Growing Up And Doing Better
Last night I did something I’ve never done before. I admitted — out loud, to someone else — that I have an addiction to food.
It’s something I am still unpacking and plan to talk about more after I’ve processed it, but it made me think about my other addictions. And my patterns of addiction in general.
Me and My Addictions
You see, in my teens and early 20’s, I had a pretty raucous relationship with alcohol. When ordered by a court-appointed referee to visit a number of AA open groups to determine if I had a problem with alcohol, I discovered that my drinking was, in fact, an issue.
As the man sitting next to me at one meeting put it, “If you are sitting in an AA meeting, asking yourself if you might have a drinking problem, you probably do.”
So I quit, kind of cold turkey. I hit the first step of AA — admitting I was powerless over alcohol — but I never went any further.
Why? I don’t know, completely. As an agnostic/borderline atheist most of my life, I never really cared much for the idea of a “higher power,” or leaving it up to this power I had a hard time believing in.
Regardless of my reasons, I have always felt like I left out some important parts of the process toward recovery.
Lack of Maturity?
When I was attending meetings I often heard others characterize addiction in terms of lack of maturity and selfishness, as if an addict is permanently locked into that quasi-sociopathic state that all adolescents go through in which they are the only thing that matters in their own world.
I think this characterization is a bit of a simplification, but there is much validity to it. In other words, to grow in the direction of recovery, you need to grow up and take responsibility for your actions.
I’m not sure that I ever really did that.
Am I Recovering? Can I Call Myself Sober?
I’m over thirty years alcohol-free. I am not sure I would say “sober,” though, because as I have mentioned, there have been other things I’ve self-medicated with over the years.
Anything can be a stand-in for something I am addicted to. It has been food at many points in my life, but it has also just been watching TV, or even reading. Some of these things are especially tricky to deal with: you can’t exactly quit eating food cold turkey.
I like to think that I have made some progress over the years, but it is very uneven.
And this brings me back to dealing with addiction. To get and stay healthy once and for all, I know there are things I must do, with or without a 12-step program.
I’ve worked hard to admit I have a problem — with alcohol, with food, and so much more. Now, though, I need to recognize the collateral damage those issues have done to those around me.
In brief, I must own my actions, even the ones not seemingly related to my addictions. I have to take stock of what I’ve done, who I’ve hurt, and take responsibility. I need to try to make amends.
So Now I’m Owning My Actions and Making Things Right
Sometimes I can’t sleep. I have some big issue at work, a personal struggle, or I just had too much caffeine too late in the day. Whatever the reason, the older I get, the more I recount incidents in my life where I clearly was in the wrong. Things I did that hurt others.
Sometimes I did things with the best of intentions without realizing they could cause harm, but mostly these are things I did without regard for others’ wishes or feelings. I was the quasi-sociopathic adolescent, even though I was in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, Even 50’s.
When I lie there at night, I wonder if it’s too late. Is there a time limit on making amends? Where do I even start?
So I am taking the steps I should have done long ago, cataloguing all the times I did things to hurt others. I woke up this morning with a particular person in mind, and have begun composing a note to them.
Kind of like Jason Lee’s character in the old TV sitcom My Name Is Earl, I am writing a list of the people to whom I know I need to at least apologize.
Unlike Earl, though, it’s not about improving my karma. It’s about owning my problems and taking responsibility.
It’s about growing up (finally).