Recently, while discussing the addiction problem of a friend’s fifteen year old daughter, my immediate temptation was to think that this was unique and different, a special problem that needed to be dealt with in an extraordinary manner. I thought—there must be some kind of therapy, magic medication or miracle action which could fix the problem once and for all. Rescue and fix—that’s the answer. These thoughts raced through my head and I’m sure through her parent’s minds as well. How can we make the problem just go away?
Then in my own life—one week Bill was complaining about a floater in his eye that had been there for nearly a month affecting his vision as he was trying to finish a large wood carving. His balance and driving skills were rapidly deteriorating along with his peripheral vision. Off to the emergency room to discover a brain tumor and possible lung cancer. This all started on Monday and by Friday he was in surgery to remove an egg-sized tumor from his optic nerve. Life was looking rather bleak—these are not things I would ask for in my life. These are gifts wrapped in barbed wire and I only like gifts wrapped in pink ribbon. Surely, this is unique and special?
In late March my dear friends lost their beautiful mountain home in a sudden and devastating wildfire. Theirs was one of the first of twenty-seven homes lost in the beginning few hours of the fire. Named the Lower North Fork Fire, it started after a controlled burn got whipped into reactivation during one of the windiest days I’ve ever experienced in Colorado. Wind is relentless; it worms its way into the tiniest flaps and cracks to rip apart a seemingly solid structure. Then add fire to the mix and there is real trouble. The controlled burn had been considered safe and contained since it had been conducted nearly two weeks prior. Even though it had been an unusually dry winter, it was still winter after all. A few deep pockets of embers were left to flare during the windstorm that happened that day. What is to be done when everything is gone—all the material stuff? Isn’t this the worst thing ever?
My friends said, “The fear of losing everything is worse than the actuality.” When I asked if we could trade gifts they said no, we don’t want yours. Each of us has got our own “gifts” that give us the experience our own souls crave to complete in this life.
So here are three things that disrupted my lovely, tranquil world early in the year 2012, each devastating in its own way. Why is Recovery the answer? Could it possibly be the answer in all these cases?
Recovery tells me that my attitude is the only thing I can change and therefore is the only thing I am responsible for. The 12 Steps give me a way to change my thinking and attitude, but to see what my real habitual attitudes are can be painful and humiliating. The Steps promise I will have a new attitude and outlook on life before I am halfway through Step Nine which is to take responsibility for my past actions by admitting that they have harmed and disturbed others in my life. These things many times hurt me more that they have anyone else. They make me hide away thinking that could be really harmful to me and others.
There are things I don’t want you to know about myself. I share my innermost thoughts and feelings many times in 12 Step fellowship meetings. It is an incredible and freeing experience and while I wouldn’t wish the way I have felt thought and behaved in my lifetime, it sure is comforting to know that others in the room have thought, felt and behaved just like me. Oh, the names, dates and places are not the
same but we all know the stories.
Yet there are still things I don’t want you to know. I don’t want to tell you that when Bill was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lung cancer; my first thought was: He’s losing weight and I’m not!
I don’t want to admit that when my friend’s house burned my thought was: They get a new house, what about me?
And of course I think, She at least got to have kids, I could have done it differently which is guess what? Perfectly!
Yes, it’s still there—this profoundly lazy part of myself, perhaps it’s the human condition; it’s the shitty little kid inside me who whines and complains. “What about me? I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna be the gift. When am I going to get mine? Get out of my way!”
The 12 Steps have taught me that I don’t have to live with these thoughts. They give me a way to recognize and accept those parts of myself because without acceptance there can be no change. When I attempt to hide those parts of myself they grow and grow in the dark of my belief in the lie and I can certainly gather the evidence that they are true.
Like the old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” the Steps teach me a way to deal with the uncertainties of the universe, my human condition, the shitty little kid and the lie that constantly tries to invade my life. They teach me how to fish. The beginnings of the change in my thinking are detailed in our book “Dig Deep in One Place” but the change continues today as I journey on this great adventure of finding out who I can be if I just stop believing the lies of the habit of a lifetime, that whining, lazy part of myself. I can learn to be the gift.