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Emotional Rags to Spiritual Riches
A Personal Story of the Rags of Addiction and the Spiritual Gifts of Recovery
By David Gregory
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 David Gregory
All rights reserved.
WHAT WE THINK IS WHAT WE GET
Doesn't everyone love and relate to a great "Rags to Riches" story? How about a journey that was started in the dysfunction of a family already laced with addiction and mental illness? A story that was true and the only medication to make it through the scars left behind was alcohol. But with hiding the one of two diseases, the first being one that beat down an already troubled soul, took away all self-esteem, was punished with verbal abuse and lack of love, and then the second disease kicked in. It was a family disease that had been documented over the last generation. This disease took the life of a father by suicide. This disease left a family in constant fear and shambles. It was a disease that ran rampant throughout both sides of the family. It affected cousins and aunts and uncles and was creating a milder effect in the story you are going to read, but it definitely took its toll and the illnesses and early deaths were proof of the consequences of the deadly diseases of addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.
Since the movie industry began, stories such as this one always seem to get top billing in movie theaters. They are typically best sellers at the local bookstore. Of course they are! They are sensational and usually pretty close to home. We all like to think that we can pull ourselves out of a sinkhole of addiction, and end up on a mountaintop. And ... we can, but it takes and takes, and it is not easy to leave the Rags of addiction to find the Riches in our nirvana.
Living in the throes of addiction and the Emotional Rags that go with it can cause us to experience a great deal of fear, but many times we don't recognize the fear enough to pull ourselves out of it. That is unless we hit such a low bottom that there is nowhere else to go except to die. If we choose not to die, we have a fighting chance to dig out.
How do we magically transform our Emotional Rags into Spiritual Riches? And what it this thing we are talking about called Emotional Rags?
Emotional Rags are all the many things in life that we go through on a day to day basis even without the cravings for drink. They are the Rags of what we think are the fears of loss, the fears of being defeated, lied to, abandoned and so on. When we are in addiction the fears and abandonment issues are ten times greater. Addiction is a huge emotional rag that tries to find a way out with a liquid that leaves us numb and totally unaccountable for actions that we place on others who are usually our care-takers. Who needs to change a baby's diaper after they are potty trained? Who needs to monitor an alcoholic who is irresponsible, unfaithful, and not able to keep a life together for themselves or the family and friends they are constantly affecting.
We all have Rags in our lives but the alcoholic does not want to know about the Rags, will not address the Rags, and buries his head in the sand with lies and delusional thinking. It is never their fault for anything and whether they are a happy or a mean drunk, this is the same message they carry. They are not responsible but their life and their jobs, and their health and ... and ... and ... are what are making them drink. There is no fixing the Rags of addiction until the addicted one is ready to go the road to recovery.
Save your breath, you have no power over the alcoholic. The more you pull them out of their problems, the longer it takes them to hit a bottom so they can feel their needed fall. A fall that hurts so much, they are finally ready to surrender and listen. They are ready to do whatever it takes to never ever pick up a drink or a drug again.
Enabling an alcoholic can ruin the lives of those trying so desperately to save them. The drink or drug will always win over the one trying to help. And when there is no one around, they can find their drug of choice quickly and efficiently and will be drunk or drugged quickly without remorse. That is, until the hangover kicks in and they need more. Until they have had enough, they will not stop and do not want to stop no matter what they may tell you. This is a cunning and powerful disease of the body, mind and spirit.
There are two people that we find we are talking to. One is the drunk. The other is the drunk that will tell us anything to get that drink or drug. They will also be very convincing that they do not have a problem but you do, if they cannot get what they want.
Until they surrender there is no helping them. However, once a true surrender out of desperation happens, is when they are ready to address the disease and then they can finally be supported and loved. But this is a different kind of love. This is a love of support. This is a love of standing next to them and encouraging them to change one thing. Everything. This is the time when they will finally see you and know you as being a support person in their court. But not until they are ready.
The Rags are to teach us a better way of thinking, feeling and doing so that we can experience our Riches. The Riches are the times when we are finally content even for a moment. The Riches are the times we breathe easier and know that we are safe, guided, and loved with extravagance and that we always have been and always will be.
When experiencing the Rags, any kind of Emotional Rag, we as humans seem to create stories based on our past and future fears ... along with feelings of deficiencies. As a result, we become hesitant to move forward in our lives. We become frustrated, and many times feel hopeless and "wanting." Wanting what? We don't know.
