Society demands the addict to “stop” yet has no real grasp on what recovery means to begin with. To a lesser degree, we all play out escape behaviors, saturating ourselves with unreality and ideals, falling into the traps of fabricated definitions of humanity. Yet we demand the addict to stop and do everything wrong to make him stop because the addiction, although more or less in all of us, is more visible in the drug addict. The remedy for any addiction is reality, a reality that questions one’s purpose, what the world is, and who or what created us— and in turn live according to such questions. But as long as we turn away from reality, we turn towards addiction and enable others to continue the path of a diluted and destructive existence.
Addiction pertains to all of us. Though the problem may not be substances or compulsions, the condition of addiction is universal and we all experience it to some degree. Every time we turn away from what is true, what is good, what is just, what is virtuous- we take another “hit” in favor of what seems gratifying. While it may seem harmless-to look away or evade your responsibility-it erodes the soul and gradually removes us from our nature of loving, caring, feeling, uniting, connecting, etc. Being unable to face the reality that we are living in contrary to our nature, we continue to turn away, drifting further into pleasures and distractions until anxiety, or depression, or crisis signals us to take action. Recovery is a return to the fundamental aspects of being a person… it is the state of answering life’s questions with action of what is good for the world and what is my responsibility in this given moment. Recovery limits or all together turns away from distractions and pleasures that get in the way of this responsibility.
I’ve come to realize that at the core of every relapse, underneath the distress and volatility of each craving, there is a sincere and desperate cry for reality… a reality tht lives out love, wisdom, and truth in its purest form.
All the rituals and practices of the major organized religions cannot parallel the moment a person hits rock bottom. There are no scripts, no pretensions, no rehearsed utterances…just a man or woman bearing their soul, pleading for healing, for answers- sending their cry into the void in hopes that Something or Someone will come. It’s miraculous to watch. You’ll never see someone as connected to their natural state as that. It’s similar to watching the miracle of birth. Being able to be a part of moments like this, I’ve discovered that there is something greater than ourselves watching over Its creation and I’m convinced loves us.
“Pick me up and throw me where you will. Wherever I land I shall keep the god within me happy…” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I’ve heard many stories from people in recovery dealing with obstacles, some so severe I wondered how they were managing to stay clean and sober. Some had lost their homes to foreclosure. Some were laid off from work. And some had even lost children to illness. In every account, the same statement reappeared at the end of each share, “But I didn’t drink” or “I didn’t pick up”… “no matter what.” These people were living proof that something profound had taken place within, a spiritual awakening. Though the external reality of their lives were constant and difficult, there was a wise and directing consciousness beneath what they presented. This consciousness was impenetrable- although their lives were shaken, they were far from broken.
Recovery is spiritual awareness. People become aware of the divinity within and make a decision to honor it on a daily basis. Outside circumstances such as death, divorce, and financial problems cannot influence the spiritual life within. Many people in AA refer to this idea as the “98 Burn”, a statement made on page 98 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book text which states “job or no job, wife or no wife…burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone.” While our world may be shaken or everything seems to be crumbling down around us, we must acknowledge the god inside us, unfazed, smiling, and always willing to direct us towards the next step. Stability, healing, and recovery depend not on what happens to us but on the reckoning and daily practice of honoring the divine life within.
What makes anything beautiful, what gives it life, is the experience it has had. We stare at a certain painting and become mesmerized by something unexplainable-there is an emotion, a life, a story that it has lived. This is the essence of all things worthwhile. They are neither fabricated or desired. Instead, these are the things that preserve us and provides a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. To be fully in the moment entails a full participation and realization of the experience. Experiencing moments where we are submerged in what’s occurring is the lifeblood of humanity. A bellyaching laugh, a melancholic embrace, a joyful victory, an attentive posture-all provide the opportunity to make the most of our lives.
Without the experience of participating in the moment, we lose an essential part of ourselves-a missing part that becomes excruciating to live with. Before we turn to medicine to alleviate our instabilities and sorrows, let’s ask ourselves how much are we participating in the joy of living, and how much are we avoiding it through diluted means of connecting? An emoji can never take the place of seeing a beautiful face smile. An “lol” cannot doesn’t come close to shared laughter around a table of friends. And words types across a screen can never replace an invaluable embrace of a loved one in distress. What makes anything beautiful is the loyal commitment to strive to engage in life as much as possible.
“There’s a mission that treats alcoholics and drug addicts located at the heart of Skid Row, Los Angeles. It’s a community center, so often beds fill fast and many seeking treatment are turned away and placed on a waiting list, requiring many to wait months before getting help. A fair percentage of those turned away have an earnest desire to get clean. Yet, they have no where to turn and so they wait, often in the blistering sun of the summer afternoon or in the unpredictable occurrences of the winter nights. Vulnerable to the elements, they lay underneath the refuge of an indifferent tree, a piece of nature notoriously known as “The Dying Tree.” Their desire for a better life far outweighs the predictability of the next fix. The commitment and focus by which they express in their determination to wait and to abstain, parallels the greatest ingenuity- humanity attempting to change against the odds. And the odds are heavily against them, as many of them wither and die beneath the scanty branches of The Dying Tree. Days pass, weeks, and months, and they wait. Many convulse, falling flat on their heads, scarcely leaving behind a few items for survival. Others die of dehydration or health related conditions, and those remaining, unable to continue the fight, relapse- overdosing after a period of abstinence due to the body being unaccustomed to the dosages. A grim and bitter ending it seems but the souls that never make it through the doors of possibilities of a different life grant us the greatest lesson. And that is, with every challenge we face, with everything we desire, we should place ourselves at the precipice-at the doors of possibilities and change with an unrelenting commitment, willing to sacrifice everything, willing to battle the elements- in the coldness or the unrelenting heat of daily living-for the opportunity of a better existence.”
If you’re lucky you’ve hit bottom more than once. On each occasion you’ve called out to something Greater than yourself. Perhaps out of desperation, you eagerly pleaded to a G_d you didn’t believe in. Each time you were rescued… and because of this an unquenchable love flourished for the One that saved you. And you became zealous- so zealous that today you bear no resemblance of the old self.