin walking along in blind direction. Somehow we gain the ability to believe in something greater than ourselves, which we cannot clearly see. Our understanding at this point is that a power greater than ourselves will restore us to sanity, as stated in Step 3 in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
This is a difficult concept for many recovering addicts to wrap their minds around, which is okay. We do not need to wrap our minds around anything. We simply surrender and admit that our lives have become unmanageable. This is the first step. Once this step is courageously taken, we have deliberately re-aligned ourselves on the journey that we began at birth.
There is so much possibility when we surrender, because it is then that we become completely open to living within the wholeness and completeness of our lives. We begin making space, without illusion or limitation, to be guided through our wreckage, in total clarity of each moment. When we grasp how simple it is to live a life in sobriety, by taking just one day at a time (or one moment at a time as I like to do), we begin to experience gratitude for even the smallest of details that make up the whole. The uncommon slowness of our lives becomes a vastness extending into completeness. Everything we need at any given moment is granted to us without hassle. We begin to realize that emotions and conflicts that arise are not only manageable; they are efficiently beneficial to our spiritual growth. We experience harmony more often than not.
If a self-destructive, severe alcoholic like me can make these claims and have this understanding of life, anyone can. I truly believe that recovery is the most significant gift to a suffering individual, especially when it is done with the intention to dive into life with the same earnestness we had in our addiction.
Recovery is so simple, yet so opposite of what we know. It’s very much about being responsible and aware of our experience at any given moment. It’s about having kindness for ourselves, which extends out to others. It’s about picking up on our emotional responses, as opposed to picking up a drink or a drug. These are all things we are not accustomed to doing. In recovery we are undoing many years of hardwired conditioning. This takes willingness, awareness, practice, patience, and diligence.