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

Surrender and Shaving

When I was growing up, I was what you might call a late bloomer. I remember watching as my friends reached puberty and began getting facial hair. The skin on my face kept its smooth appearance for much too long. I wanted to be like the other boys my age. I wanted to shave.

About all my body could muster was some slightly dark peach fuzz above my upper lip. When my parents noticed it, they bought me an electric razor to keep it shaved. Finally, I could see signs of becoming a man!

Exactly when it happened I cannot be sure, but somewhere along the way, that little bit of peach fuzz became an unmanageable cactus. Whiskers eventually spread, covering every inch of my beard. They are tough little monsters. They resist being shaven to the point that my trusty Norelco razor can no longer keep up. So, for years I’ve used a regular razor blade with shaving cream.

I shave in the shower. It is a process that adds around two minutes to every shower. Not bad all things considered, yet there are other things I would rather be doing with my time. Over the years I’ve come to resent the cactus on my face. It’s much too high-maintenance.

Recently I wrote about my experience with waxing my nose hairs. That experience was so satisfying. After years of clipping rogue nose hairs, eliminating them all in one fell swoop (or, in the case of my two nostrils, two fell swoops) made me enthusiastic about finding other waxing options.

I began calculating the amount of time spent shaving this cactus of mine every day. I quickly realized that two minutes a day, every day, over the next thirty years of my life would total a whopping 15.2 days. That’s right, a total of more than two weeks of my life will be spent shaving. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time than to spend it harvesting cactus thorns!

So, you guessed it. I spent a couple days last week letting my beard grow out. That was the easy part. The challenge was getting Amanda to go along with it. Even as the wax was melting in the warmer, she warned me that my idea was bad. She knows how low my tolerance of pain is.

She delicately applied the first strip of wax to my right jaw. As it hardened, I could feel it begin to tighten its grip on each little whisker. “Cool,” I thought, “this is going to work!”

Well, it worked alright. With one mighty pull, Amanda removed the strip of wax, and along with it, hundreds of whiskers!

The pain was unlike anything I could remember have previously experienced. A combination of burning and stinging. Had I lost the skin from that area too? I quickly touched the small patch. Pulling my hand away I was relieved to see there was no blood. Oh, but the pain.

“Do you want to keep going? It should only take a dozen or so more patches to finish.”

Amanda knew the answer before I gave it. Despite feeling terrible for me, she couldn’t help but laugh. Soon, both of us were laughing at this little experiment.

That strip of wax, well, it looks like a strip of Velcro. It serves as a friendly reminder that some things in life are unavoidable. Some things, no matter how big a nuisance, have to be done.

Through the Narcotics Anonymous program, I have come to know several folks with decades of recovery. Note I said “recovery,” not “clean time.” The two are not the same. “Recovery” indicates that these friends are not simply abstaining from drugs, but that they are actively working on their lives. They are living lives guided by spiritual principles, and continue working to identify and allow God to remove their character defects.

These recovering addicts also share what they have with other addicts like me. Addicts who depend on their wisdom and and guidance to help make recovery possible in their lives.

As with my experience with shaving, I’m sure each one of these recovering addicts could look at his or her life and convince themselves that there are better things to be done with their time than to be attending meetings. For example, I have a friend who celebrates 25 years this month. If he has only averaged three meetings a week over those years, that totals 162 days! That doesn’t include all the time invested in working steps with a sponsor. Nor does it include all the time he has surely invested in sponsoring others.

How easy it would be to rationalize meeting attendance out of his schedule. Surely there are better things he could be doing with all that time. Just think of all the naps he could be taking! All the reruns of His favorite tv show he could be watching. All the… whatever.

Instead, he is there, faithfully serving in his home group. Faithfully greeting the newcomer. Faithfully giving away that which was so freely given to him.

As a recovering drug addict, I am learning to surrender to the fact that some things in life will be unavoidable if I wish to recover. My goal, after all, is so much broader than simply not using drugs. Sure, that had to be my starting point, but if that were all that recovery had to offer, I doubt it would have brought me this far. My attention would have quickly lapsed, and I’d be using once again.

Recovery, for me, is about finding a new way of life. It is about getting rid of those character defects that make my life unmanageable. It is about acting with integrity, and living by spiritual principles. It’s about surrendering daily to find victory in life.

So yes, I’ll continue to invest in shaving daily. I’ll also continue to invest in my recovery daily. There are no shortcuts.

Surrender will never lead to a cure to my addiction, but it does lead to recovery.

Have a remarkable day!

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