Excuses

April 23, 2009

I think I found the last place on earth where you can find an egg, bacon, pancake or toast, grits or potatoes for $3.40. It was over this breakfast yesterday that I had a wide-ranging discussion with a friend who’s a writer.

The subject of addicts came up. He’s clean and sober a couple of decades, something I should have guessed when he turned up with the obligatory white styrofoam cup of coffee that’s a staple at AA meetings.

We talked about how he revealed his status to his wife in the early days of dating. I talked about how it really irritated me when friends thought I shouldn’t date a recovering addict, implying that I was “too good” for him.

I just didn’t see that at all and I hated that judgment. Although with distance, I see that it wasn’t the label they were judging as much as behavior in the relationship. I think.

My friend pointed out that virtually all addicts are characterized by extreme self-centered behavior. That embracing recovery is a must if their lives are going to be any different. And that means attending meetings and accepting the program.

After so long a recovery, he said, he, himself, probably didn’t have to go to meetings to maintain his sobriety. It’s been pretty well-ingrained.

“But I go for that poor schmuck who’s just starting and needs the support,” he said.

I was thinking today that if your reason for going is to serve as a positive example to others, you’ve probably started handling that “self-centered” bit.

Someone I know well understands what’s necessary to maintain recovery, and resists it. Actually, seems like that person never really embraced the program. But the program is not set up so members can cherry-pick the parts of the AA program that they deem acceptable and reject the rest. Ya gotta buy the whole program for it to be effective.

So why resist?

There’s always a reason. Maybe it’s not convenient to go to regular meetings. Maybe life and work are just too busy. Maybe it’s too hard to really look at your behavior and accept, then handle, defects like AA insists. Maybe it’s too painful to make amends.

No doubt, self-awareness and recovery are hard rows to hoe.

Excuses are easier.

I may not entirely understand addiction, but when I talk to friends who have embraced the AA program, I see that recovery takes an honest (and courageous) effort. That the AA structure is there for a reason. That it is time-tested.

I can understand how it is to know the right thing and not do it. We’ve all had those chocolate chip cookies we shouldn’t. Not worked out for months. Or maybe not treated others the way we should.

Addiction is a horse of a different color. Its brand of dysfunction impinges on work, relationship (with yourself and others) and life in general. If it’s not handled, it’s going to stand in the way of any kind of personal success, however you define it. Of just living a functional life.

For me, that was the hardest thing to accept about being with a resistant addict. That life would always be colored by his inability to do what’s right and therefore he would be unable to be consistently functional in his own life.

Which meant he couldn’t be functional in ours.

I have several close friends in AA and over the years we’ve talked candidly about addiction. I never wanted to date an addict, because I felt I wasn’t a good match for men in recovery.

I hate to generalize. I know that many men are successful in their recovery. I have friends successful in the program.

Still, I believe it more than ever today.

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