I’m in Chicago for work this weekend. The hotel that my coworkers and I are staying in is just off Michigan Avenue downtown. The area is amazing!
Last night our group walked several blocks to enjoy some authentic deep dish pizza. On both the walk to the restaurant, and back to our hotel, the area was packed with people out enjoying their Friday night in the Windy City.
It is the same Chicago that has been in the news so regularly for the rash of murders taking place in the city. Watching the news, one would think there would be fear on every corner. Homes would be shuttered. People afraid and unwilling to go out.
There is no doubt that the murders plaguing this city are a serious matter. No doubt that hundreds of families have been impacted by these tragic crimes. Yet these crimes do not define the city. There are still plenty of sites to be seen and things to enjoy. There are still thriving areas where, just like last night, people are out living life and being good to one another.
The life of a recovering addict has much in common with Chicago. In the same way that headlines focus on Chicago’s epidemic of violence, all too often addiction takes center stage in the recovering addict’s life. Addiction becomes the focus of the antagonist in the life of the recovering addict.
The antagonist’s outlook toward the recovering addict seems to be permanently stuck in the past. Forever focused on the negative. Unwilling to forgive or extend grace. Their anthem is all too familiar. It begins with the words “Yes, but…”
“Oh, I’m so happy for Alice. She got her children back and it’s obvious that they are doing well!”
“Yes, but you know she’s an addict. I’m just waiting for her to mess up again. Guess I’ll just pick up the pieces for her again.”
“I’m so proud of the business those two have built together. They’ve come so far.”
“Yes, but you know they are addicts. I wouldn’t hire them. I bet they rip their customers off. I wouldn’t let them near my home.”
How about this one?
“He’s doing so well these days! I’m inviting him to join us for the holidays!”
“If that’s the case you can COUNT. ME. OUT.”
These examples may seem harsh, but I’ve witnessed examples like these and even worse. Making matters even more challenging is the fact that often the addict is his or her own worst antagonist. I know this is true in my own life.
“This relationship is going so well.”
“Yes, but you’ve ruined relationships in the past. You’ll ruin this one too Kent.”
“I can’t believe work is going so well!”
“Yes, but you’ll surely find a way to screw this job up too. After all, you’re an addict. You’re a loser.”
“Mom and Dad invited me to come visit!”
“Yes but they just feel obligated. You should let them off the hook and stay home. No one really wants you around Kent.”
It truly is the antagonist within that makes life most challenging for me. It’s the voice of fear and doubt. The voice that digs deep to find all that is bad in my life, then offers it up as a headline in my mind.
Oh how I hate that voice. It is the voice of my disease. A voice that sounds just like my own. A voice that sounds so convincing. It makes me believe the worst about myself and my recovery. It’s the voice of lies.
By practicing honesty in my life, I can begin to recognize that voice of my addiction. I can counter its lies with truth. Every “yes but” that is whispered in my ear can be countered by the same reply: “We do recover.”
A miracle happens when I bring my inner antagonist under control. As I stifle its voice, the voices of those outer antagonists also become less influential in my life. Those folks who refuse to believe in the changes I am making become less significant in my life. I even find room to empathize with their skepticism. After all, I was once skeptical too.
Chicago still has a very serious problem with violent crimes. Statistically though, murders are actually down year to date by almost 20%. On top of that, the city has so much to offer. Commerce, culture, friendly people, and oh the pizza! I’m glad the headlines didn’t scare me from coming to experience this weekend.
I’m also glad that I don’t have to let the headlines my disease reports in my mind keep me from enjoying life. My disease is serious, but it does not define who I am. Today I have a choice. Today I’ll be Kent’s biggest fan. I’ll live out the twelve steps and the spiritual principles of the Narcotics Anonymous program. I can do these things believing wholeheartedly that we do recover!
Have a remarkable day!