Recovery On Film
My program and my humor have taught me that I am a lot like every other addict, and a lot like every other person – valuable, perfectly imperfect, and afraid of clowns.
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I ran outta gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from outta town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts. It wasn’t my fault!! I swear to God!! - The Blues Brothers
Some of my lies in addiction were precious. Statements that were so ludicrous that the people I spoke them to probably couldn’t believe that I would offer them such fantasy. I once told someone that I spent $800 on taxis in one week (I had really used it to pay for sex). My friend once told his parents that his bag of pot and pipe were just for tobacco for a prop in a movie (that one has some nice parental denial in it).
The people I lie to in addiction know I am lying just as I do; or they choose to believe the lie to delay some other pain or reality of their own, just as I do. In addiction I use a lack of confrontation as ‘getting away with it.' In recovery I have found that I don’t get away with anything. All my actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed for weeks, months or even years, and others ongoing indefinitely. And the program helps me identify the consequences and unmanageability, and ask God to change me, and make amends for those consequences. It all happens step by step, with my higher power in the lead.
After I give up on excuses, I can rely on the truth as God shows it to me.
Do you hear that sound Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your death. – The Matrix
I am drawn to my addiction because of its guarantee. My addiction promises me oblivion; it promises to transport me to a fantasy world of pleasure. I believe this promise. I am usually disappointed: I have a bad trip, or I get ripped off, or the high is just a trace of what it used to be that first time. The guarantee of oblivion that I believe is always one hit, one score, one drink, one binge away.
So instead of the guarantee of my fantasy, there are two inevitabilities that I ignore. The first is that my addiction is a progressive disease, so I will always need more to chase the ever-fading high. The second is that my addiction will lead to my spiritual and eventually physical death. That’s what it does to every other addict who doesn’t find God’s path. And that’s what it will do to me. My survival comes by way of the program and my higher power’s grace.
Addiction guarantees destruction; my higher power guarantees a path of grace.
Welcome to the real world. – The Matrix
In my addiction, I lived in a haze; a fog of self-deception, lies and duplicity. Let’s face it, I would have to be wearing blinders to put myself through the insanity of my addiction. Entering abandoned buildings, making myself black out, exposing myself to diseases, exposing my personal information to criminals. There are pimps out there who may still have my credit card number, home address and work address – that is unmanageable.
In sobriety, I am reintroduced to the real world. The real world can be harsh. The real world does not erase late rent or utility payments, or bounced checks, or credit card debt. When I trash my car or home during a binge, it’s still a wreck when I sober up.
But the real world is run by someone I can trust. My higher power is working to make reality exactly what I need.
I can trust my higher power to help me face reality.
Are you the one who tells the joke about my being a … pickle? – Mel Brooks as Hitler in To Be or Not To Be
It’s wonderful to have a great sense of humor. In my addiction, I usually used my humor to identify myself as someone available for a high. And I used my humor to proposition women, to downplay or deny consequences and to gauge reactions and figure out who was willing to party. You know what I did not find funny? Anything about myself. I took my misery, my loneliness, my intelligence and my addiction as seriously as a heart attack.
I think because I was afraid that if I lost any of them, I would actually have a heart attack. My humor has changed in recovery. Now it’s clean (as clean as I am – if I stray to inappropriate humor, usually I am flirting with conduct that is inappropriate or unhealthy for me). Now I have the ability to laugh at myself without being self-deprecating, without taking myself down a notch. My humor now is about realizing that I already am down a notch from where I thought I was as a melodramatic, self-centered addict. My program and my humor have taught me that I am a lot like every other addict, and a lot like every other person – valuable, perfectly imperfect, and afraid of clowns.
My humor is not about being worse or better than others, it’s about identifying with others in our strengths and weaknesses.
"Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." - Annie Hall
Addiction is about living in denial. I deny that I am harming myself so that I can bear to continue to take the drug that destroys me. I convince myself that getting high is a good idea. I ignore the consequences that always appear. It’s denial with fantasies filling in the gaps.
The program can help me dismantle my denial. I can check my ideas out with my sponsor or recovery peers. When I do I will likely learn a few important realities: First, that the payoff I’m interested in is laced with self-destruction and horror. Second, my logic that rationalizes going to my addiction is probably based on black and white thinking, or self-loathing or shame. Third, by working the program in this way, I will be reminded that I am surrounded by people who care about me, sometimes more than I’m able to care about myself.
If I work on dismantling denial today, I’m paving the way for today’s sobriety.
Evan H. lives in Chicago and came to recovery about six years ago to connect with himself, his higher power, and other recovering addicts that walk the path. Movies are an important part of Evan's recovery. Whether or not the movie is about recovery, in movies he see examples of insanity, surrender, change and serenity. Read more of Evan's blog at recoveryonfilm.blogspot.com.