Surrendering to Silverback Gorillas and Hungry Ghosts

“If you are looking for love under rocks or bringing home water moccasins, you might be confusing love and pain.”

addiction-recoveryIf you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your adult life trying to escape yourself. This means you likely have a “get-out-of-dodge” bag packed and ready to go at all times, and you may have made the mistake, more than just once or twice, of looking for affection in “all the wrong places.” This is to say, perhaps you thrive in chaos, because chaos is a rather enigmatic issue in your case. Because chaos, while messy and dangerous, is something that’s been a constant for as long as you can remember.

One of my favorite quotes by author David W. Earl encapsulated this experience best when he wrote, “If you are looking for love under rocks or bringing home water moccasins, you might be confusing love and pain.” If you are not a kid, but definitely not settled on calling yourself an adult, because perhaps you’ve never felt or really had to act like one, you aren’t alone. Whenever I began to ease into a moment, Red’s suggestion from The Shawshank Redemption rang with conviction in my ears. I was addressed by Morgan Freeman’s heavenly voice, which gave me something I could rely on, when he’d said, “Hope is a dangerous thing.”

Hi… My name is Teisha and I am an addict.

Have you ever wondered what happens when a person suspends their animation, and finally plants their feet in one corner of the world or another? Are they bound to being rooted in the run of the mill, a middling median existence where more-or-less happy means one is to settle for less? Who wants that? I use to think I had a problem with settling down, or as some people say “putting down roots.” Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and leader of Acumen, a nonprofit that takes a businesslike approach to improving the lives of the poor, put to rest my faulty line of reasoning—that stability and soundness must be equivalent to suffocating boredom—when she said, “Listening is not only about waiting, but it’s also learning how better to ask questions.” It isn’t that I asked a faulty question, in fact I asked no question at all. Instead, I made a completely biased assumption, due to my predisposition for gravitating towards an environment that offers me the general scale of pandemonium and debauchery I am most at home with. This is all followed up with the subsequent numbing of pain and then bargaining with the untrustworthy and xenophobic God who I only prayed to when all else failed. No wonder I didn’t really believe in Him…I mean, myself.

Clearly, there is some faulty thinking here. I can often talk myself into or out of almost any rationale, however invalid, if I’m not being completely honest with myself about the nature of my intentions. Instead of admitting my character defects are at it again, I sometimes default to a series of rapid-fire explanations and justifications, exceedingly defensive of my most savored of penchants. By weaving an intricate web of convoluted questions around myself I am able to effectively conceive of an alternative reality, where while it appears as if I may have thought things through, really I am just blowing smoke. This masking of willful resolve has been beneficial in circumventing responsibilities and deferring head-on criticism and disapproval till a later date of unspecified time. For example, I used to contemplate if the boredom, complacency, and conformity of having a 9-5 job was my problem or whether my contempt for the American dream and its tidy, white picket fence was my issue. But if confronted with drinking, pill popping, stealing, lying, cheating, manipulating, the issue was off the table.

One can argue that having reservations to being satisfied is just evolution at work and discontent is man’s natural predilection as it’s beneficial to the advancement of mankind. After all, without the instinctive need to fulfill our insatiable seeking for more, beyond just surviving, none of us would have come down from the trees and instead we’d be foolish beasts doomed to eternally dragging our knuckles across the savannas. Chaos rules the universe and in this non-linear tirade of my own matrix, I guess I get to give birth to the Milky Way, but I digress.

You might try this line of reasoning, if like me, you are crazy enough to find yourself dreaming in a room full of anonymous strangers with first names you hadn’t bothered to remember, never intending to chant “keep coming back” ever again. Until you find yourself confronted with yourself at the very end of the meeting by someone who obviously has their head on a bit straighter than yours, offers up some advice. It is the type of analogy, that for whatever reason, you allow yourself to surrender to, as if in love. For me, this moment occurred when a redheaded addict, we’ll call Joe, began to share. He reminded me of a gangly orangutan at first, which struck me as funny initially, until I began to sense my own knuckles scraping the floor, my arms growing heavier with his every word. The gravity of some people’s unique understanding of how lost you might feel in this jungle is a reminder that you are just a fancy animal that hasn’t adapted well in the real world. Yes, he admitted, he’d stopped evolving somewhere along the way, abandoning the pursuit of happiness for something more instant in it’s relief and permanence. Holding up his scarred knuckles, he pretended to circle a ring, shadow boxing with worn out jabs, and as if spent from a hard-earned beating, he collapsed into his chair as if caught by a heavy, right hook. I had to admit, this guy was good, he had me a bit hypnotized.

Letting his limp forearms wilt at his sides, he said, “Yeah, know what I realized when I got my ass kicked that last round? I couldn’t throw a single punch that would land where I needed it to day-after-day. I really thought I could win the fight every time I put on my gloves. But it was as if this thug knew my every move before I did and sometimes, I wasn’t sure how or whether or not I was still standing upright. I knew I was getting knocked out every time but I took it over and over, just getting destroyed. Still, it was like I wasn’t ever done jumping in that ring and beating my chest. I was like a deranged monkey with an invincibility complex…and what I was pursuing in that ring was a silverback gorilla that had my number all along. Until the day, someone finally, somebody in my corner finally…clued me in, saying, ‘Hey Joey, you don’t have to fight. You know what happens to you in there, right? So, just stop getting in the ring and you won’t have to fight.’ And it clicked. So, anyway, I’m a grateful and recovering addict of three years, in December. Thanks and with that, I’ll share the time.”

Maybe it is in a moment like this, or in many moments when you begin to concede that, perhaps, you too have been outsmarted, realizing you are not as fully-evolved as you’d once assumed. Then you are suddenly and inexplicably are on your knees surrendering to the fact you know very little, maybe nothing about survival.

I found myself visiting where I came from, a road-trip to my hometown, the place I had avoided for years because of fear or regret or shame. Read more “the fix”…

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