We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men. What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God. A new life has been given us or, if you prefer, “a design for living “that really works.
– The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Page 28
I absolutely love the relationships that I have been blessed with as a result of my walk in recovery and my work in the treatment and intervention world. Yesterday I was on the phone with a colleague of mine and this particular passage came up in our conversation. The gentleman I was on with has over a decade of sobriety under his belt and has read the book cover to cover many times over I have no doubt. But for whatever reason He could not place this passage or recall it clearly. I could because it is without a doubt my absolute favorite passage in the entire text. It is my favorite because It it applies to my horrible desperation and total bottom that I experienced and the willingness to do anything to stop using that I experienced shortly after.
The Flimsy Reed…
I had absolutely no idea where life, God, or recovery was going to take me when I got to the halfway house years ago. I just knew that I was so sick of destroying my life over and over and that if I were to use again, I was definitely fucked. So I just did my best to “Keep an open mind and give myself a break.” It wasn’t easy. Life isn’t easy. But I knew that I had to try something new because every time I try to run the show and function on my own mindless self indulgence I burned my life to the ground. I remember being so scared and overwhelmed when I first got to the halfway house that I would Just sit on that old ass leather couch against the north wall and tremble, because I was absolutely terrified. Terrified to use. Terrified to get clean. This is the duality of my mind. I had conditioned my brain and mind to use chemicals for so long that NOT having something coursing through my system at any given moment was abnormal, even with nearly a year clean. But I had to remember the decisions that I had made while I was still locked up. That I was going to do this, no matter what it took. I had to grab on to something. I had to find something that I was passionate about. I had to get just one more day. One more meeting. One more Job application. Say just one more Prayer. Go to one more Bible study. Make one more phone call. Anything was better than going back to that cesspool of my wasted human life. I didn’t know shit about anything, but I knew that that stove was still hot. This was that Desperation of drowning men that it talks about on page 28. I was toast if I used again and I knew it. And to be honest with you, it was kind of a sad time for me at first. Like losing a best friend. No matter how toxic and destructive that friend was to me. He was always there. Like the kid from the peanuts who always took that nasty ass blanket every where he went. Drugs were like that for me. But there came in time in my life when I knew in my core that it was time to let that old me die. And it scared the shit out of me. But the funny thing is, NOT letting that old me die scared me too. Now, walking into this whole new life, this whole recovery thing meant that I would actually have to get vulnerable with someone. I would have to actually let people in. Let them get to know me. The real me. The scariest thing about all that, was that I didn’t even know who I was. I was always so clouded, fake, and loaded all the time over the last 10 plus years that I had actually lost any kind of self worth, self love, self respect, and had absolutely no idea who the real me was. What if they didn’t like the real me? What if I didn’t like the real me? Holy shit, all this stuff is all coming at me so fast all the time. Is this what “Normies” deal with on a daily basis? Everything was all so new and uncomfortable. Feelings. Fears. Vulnerability. Emotions. Relationships. yuck. But I had to. That other way of living was just waiting for me. And this time, there would be no coming back. This is the Desperation. Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t- to a T. I always felt like I had to think my way through shit. Like I had the ability to do so any ways. Every time I relied on my own thinking I ended up with a needle in my arm. So what the hell was I wrestling with so much? This is how my brain works I guess. I blame cocaine.
And as I’m writing this, thinking back on the very beginning of my recovery in the free world it still makes me tremble. That totally new unknown world of life with out the ability to smoke it all away. Which is what addiction is really all about anyways, escape. I always thought I had a “drug problem”, but I don’t. I THOUGHT I had a drug solution. Truth is, I had a me problem. I had an avoidance problem. I had a self acceptance problem. And I turned to drugs to numb it all, good or bad. And then They stopped working. They actually compounded all of my problems into this giant unavoidable mountain that must be dealt with, one stone at a time. These are the things that I battled on a daily basis and often times found myself falling back on that old “what’s the use” way of thinking. But I had to remember that desperation. I didn’t destroy my life over night, I damn sure wasn’t going to get it all back over night. And I remember vividly, Clinging on to some of the things that were being said to me over and over. Those little gem Cliches that we always hear so much they tend to lose their impact. But at the time they were like words directly from God Himself. “No matter how you feel, I promise you, It’s gonna change”, “We can’t think our way into better acting, We’ve got to act our way into better thinking”(This second one was a big one for me). And I was so desperate at the time, that I would hang onto any little tidbit that was thrown my way. I was scared of myself. I didn’t want to die like the way I had been living. So on I continued, and I’m going some where with this I promise, or I’m at least trying to.
And it’s so interesting to me, how everything that most people were saying was actually coming to fruition right before my eyes. “Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.” But it was happening. Little by little. The Anxiety subsided. The urges and cravings slowly diminished over time. And I started to respect the person I saw in the mirror, a little more every day. I developed actual relationships with people. Trust and peace of mind returned. And I started to actually see and feel the benefits of this whole recovery thing. See when I had “tried” it before, and I use the quotations, because I was so full of shit before- It was all about the material stuff. I just thought that if I got an apartment, a vehicle, and some early recovery job that Life would be okay again and on I could continue doing me. Just play that ol’ country song backwards and all will be well, right?
But what I have come to understand, as I’m writing this, and maybe my view will change later. I don’t know. Is that It’s not about those material and temporary things at all. Sure, good “things” happen to addicts who stay clean: a job, a house or apartment, a vehicle. But even Better Things happen to addicts who recover. And I was so truly desperate to recover. I was that drowning man. I was lost. Scared. Broken. Alone. I wanted so deeply inside my gut and heart to actually know another person, to know myself. To feel love. and to be able to give love. I wanted a real friend. I wanted a relationship with my son. I needed so badly to know who I really was, and have a relationship with myself. I needed to discover what trust was. I needed to have some real hope, faith, and belief in something other than a dope man who is always “fittin a Pull up” only to leave me sitting in a mottled ass old car on the side of Sibley Blvd for hours at a time, and to want to kiss his fucking feet when he finally showed up. I wanted to know what this whole life thing was really all about. I needed human connection. And a connection with my Creator. And So on I charged, with white knuckles and sometimes gritted teeth. This whole recovery thing was at once the scariest thing I could ever imagine, but I was in the midst of the most powerful storm. And they say in a storm, any port will do. So I reached up and out in pure desperation and grabbed onto that Flimsy Reed, and It was in fact, The Hand of God Himself. And everything that “They” told me has come true. I never in a million lifetimes would have imagined where my life was going to “end up”. I was Just a lost, forgotten street junkie. I thought I was destined to die an addicts death. But I am here to report, To the person out there who is scared to get clean, to the person coming back from a relapse, to the mother or father out there scared for their loved one’s life- That recovery is hands down the most beautiful Transformation process known to man. And I think that this is where I was going with this whole thing, that if I, the former street urchin that used to eat out of Garbage cans and sleep in abandoned buildings can get clean and recover, anyone can. Life can be truly amazing. No one is a lost cause. Just Grab onto that Flimsy Reed. You may discover that it’s the Hand of God reaching down to you. And God “Could and Would if He were sought.”