The following article is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, James Noonan. In the last eighteen months, James has transformed himself from an entity of self-destruction into an inspiring agent of change. As a result of discovering his internal strength, befriending the power of faith, and connecting with his Higher Power, James, with Monk-like spirit and Viking-like courage, has been able to liquidate his fears, worries, and self-doubt, and replace them with lasting happiness, and inner peace, as well as successfully unearthing his dharma (purpose in life) - all the while serving as a beacon of hope to others around him; close friends, family members, and all of his brothers and sisters within the fellowship of NA (Narcotics Anonymous).
James, today, today on this very day, is another day of celebration for you reaching yet another milestone in your recovery - taking one more step in the right direction of living a life free from addiction.
"Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that insures the successful outcome of your future." - William James
Hi. My name is Chris and I am an addict.
First, I would like to begin by telling you a story, because agreeing with the words of Maya Angelou, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Yesterday afternoon, I sat through three-nail-biting-hours in fear of experiencing yet another relapse. Yesterday was a normal day for me, apart from the welsh sun making a most uncommon appearance. I woke up, prayed, brushed my teeth, took a shower, read for one-hour, meditated for one-hour, wrote for one-hour, and exercised for one-hour. My monastic morning routine, as it usually does, was going exceptionally well. In the early afternoon, upon returning home from a lovely walk in the countryside, I decided to relax on the sofa and watch a movie before cleaning the house. The movie, The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, was proving to be a wise selection. I felt happy, at peace, and complaint-free. My day was going wonderful... Until I noticed a notification spring up on my stupid smartphone. It was a woman, and she had messaged me with the sole intention of meeting her for sex. Sex... My kryptonite! My heart began to race with excitement and the butterflies in my belly were now enjoying some air-time. I quickly paused the movie (please forgive me, Mr. Affleck), sat up, and without hesitation began messaging the woman back. I knew by replying to her I would be placing myself in a vulnerable position, but when the darkness inside of you surfaces, it can be difficult to see the light.
The woman and I continued to message back and forth for over two-hours, exchanging a multitude of explicit messages to one another as well as some other more raunchy materials which left us curling our toes in anticipation of the event that was soon to be unfolding (in sex terms, this is referred to as “edging”) - before finally deciding on a time and place to meet. At this point, nothing else mattered; not my friends, not my family, not my work, and dare I say it, not even my beloved monk-morning routine. All essentials in my life immediately became non-essentials.
Moments before leaving my home to make the long journey to meet this woman, I found myself sat in my car posing a series of questions to the man in the mirror. 'Are you actually prepared to drive sixty-miles to meet this woman during the time where everybody is instructed to stay at home!?,' being one of them. After taking a few minutes to collect my thoughts, a saner mind soon prevailed. I opened the car door, walked back into my house, and politely began messaging the woman back explaining the reason behind my change in motive. She didn't reply. Less than ten minutes later, I had returned to my desk to finish up writing the article you are reading now. Thank goodness.
Situations like the one described above have not been of the rare nature to me in the past, but unlike the above, where I disallowed my addiction to get the better of me, I had always made the journey to meet the woman, whoever she was, wherever she lived — housing little concern for any other potential risks.
I've often thought to myself, 'How much of a man can a man be if he is constantly at the mercy of a woman's?' I'm sure you're familiar with the definition of insanity, which is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." If I was to continue playing ball with my sex addiction, the definition of insanity would loom over my head like a dark cloud for as long as I live - and let's be honest, nobody enjoys being labelled as insane.
I know I have whaled on for far too long now, and I hope you will accept my sincere apologies for doing so, but in the wise words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, "If we are not ashamed to think it, we should not be ashamed to say it." Expression is a saviour, and this particular saviour, if used virtuously and consistently, can liberate your parents from the morbid duty of arranging your funeral before you do theirs. A little dark for a Sunday afternoon, I must admit, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Whether your addiction is based around drugs, alcohol, sex, or PMO (porn/masturbation/orgasm), it is important to understand that all addictions share one commonality: They each own short shelf lives. Moment-to-moment pleasure-seeking is a chore that we want - and need - to avoid at all costs. No if’s. No but’s. No exceptions. No excuses. What we should be striving to construct in our lives is, in the wise words of my friend, James Noonan - to whom this article is dedicated to, 'our own private temple of serenity.’
Now, before we move on, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23).
To my fellow addicts, similar to running a marathon or writing a novel, recovering from addiction can be a long hard slog. In the initial stages of our recovery, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, and hopelessness often became a common theme. Living a life free of addiction seemed impossible to us when we started out - almost as if was too good to be true. ‘Me, clean!? Pfft. Perhaps they can beat their addiction but I certainly can’t!’ But as the hands of time continued on, the more meetings we attended, and the more people we conversed with, we soon came to realise, based on the many individuals who were now living great lives free from addiction, that conquering the "impossible" was not so impossible after all.
