There is a Japanese martial art called Aikido that is based on the concept of physically defending yourself while also protecting your attacker from harm. Aikido involves blending with the force of the opponent’s own attack, and re-directing it, rather than meeting the attack with opposite force. While I was in treatment, I once sat in a lecture where the speaker compared the techniques of Aikido to his own experience of effectively dealing with the day-in, day-out struggles of life in recovery. I always remembered that lecture, and it has since helped me countless times in aquiring the proper perspective where the various trials of life are concerned.
It’s been my experience that the thing that makes recovery difficult is not the pure and simple temptation to use, in and of itself. Once I get some good momentum going, temptation itself per se isn’t such a big issue anymore. For me, the difficulty lies in maintaining my stance and posture firm and resolute against the constant onslaught of the things that life throws at me to try to get me off balance. It is in defending my mind against these perpetual attacks, however small or large, that there is the risk of being caught unprepared and getting knocked down.
Right now, the main source of troubles like these is my relationship with my wife. Basically, I have been permanently friendzoned by the woman I have spent 15 years of my life being married to. Long story short: during our involvement with the cult, I became abusive. After we burned out and left the group, the abuse got worse. It got pretty ridiculous. To be honest, she stayed way, way longer than she should have.
In any event, when I went through treatment in 2010/2011, I was able to process through a lot of the issues that had been resulting in that behavior, and after I finished up there, the abuse never reoccurred. I refused to really commit to full recovery, though. I was still very much shut down and blind in a lot of ways. I was no longer drinking to the point of blackout each and every night, and in my mind that meant things were okay. In my mind, she had a problem, not me.
A little while later, she finally gave up.
Of course, true to form as far as this sick and twisted phantasmagoria of irony and woe that is the universe we live in is concerned, soon afterwards I came to my senses in a great, horrific spasm of realizaton. I destroyed every physical substance and implement with which I had been nursing along my addiction (in what I had, in my deception, viewed to be a ‘safe’ and ‘reasonable’ fashion) and cried out to God to restore my family and reconcile my marriage.
Then, with all my sense and feeling alive again for the first time in well over a decade, I began to experience the great and terrible gravity of the situation, and to realize, to really realize, that no miracle of God could ever change the free will of so much as one single, solitary human mind. She had experienced a gravity like this every time she cried out to God for me to stop drinking and it didn’t happen. She had agonized on the cold, hard floor of reality’s deepest and most hopeless dungeon cell of human consciousness in just exactly this same manner for how many years? And here I was expecting immediate gratification because I had retracted my middle fingers and deigned to beseech the favor of the Almighty for a moment.
And so the past three months have been something of an exercise in the proverbial swallowing of the big pill. I can’t tell you how many times each day some thought or imagination rises up and threatens to overpower my resolve to hope against hope. Each and every single time this happens I have to recognize what is coming against me, how it affects me, why it affects me in this way, and then use the awareness of those things to intercept the trouble and steady the apple cart before it gets to the point where I’m at the store picking up a bottle, and it all begins to roll downhill once again.
One tool that I’ve found to be of immense value is reaching out to other people when I begin to falter. The first thing I did once I had that moment where everything crystalized and I made the decision to quit half assing my recovery and get serious about life was to fill up my phone with as many people as I could who would be there and available for me to lean on in those moments where it all felt like it was about to come crashing down again (because those moments happen a lot, especially when you’ve, ehm, soiled the bedsheets as badly as I have in life.) Whenever I feel like giving up because of some jagged edge on that big pill, I call someone up and say, “Listen, friend, I feel like I’m about to tie one on, and I don’t want that to happen, so let’s talk about Jesus until everything seems okay again, what do you say?”
Lo and behold, the longer I stay at this thing, the easier it actually gets, too.
I started out with Aikido, though, because that really is the closest thing that I can think of to actively moving forward in recovery, and not just recovery from alcoholism, either, but recovery from the pathological religion that had crept into my mind and destroyed my life. (It was the religion that got me. The alcohol was just there to try to finish me off.)
When a thought comes in, or a feeling rises up, or somethng happens that threatens to disrupt my stance, I have to be absolutely unwavering in combatting it. At the same time, though, the combat needs to happen without malice or negativity of any kind. I cannot be selfish in my motives or holding anything against another human being in any way, or the whole thing goes sour. I have to choose to respond to it all in love. Whatever it is, whatever enemy rises up against my soul to try to take me down and snuff me out, I have to respond to it in love. I have to love my enemies. That is the only thing that works. That’s just me, though.