A good success story about "Rags to Riches" is often glorified at the movies, but when we sit at home and are alone pondering dilemmas, we face that clear-cut reality of not knowing how to get out of the Rags of our daily lives. We want the success of those Riches but are we really willing to take the leap and "let" it happen?
The leap, when finally done, is an obvious life change. The Riches we had been seeking are like a lion ready to jump out of a cage to return to freedom. With time and changes in thinking, money, relationships, and professions that we have secretly stuffed in our desire bag, start showing signs of coming true. It does take diligence and a steady walk without looking back and omitting the temptation to look forward but we will see and feel a deep change in purpose. These dilemmas that we felt in the Rags of our life, we come to realize were ego driven from an ego that chattered away not at our opportunities but focused on all of our adversities along the way, keeping us fearful to admit need for change and then move forward to do the change. With the unhealthy ego hard at work, we tend to hear a very commanding voice telling us that we are not worthy and that it cannot be done. But is this also our own way of staying lazy with a recovery mode? Are we talking ourselves out of our own good so that we can stay mired in our own addictive ways of thinking? Why would we let anything, including ourselves, or our lives as they are, not change?
The answer found for most of us is that we have started and stopped so many times in an effort to change our way of living that we are afraid. We are afraid that we cannot do this change of thinking. And for the first time in a long time, we are absolutely right. We cannot do this by ourselves. It will take surrender to something much bigger than ourself. And that surrender is what will give us consistent sobriety, free from drama and relapsing, because when we finally turn it over ... everything over, we are free to heal.
We lose the obsession that we truly will not have what we want and what we need. Why? Would we believe that we are not worthy to receive the gift of Spiritual Riches? If we look closely, we will see that our head, not our heart, is controlling our life. The heart is the answer to everything when we connect to our Senior Partner, the God of our understanding. For far too long many of us have accepted life for what we THINK it is, not what it could be. And with this kind of thinking, we want to medicate with a mind altering drug to silence the chattering doom and gloom that our unhealthy chattering ego wants to fill us up with. Who would not look for relief? None of us want to live with this pain and chatter. So we find out how to close ourselves down and how to stop thinking so that we can have some peace. Checking out of life for a while works but then comes the day when it does not. And when we have checked out for a period of time, we have only added more pain in the form of acting out without hesitation, destroying relationships, losing credibility in the work place. Most of all, when we are sober we have to see who we really are. That is enough to take another drug or a drink. We cross the line and can no longer stay sober for any period of time.
Every one of us gets the chance to change and grow and become the truth of who we are. Alcohol is a big wakeup call along with drugs. But alcoholics many times fail to realize this is a time when many will turn to medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, and sex in an addictive way to forget what they have chattering in their heads. But something happens in the Emotional Rags of addiction that changes our lives. We continue to get our wake up calls. Sometimes they are subtle and as we ignore the messages they seem to get a little harder to miss until they are not hard to miss at all. This is the bottom that some of us have to hit to get our attention.
When the addiction we are in is no longer working, we have only two ways to go. We can choose to go nowhere resulting in taking a life or taking our own. The other option is to change the way we think. But after years of thinking a certain way, it will take effort, commitment and faith to overcome this insidious disease. It has been our warped misguided thoughts that have influenced everything that has happened thus far in our lives. We have the help ... if we ask, if we show up and if we commit to changing. If we are hopeless enough, sick enough and worn out enough. we may just give it a try. Let's hope so. It does work ... if we work it, there is an AA saying that is right on time for a person ready for recovery. And there is no better place to show up than in the rooms of AA with a group of people who know how you feel, where you are, and what you need to do. The Twelve Step Program started in the rooms of AA and has been working for millions with many addictions. This is a Twelve Step Program that continues to save many lives all over the globe.
As anyone who has been in a Twelve Step Program will tell you that, we all show up with the residuals of alcohol and the Rags that come with it. The Rags were there before we drank, while we drank and are there to haunt us as we become sober. This set of principles in the form of steps, helps us start not only the detox from alcohol but also the detox from what the program calls "Stinking Thinking." These Rags have been with many of us since childhood, then on into adolescence and now they are accompanying us in adulthood.
