Thursday, October 15, 2009

“The Importance of Acting As-If”

I’ve heard a number of times now about the ‘sophomore slump’; that the second year of Recovery is often harder than the first. The pace of change slows down, there’s less direct work to do, and the program you work becomes more maintenance-based. Life settles down a bit. The emotional rollercoaster that is early Recovery evens out into a more ‘normal’ human experience.

As my life has evened out, I've found that normalcy can be real hard to deal with. Even though I hated the insanity and chaos of my previous life, it was familiar to me. It was what I knew. There was a comfort in that familiarity, as sick and twisted as that may sound. Having to live a life where everything is more or less okay is a challenge. Refraining from sabotaging myself is not easy sometimes. Being able to relax and enjoy when things are good can be downright difficult.

Good feelings are as hard to deal with as bad ones.

Maybe even more so. I don’t have nearly as much experience dealing with good feelings as I do the bad ones. I think that’s true for most of us. Until we begin Recovering, our lives are filled with strife and sorrow. When we get clean and start working a program, our lives begin to change. After accumulating some clean time, the chaos and insanity begin to fall away and we are faced with a new challenge: living a ‘normal’ life.

I use the quotes there because, for addicts like myself, life will never truly be what the Normies consider normal. I am still an addict, I always will be. Hell, I even try to avoid buying sweets because I swear I can fix on anything. You should see how fast I go through a box of donuts. I have to admit, though, that’s a much better problem to have to deal with than wandering around downtown at some absurd hour of the night asking complete strangers where the party’s at.

And this is really what I’m trying to get at: life HAS settled down for me. I’ve learned volumes since I began my Recovery. The desire to use has been lifted. The promises are coming true for me. I no longer find myself drawn to drama, am instead repulsed by it. I have learned to let others have their chaos and insanity, to help when asked, and otherwise leave it be. Personal boundaries are no longer the great mystery they once were.

We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.

When I call my sponsor these days, the bulk of the issues in my life are things that so-called normal people deal with: a job that I hate, parents who don’t love me the way I wish they would, relationship issues, etc. His most frequent response is to laugh and tell me that there are countless others out there who would kill to have my problems instead of their own. It’s been a good reminder that I need to continue practicing that spiritual principle of Humility.

I have been through the hell of active addiction and lived to tell about it. That makes me one of the lucky ones. I am active in my Recovery. I do my best to work a strong program. It doesn’t mean life without the stuff is less difficult, merely less insane. A number of folks get clean and don’t go to the place where I am now at. They remain hooked into drama. They find other ways to fix. They stay insane.

My disease still tells me that every little thing that goes wrong is a crisis of epic proportions. My desire for a fix is always looking for a way to escape from whatever I might be going through, good or bad. I once heard an old-timer share about wanting to have ‘arrived’ at a place where everything’s fine and how hard it can be to deal with the fact she will never reach it. This woman had over twenty years clean time.

We act ‘as-if’.

The idea of acting ‘as-if’ is one I still struggle with. Somehow it doesn’t seem to fit in with the whole ‘rigorous honesty’ aspect of the program. The literature tells us it’s invaluable. My sponsor says the importance of acting as-if can not be overstated. Maybe it’s the way we addicts make up that last bit of distance between ourselves and the Normies.

An example that comes easy is how each morning when I get into work (at the job I hate), my brain immediately launches into a near-constant stream of conversations with my superiors. I get accused of being lazy, of being at fault for things I'm not, of being told how I’ll never succeed or be successful. This is, of course, my disease at its worst. In truth, I am almost never told anything of the kind; I don’t need anyone else to tear me down—I do it all by myself. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

Another frequent thought is that I’ll never find someone to share my life with. I have felt deep love, both for and from another. Yet even in the past when I have had a woman in my life, my brain didn’t cease it’s cacophony. Being without one, Uncle Steve’s tirade can rise to a fever pitch. Ironically enough, it’s always the same old chorus: that there is something inherently wrong with me, that even if I miraculously do find someone who wants to be with me (and that is good for me), that I will sabotage it as I have so many other relationships in the past. My disease tells me I’m utterly incapable of sustaining a healthy romantic relationship.

Acting ‘as-if’ is how we circumvent this insanity. Even though I have Uncle Steve telling me I’m worthless at my job, I act as if I’m not—because it isn’t true. When my disease tells me I’ll always be alone and deserve to be, I act as if that isn’t the case—because it isn’t true. It’s not about being dishonest, it’s about not letting the disease control my thinking. It’s about not letting the disease drag me down. It’s about not listening to the sinister side of the evil which resides permanently in my brain. Of course it never sleeps. Of course my disease never relents. It. Wants. Me. Dead.

Acting ‘as-if’ keeps me alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment