Terminally Unique

I, like many others who arrive at the doors of recovery rooms, was suffering from a belief that went far beyond my addiction and was at the root of what was killing me. It was a belief that went deep and in many ways was the source of all of the problems that I was encountering in life. I arrived with the disease of ‘Terminal Uniqueness’.

I thought that I was unique. I believed that I was different. I knew that no one else had the challenges that I faced. I was convinced that if anyone else had been bombarded by the set of circumstances that I found myself in, they too would have found a way to escape this prison by over indulging in some sort of ‘medication’ to treat this disease.

Of course I ended up in recovery. I was sure I was the only white, gay, ex-catholic, male, farm boy from Southern Ontario that had ever been born. I had some lower back pain issues. I had a partner who didn’t understand me. I was depressed. I felt I was powerless over my situation and so, of course, I deserved some compensation for all of these difficulties. Getting loaded was my way of dealing with all of those things. I needed some relief from all of the things that were constantly prodding at my mind.

It took going through the Twelve Steps of recovery to allow me to see that I wasn’t ‘unique’ or ‘different’. I came to see that my ‘terminal uniqueness’ was another deadly form of Ego disease. I realized that I hadn’t accepted the package that made me who I was. Thinking I was different was my ego telling me to run away from all that I was instead of embracing it. My problems weren’t connected to my sexuality, my religion, or my environment. My problem was me and my solution was acceptance.

Recovery has helped me to face myself honestly, without judgement and without expectation. I have a garden variety addiction. My story is very similar to the stories of the other folks around the meeting tables. Some dove deeper into their addiction than I did but the result was the same and here we all sit. I learned to dig below the surface to see my past for what it was.  I learned to accept my story, my past. I learned to embrace the person I was discovering, perhaps for the first time.

Today I focus on gratitude. I am learning to be grateful that I have all of those qualities that I had been running away from. I have come to understand that I can’t change my past or those qualities, nor to I want to. They are part of my make-up and they are something to celebrate rather than escape from. My ego is a bit tamer these days. Oh, I still fall into the trap of thinking that I can’t make it through whatever I am going through. But, I have survived every challenge that has ever come my way. How do I know? I am still here.

I have learned that accepting what happens as ‘life’, makes it neither positive or negative. I live my life on life’s terms, not mine and that allows me to remember that I can and will make it through.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

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Acceptance is the Starting Point

In my addiction I would often scold myself and tell myself when I came to in the morning that I wouldn’t do that ever again. But by noon, all bets were off; my head was clearer(?) and I could tell myself with just enough conviction that it wasn’t that bad and I would do better today. Of course, during the last few months of active addiction, there was no morning regret. I had no dignity. I had little emotion. I had but one goal: the continual desire to seek and find oblivion.

I knew before I arrived at my first recovery meeting that I needed help. I just couldn’t stop on my own any more. I figured that if I could use the meeting to keep my head on straight for one day, then perhaps I could quit for longer. I thought that I just needed that push to get me up onto the ‘wagon’ and I would be able to handle it by myself.  After all I had quit on my own in the past for fairly long periods of time. I could lick this on my own.

A member of the group invited me to return to the meeting the next day and since I wasn’t doing much of anything and perhaps because no one really wanted me around any way, I took her up on the offer. And I kept going back. I started reading Twelve Step literature. I started counting my clean and sober days. Time in the program because important to me. I always chased the gold star in school; now I was chasing the 30-day chip, then two month and so on. I stayed. I began to work the steps and my life began to change.

Why did this work for me? I think that when I came into the program I was finally ready to accept that I was powerless and that I needed help. I was ready to surrender. My acceptance of the situation that I found myself in (and which I know was of my own making) became the jumping off point into recovery. The evidence of my addiction was before me. I could no longer deny it. I couldn’t pass it off as a bad night or a difficult week. There just wasn’t an end to what I was going through. Once any of us decide that we have hit our bottom, then we can start moving forward again.

I’ve learned since I’ve been in Recovery that what I resist will persist. As long as I was resisting my disease, fighting it, not acknowledging it, I was giving it the upper hand. The heroin addict, the compulsive gambler or the two liter a day alcoholic are doing the same thing: fighting against the facts, denying that they have a disease which keeps them in their addiction. Admission and acceptance are the foundation of  recovery. Once I accept, I’m saying to myself that there’s nowhere else to go. I have to deal with the situation or it is not going to change. Acceptance of the situation made me willing to do the work to move forward.

And I am learning that this applies to all situations in life. Once I accept a that I cannot control persons, places or things, then I can work on the one thing that I can control: ME.

I am grateful.

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Perseverance

“How many books have you written, Leo?” I tell them. “That many! Wow.Writing obviously comes easy to you.” Actually it doesn’t come easy. I’ve really got to work at it. I’m writing this meditation at 4 AM-talk about perseverance! But most things that we achieve take perseverance: marriage, recovery, scholarship, sports, theatre, music . . . the list is endless. We should also consider that the people who say, “You definitely have a gift,” are possibly manipulating the compliment so that they can remain idle. Sloth can be tricky. “If I don’t have the gift, how can I be successful?” Not so fast! We all have gifts. Some of us choose to develop, nurture, and polish them. We can all learn to dance.              Say Yes to Your Spirit, Leo Booth

When I came into recovery I was told that it isn’t a difficult program but that it would take an effort on my part. Later I was told that faith in a Higher Power can move mountains, but I had to bring a shovel and a wheelbarrow. It goes along with the old adage that money doesn’t grow on trees, but it is made from trees. If I want anything, I will have to work for it. It takes perseverance.

In the past 18 months that I have been writing this blog I have posted almost 150 entries. It has not been easy. Sometimes the words come easier than others but they always come because I work for them. Sometimes the words are as much for me as they are for the readers. I use the blog to express ideas that I have about recovery and to explore the depth of the journey we are on as we go down Recovery River. And as I write, I am gaining valuable experience in writing and learning about myself. The blog is my way of working the shovel and wheelbarrow of my recovery.

There are still plenty of times outside of the blog writing where I procrastinate, (a fancy, five syllable word that means sloth). I say that I’m not in the mood, or not inspired, but the truth is, I am not writing other things that I want to be write because of fears and self doubt. If the recovery program has taught me anything it is that I have to do the work to get the result. And so, once again, I am telling on myself and sharing with my readers something that I know will urge me and pressure me to continue on with this journey of writing.

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I will be reaching a ‘biggie’ birthday this year. I wish to plan the next stage of my life to be a productive part of my life and part of that will be writing. I do not wish to exist. I want to “Live! Live! Live!” to quote Auntie Mame. I don’t wish to shuffle slowly to the grave. Rather I want to splash down into it enjoying and really living every part of what life has to offer. And whether that is a day, a year, or thirty years more, I challenge myself to persevere to keep moving forward, to live each day to the fullest, to take risks and to continually step out of my comfort zone. I can’t accomplish any of this sitting in my easy chair watching Netflix. I have to conquer my fears and my doubts if I want to move forward.

Do I have a great gift for writing? Not anymore than anyone else. But what I do have is passion for it and so I will continue to write. I am grateful to my recovery program and the people in my life for encouraging me and showing me by their own example that I can move forward and pursue my passions.

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