Truth and Courage

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.” M. Scott Peck

Step Four asks us to make a thorough and fearless moral inventory. I took more time with this step than any other step in my recovery program. I kept telling myself I was preparing my thoughts, waiting for the right time and hoping to be inspired. What I was really doing was working on a character trait that still dogs me: procrastination. Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow? And I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid I might find the truth of who I was. There were a lot of dark corners of my past that I had shut the door on and I was quite sure I would be opening Pandora’s Box if I looked too closely.

I had my own deadline for completing this step. I wanted to have it down and talk about it with my sponsor before I moved. As the period of time got shorter and shorter, my anxiety about the step increased. And then I started thinking that perhaps I didn’t need to do it before I moved. It could always be done later, right?

About this time I went to a meeting where the topic arose. A fellow shared that it took him two years and three days to complete his Fourth Step: two years of procrastination and three days to do the work. He talked about how his fear of what he might find froze him. When he finally sat down to write, he broke through that fear and faced himself with honesty, discovering that the task wasn’t as arduous as he thought it would be. This was the push I needed.

I got out the guide for the step that a friend suggested. I wasn’t sure what I would find but I knew that if I wanted to recover I had to trust the process. I knew it worked because I could see the results in others.  I also had examples of what happened to those who skipped this step. All it took was a couple of days of effort to work through the 59 questions  in the guide. In the end, the experience I heard at that step meeting bore true for me as well. My fear was a phantom. I knew my past. A few things I hadn’t thought about in years came up, but I realized that I never had anything to fear.

Like making that first phone call to ask for help, or walking into a meeting room for the first time, my fear diminished once I got down to doing Step Four. It wasn’t a Pandora’s Box of frightful things. Everything that was there I had placed inside. Step Four allowed me to open the box and see exactly what was in there. Now I had a better idea of who I was and what I needed to work on a better future for myself.

Live Life!

“What if you don’t like your path?”

“Then it’s not your path.”

Jed McKenna,  Dreamstate: A Conspiracy Theory

I remember when I was a kid there was a great emphasis on finishing what you had started. Even if you didn’t like it, you stuck with it because that is what you were ‘supposed’ to do. Quitting part way through was the lazy way out, a defect of character. This went for college course choices, job choices and relationship choices. Once you committed to something, you couldn’t change course.  Stiff upper lip and all that!

I couldn’t disagree more today!

How many people are working at jobs they detest? Are going through the motions in a relationship that no longer fulfills? Living in conditions that are sapping them of their life blood? What good does it do you to keep climbing the corporate ladder when you find that the ladder is propped up onto the wrong wall?

Life is too short. It’s too short to be working at a job you detest, living where you aren’t comfortable and being with the wrong person. To everything there is a season. And when the season ends it’s time to move on. And there’s a lid for every pot; if the lid isn’t fitting, then change lids.

When I look at my life before recovery and now, I see a colossal difference. When I came into the meeting rooms I was at my bottom. I was living in the metaphoric dungeon of life and my addiction kept me in chains. The miracle of recovery showed me that the chains were of my own making and they weren’t locked. The trap door from the dungeon was unbolted and there was a ladder out. According to the old philosophy, I made my bed, now I must lie in it. The goal, I discovered isn’t to “make the best of it” it’s to leave the dungeon all together!

Any change can be very stressful. Because of this some prefer to stay in the dungeon because they ‘know’ it. Some fear what might happen if they do leave. What if they fail? What if they don’t like it? So they sell their health and peace of mind for the sense of security of a job or a relationship or an addiction that is robbing them of really living life.

Again I say, life is short and you’ll be dead for a lot more years than you ever lived. No one on their deathbed wishes they could have spent more time at the office. Get out there!  Try different things! Take some risks! Change the path you’re on if it’s not your path. You don’t get out of here alive, so make sure that you’ve lived while you were here.

 

 

Act as If

“I’ve got this!” Famous last words of many folks who had no idea of what or how things could go wrong. Suddenly they will be nominated for a Darwin Award: a prize given to those who contribute to our gene pool by removing themselves from it. It’s a fitting crown to an otherwise obscure tombstone.

So often we think that we’ve ‘got’ it, and we don’t know how close we are to ‘lost’ it. There are so many variables in life that it is impossible to have sufficient contingency plans for everything. A tire will explode; a dog will cross your path; the ladder will break. It’s not a matter of good or bad karma. Things happen. It’s often the timing and the consequences of those things that we judge to be good, bad or indifferent: how do I perceive it?

Take for example the tire exploding. If it happens when the car is parked, just after we got home then, “Well, it’s a miracle that we made it!” If it happens just before we are about to leave then, “What bad luck, now I have to change the damn tire!” If it happens while driving too fast down a gravel road in the mountains, we may not survive to make a comment.

I’m learning that I simply don’t have control. I have plenty of evidence that gives me the illusion that I can control things: it worked today, so it will work tomorrow. However, there is never a guarantee that walking to work today will be as uneventful as it was yesterday or the day before, or the ride I’m about to take on my motorcycle will end with me safe and sound back in my home. The guy who said, “I got this!” might have done the same thing 25 times before without turning himself into a human torch. The unexpected happens. We all know this is true on some level, yet we still venture out into the ‘unknown’.

Why aren’t we paralysed with fear? Why would we ever leave the ‘safety’ of our homes? I think it is because we know on some level that we have to ‘act as if’ things are going to be fine, that they will run like clockwork and we’ll be tucked safely into bed at the end of the day. It’s an agreement with life that we will act and think as though things will happen as we intend them to happen. And for the most part, they do.

When I came into recovery I began to ‘act as if’ I was sober and clean. I ‘acted as if’ I could spend the rest of the day without consuming. I went to meetings, I worked the steps and talked to my sponsor because I was ‘acting like someone in a recovery program’ until I actually began to feel that I was no longer acting. And when I ‘came to believe’ in a power greater than myself, I was opting into the same belief system that I was operating with before: that if I would ‘act as if’ there was a Higher Power in my life until I could really believe and trust. The program has given me a new perspective. Now I don’t have to ‘act as if’. Now I know, “We got this!”