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Change Not Chance

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My life is not getting better by chance, it’s getting better by change. By addressing my past, I have been able to leave it behind and move forward. I can now look back at my past without re-entering it and without reliving it. Growth only begins when I stop making excuses and start making changes and nothing changes if nothing changes. We fall, we break, and we fail; but then we rise, we heal, and we overcome. I have been unable to change on my own though. It is this absolute inability to change myself on the deep, unconscious level that gives me a whole new sense of surrender, and this is the seed of my hope – surrender, embracing my powerlessness. 

For years the practice of my defects fuelled my addiction. I had always ignorantly and desperately repeated the only behaviours I knew to get my needs met, behaviours which were simply survival patterns picked up while enduring trauma. They weren’t working anymore. I knew I must change. I always thought I knew why I behaved the way I did and had used every excuse in the book (because I’m an alcoholic, because of childhood trauma, because of my schooling, because of my parenting etc) but instead of using this insight to change, I used it as justification to continue with destructive behaviour. 

I have been sober for over two and a half years now but, until I came into recovery, I was never willing to go through the pain of changing, even though the agony of staying the same was killing me. Change is scary though. I have a disease which tells me I don’t have the disease and that I certainly don’t need to change. My gift of desperation came when I realised that the pain of living the way I had always lived had become greater than my fear of change. All my attempts at changing my behaviour through willpower and brainpower had resulted in utter failure. No matter how firm my resolve, my unregulated self-will is nothing but destructive and my willpower fails me every time – because I’m powerless. Instead of wanting to ask for my defects to be removed, I had always blamed God for dealing me such a bad hand. 

Today I know that the defects which stop me being of service to others can be removed on the day (and only for the day) that I ask, by my actively helping others, reminding me of my need for daily spiritual connection. My character defects can be replaced by character strengths: unselfishness, honesty, compassion, tolerance, courage etc. I need to practise these strengths in order that my defects may be removed, and I need to act against my self-will, contrary to the way I have always lived my life. I must also not necessarily act on what I instinctively want to do - if I feed energy and action to my old thought patterns and old character, they just grow and grow. However, if I focus on my new thought processes, the old ways die in my mind. I can’t change my faults though I am willing for every one of them to be removed. I am willing to become my highest self, the best version of me, the self my Higher Power wants me to be. 

My biggest barriers though are my pride and my ego. In the same way that becoming ‘entirely ready’ is an act of faith, I now understand that the opposite of ego in addiction is humility in recovery. Humility is not being meek; it’s not thinking less of me, it’s thinking of me less. It’s looking at myself as I actually am, not as I wish to be or as I imagine myself to be. It’s the middle ground between the extremes of grandiosity and intense shame. Ego in addiction is tricky though because it can creep in and run my life for a long time without me even realising it. This is why daily inventory and connection are so fundamental in my recovery. Through prayer and meditation, I can keep those negative thoughts at bay. I am then able to help others and give away kindness freely. I can put love into someone else where it can remain long after I am gone. I can focus on humility and less on my selfish wants. Once I recognise that I am accountable for my self-centred ways I am starting to take action to counteract my ego and be more disciplined in my recovery. 

Yes, I ask my Higher Power to remove my defects but there’s more to it than that: I actively try to practise the opposites and try to show restraint and modesty. If I can conduct myself in a difficult situation so that it doesn’t have to feature on my Step Ten inventory tonight, then I am practising this Programme. If I don’t let myself be shamed into doing what I know is the wrong, if I don’t make a bad decision just to satisfy my people-pleasing driver, then I am practising this Programme. Today I can choose my attitudes and ask myself: am I being honest, realistic, open-minded and accountable for my actions? 

Recovery is truly amazing. Change can be scary and painful but nowhere near as painful as being stuck where I don't belong. It’s not about being rich or popular or famous; it's about being real, grateful and kind and being able to share my true self with others. If I can make even the tiniest positive impact on someone’s life today, then today will have been another good day. So, this is me, right here, right now, fully trusting the magic of recovery, trying to think about all that I am, instead of all that I am not. 

BRIAN C, Farnham, Surrey