Welcome to Friday, November 1, 2019. This is a rare and precious day that will never come again!
My intention for the past few days has been compassion.
As many of you know, I’m in recovery from an addiction primarily to prescription opiates and benzodiazepines. As I get to know myself better, I see that my addictions – obsessions – run far deeper than the pharmaceuticals.
This last weekend, I had the blessed fortune to attend a sobriety retreat at the inviting Trout Lake Abbey in Washington. I met some caring, kind and compassionate comrades who have all struggled with some form of addiction. I met people who are grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons and cousins. I met therapists, nurses, engineers, musicians, pilots and retirees. As I communicated and developed relationships with them, not once did I think of them as needle jamming vagrants, homewrecking alcoholics, cocaine addicts, dope fiends, pill poppers or crack heads. Nevertheless, these latter descriptions were in fact a label that in the past could have been applied to any one of them – and me. But no more. We are in recovery. And we are in recovery because somewhere in our addiction, a family member, friend, healthcare provider or maybe even a police officer saw that we were more than these destructive and incomplete labels. We are in recovery because people had compassion for us. Not Pity. Compassion – an intentional act to remove or reduce suffering.
I was hanging flyers for an upcoming silent meditation retreat that I’m facilitating on November 23rd (hint hint). When I finished hanging a flyer in the public library, I visited the bathroom. In the bathroom was a sharps (needle) collector for IV drug users. On this sharps collector was information on how to get clean needles, for free. I know a few people who have very strong opinions about their tax money going to supply drug users with free needles and syringes. I understand the concerns! I really do.
Nevertheless, I believe the needle program is an incredible act of compassion. Those who conceived and implemented this program recognize that the people stabbing needles in their arms are more than the drug addict. They can see a worthy human being under the repulsiveness of their addiction. These addicts may in fact be mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and cousins. These addicts may someday work as therapists, nurses, engineers, musicians, pilots and be retirees. They are not their addiction. They are valuable human beings who are worthy of a chance at recovery. And should these addicts find refuge from their addiction, programs like the free clean needles give these struggling people a chance of recovery without having contracted HIV or Hepatitis – diseases that end up costing taxpayers millions each year to treat. This program takes an active role to help reduce the suffering of others which does in fact eventually benefit us all. I’m not trying to convince you that the clean needle program is inherently good nor without problems. What I’m trying to convey is what an incredible act of compassion it is to actively help someone who on the surface is unlovely in the extreme.
In the last few years of my addiction, I was a tremendous source of suffering to those closest to me. There is nothing I can to change this fact. Had those who I brought so much pain to their lives written me off as a lost cause, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing with love and gratitude in my heart. I’m not sure that I’d be sitting anywhere at all. Had a stranger seen me and knew my story eleven years ago, she may have labeled me as a useless pill popper. It would have been somewhat accurate. But that is not who I was. My addiction masked the human underneath, the human that I am meow.
If I can recover, so can others. We can’t give up on people, anyone, regardless of what their obsessions are. This isn’t just about drug addicts and alcoholics! We must remember that under the pain and suffering driving obsessions and harmful behavior is a valuable human being worthy of being loved. This does not suggest that we shouldn’t create boundaries. Boundaries are in fact one of the greatest acts of compassion that we can do. And recently, I’ve been able to see this from a different perspective.
When I was creating pain for my family and friends, though I may not have shown it outwardly, I felt a deep sense of shame and remorse – emotions that fed my addiction.
When we create a boundary, we not only keep the abuser from harming us, we help to prevent them from hurting themselves by continuing to harm us. We reduce their suffering by eliminating the possibility of creating more remorse and shame for themselves. But this does not mean we give up on them. More will be revealed.
I am truly grateful that you all, you know who you are, did not give up on me. I love my life. And, I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
With Bows of Gratti Atti Attitude,