Strength in weakness

When I was 18, I worked out.

It was a time in my life when I wanted to feel invincible.  I spent almost every evening after school in the mat room lifting weights, push-ups, chin-ups… anything to increase my physical strength.

I wasn’t particularly athletic.  I just wanted to look and feel strong.

As addicts, don’t we want to feel strong? Invincible?  I mean, who wants to feel weak?

There was a time in my life when feeling weak really bothered me.  I would think to myself, “OMG… hear we go again…”  And I would spiral downward into my addiction…

I have come to terms with this emotional thing.  Feelings are just… well… feelings!  They come and they go.  They have a lot to do with what I am thinking about.

Before recovery, I didn’t know that I could find strength in weakness.  I remember the spiritual teaching from my Christian mentors… “When I am weak I am strong…”

I never understood this paradox until I got into recovery.  When I admitted I was powerless, I was then able to search for a higher power that could restore my sanity.

It’s funny how a subtle thing like “letting go” works in our favor.  The very act of admitting to our weakness, and then letting go – handing it over to a higher power – seems to make all the difference.

Are you feeling weak today?  That’s okay.  Call someone and “let it go.”  When the mist of uncertainty rises, Higher Power is there to give you strength for today.

“Do it on purpose”

As addicts we lived in a “London fog” (my apologies to those who are from the UK).  Every thought and deed emerged from this thick fog.

There was no need to focus on anything.  Every moment was consumed by the addiction:  Running, escaping, and more pain; running, escaping, and more pain.  There was no big plan.  Nothing was done “on purpose.”  Addiction became our default mechanism.

No matter how hard we tried to purposefully break free of this painful loop, we could not.

The ‘fog’ was how we felt most of the time.  Never wanting to feel any pain, we medicated ourselves until we could feel nothing.  Even the good feelings were gone.  It was as if a numbing blanket covered our thoughts and feelings all the time.  We had truly escaped life and our responsibilities.

Even if we wanted to return, we found we could not.

Some of us were fortunate enough to find a 12 step fellowship.  We learned how to focus on the solution instead of the problem.  We began to live on purpose.

The power of focus – doing it on purpose – transformed our lives.  Even after we had formally completed the 12 steps, the program encouraged us to continue to focus on our recovery. 

This acronym for the word ‘FOCUS’ supports the idea of doing something on purpose:

Follow  One  Course  Until  Successful

When I first began the 12 step program, I was paralyzed with the thought that I had to remain sober for the rest of my life.  I had, at the very least, another 40 years to go!  ‘The rest of my life’ seemed like a long, long time.  How could anyone remain focused for 40 years?

Consequently, it was years before I successfully completed the steps.  Not until I learned to focus on this moment – on this day – that “one day at a time” became more than just a slogan… it became a way of navigating the course!

As I continued to focus on the solution (and not the problem), I do what I can do today to live my life with purpose.  I don’t always feel motivated to stay sober for the rest of my life.  But I can choose to be sober by helping others today.

I can live my life on purpose today because today is all I have. 

“You can run but you cannot escape”

Most of us – if not all of us – chased after an elusive thing called “love.”

In fact, we ran after it.  Day and night.

But why?

Because we wanted to escape the harsh reality of our lives.  We thought we could journey outside of reality.  And our addiction brought us some peace and serenity – something that felt like love.  At least, we thought so…

After our drug wore off we returned to reality and, once again, were faced with the harshness and pain of everyday life.  This caused us to run back to our escape – using our drug of choice.

And so it continued:  Run, escape, pain; run, escape, pain.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year…

Eventually, our addiction wouldn’t let us escape anymore.  No longer could we find the “love” we needed.  We ran harder… we tried using more frequently, more heavily. 

Finally, all that was left of our lives was the pain!

The program shows us that reality is not the problem.  Trying to escape reality is the problem.  By resisting ‘what is’ we eventually create suffering that is far worse than the pain of everyday life.

As we continue to turn our will and our life over to the care of God (Higher Power), we experience serenity.  Our new reality is one of inner peace and strength.  

We no longer need to run and hide. 

“You can run, but you cannot escape…”  Hiding in our addiction is the worst thing we can do for ourselves.  And we know this is true, because we’ve been there.

Yet the temptation is to run… to try to escape ‘what is’ when ‘what is’ feels too painful.

The program has ended the vicious cycle of “run, escape, pain.”  Keep working the program.  Be honest.  Be open.  Be willing.  Dare to face reality.  Your courage will be rewarded with an inner peace and strength that you never knew you had.

“Sit down or take it outside”

I attend regular meetings.  At my fellowship, many of us are good friends, and we like to chat… a lot.  So, starting a meeting on time can be a challenge sometimes.

Occasionally, you’ll hear the chairperson say, “Sit down, or take it outside.”

This is just a way of saying, “It’s time to get started!”  Some of us aren’t always aware of the time, and impose on the time of the entire group.  We need someone to keep us on track.

It’s the same thing working with a sponsor.  Your sponsor wants you to start your program right away, and stay connected.  This isn’t because your sponsor has an inflated ego (let’s hope not); your sponsor wants you to stay on track.

It’s important that you ‘hire’ a good sponsor – someone who demands rigorous effort while working through the steps.  This is a life-changing program, and demands your complete devotion and respect.

Don’t ever think that the reason you are doing 12 step work is for your spouse, or your partner, or your sponsor.  You are working the program for you.  Your sponsor is your coach, your mentor, perhaps even your spiritual advisor – helping you find your way along a path that is new and unfamiliar.

Don’t go hiring a sponsor unless you’re ready to listen to him/her, and do what is suggested.  If you refuse to follow simple instructions, you’re just wasting your time and theirs.  The next time you think you know better, remember this…

“Sit down, or take it outside.”