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

Surrender, Warning Labels, and Ridiculous Signs

I get such a kick out of some of the warning labels and signs that get posted on products and in places. For instance, the label on our dogs’ bag of food that informs us that the contents are “not intended for human consumption.”

Oh really? Is that why they call it “dog food?” Who’d have thought?

Or on the lip of a lawnmower where there is a warning label that reminds the operator not to put their hands down there while operating. They’ll even add a pictograph showing a hand with severed fingers and little shock waves.

That one seems so obvious. So full of common sense. Yet, a handful of years ago (pun intended), a coworker of mine lost part of a finger while attempting to clear debris from his still-running lawn mower. This otherwise intelligent, safety-conscious individual still lives with the fallout from that decision.

Then this week, we received notification from management at our apartment complex that our garage would be entered by maintenance yesterday to install a sign. As it turns out, someone, somewhere determined that a sign reminding us to turn off our car engines needed to be posted in all the garages of our apartment complex.

Seriously? A sign to remind drivers to turn off their car when they finish driving. A. Sign. For. That???

I suppose next a sign will appear on my fourth floor balcony reminding me not to rappel to the ground from it!

I guess somewhere, someone forgot to kill the ignition on their car and a lawsuit ensued. (Another intended pun!) So, I would imagine garage apartments nation-wide are gobbling up sign in an effort to mitigate liability.

In fact, my guess is that our litigious society is to blame for most such warning labels and signs.

Ok, but how does this little rant relate to the principle of surrender? Shoot, I don’t know. All I know is that when I saw the sign in our garage the first time yesterday I snapped a picture of it and told Amanda it would definitely be a topic in my next blog!

Oh, wait, it just came to me…

In reality, otherwise smart people are capable of making some pretty bad choices. We try to eat something we obviously have no business eating. Or we stick our fingers near a fast moving blade. Or we forget to turn off the car engine whilst attempting to wrangle both a child, two dogs, and several bags of groceries.

Back in the 80’s an anti-drug campaign was heavily promoted by First Lady, Nancy Reagan. “Just say no” became the anthem for those fighting drug abuse.

At the time, I thought it was so obvious. Sort of like McDonald’s coffee. Everyone knew it was way too hot to drink. Who needs a warning label. Just buy your coffee at breakfast, and by lunch it will be ready to enjoy. Easy peasy, right?

The problem with the “Just say no” campaign is that it doesn’t take the disease of addiction into account. For the average Joe, “Just say no” makes sense. Like my coworker who lost part of his finger in the lawnmower. When he was taking painkillers for his injury, following the directions on the prescription label made perfect sense. He was able to follow directions, (well, other than that label’s directions about the lawnmower) and avoid any abuse of prescribed medication.

I, on the other hand, have a perspective that is warped when it comes to any mood changing or mind altering substance. I’m prone to looking at the label and convincing myself that if one works well, then two must work better. Then it becomes two or three with a glass of wine.

This natural tendency of an addict’s brain makes it pretty easy to ignore the “Just say no” campaign. Even worse, in my case, saying “no” eventually seemed impossible. Addiction quickly became both a psychological predisposition and a physical necessity. All the slick advertising in the world couldn’t stop me. No number of warning labels or signs warning me to stop, or even dial it down a bit would be enough.

Regardless of what had brought me there, I found myself in a world where drugs sat on the throne. I would break any rules necessary to serve my new “master.” It felt as though I had no choice. My life, and everything important to me had been completely surrendered to drugs.

Then I was introduced to the Narcotics Anonymous program. Amanda, as well as other new friends in the fellowship, quietly told me that I never had to use drugs again. They taught me to not only abstain from drugs, but also gave me the tools to do so. The steps, spiritual principles, and sponsorship helped me get started. A renewed relationship with God eventually sealed the deal.

I still remember the night that I accepted the fact that I am an addict. Who, me? Was that me who just introduced himself as an addict?

I was in the process of losing everything I had to my disease. A disease I didn’t even know I had. Only then was I ready to admit that just maybe the drugs were a part of all the trouble I was in. Maybe I am addicted. Could that be the reason that I not only don’t want to stop, but can’t stop?

Warning labels and signs serve as reminders that we are all human. Whether we absentmindedly leave the car running in the garage, or rebelliously take that first drug, all the labels, signs, and slogans in the world will not protect us from ourselves.

However, by surrendering to the fact that I am an addict, I have become aware of my disease. They say knowledge is power, so today, knowledge of my disease gives me power to do something about it.

This power allows me to say “no” to drugs just for today. More importantly, it gives me the power to say “yes” to God, and to the fellowship of NA I believe He has brought me to. I’m so grateful today!

Oh, and that new sign in our garage… it doesn’t apply to us, Amanda’s car is electric!

Have a remarkable day!


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