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Dealing with Conflict

Okay, I hate conflict. I cannot for the life of me fathom why I wanted to become a therapist. But that is not what this conflict is about. This is in my personal life. My recovery life. You see, I guide people in the recovery program from time to time. I help people who are new navigate their journey into sobriety and I also rely on a guide. I do not think it is a big secret anymore that people in recovery have “sponsors” or the person who takes them through the 12 steps, so I guess I should just come out with it. So, I had a conflict with a person I am sponsoring…


I'm going to backup to my story for a minute. So, my guidelines for choosing a sponsor were as follows… “Pick someone who has what you want.” Though vague it can help give people an idea of the direction to start looking for this spiritual mentor. Some people take it literally and focus on the material things a person has that they may want such as a home, a car, and a fulfilling career. Sometimes they have decided I should guide them through this sober journey because they like more spiritual, or less tangible aspects of my life. Either way it works and if you decide to switch sponsors in search of a more suitable match, there is a “no harm no foul” policy. You are trying to save your own life, and if you find you can do that better with someone else, then I am just being selfish and full of ego if I find myself offended or hurt if you switch. This has happened to me many times and I always send them off with love and joy. I have also heard of other sponsors getting offended, and I cannot say I have not felt small pangs of insecurity, but ultimately, I trust that this person knows themselves better than I do and let it go quickly. It is not that kind of break-up. Plus, I am supposed to be of service to the newcomer, and if I act like a hurt ex, then I am not creating a loving and safe atmosphere for recovery and community to thrive. Again, I am stuck in my own selfish (insecure) ego. I am reliving old hurts and these resentments, of being chosen last for sports or for another woman (for example) are being projected onto unsuspecting fellows in recovery.


All that being said, not many people in the program are ready to be sponsored. My new recruit was, in my opinion, of this ilk. Well, at least not by me. Because, ultimately, she wanted what I had, but did not want to do it the way I did it. And therein lies the rub.


My husband and I were discussing the fact that there is an emerging group of people in recovery who will still use substances and also claim they are in recovery and have not lost any “clean time.” They are using emerging drugs and because they do not use them daily (although they have mind-altering properties), they feel they are not addicted to them and are using them in lieu of western pharmaceuticals to alleviate depression, trauma, and other illnesses. I do not honestly blame them. I am not a big fan of big pharma. I did use some anti-depressants in early recovery on and off for my first year and a half. In my mind I was helping to balance a dysregulated brain that had not been producing its own “feel-good” neurotransmitters for some time and was chemically imbalanced when stopping drinking and drugging cold turkey. Many of the new drugs I know of are Kava-Kava, Kambo, Ibogaine, and Ayahuasca. There are many more I do not know of. I am not that up to date (I am 38 for goodness sake, I cannot keep up). I am sure there are studies being done on these, but I do not think there is much conclusiveness on their addictive qualities and long-term effects.

What I do know, is that I am not going to touch them with a 20-foot pole. Why? Because I am an addict of the very real variety. If I had an allergy to peanuts (I have an allergy to alcohol and other substances), I would not eat something with a small amount of peanuts, even if it were only every 6 months or so. At the very least, I would not take something (if I were already in good health), that possibly had zero to 100% chance of having peanuts in it: the Russian roulette of consumption. The modern-day anti-depressants have shown to be non-habit forming. There have been trials and studies done to deem them addictive, or non-addictive. They have been tested to make sure there are no peanuts in the sauce so to speak. To me this is all the difference. That and the supposition that it is the first drink that sets off the phenomenon of craving, meaning once it is ingested, my mind is taken over and I have no rational thoughts or behaviors related to the drug (including alcohol) thereafter until my spree is over (out of money, or I pass out, sometimes days later). You can easily see why I do not want to mess with unknown amounts of addictive drugs in a substance. I really, really, really like my life the way it is. And even if a substance promises relief from anxiety or trauma, it is not worth the cost of my marriage, future opportunities, children, relationships with friends and family or any semblance of a good life. When I use substances, historically, I do not have any of these things. I have a hard time fathoming the desire to play with fire these days.


