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

Self-Discipline and Traffic Jams

Every now and then, something small will happen in my life that reminds me that I’m actually making progress in my recovery. Yesterday was one such day.

I’m back in New York for some meetings. I had agreed to give a ride to a business associate from the airport in Newark, New Jersey to our hotel about an hour and a half north of the city in New York State. Though we had not met before, it turns out we have enough in common to make the ride very enjoyable.

I’m glad too, because about ten minutes into our drive we hit a traffic jam that had made a mess of our route. I think there were supposed to be 6 lanes of traffic, but somehow those lanes became completely meaningless to other drivers. At times, there were up to nine vehicles across the width of the paved highway, all trying to merge into the single lane that would ultimately pass by an overturned tractor-trailer that was the root cause of the jam-up.

The mess looked a bit like a can of worms, always shifting, but seemingly without purpose or direction. My GPS unit was telling me where I wanted to be, so like all the other “worms” in line, I began maneuvering for position. Slowly, sometimes inch-by-inch, we made progress.

Overall, the traffic jam added around an hour to our trip. Several times, as we sat there, my passenger commented on just how glad he was that I was driving. He was glad that he did not have to drive, admitting that such situations are very difficult for him to tolerate.

Wow, can I ever relate!

It was too very long ago that a situation like yesterday’s traffic jam would have totally freaked me out. I’d have been losing my religion over the delay. My patience would have been lost with each and every car that tried to cut me off. I’d have felt like a true loser for not magically knowing how to avoid the traffic jam so that my passenger wasn’t inconvenienced. I’d have been a mess.

Yesterday’s jam-up didn’t do any of those things to me. It was a test of the spiritual aspect of my recovery, and I passed the test. Our journey was calm. I was calm. I was even able to have compassion for other drivers around me.

As for my passenger, he understood that the jam-up and delay was not a reflection on my driving skills. There was literally no need for any feelings of inadequacy linked to the traffic jam. No need for me to apologize for events that were beyond my control. No angst or frustration.

Eventually we passed that overturned tractor-trailer. As we did, I realized how easily skewed my perspective used to become. There was a time, not too long ago, when I’d have thought I was the one having a bad day because of the overturned truck.

Nah… my day was stellar, especially compared to that truck driver’s day.

We eventually did make it to our hotel. After sharing dinner together, I even got to attend a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous. When my head hit the pillow last night, as I reflected on my day, I was able to fall asleep quickly, and sleep peacefully. It had been a good good day.

The program of Narcotics Anonymous doesn’t just address my drug use. Though stopping my drug use was a necessity, and had to come first in my recovery, recovery did not stop there. Recovery touches every area of my life. At least that’s the idea.

Sometimes it can feel like my progress is slow. It can seem that change will never come, or that once it comes, it will be short-lived. Yesterday was a friendly reminder that changes have happened in my life, and that they are affecting areas of my life I had not previously realized. Even my driving!

It’s important to acknowledge here that I am not boasting of my own accomplishments here. I’m boasting of the power of the NA program. Boasting of the effectiveness of working the steps. Boasting of the changes that come from a life that is guided by spiritual principles.

Without these, I am just Kent. With these, I am Kent, a grateful recovering addict. I live a good life. A life that even has self-discipline in a traffic jam.

Have a remarkable day!


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