I’m sitting in the lobby of my hotel, and on the table in front of me is a stack of newspapers. The two above the fold headlines feature the same theme: sexual assault. Not just that, but both stories are about sexual assaults that are supposed to have occurred decades ago.
One of these headlines features a picture of Bill Cosby, once thought of as “America’s Dad” being taken into custody after being sentenced to prison. The other features a photo of a United States Senator who is scurrying to preside over hearings of a Supreme Court nominee who is accused of assaulting a woman when he was a teenager.
Integrity was once at the center of both men’s reputations. They have lived lives in the public view that seemed so full of honor and upright behavior. Yet the past has a way of catching up with us. No one is immune from past behaviors reaching out to interrupt today’s life.
As a recovering addict, I can relate to both of these men. No, I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Nor have I ever been accused of such. Yet my past seems to dog me in ways that I never dreamt possible.
When I was active in my addiction, I left a good deal of destruction in the wake of almost every move I made. I violated people’s trust. I lied to friends and family who wondered “What’s wrong with Kent?” Values that had once been near and dear to me were cast aside in the pursuit of feeding my addiction.
The worst part of this process was that through it, I lost my own identity. I can remember looking in the mirror, and not recognizing the man I saw there. He was a liar, a cheat, lost and without direction. All integrity that had once been present in his life had been sacrificed to the drugs, and the lifestyle that feeds addiction.
When I was introduced to the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous, the man in the mirror began once again to take shape. Like a bathroom mirror clearing of fog after a shower, the image of Kent began to be revealed once again.
That image has cleared over the time since then. Getting clean began the process. Without the influence of drugs, I was able to see myself again. The ability to honestly assess my life, and what it had become came as the fog of drugs lifted.
As I worked the steps, and applied spiritual principles to my daily life, more of Kent came into view. Along with that clearer image of myself, personal integrity also began to return. My life began to change. I began to change, not into the person I was before the drugs, but arguably, into an even better person. Some of those relationships were restored, some were not. Some fences were mended, some were not. In either instance, I began focusing on today with gratitude, rather than on my past, with regret.
Kent began to move on in life.
As a recovering addict, few things in life are more important to me than putting my past behind me. Dwelling in the past, and all its troubles would only bring me down, and threaten to suck me back into active addiction.
Let me be clear here, I am guilty of much. I’ll say it again for emphasis.
I AM GUILTY OF MUCH.
Nothing in me wants to deny those things. Everything within me wants to move beyond them though.
For the most part, I’ve been allowed to move forward in life. I am surrounded by family, friends, and associates who give me a chance daily to live in the present. People who see that integrity has returned to my life, and who want only the best for me. These are people who are not stuck in the past.
Sadly, I also have people who cannot let go of the past. People who have no interest in seeing the man who emerged from the fog in the mirror. They still see the liar and cheat I once was. Sadly, their pain is so great, they cannot find relief. Unable to forgive, they are locked in a prison that may always see nothing but a pathetic drug addict when they think of me.
I want to be angry at these people. I want to make them see that I’m not who I was. Alas, that is not possible. Their choice to live in the past is just that, their choice.
Today, I have a choice too. I choose to accept and forgive their inability to do likewise. Their inability to move on is to be pitied, not despised. After all, I’ve been blessed with a life that has given me freedom. A new way of life. I do not have to be a prisoner to my past.
The message of NA is that an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. I’m so grateful that my past isn’t on the headlines of any newspaper. My past isn’t on the headlines of my spirit either. Because of NA, I have found that new way to live, and I am ready to live it today, in the present.
Have a remarkable day!