Do I have to live my whole life in pain?
"Yearning" wrote me the following e-mail:
"SA is going very well, we reviewed the 4th step tonight. But one thing is bothering me: Do I have to live in pain my whole life as an addict??"
I replied to "Yearning" as follows:
Please note what the Alcoholics wrote back in 1939 in the AA Big Book (p. 101) about how they felt after recovering through the 12 Steps:
"Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn't think or be reminded about alcohol at all.
We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with his spiritual status. His only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin everything! Ask any woman who has sent her husband to distant places on the theory he would escape the alcohol problem.
In our belief, any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed."
"Wow. But I know that even old-timers in SA still try to avoid triggers, so I don't really understand the balance."
I replied to "Yearning":
That's actually a very good question. I would like to pass it on to our 12-Step experts, Duvid Chaim and Dov, to hear their take on this.
I wrote an e-mail to them as follows:
Dear Duvid Chaim & Dov,
Can we apply what it says in AA (above) to lust addiction? After all, the "first sip" for alcoholics is only with an actual drink, so it makes sense that they can be in the vicinity of alcohol and still stay sane - assuming they are "spiritually fit". However in the case of lust addiction, the first sip happens with "sight" alone. So can we be surrounded by triggers and still stay sane? For us, "seeing" is like "sipping" for an alkie... Can we also find the peace described (above) when surrounded by triggers?
Duvid Chaim replies:
This is an often asked question.
And the answer is found right in the first sentence, as you quoted... "Assuming we are spiritually fit".
Accordingly, a person in Recovery is a lot like a high performance sport car's fuel injected engine. It's performance is being constantly monitored by a sensitive on board computer system that monitors the fuel flow, firing of the spark plugs, timing, vibrations, etc.
And when anything is slightly off, it quickly makes an adjustment so it runs smoothly.
If things get unmanageable, the car goes back to the shop and stays off the streets!
So too, the addict in Recovery - must constantly monitor himself - in all three of the areas where our addiction lies: physical, mental and spiritual.
For example - Physical: If we are hungry, we get cranky - we want soothing... If we are around triggers... we act out.
Mental: If we are angry/resentful, we want to take back control... If we are around triggers... we act out.
Spiritual: If we are "blocked" from seeing G-d's presence in our life at each and every moment... We create our own Golden Calf - called SELF... If we are around triggers... we act out.
But if we are physically, mentally and spiritually fit - the triggers are like little pebbles on the road, and our sports car's highly tuned suspension system doesn't even feel them.
"Is that a hairpin twist and turn up ahead? - No Problem. I can handle that."
No matter how long the road-trip, thanks to my Ricarro calf leather seats, I step out of my car still relaxed and refreshed!
On the other hand, if my car is sluggish and out of alignment, I'd better stay off the "streets" - otherwise I might crash and burn.
I hope I didn't belabor the parable.
But from the very first day on our conference Call - and almost everyday till the end, I tell the Chevra that if I just helped them to BUILD THEIR AWARENESS OF THEIR PERCEPTIONS AND MOTIVES - it would be "Dayeinu" for me.
This constant "monitoring and checking in with ourselves" is what allows us to go out on the streets and run smoothly in spite of the many obstacles and triggers out there.