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

Integrity and Loose Change

I seem to find a lot of loose change these days. The parking lot of our apartment complex is a great place to keep my eyes pealed for random pocket change.

Yesterday morning, as I was loading my car, it was a nickel that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Only a few feet from my car, it was practically calling out to me to rescue it from the pavement.

The funny thing about finding loose change on the ground is that I really don’t care what the denomination is. I am equally pleased to find a penny as to find a dime or even a quarter. After all it is the joy of discovering unexpected treasure that makes me smile, not the amount.

Once I have change in my pocket, I become stingy with it. I try to never spend pocket change. Instead, it remains in my pocket until I return home. There, in my bedroom, sits a large antique Coke bottle filled with change. It stands over two feet tall, and as of today, is about two-thirds of the way full.

That Coke bottle is made of glass. It was my dad’s bottle while I was growing up. It had been a gift from one of his uncles. I believe it was Uncle John who gave it to him.

Anyway, I can recall as a child watching Dad return from business trips and put his loose change into the bottle. Sometimes I would do the honors of plunking those coins through the old bottle cap lid. “Some day we’ll have enough there to go on a vacation.”

We went on plenty of vacations together as a family growing up. I can’t remember whether any of them was specifically funded by the Coke bottle change. However, I can remember that change being earmarked, or set aside. It was set aside for a specific reason, to fulfill a specific purpose.

In a real way, that loose change, accumulated through the years, was sacred. It was also a constant in our home. Over the years the decor of our home changed. Different paint colors, carpet, or furniture would come and go. That Coke bottle never did. It was always there, along with the knowledge that money for vacations would always be there as well.

I’m grateful that Mom and Dad valued travel over trinkets. Today, I can boast of having visited 49 of the 50 United States. Our travels in my youth established a great foundation, giving me only a few gaps to fill in during my adult life. Number fifty will be Alaska, and I can hardly wait.

That Coke bottle has come to represent integrity in my life. A simple definition of integrity involves being the same person when I’m alone as I am when other people are around. A similar definition says that integrity involves doing the right thing for the right reason. For me, however, integrity runs deeper. Integrity means that my life has a purpose. It has meaning, and I am aware of that meaning.

Knowing that my life has a purpose, I am then challenged to live in accordance with that purpose. Like that Coke bottle, a life of purposeful integrity builds upon itself over time.

Take marriage as an example. One of my purposes in life is to be a good and faithful husband. That means that I love Amanda whether she is by my side, or halfway across the country. I’m faithful to her and the commitments I’ve made to her. Over time, that integrity grows, like coins in the Coke bottle. My investment in our relationship increases in value and meaning.

When I was using drugs, any purpose in life quickly faded away. Rather than being driven by any long term goals or commitments, my life became all about chasing that next high. Integrity was lost because my purpose in life had been lost. There was no greater good for which to strive. It was replaced by an insatiable hunger for more drugs.

Feeding that hunger made it easy to compromise in other areas of life. After all, when something loses its purpose, it is of little value.

I’m grateful for the program of Narcotics Anonymous for having helped me see that my life can have purpose and value once again. As I have strived to live a life based on spiritual principles, I have rediscovered the value and purpose for my life. Having found these again, I have become equipped to pursue them wholeheartedly, with integrity.

When I find myself struggling with life, feeling hopeless or helpless, I can review my purpose. I can rediscover why I am here. Through this introspection, I once again gravitate toward integrity, and I feel fulfilled.

That Coke bottle is quickly filling up. I’ll return home today with a pocketful of change, destined to be spent on some family adventure. I’ll also return home knowing that once again, I have lived life in accordance with its purpose. A life that is based in integrity.

Have a remarkable day!

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