“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story”—Maya Angelou
Recovery in addiction is likened to getting an out of control train running down the tracked stopped. Getting addictive living re-calibrated and re-establishing life balance is a delicate and difficult task. The 12 step program has been invaluable to those who suffer from powerlessness and unmanagability. Courageously telling the story of out of control living is both a beginning and ending point. Our stories are the most powerful source for healing in our lives. T.S. Eliot said it well,
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time-
Admitting our unmanageability and cultivating a pattern of “telling on myself” is a necessary ingredient for a strong recovery foundation. Our story is not static as in “once said and done”. Rather, we knead through our story as a baker would knead through dough in the making of bread. We work the different aspects of story by incorporating its insights and truths into congruent living which is an ongoing lifetime process. In the midst of failure of control, addictive thinking frequently will lower the expectation of sobriety in order to diminish the standards so that they can create an illusory sense of perfection. “Finally, I am sober!” “Finally, I measure up!” Rather, than embrace the possibility of finding meaningfulness in the failure. We find ourselves unraveling with a driven all or nothing mindset. We cannot stand the pace that striving to be perfect imposes. It is indeed in the process of failing and getting up again that spirituality is essential.
Step one augments that we fail forward. In a very paradoxical way our very brokenness allows us to become whole. Our embrace of this process is paralyzed with dishonesty and denial about our crazy mixed up behavior.
It is very difficult to see our own crazy making ways. We cannot see ourselves without a mirror. Twelve step groups have way of expressing it when they refer “You cannot kiss your own ear”. This challenge brings us back to our story. Stories are the mirror for you and others to see self and uncover behavioral blind spots. This is what makes storytelling and group processing so powerful.
For an addict there is no life balance. It is only pedal to the metal chaos. Step one asks us to embrace our powerless unmanageability. It is the beginning of weaving a life tapestry by boldly exposing the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet, the failure and success, the out of control heartache with courage and vulnerability. Relief from the agony of the untold story is waiting for all who embrace their pain.
Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at email@example.com for additional information.
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