My Ego Vs My Spiritual Self: The Forty Two Year Wars

My Ego Vs My Spiritual Self: The Forty Two Year Wars

For decades my ego enjoyed landslide victories in this war. So cunning were it’s triumphs I didn’t even know it sat upon the throne in complete control. Like a ghost puppet it pulled my strings into the darkest of places and mis-shaped my life.

Three years ago, at Rock Bottom, my desperate spiritual self produced a challenge that hurt my ego. Until this day any attempt had been nonchalantly brushed off with ease. This small cut, produced not by force but by a leap of faith, was a glimmer of hope and changed history.

Since that fateful day my spiritual self has not rested. With daily diligent effort, it’s army led by gallant knights such as Sir Love and Sir Humility has continued to grow with new soldiers enrolling every day. Coinciding with this progress, my ego has deflated into a regressing gang of pirates succeeding only in little ambushes. Insidious jabs which remind my spiritual self not to get too comfortable.

Keep going….

Wow, I love this! Something I can really relate to. Whenever I cast my mind back to where I was spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially three years ago, I am shocked as to how far I have come. With such a dramatic turnaround it would be easy for me to rest on my laurels, enjoy the comfort zone and seize to take action. But something (mainly my sponsor) has kept me going, kept me working, kept me progressing and I will be eternally grateful.

I am not perfect and I never will be. This is not negative thinking, its quite the contrary. If perfection is unreachable then that means there is no ceiling to my recovery! I can keep progressing, I can keep going! Where I was three years ago is not where I am today and where I am today will not be where I’ll be in three years time.

I can also relate to this quote from a completely different perspective. There have been many moments where I have had to endure difficult times – some brief and some extended. Upon reflection I can say through experience that I kept going. I didn’t dwell and reside in that difficult moment, I took action sometimes quickly sometimes slowly, but in time things have always passed.

I’d like to hear how you relate to this quote? 🙂

Unity

Tradition 1 – Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends upon Unity.

Now read it again. And again.

Sounds like Unity is vital, but what does unity actually mean. Here are some quotes and definitions that have helped me understand the meaning of unity.

“The state of being united or joined as a whole.” – Oxford dictionary

“It’s the opposite of being divided.” – vocabulary.com

“We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin

“That no personal sacrifice is too great for preservation of the fellowship. He learns that the clamour of desires and ambitions within him must be silenced whenever these could damage the group. It becomes plain that the group must survive or the individual will not.” – Twelve and Twelve

Do I really want to stop?

Do I really want to stop?

When I first walked into the rooms I was met with just one requirement – a desire to refrain. Did I have that desire? Of course I did. I had the gift of desperation. My path of destruction had caused a huge amount of pain to both myself and others. Why wouldn’t I want to give up the cause of it? This was my conscious thinking at the time.

In hindsight I have come to realise that not only had I given up the negative side of my addiction, but the level of desperation meant I had also given up the ‘apparent’ positives. There were positives of course. I wouldn’t have done what I did had it not been for the dopamine hits I was getting in return. This realisation took my surrender to a new level. I clearly wanted to stop 100%.

Which brings me back, do I really want to stop? Do I really want to stop over-eating? Do I really want to stop being dishonest? Do I really want to stop being a people pleaser? Sure I want to stop feeling crap after binge eating on pastries, but do I want to stop the brief pleasures I get from eating that sugary pain-Au-chocolate? Sure I want to stop lying to the people I love the most, but do I want to stop taking what seems to be the easy way out? Sure I want to stop living in fear of letting someone down, but do I want to stop being everyone’s best friend?

To have a desire to refrain, to really want to stop, my recovery from my primary addiction has taught me that I need to surrender 100%, the bad… and the good.

People, places and things

The following is based on my experience….

A person very close to me has been showing symptoms of compulsive behaviour. Symptoms that are recognisable to an addict like myself. This compulsion has been progressing over the last couple of years and despite my good intentions the effect I have had over it is minimal at best. Over the last week I have spent a lot of time with this person and subsequently seen first hand how far his compulsion has developed.

For the first four days or so, I had decided (emphasis on the ‘I’) not to act and instead seek guidance from those with experience at the end of the week. As a result, I allowed his compulsive behaviour to continue on the basis that I had no idea how to deal with it so why bother trying. At the time I genuinely believed this to be the right course of action. And maybe it was, maybe I had to do something wrong (or paradoxically right) to learn from it and progress.

I continued to pray and meditate around this subject and by the fifth day, an answer began to dawn on me. I became aware that I had been feeling an almost constant resentment in the form of frustration and disappointment towards this person. I could also sense two others were holding similar resentments towards him and further resentments towards me for not doing anything about it. I then resented them for resenting me! Last but not least, the person himself could feel the negativity that surrounded him, so probably resented the three of us in return!!

So, in this particular situation (because every situation is different) by doing nothing, I had allowed the situation to fester. Four people were now suffering with resentment – a crippling defect of character. The four of us ended up, in a way, against each other. And why? Because I feared for this person’s welfare. I feared failure. I feared powerlessness. I feared making this person unhappy. I feared being disliked. I feared I would ruin the time we were spending together. I feared a negative effect on the impossible perfection.

