I started using drugs when I was 12 and I got clean when I was 30. I used for 18 years. When I finally got clean, it was not the first time I tried to get clean or the first time I thought about getting clean.
During one of the first conversations I had with my sponsor, she gave me one of the most powerful tools for Recovery. She told me I needed to learn how my disease expresses itself.
My sponsor showed a piece of recovery literature that told me that my disease expresses itself, she said “you need to know how that thing expresses itself without your permission, because it isn’t going anywhere, you will have it for the rest of your life”. She told me that even if I stayed clean for the rest of my life, I would always have the distorted thinking that had led me to using. I believed her because I had always known there was something wrong with the way that my mind worked.
The times that I had tried to get clean before I thought I was an addict because I shot dope, I didn’t think I was and addict when I was smoking pot or when I did acid every day when I was 14, or when I drank to oblivion. I thought I became an addict when I stuck a needle in my arm.
I came to recovery and was enlightened to the fact that none of those things made me an addict. I’m an addict because I have distorted thinking. This is what my sponsor needed me to understand, that I needed to recognize the distortions in my thinking.
In order for me to take the journey to find out how my disease expresses itself, I needed to look at how I felt right before I copped, and then travel back before that in time to when I felt that feeling. That was one of the ways that I learned how my disease expresses itself and what triggers me. This initial self-inquiry and resulting knowledge has allowed me to peel off layers of misperception and distorted thinking; journeying ever closer to reality.
Today, some of the same things that activated disease when I was six, can activate it now.The difference is that now I have a lot more choices about my behavior because I recognize my distorted thinking.
The thing that is so infuriating (and often deadly) about the disease, is that even though it lives in the mind, it attacks the spirit and disturbs the emotions. It makes us forget that we are spiritual beings. When we have forgotten that we are spiritual beings we become capable of inhuman behavior, destroying ourselves and anything in our way.
When we come into recovery, we begin to remember that we are spiritual beings, we begin to remember who we are. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with the gravity and depravity of what ‘ve done that it’s too much and we use again.
This becomes the dance of Remember, forget, remember, forget…but there’s a place that never forgets. A place inside of us that knows what we are and never forgets. The spirit needs a gradual awakening, slow and steady. The 12 steps provide the path for this gradual awakening, Yoga provides the tools to stay on the path, breathing life into Recovery.
The 12 steps are a spiritual way of life, they are a balm , soothing for the spirit, when we become present to the breath and the body we can be with the spirit. We can be with our spirit in a way that is a slow moving process, we can learn to ignore the mind (for the moment), ignore the disease and remember slowly that we are a spiritual being.
This process of remembering and forgetting has happened over and over through the span of Recovery. The spirit awakens, the thinking becomes distorted and we forget, we apply the balm of the spiritual way of life and we remember. Choosing life, choosing spirit.