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

Willingness, Death, and Taxes

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

If Benjamin Franklin was right, then we are faced with a dilemma. Either both death and taxes, life’s only certainties, are good; or change, the hallmark of uncertainties, is good.

People fight both death and taxes continually. For example, I have seen people who have very strong beliefs about what comes after death go to extreme measures to delay its coming. Likewise, I see very charitable and generous people go to extreme measures to avoid paying taxes that are not completely necessary.

Thus, given the way people seem to naturally fight both death and taxes, I would reason that they are inherently bad. Therefore, if life’s only certainties are bad, then uncertainties must be good!

You can thank me later for offering such a paradigm shift for your thinking.

The next obvious question is that if change is good, why do I fight against it so consistently? Why has resistance to change been such a recurring theme in my life? Why do I see that same resistance to change in the lives of others? How did change get such a bad reputation?

Our aversion to change can be summed up in one word: comfort.

To prove my point, I present to you the story of the frog and the kettle. Though I’ve never tried this experiment myself, I’ve been told it’s true that if you try to drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. Who wouldn’t, right?

However, if you make the frog nice and cozy in a kettle of water at room temperature, then slowly raise the heat, the frog will just sit there until he becomes soup. His comfort becomes more important than life itself. In fact, he becomes so comfortable that he doesn’t even notice the life being slowly cooked out of him.

It’s hard to relate to a frog in a kettle, slowly cooking on the stove. After all, we are human beings with developed frontal lobes. We are self-aware, and superior to frogs in so many obvious ways.

Despite our superiority over frogs, we all have our kettles on the stove. For instance, have you ever found yourself in a job you hated, but were afraid to step out and try something new? I have. Despite my dislike for my first real job after graduating college, I stayed with it for over five years. I hated every moment of it. At the same time, however, I grew comfortable with it. That comfort kept me there for years.

The same issue applies to relationships, geographic locations, unhealthy behavior patterns, and yes, addiction.

Addiction was the big kettle in my life. It started off slowly, with alcohol. The social acceptability of alcohol blinded me to the harm it was causing in my life. The heat in my kettle was rising, but I dismissed it. After all, what’s the harm in just one more?

Prescription drugs were the next step in the process for me. The heat on my kettle turned a bit higher when I began sneaking pain killers. Again, I justified their use. They were, after all, prescribed by a doctor. Never mind the fact that my name was not on the prescription.

Is it getting warm in here? Nah, I’m still comfortable.

Then came meth. The heat in my kettle was rapidly approaching the boiling point. I was oblivious. Any discomfort the drugs might have carried with them was easily remedied with more drugs. So, I kept using, more drugs, more often.

Unlike water, the boiling point with drugs is a moving target. For some, the boiling point comes quickly. Sometimes the boiling point is reached with the person’s first experiment with using. For others it can take years of drug use to come to the boiling point. Ultimately, however, that boiling point will be the same: jails, institutions, and death.

I am one of the lucky ones. I’m one of the frogs that jumped out of the kettle before it reached a boil. There is no doubt that damage had been done before I got out, but I still consider myself to be lucky.

When I entered the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous, moments of clarity came to me. I heard fellow addicts share openly and honesty about their experiences in the kettles of addiction. As they shared, I awoke to the reality of my own situation. My own kettle.

Those moments of clarity revealed to me that I wasn’t comfortable after all. I was sick and dying. Slowly killing myself by refusing to get out of the kettle of my addiction.

Willingness came as I became aware of just how serious my problem had become. Regardless of the comfort I felt from the drugs, I became willing to change. Even willing to experience some discomfort.

There were friends and loved ones there to help me too. My new friends in NA helped guide me as I exited my kettle. Members of my family were there too, offering unwavering love and support. (I never take my family’s love and support for granted, knowing that many addicts are not so fortunate.)

So, willingness led to change, and change has been good.

Here’s the insidious part of the story though. My brain likes to tell my lies. When emotions or feelings come, they can still be hard to face. Either success or failure can make me uncomfortable. At such times, my thoughts can drift back to that kettle. My disease tempts me by only recalling the comfort of the kettle. It can be so appealing.

That is why it’s called “recovery” and not “recovered.” It is a process. An ongoing journey. A way of life. The changes brought about through NA can be permanent, but they are not one-time events. Recovery demands ongoing willingness. Recovery demands change, and change is good.

Have a remarkable day!


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