Honestly? Yes!

I’m not sure how many times the word ‘honesty’ appears in recovery literature but I am sure that it’s a substantial number. Honesty is an essential part of the program. The essence of the twelve steps is to dig through the layers of ego driven lies and bravado in order to arrive at the truth of who I am and then maintain that truth, and even dig a little bit deeper as I go along.

“To thine own self be true.”  Shakespeare

The coins we receive to mark time in sobriety have this struck onto them. It comes from the play Hamlet where a father is giving advice to his son who is going off on his own for the first time. Be honest with yourself, says dad. He’s also advising his son to stay the course, not to stray, to be true in the sense of an arrow heading for the bullseye. The first nine steps in the program allow us to find our path of truth. The last three help us to stay on that path.

We’ve all told some whoppers in our day. When looking back at these big lies, we can see that we told them to protect our vision of ourselves or deflect suspicion onto others: lies are always Ego based. The biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves. The biggest lie I told myself is that I was ‘different’. I suffered from ‘Terminal Uniqueness’: my belief that I was unlike anyone else was killing me slowly. My ego told me that it was okay to try to escape from my surroundings and who I was because no one understood me, no one was going through what I was going through and everyone was against me or I against them. Drugging and drinking were symptoms of deep dishonesty.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

It’s a challenging path to the truth of who I am. It’s peeling off the layers of the onion to get to the center. There’s often a fear that we’ll go so far we’ll find there’s nothing at the center. Fortunately, onions grow from the inside out and there’s always another layer to discover: new truth and understanding. But yes, being honest with myself means ripping off the layers that Ego has built with half-truths and lies and getting to my essence and accepting the ‘me’ that I discover. It’s not easy and it’s not something that happens overnight. Like many other parts of our program, it’s a process. But once there, I have a base, a foundation I can build upon.

“Pretty words are not always true, true words are not always pretty; and yet, they are still true.” Aiki Flinthart, The Yu Dragon

Being honest isn’t easy. It’s hard to face who I am and to know that it’s not the world, circumstances or others who brought me to my knees. I did that. I was the one who made those decisions that created the addict/alcoholic that I am. It wasn’t my parents, my partner, my job, where I live or my tragedies: I created the mess that landed with a thump at the door of a recovery program. That’s probably the most difficult truth anyone has to face. It’s the one that I must face if I am to recover.

I build my new life based upon truth, based on honesty. I can begin small by just not telling lies to myself and others. This goes beyond being ‘cash register honest’. Honesty and truth become deeply imbedded in this new character we are constructing. Self-inspection is essential to building this new life.  Even the best bricklayer uses a level to make sure that his work is plumb and follows a string line to make sure that it is straight as well.

“The longest journey is the journey inwards.” Dag Hammarskjöld

Once more I see how the program is simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes courage and willingness to dig deeply into my self and come up with an honest appraisal of who I am. Here again, the Serenity Prayer comes in: serenity, courage and wisdom. I ask for these in my quest for honesty and the discovery of self.

 

EGO minus E plus D

Probably no human power could have relieved me of my addiction. And when I mention human power, I think of my power. And that power comes from my ego.  For me, when I speak of ego, I am talking about my self-concept, who I am, or better, who I think I am. It is my ego that tells me I am separate from everyone, that my consciousness ends here…and everything else is ‘out there’.

When I was in my addiction, my ego told me that I was okay.  I was fine.  I might have screwed something up, but everyone does that. My ego liked to justify my actions.  It is my ego that told me I was better than everyone else and the same ego that said I was worse than whale dung at the bottom of the ocean. If I came out on top, I would say that I did that!  If I was circling the hole at the bottom of the toilet, than it was circumstances, or problems or others who were the cause.  Ego likes to take credit and cast blame. Ego believes it can do no wrong and can justify any action it takes. Ego believes that it has all the power.

When I began my journey down Recovery River, I had to admit that Ego wasn’t always telling me the truth, or what it was giving me was a slanted version of the truth. Ego told me that my using wasn’t bad. It told me I could quit any old time I wanted to. It said that those people really don’t care about me. Ego said I was better than the guy who panhandles on the street for a rock or who drinks Listerine or who’s been thrown out of his home. Ego told me I didn’t need help and that it would handle everything. Even after I had been in the program for a while Ego said that I had this and I could handle this by myself; I wouldn’t need the group, the meetings, a sponsor or the steps to stay sober.

However, it became glaringly apparent that Ego wasn’t doing its job, or perhaps it was doing its job too well! I am grateful that I listened to those about me and not to Ego. Perhaps I hadn’t had a bottom as low as some others around the table, but they told me if I wanted to follow Ego, I was more than welcome to hand my life back to Ego to find out how things would go.