"In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd." - Miguel de Cervantes
Now, let us take a moment to brood over past times with the aim of reminding ourselves where our journey began. In doing so, it will allow us to observe how much our lives have changed from the time we were young children in comparison to where we are today.
When we were born, we did not choose to be condemned by the curse of addiction over the freedom of non-addiction. We did not cry out to God, 'Please God, inject me with the curse of addiction. I beg of you!' No, we had no case to plead - not to God or anybody else. As newborn babies, we harboured no intentions for anything, and we desired nothing more than our mother's nurturing. Beyond this, everything in our little lives was a mystery.
For some of us, our adolescent years were enveloped with tremendous pain and suffering. Our parents may have not been kind to us, we may have been raised in a dangerous neighbourhood, and we may have been forced to live in unhealthy conditions. A number of us may have become the poster-child for starvation, abuse; physical, mental, sexual, and abandonment. Heck, we may have never even met our biological parents, which meant being raised in care homes or taken under the wings of numerous foster-parents throughout our childhood. In other cases, our mother may have been a drug addict all of her life, merely getting by on government financial support, struggling to fuel her addiction let alone put food on the table for you, her child. As for our father, this could be a whole other kettle of fish altogether. Our father may have left when we were babies, and went on to start a new life elsewhere, or he may have been serving a prison sentence for slinging dope, robbery, murder - or, he may even be dead. Who knows?
In hindsight, the world we grew up in naturally became the only world we knew - and for some of us, that meant a lifeless existence of violence, petty crime, and peddling dope in order to survive. And as time fleeted on, at a very young and fragile age, our addiction decided to step out of its shadow and make itself known - and soon enough, by default, we became the product of our environment - leading us to follow in the footsteps of our father that we never knew.
But as I'm sure many of you will agree with, the above examples of a child's upbringing are one of many. Your childhood, very similar to my own, may have been fantastic - something out of a fairy tale. Our parents may have been the kindest, supportive, and most loving parents in the world. We may have lived in a nice house in a safe neighbourhood, attended respecting schools, and achieved good grades. And above all, our family and friends may have been as clean as a whistle and dry as ice when it came to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Possibly it was the same for you as it was for me, where your addiction chose not to unearth itself until the bud of infancy began to blossom into adulthood.
For years leading up to our first official encounter with addiction, we may have lived happy lives with a loving family around us, a secure and respectable job which provided a steady paycheque, owning good personal morals, enjoying a healthy social life, sticking to our daily disciplines, remaining loyal to our partner, and generally being a good law-abiding citizen. But then, all of a sudden, like an unsuspecting volcano erupting for the first time, we were introduced to something we hadn't experienced before; an alcoholic beverage, a narcotic of some sort, a sexual invitation, by someone; a friend, a family member, a work associate, or a stranger on the street. This 'something' quickly drew our attention, and for whatever reason, seemed to possess the power to cause the palms of our hands to clam, our toes to coil, and our eyes to widen in child-like excitement. This nervous excitement of the unknown presented itself in such a way where it was too appealing of an offer to decline. Consequently, our introduction was the beginning of our self-destruction.
And just like that, as our age continued to climb, our addiction grew bigger, stronger, bolder - and we, cast under the spell of our addiction, ended up crawling closer towards the devil's door instead of stepping closer towards the Himalayas of happiness.
"The dead drug leaves a ghost behind. At certain hours it haunts the house.” - Jean Cocteau
When we were in active addiction, we constantly sought to mirror the feeling we experienced when we first began using - that bitter-sweet combination between the thrill of a rollercoaster ride and the rush of a high-speed car chase. That first line of cocaine, that first sip of alcohol, that first round of heated sexual intercourse with a total stranger which left us feeling like we were floating on cloud nine. But the more we chased that feeling, the further away we found ourselves from it.
It is only when we apply the power of deliberate subtraction to our lives is when our lives begin amounting to more. Subtracting words from the manuscript of a novel often results in a more effortless read for the reader. Decluttering your wardrobe of the clothes you haven't worn in years allows more space for the clothes you most enjoy wearing. Removing our addiction from our lives helps us to lead a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Less, then, in this sense, is not less at all; less is more, less is better.
During the times when you found yourself clasped firmly between the unforgiving vices of active addiction, using on a daily basis became as effortless as falling asleep at night after a long day's work when you were clean and sober. But what happened to our addiction when our courage and strength rose above it? The enemy backed down, did it not? When we provide the enemy with no ground to stand on, it is left with no choice but to retreat. As one of my favourite quotes reads, "Do the thing you fear," Emerson wrote, "and the death of fear is certain." Which is to say, face your fear of addiction head-on and it will soon subside. This is the key to a successful recovery.
To conclude, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27).
Thanks for reading.