So a friend of mine described being drunk as being in a foreign city with the wrong map. I think he used the “you have the Chicago map but you are in LA.” I would agree but I would say that for me, my drinking life was more of being in LA with a map of Amsterdam written in Dutch. I was CONFUSED...a lot. I didn’t know where I was going, I could see places on the map that I wanted to go but I just could never get there...and because I was using the wrong map for the wrong city, I would, never, in fact, get there...
It really helps to have directions. It really helps me to consult a higher authority...someone other than me, and sometimes that can be a map. Directions for how to get from point A to point B. It isn’t complicated, except in my head.
Recovery for me has been about laying down the map of Amsterdam and realizing that I am in Los Angeles. This took a very long time. Denial is powerful and can make you believe just about anything about yourself, others, life, God, whatever, really. Once I woke up and realized what city I was really in...I could begin to untangle myself with help of others who were similarly map challenged. So long as I held onto to my persistent and pervasive delusion that I was someday, somehow going to make the map of Amsterdam work in LA, I was beyond aide. I was outside the sphere of help. I had to be the one to be willing to be surrendered to the idea that I had it all wrong...again.
While it may seem easy to those of you who are not drunks, to just stop using the wrong map for the wrong city, those who struggle with addiction will understand that it is, in fact, not easy. We are so married to our delusional beliefs because of our love for that stupid map, a very strong desire to be right, and a whole lotta history where we will look really, really stupid if we agree that you were right all along...It is a struggle. It is hard. And some of us are willing to die for it, go to jail for it or land ourselves in a whole host of interesting hospitals and institutions.
I know we look crazy running all over with our map, sometimes even trying to help you find your way, and sometimes you actually believe us. That is how convincing we are that our map of Amsterdam will provide us good solid directions in LA. Sometimes, for a little while anyway, we even get you to believe...
Recovery began for me when I saw what I was holding onto, a dogeared map of a city that I didn’t live in, applying principles that I didn’t believe in to a life that I was fucking up on the daily. The day I put down the map was the beginning of a long road...and I didn’t lose that map. That map has been hard wired into my brain, those countless years I spent pouring over it, memorizing every intersection and city grid, etched into my heart and mind, so that sometimes, when I falter, I find that I am using that old map again and I don’t even know it.
This is why recovery has to be a day at a time thing for me. I start every day first making sure that I have the right map for the life I am actually living. I live in Ojai and the whole of my life is going to be lived here today...so I better have the Ojai map uploaded and ready and to make sure that my old Amsterdam map is neatly tucked away somewhere.
Recovery begins there every day. Laying down what I think I know, for what I have come to believe is true. That I get drunk, but we get sober. And as the day wears on, I can reach out to anyone of my fellow poor map readers for a reminder or a gentle nudge to help me when that Amsterdam map somehow magically begins guiding my life again. I can look to my brothers and sisters that I met trudging the road, for directions. And that is how I map this recovering life, one silly block at a time.