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

Compassion and A Feelings Disease

Oh Babe, you wouldn’t believe the meeting I just left. Well, at least I think it was a meeting. Maybe I stumbled into a group therapy session instead?

That was how my phone conversation with Amanda started out last night. I had just left a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous in the city I’m in for business, and I was struggling with how quickly it had become a gripe session for people in attendance who were disgruntled with their work.

Person after person shared about what terrible bosses they had. How awful the pay is. How unfair the hours.

Each of these folks punctuated their sharing with the obligatory “but I didn’t have to use over it.”

The meeting was sort of free-form, with people just jumping in to share as soon as the previous person had finished. I wanted to share, but I bit my tongue. I wasn’t sure I could offer the room any encouragement without seeming like I was riding on some sort of newcomer’s pink cloud or something. I felt as though anything positive I might have to share would react with the negativity in the room in a disastrous way. Maybe I’d be struck by lightning!

You see, I have a job I absolutely love. I get up out of bed each and every day, excited by the work I do, and anxious to get to it. My work is fulfilling and benefits the people with whom I work.

My compensation goes beyond being fair, and allows for a comfortable life.

My boss is a great guy. So is his boss, and the boss after him.

When my customers see me, I’m greeted with a smile.

If Shaun has a school program, not only does my employer allow me to take time away to attend, they expect me to.

Why, just last week I had my performance review. It went better than any such review has ever gone in my career. My boss, who saw the worst of me during my days of active drug abuse, even called me a role model. Me, an addict, a role model.

Now that’s some crazy talk right there!

Here’s the catch though. The thing I wanted to share last night. The dirty little secret that the disease of addiction loves to spring on addicts seeking recovery at just the right moment.

All those positive things I just mentioned. Those enviable aspects of my work. Guess what… I don’t have to use over them.

That’s right. My disease doesn’t go on hiatus when times are good. It doesn’t grow quiet during the bountiful times, waiting for the bad to reappear. My disease is just as active, shouts at me just as loudly, during the good times as it is during the bad.

The reason is simple. Addiction isn’t a drug abuse disease. Addiction is not about income levels. It’s not about what job we have, what spouse we have, or how wonderful or terrible life may be.

Addiction is a feelings disease. It is a disease that does not discriminate. It can turn a good time into a reason to use just as easily as a bad time.

When I finished my performance review last week, I immediately put my recovery to work. I meditated. I prayed. When I felt myself coming down from the emotional high it had produced, I took a nap. That review put my recovery to the test.

Last night I could not think of the right words to speak in that meeting. I could not, in the moment, gather my thoughts in a way that would allow me to share with compassion. I feared my words, my story, would lack the encouragement I seek to offer when I share. So, my silence was the only compassion I could offer the room.

As an addict in recovery, my life will never be immune from life’s ups and downs. The happy times will surely be balanced at some point by sad. For the folks in last night’s meeting, the struggles they face at work will, eventually, turn around. That, or they will be offset by joy in other areas of life. It seems that life is just that way.

The good news is that not a single one of us in that room last night has to use over the feelings we have today. Each of us has been given to tools to stay clean, just for today. We need not drown our sorrows in our drug of choice, nor raise a glass to “toast” our successes.

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. Our disease does not discriminate. Neither does recovery.

In the end, I was able to offer some compassion to a couple folks in the room. I briefly visited with a fellow who was celebrating nine months clean. What an accomplishment! I hugged a newcomer and suggest that he keep coming back. I let folks know that I was grateful that the doors were open, telling them how important that is to a traveler like me.

Compassion comes in so many different forms. Today, I’ll try to offer it to all I see, hoping that each of us can…

Have a remarkable day.

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