Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Compassion and The Spider

For the past several mornings I’ve had a writing companion. Mr. Spider has been faithfully joining me for my morning coffee each day, patiently sharing the space on my balcony with me. My guess is that from his perspective it’s his balcony. I could show him our lease, but I’ve heard spiders don’t care much for legal documents. So, I’ll let him have this one.

I haven’t yet named my new friend. Maybe Frank, after my favorite architect, Frank Lloyd Wright? After all, the web on which my friend is perched is an architectural wonder. A beautiful example of form following function, just as Mr. Wright always insisted!

Perhaps Fred, after Fred Astaire, the famous dancer in so many early Hollywood movies. As the spider moves gracefully along the strands of its web, in a seemingly choreographed performance.

Ok, time to get to your point Kent. Or do you even have a point this morning?

My point is this, I used to hate spiders. I was deathly afraid of them in fact. Mind you, I still make no room for the poisonous variety. A couple of weeks ago, I caught a black widow trying to sneak some of my coffee. It quickly met the sole of my shoe.

Yet my guest this morning is harmless. It simply wants to maintain its web in peace. So why would I disturb it? Why would I harbor an irrational fear toward this innocent creature. Lease or no lease, I’m compassionate enough to share my space with it.

So, from whence came my change of heart toward these eight-legged creatures? It was Amanda who helped me see the error of my ways. The outdoor passageway from the elevator to our apartment is full of webs. As we make the walk at night, all sorts of spiders are out, tending to their webs. Not only that, but they are systematically reducing the population of other, less desirable creatures.

Walks down that passageway have become a source of entertainment and even delight, as we study the webs. As it turns out, spiders make great neighbors. They kill bugs without harsh chemicals. They never play their stereos too loudly. They are never down at the pool, making fools of themselves after a few too many.

So why did I harbor this irrational fear of spiders for over five decades? What was the source of my loathing?

I think it’s safe to say my fear is the result of a common fear that most humans have of spiders. Over time, we’ve managed to clump all of them into the same category. Sort of like snakes, spiders fall into that “the only good one is a dead one” category.

No room for compassion. No room for discernment regarding the threat they may or may not impose. Your best bet and safest move is simply to kill on sight.

Yes, to most people, spiders are all the same. They are nameless, useless, and disposable. We just need to get rid of them. Compassion? No, they are not worthy of compassion.

Sounds like a group of people I’ve come to know. A group of people who are easily written off by society. People labeled by society as useless, dangerous, and without purpose.

Drug addicts are the spiders of our society. I know that of which I speak, because there was a time, not so long ago, that I viewed addicts as spiders. It was so easy to fear them, writing them off as useless drains on our society. Frankly, if I’d had my way, they’d have all met the same fate as the black widow who tried to share my coffee a while back.

Thankfully, enough people have compassion for addicts that understanding and acceptance are gaining momentum in our society. My own compassion for addicts became a necessity after coming to the realization that I am one.

Not everyone has to be an addict in order to find compassion for addicts. The stigma of addiction is being peeled back, as more and more celebrities have become vocal about their own struggles with addiction.

Like him or not, Rush Limbaugh was very up front about his struggle with opioid addiction a couple decades ago. Then there is Robert Downy Jr., Ironman himself. They are joined by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato, and Eminem. Even Drew Barrymore, that precious little girl from the movie E.T. is one of the spiders of addiction.

As an addict, one of the spiders, I have been shown so much compassion since getting clean and finding recovery. First, compassion came from fellow addicts, as they related first-hand to the pain of addiction. Soon, others followed. As I opened up about my addiction, I found comfort in the compassion shown to me by family, friends, and coworkers.

Yes, there were and are those who will always see me as a spider. Today, I realize that’s ok. They give me an opportunity to show compassion. Some of them have been so wronged by my past actions that they will never see me as anything but a spider. Acknowledging their pain is a form of compassion in and of itself.

Through the recovery program of Narcotics Anonymous, I have found compassion. Through working the steps, I have learned to practice compassion toward myself and others. No more irrational fear of spiders!

Well, my friend Mr. Spider has gone into hiding for the day. He’s no fan of sunlight. Oh, and his name… I’ve decided on Nick, after Nick Wallenda. He and his family have entertained thousands through the years as The Flying Wallendas. The famous tightrope walking family. Yep, Nick seems a fitting name.

Have a remarkable day!


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