This sudden, somewhat obvious, realisation slapped me round the face (not the first time recovery has provided this kind of wake up call). I realised that ‘I’ had made the decision to do nothing. This decision was born out of fear and not out of the powerlessness over people, places and things which is what I originally thought. And ever since I did, I had unintentionally made the whole experience about me. I hadn’t been thinking of this person – the one who is actually struggling, or anyone else involved at all. Just me and my fears.

Along with this realisation was a guidance towards action. I still need to explore the available help and support from someone with experience, but I also needed to act now – in the form of being honest with this person. Being truthful can sometimes be tough for the person on the receiving end, but some situations warrant hard truths. I needed to pray for my fears to be removed. I needed to pray for the courage to change the things I can – by being honest. I needed to pray for the acceptance that I might not be this person’s ‘favourite person’ for a while.

So, on that fifth day, the honesty card was played and I can confirm I wasn’t this person’s ‘favourite person’. But only for an hour or so.

This resulted in vast improvement. Firstly whilst being honest I felt (for the first time) that I was actually thinking of this person and the others involved too. Secondly, the person took the hard truths on board and showed a degree of willingness and desire to progress. Thirdly, everyone seemed happier.

I must add that this particular action is by no means set in black and white. It is of my opinion that each situation is wholly different no matter the similarities. Action or no action, acceptance or courage, form the greyest of grey areas. Especially when it comes to people, places and things. It is why I continuously pray for ‘the wisdom to know the difference’. That said, being honest is very rarely the wrong thing to do. One exception I can think of is being honest to save my own skin.

Windows of Opportunities

Windows of Opportunities

My experience in the fellowship has been one full of opportunities. I have taken many but missed many too. Nearly every time, the window of opportunity opens up before me without warning and if I don’t take the leap of faith and grab it with both hands, before I know it, the window will close and the opportunity will be gone. Through trial and error, I have learnt the importance of taking these opportunities as soon as they present themselves.

This is best summed up in my experience of getting a sponsor. A taken opportunity that has turned my life around.

I came back to the meetings in September 2016 after relapsing from several years of abstinence. At that point, I was a mess, I had found another rock bottom, I had caused a huge amount of harm to the ones I love and I would’ve done anything to stop. I had ‘the gift of desperation’. Had I been directly offered sponsorship on that first meeting back I may have taken it. (It should be noted, unlike today, the chances of being offered sponsorship on your first meeting was slim at best) For me, I can say with a degree of certainty that first window closed on me with the serenity prayer that very same evening. Why? Because the magic of that meeting worked, the obsession to gamble lifted, I felt better, I felt strong, I felt recovered, I was cured. I didn’t need the steps and sponsorship. Life was great again. Window closed. Clearly the obsession that I am not an addict got the better of me once again.

For others, that gift of desperation may have lasted for another week or two. Everyone is different, but it is my belief that sooner or later the window will close. I had to wait another 6 months before this particular window reopened. Thankfully I kept ‘coming back’ to meetings. Eventually, the consistent message of recovery coincided with another gift of desperation in the form of a sudden realisation that I, despite my past and present abstinence, had not changed a single bit. I was still the same fearful, resentful, lustful, dishonest person. I didn’t like who I was, gambling or not, and I was desperate for change. The window was ajar for the second time.

That evening, I never had the courage to ask for a sponsor but I gave the most honest and desperate share of my life. At the end of the meeting, and before the window shut in my face again, God placed before me my sponsor, who promptly proceeded to give me a clear idea of what being a sponsee entailed. I’m genuinely not sure what came over me, but despite my many reservations, I took that leap of faith, something I had never done before, and took the opportunity that presented itself. Had I not, I have no idea how long that window of opportunity would have stayed open. Knowing me, not long.

This is just one of many examples. Some windows come along every few months or so, some on a weekly basis and some every single day. Whether it be an opportunity to attend an extra meeting, or reach out to a struggling member, or make amends to someone I’ve harmed, or tell someone I love them, I try to take the opportunity before it disappears for some reason or another – because it will.

When God speaks to me, however I hear his words, I need to act before the idea of not doing so becomes an overpowering comfortable one.

Windows of Opportunities….. I assume they call it Windows because they open……. And close.

Update….

Further to yesterday “Can we have a chat later?”

So yesterday’s chat came and went. The content of the conversation was what I expected. I can say with a degree of certainty, based on personal experience, that had that conversation happened maybe a year ago, maybe even less, the way I reacted to it and the way the conversation flowed would have been completely different. I am not going to go into the nitty-gritty of what was spoken but it’s safe to say my old self would have hated the situation. Defects of character would have burst out of me like fireworks – arrogance, Intolerance, impatience, anger, self pity, judgement. These are just a few. Yesterday I spoke of how different my thoughts and feelings were in the build up to this conversation. I felt incredibly connected yesterday and it’s this connection that enabled me to think like that. Because the preceding hours weren’t filled with fear and self I was able to prepare spiritually and put into practice all of what the 12 steps have taught me. Subsequently none of those defects of character came out. Instead I sat, I listened, I really listened, I considered, I understood and I learnt a great deal. No harm was felt and none was caused. Feeling very blessed.