Life is just too good. It took a long time to get here. It was not an over night matter. It took years of therapy on and off, some of it really amazing deep trauma therapy. Lots of time in meditation and prayer. Mostly, boat-loads of inventory (a process of self-examination) and looking at MY PART in resentments from the past. Continuing to show up, even when all I want to do is stay in bed and watch TV. It took growing up slowly with the help of a trusted sponsor and other friends in recovery to keep me honest and accountable to my life. It was sometimes painful, always challenging, and done very sober.


I am not expecting to reach full enlightenment in this lifetime (maybe this is a self-limiting belief). I am in earth school and trying to take the curriculum (Ram Dass). I still have mundane days. I have days where I am not paying attention, wishing it were easier. I often get lost in the stories of my pain and try to project blame onto those around me. I want an easier way out. But I am here, writing…Taking the long way around.


I quoted Ram Dass a second ago, and he has been instrumental in my absolutely-no-mind-altering substances stance. He did the whole psychedelic-drug thing for a long while. He experimented ad nauseum with drugs and substances that would connect him with the Divine. He kept getting high in order to try to understand his existence (and avoid it). But he always came down and usually to the detriment of his body and mind. Until he met Maharaji in India. He met a being who never “came down.” He was a guru. He taught Ram Dass about mastering his mind and that by using meditation, he could enter a state of natural bliss. He also, was not an addict. Or at least, he was never in recovery. I cannot diagnose someone I have never met.


Okay, so I am kind of old school, and maybe a little crotchety about this whole ordeal. My husband sponsors people regardless of how they identify as “sober.” I have always had much more strict parameters around what is and is not sober and who I am willing to continue taking through the steps depending on if they are willing to put it ALL down. I realize now, my response to her admission of intermittent using of non-illegal psycic-changing substances probably should have been a little less abrupt. I was too blunt. She was not ready to let them go, so my advice was not well received. I need to work on my delivery. I cleaned up my part and told her my door is open if she changes her mind on it, but that ultimately it is her journey of discovery, and MY brand of sobriety is not everyone’s. She seemed accepting of my amends, though the relationship will most likely, not continue.

Ultimately, I want to get to a place where I really just let people have their journey (with personal, healthy boundaries of course, I am not a complete masochist). Whether they are a sponsee, husband, child, mother, or friend. I want to be able to spot my reaction as soon as it happens and see the little angry, dancing monkey-ego trying to get me to buy into its sales pitch. As soon as it tries to get me to go down the rabbit hole of obsessive judgment and interject my un-asked-for views all over the place, I want to stop, tell it I am not interested today, and sit her back down and tell her to mind her own dang beeswax (lovingly of course). And then I will simply listen and move on with MY business. Man, that is going to be so cool.


When I was in treatment, a counselor once said to me in passing, “getting all that attention…Aren’t you just exhausted by now?” And while I was deeply offended at first, I was also relieved that someone saw that yes, I was profoundly tired of keeping all of the fake plates in the air. I was tired of caring about what other people thought of me (especially people I thought were prettier, smarter, richer etc), wearing exhaustive amounts of makeup and doing the hair/outfit thing all the time for the same reason as the first, for talking incessantly, for listening to music only so people thought I was cool, for living for a guy, for living for what society tells me I should, for wasting all my money on all these things. I was and am, tired. I have also heard that recovery (and the path to enlightenment) are more a series of taking away all the things that are not me or no longer serve me and much less an accumulation of things or coping skills. Surrender to all of the world and all of myself, just as we are, is a lesson that continues to come up. And when I let the surrender wash over me and pull me out of the “bondage of self”, I take a deep breath and start again. I know I am okay again. I know I am simply perfect. With all my flaws and my work to do. Because I am not alone. And isn’t that just what makes it all so interesting and worthwhile? All the intricacies and nuances of all of us? Anywho, I am growing and trying and I know you are too. Amen.

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