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

Integrity and My Neighbor’s Car

From my balcony this morning I noticed that one of my neighbors was outside taking pictures of her car. My view of the car is partially obstructed, so at first I didn’t notice the reason for her picture taking activity.

Then it struck me. The driver side windows are both missing. I stood up to look more closely to see that the side of the vehicle is dented from front to rear. All the sheet metal on the side of the car has been pushed in, crushed even. Yet, from where I sit, no paint is missing. Not a single scratch.

Figuring out what happened didn’t require me to be a rocket scientist. Nor did it take Sherlock Holmes. No, the deduction was simple. Someone beat this poor car to pieces.

I quickly scanned other cars parked in the vicinity. Not a single bit of damage to be seen anywhere else. This attack was not random. It was not mindless vandalism. This damage looks like revenge.

Who knows what motivated someone to cause this kind of damage to someone else’s car. The possibilities are endless.

This morning, I would guess whoever is responsible for the damage feels vindicated. Likely, the person will awaken feeling a surge of adrenaline. “I got her, showed her who’s boss.” They are likely feeling that surge of energy that immediately follows revenge.

Sometime later, that feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment will fade. In a day, a week, or maybe longer, the excitement that came with showing this young lady “who’s boss” will be replaced with an empty feeling. The feelings of anger, insecurity, or perhaps even loneliness that motivated the perpetrator will return.

When those feelings return, in all likelihood the perpetrator will look for another victim. Another scapegoat to blame for the feelings they cannot handle. It has been my experience, at least, that such people never tire of blaming others for their problems. They never grow weary of extracting punishment from others because of their own emptiness and self-loathing.

As recovering addicts, it seems that each of us has at least one such person in our lives. That person who feels so wronged by our past behaviors that they just can’t let go. Their anger, resentment, and insecurities keep them locked in the past. They are unable and unwilling to see change in the recovering addict. They feel justified in their ongoing efforts to punish the addict in their lives.

Like my neighbor’s car, an addict’s life may be put together and functional. It may even look so “showroom new” that it is hard to imagine a past life of drug abuse, and all that goes with it. Yet this antagonist’s thirst for revenge or retribution is still not satisfied. They come along doing their best to beat recovery to pieces. All the while feeling perfectly justified by their behavior.

Practicing integrity allows victims of life’s antagonists to handle such experiences with dignity and honor. I suspect the police will be here soon, if they haven’t been already. My neighbor’s police report will include possible perpetrators, and they will be left to handle the matter. Also, insurance will take care of the damage, paying a body shop to return the car to its “showroom new” condition.

Integrity in the addict’s life allows for the proper handling of the antagonists. In my own case, integrity encourages me to try and see things from my antagonist’s perspective. By trying to imagine the hurt and pain caused by my active addiction, it becomes easier to understand the anger, frustration, or even self-loathing that may motivate the antagonist’s actions.

Integrity eventually leads to empathy. It also eliminates the urge to seek revenge.

Coping with life’s antagonists almost becomes second nature to the recovering addict. That is, until we discover the antagonist within.

I’m coming to grips with this antagonist by working the steps. Slowly, over time, I am coming to realize that I can be my own worst enemy. I have discovered that forgiving myself has been recovery’s most difficult challenge.

The problem is simple. All that damage I did while abusing drugs, others only saw in bits and pieces. I, on the other hand, had a front-row seat for it all. Making things even worse, I continue to remember things I did that had been previously forgotten.

I am learning that I must treat my inner antagonist with the same level of empathy that I have for the other antagonists in my life. As I patiently wait for myself to lose that anger and frustration over my past actions, I act with integrity so that I do not repeat them.

I stop beating myself up over my past. I stop the self-loathing and begin to show myself love instead.

Recovery is to me what the body shop will be to my neighbor’s car. It doesn’t erase the damage once done, but it does help restore life to this recovering addict. Through the Narcotics Anonymous program we learn to move past life’s antagonists. We do recover.

Have a remarkable day!

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