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Am I a good person? There’s the two million dollar question right there. To get the answer to said poser, one would ordinarily pitch it so somebody else and await their observation. However, there’s little more insightful than your observations with regards to your own character, provided you don’t exist in a constant state of denial that is. Deep down, we know the answer to this question, and it isn’t necessarily the one we were hoping to hear. Being super self-critical by nature, my primary instinct would be to knock myself down and deliver a resounding “no”. I’m a lousy person and waste of good oxygen. Or at least that is the response I would have given previously. More recently, I have learned to love myself more, cease beating myself up over things that I have no power whatsoever to change and focus on the stuff still under my jurisdiction. Let’s not prune the pretzel here, there are still mornings when I wake up desiring only to punch my own face, perhaps twist my own nipple for that all-important dual-indignity. But generally I’m at peace with who I am and this serenity tends to be infectious. You see, every time I donate a smile to the world, it tosses one back my way. They say what you put out is what you get back and I’m ever so relieved that this doesn’t extend to daily bowel movements as no amount of praline coating can make a turd truffle any more flavorsome. But for the most part I actually make them right.
The reason for this little chin stroke is an interaction that played out just this evening that I wish to share with you all. Just to be clear, details will be purposely vague as this episode played out at the kind of group meeting where anonymity is everything and I’d die slowly and horribly before compromising their implicit plea for confidentiality. Thus I shall share this responsibly and trust that you can fill in any gaps accordingly. I’ve been attending congregations such as these for the past three days straight now, and while I’m far from fixed with regards to the reason I’m attending and not yet ready for the band-aids to be dished out, I’m finding it a rather fulfilling exercise. Okay so I may as well come clean and throw the word addiction into the melting pot as anyone who hasn’t ascertained that much by this point is either multi-tasking or skim reading. I know as much as I once dozed off whilst reading a raffle ticket and can’t multi-task for shit. Of the many weaknesses I have identified over the four years preceded by my mental breakdown, out-of-control compulsion is the one that sticks out like a pimp in a parish. It’s that gimme mentality that has been with me the longest, obsession that has plagued me most incessantly, and this has been the case since well before I worked out my chosen drug. These gatherings have been greatly beneficial and tonight’s gave me something truly incalculable. And I didn’t even need to ask for it.
Okay so crypticism aside, said summits traditionally commence with an opening share from a pre-arranged guest speaker. I took my seat anxiously, feeling like the villain of the piece as I’m still very much a slave to my own addiction, and had no intention to speak as I felt precious little requirement to vent on this particular spring evening. I may have been a tad twitchy on my perch but others around me were evidently tweaking on theirs; thus the needs of the many far outweighed those of the one in my mind. This one was all about the cherry picking for me, taking my fill of positive karma and leaving the negative shit to hang in the air long after we’d all packed up. That’s the thing about Narcotics Anonymous; the rooms are rather spiffing when it comes to offloading one’s baggage. Better out than in apparently, and where inner turmoil is involved, I’m only too happy to offer my endorsement. How we choose to channel that is dependent on user but, here in the rooms, participants are actively encouraged to splurge. The urge wasn’t strong on this occasion so I slid on my invisible gimp mask, activated listening gear and prepared to enter into a one-hour vow of self-imposed silence.
Our guest speaker then prepared to address the group and it was evident straight away that this person was in considerable pain and struggling to compose themselves. Ordinarily one would be required to have some kind of idea as to what they would be donating to the cause but this wasn’t the case here and the sermon was delivered completely off the cuff. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of elaborating on exactly what was said as I draw the line way before revealing details of such an intimate share but let’s just say that it took every ounce of this person’s resolve to hold it together when curling up and dying would have seemed the more attractive option. The fact that nothing whatsoever was pre-planned made this disclosure all the more poignant and suddenly I felt the overwhelming desire to follow the lead and do likewise. However, while these openings are normally used to air your own dirty laundry, this wasn’t what I was looking to do. After introducing myself to the group, I spent the next two minutes celebrating this deeply courageous act and watching the gloom lift around the guest speaker as I did. I then spent the rest of the session feeling rejuvenated and took something away incalculable with me at the close.
You see, I’ve spent so long isolated by my own choice, that I’d forgotten how rewarding it is to pay it forward without any requirement for emotional reimbursement. The same addiction that has plagued me for my entire adult life has come in handy when focusing on changing my own situation. That said, it has also left me decidedly detached from reality. It’s not that I live my whole life in solitude but I do cut myself off through bloody-minded endeavor and eventually there comes a disconnect. When you deprive yourself of social interaction for long enough, any opportunities that crop up to chat amongst loved ones are snapped up without a second thought. It’s only natural that the other party will come away feeling like little more than a friendly ear for hire, having been robbed of their own right to vocalize. I get that and it is one of the things that I’m still working on with myself as I’m aware of how easy it is to become self-absorbed. Thus I learned a valuable lesson from this particular one-way exchange as, at no point, did the attention turn to me and somehow I still left with a stride pre-loaded with spring.
I guess the reason why I am divulging this now is that life can move a helluva lot faster for you than those around you when you consistently deny them the chance to take part in your life, and more critically, refuse to step into theirs. Naturally this is only intensified once you throw drugs into the mix as we all know they want the user all for themselves. When you consider yourself a functioning addict like I do, you tend to leave shit to the most cantankerous part of your brain to rationalize, and the general gist is something along the lines of “keep on doing what you’re doing. I’ve got your back”. It’s not like you’re pilfering from pensioners to fund your next hit and neither are you harming anyone other than yourself when you use, so there’s no reason to obsess with culpability or consequence. The thing is, others won’t necessarily see things that way, and if they care about you enough, then they’re the ones ultimately funding your addiction. Does this mean I’m about to flush my weed this very moment and head off on a pilgrimage to Mecca? Don’t be so ludicrous, I plan to roll a chubby blunt the very second we reach the end of this stanza. And look where we are.
Listen, I may have pleased the Samaritans with my actions this night, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out to purchase a pair of open-toed sandals and go whole hog Messiah. I’m still functioning dagnabbit and not quite at the abstinence point just yet. But thanks to a single selfless act, I’m more tuned in to the world rotating around me and those in it. While often I’m guilty of being overly self-critical, I do believe wholeheartedly that I’m a good man. However, I can always become a better man. Every day I wake up (for shit I might add) is an opportunity to do just this and the upshot is that I may just love myself more freely as a direct result so everybody wins. Basic human compassion, empathy, taking time to listen – this trio of fundamentals tend to get lost in the jumble at times. One and two I generally feel like I have licked but failing to do the third nullifies them anyway so you become impenetrable without even being aware of such.
I know not to break sentences and maintain eye contact wherever possible; those kind of rules of engagement should really have become clear long before your forties crash the party, and if not, then there’s an ideal starting point right there fellow journeymen and women. But tonight I listened, and as a result, ticked off both basic human compassion and understanding for the ultimate triple-pronged ball tickle. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve discovered a way to slip a spinal disc temporarily out of formation allowing me to suck my own dick in the bathtub. You see, I’m not the messiah, I’m a very naughty boy.
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I applaud your vulnerability, Rich. Kudos to you for seeking help. You are right. Sometimes it feels like a fist fight everyday learning to love yourself. I still struggle. You are overcoming addiction which is heroic. We all try to be better people. I wish you all the best on your personal journey.