I should follow up that desperation is certainly no requirement to growing up and it will undoubtedly necessitate a prolonged period of selfishness, much to the dismay and heart-wrenching pain of our loved ones. Desperation is a last resort.
Let’s face it, addicts shouldn’t be given the "gift" of desperation, let alone any other gifts such as a trophy for “clean” time. Why is that, Charlie, you asshole? Because we never should have become addicts to begin with. Why should anyone be rewarded just because he or she (sorry, I only use two pronouns, silly me, biology and all) stopped doing the wrong thing? Plus, if we receive God’s grace, which we don’t deserve, it should humble us, not drive us towards yet even more recognition and attention.
A good anecdote is a cocky teenager who drinks and gets high and is still having fun with it. Why would a clueless adolescent ingrate get better while he's out there having a blast and hasn't suffered any profound life consequences yet? They have no need nor any will to change because, let's be honest, they don't really have to yet. They are still in la-la land, and even when they have legal trouble, they usually get to walk right out. They haven't lost their families, their bodies, their minds, and they have no understanding of money and the world, so they don't feel the weight of survival and adult responsibilities. The twisted irony is that we don't want to stop until we can't stop - until we've completely lost control and no longer have the ability to stop.
Adult addicts carry this immature and delusional nonsense into adulthood, but the problem is that we are no longer teenagers. Therefore, the sooner we are beat up and wallowing in an abyss of dread and despair, the better. God smiles the worse we get, knowing we are drawing closer to Him, one way or the other.
I only wanted to stop when I could no longer stop on my own willpower. Some of the younger ones can still stop as they are not too far gone yet. But me? There is no way. I only became willing to change when I was so ravaged spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically that I actually believed I could not recover and would die like this. This is why hopeless addicts truly require some sort of divine intervention. Most of us cannot make it without spiritual help and without accepting both the presence and the power of God.
I only went to detox and eventually up North because I was out of options. I was broke and in tens of thousands of debt. I was emaciated and my body was finally breaking down. Mixing coke and heroin was soon going to blow my heart out. I was miles beyond hope and no longer believed it was possible to get better and live a life again. The level of my depression and spiritual destitution was seemingly terminal. I was unrecoverable. At the bitter end, I was only using to stay out of continuous withdrawals. It wasn't fun anymore. Nothing was fun. I'd lost nearly everything - friends, some family, respect, meaning, purpose - my soul. If I hadn't been this beat up, I can promise you that I never would've even considered going to a detox.
The sooner that using no longer becomes fun and is only a way to fend off withdrawal, the better. Sure you don't have to wait until you're rotting away in a crackhouse with 5 STDs and one tooth left, but the truth is that the worse we get (and not just with drugs but every other facet of life), the closer we are actually getting to recovery. This is why enabling doesn't work. Why would we ever change or stop when we have everything we need, when we can sort of manage our addiction year after year, when we have you wrapped around our dirty, greedy fingers? Do not help erect any walls between us and God, whatever they may be. I'm sure you can figure out what those walls are. There are many.
So I for one will pray that any active addicts out there become as hopeless and desperate as hopeless and desperate gets. Only then might they see the futility in drugs and alcohol as a solution to their lives. Only then might we finally put aside our stubborn pride and selfish disbelief and reach out to God with everything we have left within. Only then might we begin to realize that our problem is not drugs and alcohol, it is life. Only then might we realize that not being okay is simply part of the human condition, that none of us are really okay, and that we do not have the right to drink and use drugs simply because we are human. Only then might we realize that it is okay to suffer. And when we embrace our suffering, that is the moment it begins to dissolve.
Alcoholics and addicts are obstinate and tend to worship their own intellect, if you can call it that. We think we can get ourselves better if and when we choose, which is a fallacy. And no matter how smart we think we are, our minds have instead become narrow and limited. We demand to see results. We demand to know exactly what it is that will fix us before we even begin. We want to see it to believe it... but that may be the one thing standing in the way of getting better.
Until I read my inventory (5th Step) and recited the 7th Step prayer, I had no idea if any of it would actually work. At times, it was difficult to embark on this mountain of work without knowing the end result. There was no guarantee I would have some profound psychic change. There was no guarantee I would recover. And this is exactly why addicts need to take a leap of faith... to break a lifelong pattern of never trusting in the unknown. We always have to know. We cling to our own self-will and sense of control because we don't trust in letting go. We don't trust in God's will.
So in the Steps we are asked to step into the darkness, unsure of where we will land. We are asked to just do the work on faith and see what happens. It's like a trust fall. You don't know all of those people will catch you when you fall back - you have to trust that they will. Faith is trust. Trust that it will work. Trust that you will be okay. Trust in your recovery. Trust in the unknown. Trust in God.
And hey, why not?
Why not do some real work for a change? Why not feel some discomfort? Why not trust in something other than ourselves, especially when our track record of self-will track isn't exactly something to envy? What more do we have to lose? Probably not much, knowing addicts and alcoholics. I mean let's face it, we have no clue. The total failure of our self-will and our intellect to navigate life is proof in and of itself that reliance on something Greater can only help matters.