Fortunately, I started to relate to what was being said around the table and not compare myself.  I saw that while I wasn’t panhandling, but I wasn’t paying bills on time and I always made sure that I had my stash. I wasn’t drinking mouthwash, but I was buying the cheapest liquor so that I could afford more. I wasn’t out on the street, but my addiction made me a poor choice for a companion. I began to see that what Ego said was twisted. I began to see that Ego’s power was limited. It was limited because it was controlled by me: Ego was controlling Ego which became a vicious cycle spiraling downward.

What became my power? At that point it didn’t matter. All that mattered is that it wasn’t me, Ego, that had the power in my life. Hell, a door knob had more power because at least it was useful; at least it could open a door. I came to believe in a power greater than myself: something, anything was more powerful than I was at that point. Ego had proven itself a powerless liar leading me down the proverbial garden path.

I have to say that I am still reticent to use the word God. I prefer to use Higher Power, or Consciousness or the Infinite. I prefer to end the meeting with the Serenity Prayer rather than the Our Father. I prefer not to define the who, what or how of my Higher Power because putting a definition on that power also puts limits on what that power can do. Slowly I am growing in my understanding of this God.

When things are not going as I would have hoped, I can always look for Ego in the situation. Every time I look, I find it. Ego is me looking for things to go my way.  Ego is justifying and rationalizing my actions. Ego is building me up or tearing you down. When I stop and recognize what is happening, I can do as someone said: “Drop the E and and a D. I turn it over to God, as I understand it, her, him, and somehow my perspective changes, I realize I am not in this alone. I know that Ego is not in charge.  I am grateful.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.

Peace

A Call to Action

For many, the Serenity Prayer is a nice little prayer that most of us say on a daily basis, or at least whenever we attend recovery meetings. We ask for ‘serenity’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘courage’ very nicely and hope that our Higher Power will ‘grant’ it to us. It may seem like a meek, humble prayer, but it doesn’t have to be. I believe it is a prayer of great strength.

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When I came to recovery, the first step ‘suggested’ that I admit my powerlessness when it comes to drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t hard to admit. I couldn’t get very far in a day without trying to alter my body chemistry in some way. And for the most part, the rest of the day I was either pursuing more, money to get more, or scheming some way to make it all work. My whole day, hell, my whole being was caught up with my addiction. And once it was in my system, I just wanted more and more and oblivion.  The next morning the cycle continued.  No, admitting powerlessness wasn’t difficult. Addiction was managing my life; I sure wasn’t.

What I learned when I came into the rooms is that while I might be powerless before alcohol and drugs, I was not helpless.  And there’s a big difference that I didn’t see before I arrived.  Powerlessness means that while I may once have had power, I have lost that power; I must stand aside and let whatever happens, happen. There is nothing I can do to diminish or stop its progress. Helplessness implies a complete inability to change or react to circumstances. I acted helpless when I arrived.  But it wasn’t long before I heard that there were indeed things I could do to maintain my sobriety: stay away from my old haunts, go to meetings, give other members a call, read the literature.  I felt at first that it was a daunting task, but I could do something to help myself. Indeed, while I wasn’t fighting it alone, the responsibility to take up the sword and lead the battle against my disease fell to me.

The Serenity Prayer became my battle cry.  I claimed the serenity, courage and wisdom and fought my demons. There were many days where I would hop onto my motorcycle and ride, going nowhere in particular, saying the Serenity Prayer over and over and over.  And slowly this mantra gave me blessed me with a calmness that would start in  my head and filter down to my heart. And I could return to face what I had just ran from.

By working all of the steps, I’ve learned how to deal with situations that before I couldn’t not have handled. I’ve found the serenity to accept, the courage to change and the wisdom to discern. One day I realized that the demons stopped knocking on the my door. Oh, I hold no illusions: I know they are still around, waiting up the street for me to slip up so they can come back with a vengeance. I know that I am still powerless over my addiction and always will be. However, I was not helpless when I first came into the program and I am not helpless today. There is always something that I can do and for me, the Serenity Prayer is my first recourse. Secondly, I still do the five things that were ‘suggested’ to me:

  1. Don’t drink.
  2. Go to meetings.
  3. Get a Home Group.
  4. Get a Sponsor.
  5. Work the Steps.

These five things connected me.  They connect me to my real self, to others, to the program and to my Higher Power. I never was alone, and now I know I am not alone.

Finally, I am reminded of a reworking of this prayer that also rings true for me:
God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the Courage to change the ones I can, and the Wisdom to realize that one is Me.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.

Peace