I have seen addicts become better people than you and me. Those previously deemed selfish, sick, irresponsible, lost, criminal, hopeless. Pick an adjective – at one point they all fit. I know this sounds like pure hyperbole. And to clarify, I don’t mean better than their old selves – that is obvious. I actually mean better than you and me.
You and I, presumably, are the definition of good people. We try to do the right thing on a daily basis. We live the Golden Rule. But at the end of the day we close the curtains on the larger community. We choose to be with just ourselves or the nuclear family we have created. We retreat to safety, comfort and self.
But the recovering addict doesn’t do that.
They often choose to mentor those who are still suffering severely – with little concern for the temptation that may present. In the Big Book it is referred to as “giving back” or Step 12. They claim that it helps themselves – but this, I think, is an overly generous sentiment.
I liken their behavior to that of a person surviving a fire… and then becoming a fireman. I don’t know about you, but I would never be that brave.
When those we love truly beat their addiction it can be hard to recognize them.
And it can be humbling to see that they have surpassed us in their ability to love and empathize.
For example, my daughter shares an apartment with three other individuals in long term recovery. Their lease has expired, and two of them have decided to buy a home and possibly marry. But even though this couple is ready for life’s next big step – they will not leave the other two women behind. One could rationalize and say they are bringing them along to help pay the rent. Until you learn that they are narrowing their house search to homes that can access the bus line. My daughter is the only one of the four that does not have her driver’s license. Purchasing a home within walking distance of public city transportation is of course more expensive.
And then there was the lesson I was given on Christmas day. I had told my husband I wanted a pair of earrings made by a local artisan jeweler. I wanted any color but blue – because, lucky me, I already had so much blue! On Christmas day I opened my gift… and they were blue. My face fell. I didn’t hide my disappointment. I even said “Ohhh… but they are blue.”
My daughter looked at me and said “but they are beautiful.” And later she said “Mom, you should have been grateful.” She was right. I had put my feelings (not needs!) first in a matter as trivial as that of material abundance.
I can’t imagine living every day weighing my psychological, financial and material needs on an equivalent basis with the larger community. I had thought the Golden Rule was enough. But the Golden Rule is based on seeing things through your own eyes – treating others as you would like to be treated. But how about getting the “you” out of it?
Becoming a better person is within reach. I know this because I have learned it from the recovery community.