I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. That was my mantra(1) when I was a kid. Its dual purpose in my life, up into my mid-teens was atonement for when I was being a jerk, and protection from potentially getting hurt by others that I harmed by being careless with their personhood. What got me to stop using that particular mantra was my brother grabbing be by my shirt, pulling me up until I was actually on my tip-toes and screaming in my face, "You are sorry," and then dropped me on the floor, walking away in disgust, having stolen 20 bucks out of our Mom's purse, buying beer with it and coming home drunk... again. Like all the other times. "I'm sorry," was a meaningfully meaningless expression, I used to try and transact my way out of things.
When I came to recovery, one of my goals was to be able to have a conversation with someone, and not have the sensation or idea that they thought I was full of shit. I can't remember when I started lying as a kid... lying which I define as not being in integrity with my words and/or actions. I did it so much, by the time I got to the end of my active addiction, I was so strung out on drugs and lying, I really didn't have a coherent understanding of what reality was.
I carried a lot of shame and guilt for all the lying I'd done, not just in my words but actions. While I never did physical violence to anyone, my sponsor taught me that lying could be a form of mental, emotional, and spiritual violence that has physical results too, because of the mistrust, and uncertainty doing so could bring up in the form of unmanageability injected into the lives of others. That said, as a teenager, it wasn't wrong that I was untrustworthy and didn't earn credibility with my family, friends, and school teachers. In fact one of them, Ms. Baker, my science teacher in High School referred to me as a "Wild-card." That wasn't a good thing. One of the reasons for that was that in that timeframe of my life, I was just an effective crisis-creator.
Being that I came in through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, because there wasn't A lot of Narcotics Anonymous in the area I grew up, I was exposed to the AA Big-Book, which though my understanding of addiction has changed dramatically, I'm not indifferent or intolerant of their literature and fellowship that helped me to embody my authentic nature. One of the things that totally f'd me up was reading in the very first paragraph of their book, in the section "How It Works(2):"
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover(3) if they have the capacity to be honest.”
In my brain, I was like "WTF!" I'm dead. It was like having a slurpy brain-freeze that literally shook my entire body. In Narcotics Anonymous there's a similar statement that reads:
“We cannot throw out old ideas without replacing them. We believe that the old self-destruction and self-centeredness can only be replaced with spiritual principles. The three basic spiritual principles are honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to try. We say that they are the "HOW" of our program. Rigorous honesty is the most important tool we have in learning to deal with the past and to live today. Although honesty is a difficult tool to practice, it is a most rewarding one. We practice honesty under all conditions because it is the antidote to our diseased thinking. We lose the fear of being cornered. Our lack of fear and our new found faith serves as a firm foundation for courage in the future.” Henry Rollins anyone?
And this brings me to the ultimate point of this particular post. Are we authentically who we say that we are? Are we more than platitudes and parrots of being able to say good shit, without following up doing and living good shit? Thoughts and Prayers? What about paying attention, taking enough time to notice what really needs to be done not just on the surface, but get beneath the surface to support real growth and change? What is the distance between what our values are, and how we live? Depending on the response, is oftentimes the relational distance from our suffering; in my experience and observation. The natural question is, okay, fine, but how do we get to H.O.W?
What became super important to "Speaking and Being my Truth," is discovering people who didn't pass through, around, or by me with a minimum of concern... people who weren't careless with my personhood. And I have to say this... just because someone's in a spiritual practice, or a recovery fellowship is not an instantaneous qualifier of being able to do that. If I want to understand what a person is about, or what they do, I pay close attention to their actions, far more than what they say. As my sponsor once noted, "We're all swimming in the same pool, but people sometimes stay in the shallow end, out of fear, not realizing you can drown in an inch of water. There are some that actually resist swimming in the deep-end of the pool where they could be fully whole, and wholly free, because their still being sponsored by the disease that's in their mind." True is True. For me that side-effect of our True-nature always leads away from kindness and love, instead of helping us to embody our True nature.
Our life is a team effort. We need real support, genuine friendship rather than shallow association, and those with the experience in the inner terrain of self, to experience freedom, guiding us. For me isolating, hiding out from people, not asking or texting back people that reached out to me, lone-wolf mentality, and trying to be self-sufficient welded me to the minds natural negativity and suffering. It was like beating myself with my own stick. It was definitely not actions of a sound heart and mind, but more one that was bathed in self-doubt and fear, lacking meaningful action, that drained happiness like a vampire with a victim.
I sometimes say, we are none of us alone, and yet we must truly learn to sit fully and completely in our own seat, so that we can come to the truth of ourselves, through healthy action aiming in the direction of freedom, which spiritual principles and healthy values. Avoiding, delaying, procrastinating, rejecting our responsibility and not doing our work, is another day added to our self-imposed jail-time in the prison cell ego's self-obsession, and self-centeredness.
My practice is not to keep you in my so-called "Thoughts, and prayers." My intention and practice is to keep you in my actions, mindfully and ethically. My practice is not to write physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual checks that are likely to bounce, undermining confidence and credibility. My intention and practice is to intentionally be in presence with You; heart-to-heart, and Spirit-to-spirit, despite that my personal truth is that addiction mind, and the 10,000 ways that it can show up can be a hell-realm. Do I always succeed in the way that I intent? Of course not! But even when I have mistakes and mis-takes, and miss the mark, I follow it with another action... a Step 10 for those in the know, and go at it again; recalling I've never met a happy perfectionist, especially within myself.
Overtime... I've progressively learned through the spiritual principle of fortitude, we can heal our heart and mind; and influence the lives of others through actions grounded in spiritual principles such as positive action, goodwill, compassion, generosity, kindness, sympathy (empathy + caring), integrity and Universal Loving Presence. The invitation is to test drive honest, open-mindedness, and willingness in action, rather than merely as a thought and a prayer. Having a blue-print for a house or a building is nice. We have to do some stuff to actually build something that will stand within the reality of time.
一Dignity and Grace
1 The word mantra and prayer are similar but not precisely the same. Mantra strictly speaking means words that call forward internal energy and force to protect us from the minds nature negativity, that could when applied change our actions or the nature of our circumstance.
2 H.O.W. is a kind of coded meaning for Honesty, Openmindedness, and Willingness.
3 Recover in this sense means healing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual insecurities, by feeling, dealing, assimilating, integrating, and healing what can often appear to be fractured personality.