There are some mornings on which I will draw my spiritual principle for the day and know right away what to write. When I drew the principle of “Love” this morning, I instantly knew my topic, yet I’ve set here for almost half an hour desperately seeking a way out. I just don’t want to write the words that follow.
As much as I don’t want to write them, after a half hour of fighting what I believe God wants me to write, I’m giving in to His will in the situation. I’m breaching a painful topic, despite my fear of opening wounds that are still fresh.
A simple definition of the word “Love” says that it is a deep feeling of affection. This is a definition that seems to make sense. I can understand this definition, and appreciate its simplicity. There is just one problem with it, the word “feeling.”
You see, addiction is often described as a “feelings” disease. Boy can I ever relate to having a feelings disease. It’s what allows me to be in a crowded room, even one that is crowded with friends or family, and feel all alone. It allows me to experience great successes in life, only to be left feeling empty inside, as though success is never enough.
As an addict, my feelings constantly play tricks on me. My feelings defy reality. My feelings fill my head with doubt, fear, and lies. My feelings can be my number one enemy.
Living in the drug world only made my feelings more difficult to endure. Over time, I developed a number of relationships with people in that world. Without getting into the sordid details of such relationships, it is enough to say that my feelings disease was at its worst in these relationships.
Oh, these relationships were based on affection alright. Affection for the drugs I had to offer. Affection for the next high. A pursuit of that feeling the drugs provided.
It was only after the drugs were removed from my life that the haze began to clear from around these relationships. When that haze cleared, two very distinct and painful feelings rose to the surface of my consciousness.
First was the realization of how much I had been used and manipulated. I’d been played, my emotions had become toys. Those relationships had not been about deep feelings of affection. No, they had been based on a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. Those people became whoever they needed to be in order to get me to share my drugs. This realization left me feeling so empty on the inside.
The second realization was even worse than the first. It was the realization that I had used and manipulated so many people to get what I wanted. As badly used as I had become, in the end, I was every bit as capable of using others, manipulating them to get what I wanted. I was left with no feelings of deep affection for anyone, not even myself. Not even the drugs. My ability to feel was completely broken.
Through the program of Narcotics Anonymous, I have been learning to feel once again. My heart has been softened as I’ve worked the steps and learned to apply spiritual principles to my life.
Very early on, while in inpatient treatment for my disease, one of our daily exercises was to use a “feelings” word to describe how each of us felt that day. At first I thought it was a ridiculous exercise. In time, however, I grew to appreciate the significance of learning to identify my feelings once again. I had to learn how to identify them so that I could either enjoy them if they were positive, or work on them if they were negative.
Without such exercises, feelings could easily become overwhelming. Even positive ones could bring so much discomfort that hiding from them with drugs became attractive.
So, my ability to experience feelings is a work in progress. I am learning to experience a full spectrum of feelings again, and to manage them accordingly. When I feel alone in a crowded room, I can take time to identify the fact that it is just a feeling, and I can deal with it in a healthy way.
As for love, that feeling of deep affection, I am learning to experience it with healthy boundaries. I allow myself to be drawn to those who have a deep affection for me, and for whom I have a deep affection.
At the same time, when I sense manipulation or false pretenses, I tread lightly. I recognize how easy it would be to fall back into old behavior. How quickly my feelings could once again deceive me. How easy it would be to fall back into a pattern of using others and being used.
I’m grateful for the program of NA. Grateful for my recovery. Grateful for the ability to feel deep affection for others. Grateful for this new way to live.
Have a remarkable day!