“I’m on a Drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen”—Charlie Sheen
“Everything I ever needed to know about recovery from addiction began with a Little League type experience”—Ken Wells
There is a certain mark of hubris which characterizes life in addiction. In many ways the essence of addiction is self absorption. Addiction is like a cancer. It eats up all the other cells until it takes up all the space. Feverishly, it devours more and more until finally it is consumed by its own presence and dies a horrible death.
The cure to the hubris that dominates addiction is humility. It’s a radical paradox. Humility is what you are when you don’t know it. It is found in a coachable spirit. In humility there is a candle lit way deep inside with a burning desire to live differently no matter what it takes.
Most addicts who walk into recovery don’t have it. Even if they come into recovery having lost everything or fearing they might. There is a certain attitude of being “pissed” about losing their “friend” that carries with it a mind-set that “no one can tell me what I need to do”. Step One becomes a rude slap in the face by demanding the embrace of powerlessness and the reality of un-manageability. Most addicts who walk into a 12 step meeting, show up in a prima donna makeover. The first step is about undressing the hubris and putting on the cloak of humility. Humility is best taught through life experience. My wife and I raised three boys. All of them played Little League baseball. Little League is all about lessons in beginnings. First steps in recovery are the same. Many miss the opportunity to learn humility from their beginnings whether it is in the arena of Little League or recovery.
One year, my son Sam played on a summer league baseball team. During the course of the game, the umpires made a few calls that Sam’s coach thought questionable. Finally, a call was made that pushed the coach over the limit and he stormed out of the dugout to give the umpire a piece of his mind. He told him what he thought and wouldn’t let it go. The umpire called the coach by name and warned him to back off. The coach was not going to have anything to do with that. So the umpire threw the coach out of the game. Most folk thought that was the end of that. But, the coach took one step back and told the umpire that instead of him being thrown out, he (the coach) was throwing out both umpires, reminding the umpires that he was the one who hired them in the first place. So the umpires packed up their gear and left, without pay. The final few innings were finished without the paid umpires.
The coach gathered his team around him in left field to go over the highlights and the lowlights of the game which was his normal routine. I thought to myself that here is an opportunity for the coach to reconcile the behavior by demonstrating a leadership moment of humility in telling the players that he had acted like an ass and was willing to apologize to players, parents and the umps. In addition, I was hoping that he would tell the kids that the umps would be paid double. But, the coach never mentioned the umps and only talked about the players’ performance. Encounter with humility missed!
I believe the coach lost an opportunity to teach a lesson on leadership by telling the kids that leaders, including coaches can screw up and blow their perspective. It could have been a powerful experience of humility that got lost in the coach’s hubris. Rather than model a valuable trait that builds community, the coach remained stuck in his tunnel view and missed the potential meaningfulness of the moment.
Recovery reflects what gets missed in Little League. Addiction runs rampant. Addicts depend far too much on hubris to get them through and only resort to humility to pick up the pieces of a broken and shattered life from compulsion.
Hubris is a major culprit in the destruction of relationships in our world today. Addiction lacks humility. It takes up too much space in relationship living. It’s like a balloon in a room that gets blown up so big that it smashes everyone else against the walls. There’s no room for consideration, compassion and understanding.
Long lost since way before Little League is the attitude that “it’s how you play the game not whether you win or lose”. Coaches miss the opportunity to teach the magic of being coachable when they don’t embrace the content of humility. Life experience brings some through the ravages of addiction dominated by unmanageability and powerlessness to teach the transformation of humility.
Typically, key components for adult living that are missed in places like Little League show up later in my office in the form of devastating addictions. The prima donna makeover “I want what I want when I want it” expresses itself through audacious pretentious living in the mentality of a little kid in an adult’s body.
Addiction recovery is essentially about emotionally growing up and learning to delay gratification and sit with discomfort. Prima donna makeover is about learning to be humble, a much needed lesson whether you are a Little Leaguer or an adult sifting and sorting through the destruction of addictive living. When it comes to addiction, Charlie’s right!. As an addict, all I need to do is replace Charlie’s name with my own. What gets lost is the healing power of humility without which the value of beginnings go unnoticed. Everything I really needed to know about recovery, I was first exposed through experiences like Little League.
By Ken Wells, MA, LPC, CSAT-S.
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