Caught Betwixt The Instinct & The Principle...
As you all already know, I am a drunk. Which means that I am not normal. Not a regular person. My brain and body respond differently to the world than people who are not similarly situated. I am not saying this to carve out some sort of special treatment, no, I am just stating a fact.
I am a human being which means that all the laws of physics and life apply to me but there are also these other sets of facts that are inherent and applicable to drunks. So it is a little bit of a double whammy.
But what I am learning is that even the way my addictness shows up in my life, really is just the same as everyone else, I just take it to the extremes in a way that normal people don’t.
We all have instincts. For security, for love, for sex, for comfort, financial security - the instincts are human. But what tends to set addicts and alcoholics apart is the degree to which our instincts become unbalanced and out of whack. (Why do we say “out of whack”?I have never, ever heard anyone say “I was totally in whack...I am going to start). Ok, sorry, this is just how my mind works...be glad you are not me. HA!
Ok, so drunk’s instincts get out of whack. We find something that makes us feel good and then we do it so much that we lose sight of everything else: making a living, participating in relationships, our health, our welfare, parenting. We just chase the high, even when we can no longer see that the high doesn’t even really feel good anymore. We cross some sort of invisible line...we have what I believe is a chemical change of our bodies and minds. My friend Paul calls it chemical alteration. I agree. We are organically changed from the inside out. Something happens to us when we add or remove substances, that cause some sort of chain reaction in our systems that alters us from the inside out. We are then controlled completely by this chemical change.
Now with most addicts, the change is pleasurable at first. It feels good, and that produces a good reaction. And so we seek it more. And then, wouldn’t you know it, in some unknown amount of time, we are way over the line, pushed to a place that normal people are scratching their heads wondering why the fuck we just did what we did. And if you ask us, we will likely have all sorts of reasons, some of which might actually make sense to us and to you. But in reality, we have crossed that invisible line between being human and being addicted. And once across that line, we are forever altered, the old cucumber/pickle thing. Once we are a pickle, we are still a cucumber, but fundamentally different and unable to go back to just being a cucumber (human).
My friend Paul calls this the tilt. All humans do the tilt, we chase something or someone down and our instincts get all out of whack (yes I know I am using this phrase too much, but I seem to be obsessed with the whack). We tilt, and that can go from 1 to 10 say. And normal, non-addicted people, tilt too. And they go from 1 to 10 also. But what differs for addicts is the magnitude and intensity of the tilt. We light that shit up! Our instincts go off the fucking charts. An addicts 10 is not the normal 10, no, our 10 is way different. And wreck havoc on all who are within the splash zone of our lives.
So what to do about the tilt? How does one course correct this tilt?
This is the only way for any of us. And I might make a lot of people upset by this next line, it doesn’t matter what religion you belong to, they are all the same principles:
All spiritual practices and religions have these principles at their core. They may have different words or ideas about how best to practice them, or rituals connected to them, but they are the same.
So this is good news. Because all humans suffer similarly. And all spiritual principles are the same. So same issue, same solution no matter what you believe or don’t. Which makes this way easier than we make it out to be.
What we all seem to lack, all people, addicts and drunks too, is the ability to pause. Pause long enough for the instinct’s incessant demand for immediate and swift action to be placed on ice long enough for the spiritual principle to be deployed. And that is where we lose a lot of people.
I will use the addict as an example here because it is so easy to make this point:
I want a drink (instinct to meet need)
But if I drink I will take it too far (logic)
But maybe not this time (brain operating fundamentally differently than anyone else’s brain)
I am getting a drink now (no pause).
And the drunk is drunk again banging his/her fist on the bar and the cycle has repeated because it is the only thing that can happen.
But here is what could happen instead:
I want a drink! (instinct to meet need)
But if I drink, I will take it too far (logic)
But maybe not this time...(brain operating fundamentally differently)
Wait, I have been here before...many, many times (Active pausing)
I should NOT have a drink right now, I should pause. (Well! There you go!)
And right there in that pause, right there, is the place where anyone of the twelve spiritual principles could backfill the instinct and create a better and less destructive reality for our friend, the drunk but not yet drunk friend. It is all about the pause.
Which is great news and the worst at the same time.
When we are able to pause, great things come to pass. Years of recovery happen and a life that was out of whack, becomes in whack like immediately. (See what I did there?)
When we are not able to pause, well, you know, we go to jail, get locked up in psych wards, or die. Pausing seems so much easier, but it really isn’t.
I have been sober for 27 years. And my ability to pause is still nascent. Still young and immature. I know what to do, I just do not have the ability to do it as often as my life seems to require it. However, compare my ability today to 27 years ago, and you would be fucking amazed. Like have to sit down and take a beat kind of amazed. I can pause the shit out of stuff today that even a decade ago was a lost cause.
To me, pausing is the most spiritual act one can do, because it is the gateway to the principles operating in my life. Without the pause, I am fucked every single time. And this is not just the addict, it is all of us. All of us are operating under the same spiritual law...
Instinct + pause = spiritually led action.
Without it, we are all tilted and slave to our instincts that are largely out of whack in this world, most especially now. I can’t even wrap my mind about it how much this idea of instincts gone awry is in play today. We are all out of whack and tilted and that seems to be the new world order. We live in a world that seems to almost celebrate the tilt and the out of control instinct for money, property and prestige, people, feelings and love be damned. This quest for things and fame so not in whack. But I digress, again.
So for me it is all about the pause. That is what I need to do every single time I am caught (which is daily, sometimes hourly) between the instinct and the principle. Pause the fuck out of it. Just wait. Keep my mouth shut. Hold the fuck on if there is ever to be a prayer of getting in whack again.
Without the pause, I am out of whack which is a nice way to say that I am fucked.
Lately, I have not been able to practice the pause in my parenting life, I just keep tilting at my teenaged windmills and they just keep on spinning in the wind. I can see what I am doing, and yet, I do not seem to be able to wait, hold or pause. It is an issue. But I see it. And I know what to do, chill. Chill the fuck out and give the spiritual principles I really have been practicing for the last 27 years a chance to catch up and whack me back in line. The pause will help me every single time. Just wait, give it a beat and allow all that I have learned, the innate intelligence that exists in that God conscious place in my soul, to have a second to overcome its life long politeness and assert itself, quietly, in due time. To allow me to become in whack...