I was speaking with a young man recently about his recovery. He is sober now for about 9 months and has been in and out of recovery for over 12 years. He recounted to me an extraordinary tale about the 30+ institutions he has been to in all that time trying to get and stay sober. I asked him if he carried the thought that he was somehow destined to use drugs and drink again sometime in the future. He said, “No. Why do you ask that?”
I was thinking to myself that this guy, who has never been able to stay sober more than a year or so must really have a deep-seated “fail-safe mechanism” all built in to his process. You know, fail-safe. “As long as I fail, I’ll be safe.”
Finding recovery and walking that path requires change. It is to step literally into the unknown. And that brings fear. You might think, “Who would I be without my drama, my addictions, my patterns? How would I pass the time? Who would be in my life?” It can feel as if all that is waiting for you down the road of recovery is fear, emptiness and loneliness. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that kind of thinking, which is really a belief system can be paralyzing in the most psychologically subtle ways. And so, on the deepest level you decide to fail.
“How have you managed to stay clean this time around,” I asked my new friend. “I’ve been working the 12 Steps and right now I’m on my 4th step,” he said. To be honest, I have been stuck on it for months.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the 4th step, this is where a person takes their personal inventory. It’s a thorough and emotionally challenging dredging up process where we take an honest appraisal of our entire life and the behaviors that have gotten in the way of happiness. It’s not something you want to get stuck in, and yet, so many people get stymied right there and never experience the freedom that comes from working the rest of the steps.
I looked this guy in the eyes and said, “Nothing could be more important in the world than you finishing your fourth step as soon as possible. Do you understand?” I repeated the sentiment a few times and I hope that he heard it. We’ll see.
If you are working the 12 Steps or have chosen another path of awakening, please make it your business to engage the path and the people who can support you along the way. If you get stuck, ask for help and keep going.
If you have decided that you do not need a spiritual path, a road home to your heart, or people to help you along the way, then I am not betting on your success. I don’t know anyone who goes toe to toe with addiction alone and comes out smiling. It always ends in tears until we actually take the actions to change and move forward into the great unknown. Who will you be without your addictions? I encourage you to get rid of your fail-safe mechanism and find out.
With Love and Gratitude,