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  • You know, the best thing that ever happened to me was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Yeah, life is rather paradoxical like that, isn’t it? What I’m talking about is addiction.

    Initially, I thought it was just alcoholism - but when I managed to stop drinking for 2 ½ years, and still had major life problems that I couldn’t find a way out of, or through, I realized it was more than alcohol. Then, I thought it was a problem with drugs (in my case, primarily smoking pot, but others would come in once I was high on that) and alcohol, so I cut out all mind-altering substances altogether, thinking that now my life will get better. I took it to the extreme – ever get root canal work without novocaine? Yeah, I was determined to not allow any mood or mind-altering substance into my body, for any reason. This was my way. I tried purifying – went vegetarian, cut out caffeine and sugar, tried cutting out nicotine, but just couldn’t lick that one.

    After nearly 4 years clean and sober, which followed 2 ½ years sober, I still was not getting any better. In fact, one might have argued that my life had gotten worse. Much worse. It really had. My obsessive-compulsive nature had really taken over my life - I acted impulsively all the time. I had a brain I just couldn’t shut off, and without the alcohol or pot to counter it’s hold on me, I was its helpless subject. I was what they called a real head case. I’d shamefully gone to jail for failing to pay traffic fines and continuing to drive without a license. I couldn’t maintain any form of real relationship – I was a mess. I couldn’t meet some of life’s most basic responsibilities, like pay my bills on time. But, I hung in there, went to meetings everyday, did everything they told me to do, even made up a lot of things that I told other people to do, in the name of recovery, and most of the time, just wished I could die. I hated my life. I was shamelessly envious and resentful of anyone who had a good life.

    Then, I simply ran out of fight. I was up against something much greater than myself. The only way to beat it was going to be to surrender to it. I knew these words, I knew intellectually all of the right recovery terminology, but I just hadn’t been able to make it happen in my life. That would have been applying willpower to a problem that required a spiritual experience. I thought I understood spirituality – I was well read, and knew all about many different spiritual philosophies, and even thought I understood the difference between spirituality and religion – my only problem was, I didn’t know how to make any of it work in my life.
  • It was going to require more than knowledge and will power. I knew this, because I tried everything else. I was bound and determined to beat addiction, even if it killed me, which it came very close to doing. I am pretty certain that my next move was going to be to leave everything behind, and go off to India to find a master in the Himalya mountains to teach me about spirituality. I had a good friend from back in those days, Hank, who did just that. He still goes back to India twice a year to commune with his guru, there. That works for Hank. Maybe it would have worked for me. I will never know. I got lucky.

    I ran out of fight, out of ideas, out of everything I’d ever believed or held dear. I’d burnt it all up, and there was nothing left to do or be. And yet, life went on. It does that, especially when you are too much of a coward to actually end it all, which I was. I had too much fear to do that. What if I did it, and discovered it was a huge mistake? So, while I made many attempts, I never went all the way – I just couldn’t. But, I did stare into that abyss. It’s a lonely, terrifying place to be. If you haven’t been, you don’t want to go there.

    This is when I discovered what the universe is all about. In complete defeat, having run out of all options, convinced that my life could never get better, and that there was no way out of it, nothing I could do to make it better, nothing to fight against or for, nothing at all that I could do – I experienced what I had always known intellectually was required, but had no idea what it was when it finally happened for me. How could I? I had nothing to compare it to. It required letting go of everything I thought I believed, and allowing recovery to happen. It was an amazing experience. The fight was over. Life happened for me. I had nothing to do with it, other than surrendering and giving myself completely over to the experience.
  • I learned the importance and value of deepening the experience, continuing to open myself to the spiritual nature of life. I learned to depend absolutely on that, that everything else would flow from it. And, it has. The more I give myself over to it, the more I come to trust the universe, the more I become a part of life. Today, my only real struggle is that - the simple struggle to remember that my life is based on spiritual principles, and broadening my understanding of those principles, so I make decisions and choices based on them, not on my own egotistical fears and beliefs.

    This is what works for me. This is what has worked for me for the past 29 years. When something major happens, that conventional wisdom tells me I should be panicking or expending a lot of energy worrying about, caving into fear about, these are the times that require even more adherence to what I have come to know and understand about the universe. That is, to simply trust it. Do what I need to do to keep myself connected, spiritually, to my source, and trust it. What the hell – it’s worked this long, without fail. Why would it stop working now?

    I started out saying that addiction, the worst thing that ever happened to me was also the best thing that ever happened to me. How could I say such a thing? Because, without it, I am certain that I never would have been open to, nor needed, the reliance on the spiritual life that addiction has led me to. That which was killing me, eventually led me to the most amazing life, and existence. I get to spend time, daily, on the spiritual plane of existence, if I so choose. The Big Book of AA described it as being “Rocketed into another dimension of existence”, or something along those lines. That’s not just some pretty words to make alcoholics feel better about the whole deal. Recovery from addiction is exactly like that. I get to spend time on that other dimension every single day. It shapes my life.

    It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I thank God, every day, that I’m a recovered addict who gets to live this incredible life of recovery. While I wouldn’t wish addiction on my worst enemy, I would wish recovery on my best friend. It’s a tremendous life.
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