Friday, April 14, 2017

Putting Down The Cup

"Change or die" is the most brutally honest phrase, of the many slogans and cliches, that is heard in the beginning stages of the recovery journey for people with substance abuse issues. While it may seem dramatic and simplistic, it isn't. Lasting recovery, and long-term abstinence, absolutely depends on whether an addict is willing to change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. None of them are easy, but it involves getting honest with ourselves, for ourselves, about one basic fact of our lives: that whatever values we have been living by have not worked for us. And the first thing that has to change is the behaviors that result from the way we think.
Of course, not using drugs is the starting point. But without basic, real change in how we think and what else we do, the rest of it does not happen. Some of the connections between eventual use of drugs and our mindsets are obvious, but many of them are less direct. But for all of us that have kept it down for a long time, they all have to be recognized and addressed. Recognition comes from changing the people we spend our time around from those engaged in the old life and lifestyle to those trying to live a new way, listening to what they tell us about not only their own stories but also to the suggestions about what we need to change--and then making changes.
And one thing that those of us that are "predecessors" have to develop are boundaries, walls that define our own danger zones which we cannot enter. If we grow close to those that will not change, we will suffer, too. It is not necessarily fatal to our own recoveries to set a foot over those boundaries on occasion, but we cannot loiter in the danger zone. And as much as we like to, we cannot drag those that are not willing to go onto our side of the boundary.
There comes a time when you have to let them go.
And one visible manifestation of a working recovery program is beginning to understand that God often does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. I've known what I have had to do in this house and in my life for some time now, but I was unable to completely take the actions I needed to take... until now. With every passing hour, absence is not making the heart grow any fonder, and the clarity of vision that I exhibit in almost every area of my life but this one is returning.
But knowledge without application is useless. To that end, I began moving things into the basement last night, and I will not answer the phone if it rings this morning. I am not bringing anything to the place where someone is temporarily residing, either. As my rationality gains the ascendancy over my emotions, as what has been becomes as clear to me as what it is, I am finding the strength and determination to do what needs to be done.
I changed, and continue to change. My brother's problems this week have driven home the point that I could die at any moment, for any reason, But even though we all die at some point, I do not have to hasten the process; I do not have to sip from a cup of hemlock and kill myself by degrees. This situation has been very complex and fraught with emotions good and bad, and I now see that it was impossible for me to not think emotionally and act on the desires of the heart while engaging on a daily basis. That has been removed, and clarity is returning.
There is a part of me that feels like this is cruel and a bit chicken. But three years-plus of experience has showed me what my limitations are. It's time, and I've been given an opportunity to do what I need to do for myself without interference from those pesky feelings, without being subject to the manipulations of the heart. It has been my experience that God's will really does get made clear to us, and that if we don't act on the more subtle hints that we get, eventually the hint is applied with a sledgehammer. And this week, the hammer has come down.
And it's not so bad.

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