Hello friends! Have you heard of the ‘pink cloud’ reference? If you are new to recovery and you have never heard this, pay attention 🙂 When you are newly sober you may have the feeling that life is just great now that you are clean and sober. Nothing seems to be able to get you down. The ‘pink cloud’ is recovery jargon for this feeling of elation when we put down the drugs or alcohol. And I promise you, at some point you will fall off this cloud. You will star to get irritable, restless and discontent. (A little more AA jargon for you, I can’t help it!) I should point out that although my life isn’t all about ‘the program’ anymore, I still deeply respect the principles and, what can I say… some of the things in the ‘Big Book’ are just worded perfectly.
So what now? You have been sober for a few weeks, maybe months and all of a sudden you can’t control you emotions, you are resentful at everything and everyone that breathes your way, maybe you still can’t hold a job. What I have noticed with true addicts and alcoholics, myself included, is we get sober and just try to live life normally and our lives are just as bad and possibly worse than when we were loaded. If you are like me, by this point you are probably asking yourself… “WHY AM I SUCH A MESS?!” Naturally, it seems like once we put down the (insert drug of choice here) that we should have great lives. But the unfortunate, or fortunate fact (depending on how you look at it) it that everyone lives according to what the ego wants, especially if we are not aware of what the ego is or what it wants. I say everyone because I mean most everyone in the world lives this way, drug addict or not. There are a lot of people out there who are miserable because they are unaware of this one fact. Some of them have been sober 30 years and some have never touched a drink or a drug. Your ego is not your amigo! (I owe that one to a girl I worked with at one point). Which brings me to the point I have been trying to get to.
The path of true, lasting recovery starts with surrender!
This may seem like it goes against what we are trying to attain here, which is power over drugs and alcohol, power over our lives, etc. But I don’t think it is possible for us to grow in our power until we have experienced pain, and we will stay in that pain until we surrender to what is. The first step in 12 step programs says “We admitted we were powerless over ______- that our lives had become unmanageable”. It is easy to look at our destructive past and say “Yes I have a problem and I am powerless”. That is how I have seen many people take this first step. That’s all it is “yep, I’m powerless… next.” This did not work for me. This is not true surrender. This is a rational observation. In order to truly surrender we have to have an experience with this powerlessness. First of all I needed to know why I was powerless. Most of the people I know never explore this area. In a nutshell we are powerless because:
- we are spiritually sick
- spiritual sickness results in us being restless, irritable and discontent
- this dis-ease leads us to obsess about what we know will make us feel better (for a minute)
- when we are living in this state it is only a matter of time before we pick up again
I think of true surrender as knowing that you are powerless deep down in your soul. It’s hard to put this into words because people understand logic, words describe things that our rational minds can understand. For me it was something that I felt and just intuitively knew.
Once you have reached this point you have taken a little more power back. The next two steps in 12 step programs create trouble with a lot of people, I mean a lot of people. Since this is not an overview of the 12 steps I will just briefly explain it. After you have figured out that your problem is not the substance, you hopefully realize that the problem is lack of power. So the next thing you have to do is figure out where the power that you need to save your life is going to come from. I don’t care if you are atheist or agnostic there are powers greater than yourself. The way I started opening up my mind was by telling myself that if I could make the sun rise and set at my will or control the traffic to my liking, then I wouldn’t need a power greater than myself.
Some people choose to use their recovery group as their higher power, I personally see a problem with that. As people, as well as groups of people, are fallible and they will let you down at some point, especially if you are running around in self-will expecting everyone to act how you think they should act. (This is codependency by the way). But it has worked for some people. I think the biggest problem with some of the older 12 step programs is the fact that they say it is not a religious program, in all reality it is a Christian-based program. This bothered me at the beginning and it still kind of does. The program just doesn’t consider any alternative paths to Spirit or Source (what I call it these days). But I had to learn to look around all the stuff that I didn’t believe and make it work for me. For example, I don’t believe that there is an all-knowing man/god that is out trying to get me to live life according to his will. So for me turning my will over to ‘God as I understand him’ just wasn’t going to work. So I had to think of it in another way. To me its just about getting out of self-will and trying to do the right thing without selfish motives. Kind of letting go of the reins, letting life unfold as it is going to with or without my input. In other words getting out of my ego.
The biggest difference here from what I am sharing and from what 12 step groups teach (in meetings mostly, in meetings you hear opinions a lot of the time, instead of what the program is really about) is about where the power lies. One line of the ‘Big Book’ states that the ‘Great Power lies deep within you’. In my area I never ever hear anybody talk about this, the power is out there somewhere else, apparently. Finding the power within myself has been my path. I know that the power to change my life is not out there with some guy in the clouds, but I have the power and I always have had the power. It is just a matter of finding out how to get all the crap out of the way and get connected to the ‘Source’ of my being. I have read so many non-recovery related books that have helped me, I won’t be stingy with them, I promise 🙂 But I do need to put some thought into which ones actually helped.