These are the great challenges for the addict - the challenge to feel uncomfortable, the challenge to feel pain, the challenge to embrace the reality of human life, and most importantly, the challenge to let go our our self-will and intellectual bullshit and give ourselves to God.
What that means is we come to understand that we are not the most powerful force in our lives. We understand that alone we will fail, at least when it comes to drugs/alcohol, and probably a host of other things. We also come to understand that there exists other forces much more powerful than we are. And even if we haven't felt it yet, we are going to suspend disbelief for the moment and TRUST that God is there and that He has the power to do what we have never been able to do for ourselves.
So I challenge other addicts to see where right, moral, consistent action will get them. I challenge addicts to try relying on something other than themselves. I challenge addicts to rely on God. Sure you must get up and act and do the work, but stop impulsively making decisions for yourself as if we know everything. Stop, be still, pray hard... and then get up and continue moving through life. If we just slow the F down a little bit, the universe will conspire to show us the next right thing, to bring us a path that is good for us. Pray to be of service and remain willing to do anything it takes, and trust me, you will be amazed.
Finally, don't be afraid to suffer. Suffering is just human life. We all suffer. Addicts are not the only ones who suffer. Everybody does, and it's good for us. It's good for us to embrace where we are and what we are feeling because it gives us the capacity to then handle real life. Embracing reality is the only way to grow and succeed, to conquer our demons, and eventually, to conquer our dreams.
I found you looking for answers. I have raised two children on my own due to the fact their mother is an addict with mental illness. She never was able to make it back to the sane world. My kids have grown up great do to my sacrifices. One 19 in college and one 25 who graduated. I have now found myself back after all these years dealing with an alcoholic for 4 years. The alcoholic high functioning and has co occurring illness. On paper she is the best catch a guy could want. She is aware of the issues but has strung me alone for years with getting help but never doing it. One or two meetings and being let go by therapists. I read your book and passed it on and it gave me hope that people can change. Most people say the addict will never change. I’m not much of a religious person but I am trying to be spiritual and open minded. I have faith and hope for people and I strive to be the best I can be everyday. That’s the message I send out to my loved ones. At least try and move forward. You are right time to grow up. I did. I have battled with the idea about the destruction and pure meanness an addict and whether the disease is driving or is the narcissism/sociopath driving the storm. My addict has cut me out of her life because I stopped enabling and wanted them to best healthy. It’s hard lesson to learn and painful but I reread your writing and can’t wait for more. It truly helps out here. Thanks for your dedication.
"Life beings at the end of our comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsh
Anybody can take Steps, not just alcoholics and addicts. We are told to carry this message to others who suffer from addiction, but what about everybody else? Why hoard a process that can induce miracles? Shouldn’t everybody have access to these powerful and life-changing tools? Shouldn’t those we love feel the relief and serenity that we have procured for ourselves?
Letting go is a miracle. Once our basic needs are met, this is the secret to inner peace and happiness. If we can mentally/emotionally let go of all that is around us and inside of us, we can accept everything. We will have touched the great voice within and thus, the power of God. We can then touch the fabric of our universe and it is in this harmony that we continue to expand, know ourselves and give back. We’ll get more into letting go in Chapters 3 and 11, but to experience this inner evolution is something you do not want to miss.
Hello Charlie. I truly love and admire your work, and so appreciate all of your efforts and dedication to yourself, your family and God (maybe not in that order...but you know what I mean ;))
I have been reading your blog for a while, as I have been a member of alanon for a few years, but have struggled with this idea that alcoholism is a "disease" and that we should have "compassion and understanding" for they know not what they do. Huh? I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. All that aside, my question is about alcoholism and narcissism. I understand you likely can't have one without the other, but do you feel, or have you witnessed perhaps in yourself and others, that once recovery is found narcissism is completely removed from them? Or do you believe it may already be a personality disorder, and the compulsion to use is because narcissists loathe themselves so much that they use it to self medicate?
Just curious. Would love to hear your thoughts on this :)
True knowledge is gained through the experiment of living life. I have gained some truth about myself and my life from the results of my experience, through the tools that I have acquired and been given, and through the actual consequences of my words, thoughts, and most importantly, my actions. I know what has failed me and what has brought me success. And I can reasonably assume that anyone who shares a similar experience may also experience similar results. Read more »
This is a theological question! From reading your blog I sense you are a Christian?
Well, most of my personal theology comes from what I learned in the the 12 Steps. I consider myself a Christian and so I have in the past few years taken to attending bible studies at both very liberal but also conservative churches. Trying to cover all bases in my research.
So here's where I get tripped up. I keep running into the concept of predestination, or also referred to as Election. That it is to say that by grace alone that we are saved. Only some are chosen and actions seems to have little merit. However, from my 12 step readings I could never accept that view. Faith in action is all important!
Where do you stand on this? Have you found a church where you feel that your 12 Step knowledge fits in with their teachings? Read more »