Fortunately this is not a religious program because many who come in to AA and Twelve Step Programs have no need for a God in their lives, or so they think. With alcoholism comes a great deal of pain and shame. These are two huge Rags of despair that we all need to address, work through, and move away from to a productive, sober and happy life. There does come a time when all of us can look to something greater than ourselves for the help we need. We can call it a tree, a star, a God, the Universe or whatever we need to. There comes a time when there is no doubt that we could ever have hoped to conquer this disease without the help of something bigger and more powerful than we are.
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings will insure the alcoholic or addicted, a better chance at sobriety. Staying sober was never our strong suit. And once we crossed the line into full blown alcoholism, staying sober seemed impossible.
It is the only program to date that really works well. And because of its success with the alcoholic, we can find meetings almost anywhere we go. To look at us as we show up to the world, it is hard to imagine that we were ever isolated, fearful, and lonely drunks with a life of pain.
There are also numbers to call, people to sponsor us. There is love wherever there are meetings because the seasoned AA person will be there to listen and share their similar story. And a drunk sobering up is loved by the group until they can love themselves.
DEPRESSION AND HOPELESSNESS ... CAN THEY GO AWAY?
As we start our recovery process, the depression, ups and downs, sick stomach, fearful thinking does not go away easily, but if we are to continue on in our sober living there comes a time when we may even need to seek professional help to aid us in the reasons we are depressed.
The cure is not going to be the drink or a drug that took our life away leaving us in a state of hopelessness. We have come through that if we are abstaining from any mind altering substance. The first drink or drug never stops at one and fails to decrease depression. On the other hand, it adds more depression, and problems, and we find ourselves back in a place even worse than the last time we were living out our addiction. Anyone who slips and slides in and out of sobriety, will tell you it just gets worse. The disease of alcoholism is a disease that will come back with a vengeance if we pick up another drink. Drugs are much the same way as we are not in our right mind with what we are doing and we could overdose, or willfully commit suicide because we are not able to fight off the demons of the depressed state we are in. We definitely are in the Rags of our life again. We may have felt a few of the Riches while we were sober, but they disappear instantly when we return to using drugs and alcohol.
By allowing the depression and hopelessness to rule our lives without the care of a sponsor or attending a series of meetings, we are setting ourselves up. By not talking, calling and showing up to our groups we will slowly slip out of a world that offers us Riches into the Rags and despair of addiction.
The disease of drugs and alcohol is a world that, when not tamed with doing what we need to do in 24-hour tight compartments, one day at a time, will slowly and sometimes quickly come after us in a very subtle way. Cunning is a word that circles the disease of addiction. Our cunning Tiger, sits quietly waiting for us to have a weak moment, to stop doing what we were told to do to stay clean and wants us back.
The DNA that we carry with us is just waiting for the addiction to return. This is a family disease and if we are carrying the disease, we will always be at risk of crossing a line into the world of alcoholism.
And with recovery we find that the only way to stay clean is to take responsibility, seek people who will help and to go to professionals trained in healing our emotional, physical, and spiritual wounds. We, as addicted souls, have lived a life of hiding our diseases. And there are many dis-eases that go with addiction. Maybe the first set of Riches that we get is just recognizing that we have a way out of the lives that are destroying all that we could be. It will take a change.
The question is, do we want to change? Are we willing to change? And will we seek the help we need one day at a time? When we are sober we hear the question a little better than when we are actively participating in our addiction.
The question usually surfaces around our despair; do we want to have the life we are here to live? Is there a Heaven on earth or are we destined to a living Hell? Is there more to this life than just staying sober? Will I lose all my friends? Can I ever dance again or have sex if I am sober? Am I now a dullard?
If we stay fearful we will lose the freedom of recovery. We will never know what we could be or what we could have. Once we have finally admitted that we are hopelessly addicted, we will have a chance one minute and one day at a time as we surrender. We may at first feel surrender is weak but as we continue on we will find it is the strongest, bravest thing we have ever done. When we realize that a power greater than ourselves has our back, we will start to see differently. We will see things we have never seen. In a day of clarity we will see the world of nature, the smiles of children, and a host of other beautiful Riches in our path that we never saw before. And the longer we are sober the more we will see. The life we dreamed about in addiction is the life we now are ready to change our thinking for. We will see a glimpse right away, but not too much because if sobriety were to come easily we would never stay sober.
Excerpted from Emotional Rags to Spiritual Riches by David Gregory. Copyright © 2016 David Gregory. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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