Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Behave yourself

I went to my first twelve step meeting for the same reason a lot of people go. I had identified a behavior that I wanted to eliminate. In the interest of total honesty, what I really wanted was to control the behavior. This, in my opinion, is the goal of every person when they first attend a meeting. If I could only reign in my addictive behavior everything would get better. Not eliminate the behavior altogether because I couldn't imagine life without the occasional indulgence.

I quickly learned that my behavior wasn't my problem. The addictive behavior had served to keep me from dealing with my problems. In fact, it was relatively easy to sit in a circle of fellow addicts and say my name and what I had done. It was...and still is...much harder to express my true problem. Hi, I'm Tim and I'm terrified of being rejected. I doubt my value as a person and, at age 47, am still trying to recover from the pain inflicted by my parents in childhood. My fear and self doubt has fed addictive behaviors for most of my life that have guaranteed isolation and the lack of any deep meaningful relationships. Ironically, my deep seated fear of being left alone has left me alone!

As children we're told to behave ourselves or apologize to our sisters or sit up straight and act nice. These instructions are well meant. For the addict they are instructive. You don't really need to feel sorry, just say you are. If I behave according to the standards set by those in charge I don't really have to deal with any underlying issues that caused the misbehavior. If I look like I'm doing okay then I must be doing okay. Jesus once said that it isn't what goes into your mouth that reveals who you are but what comes out of your mouth. What comes out of your mouth is a reflection of what's in your heart. A pastor friend of mine (who I suspect was also an addict) once said that people are like toothpaste tubes. You find out what's really inside when squeezed.

Changing my external behavior is not enough for me. I don't want all my meetings, therapy and accountability partners to simply be a hedge around me to keep me from acting out. I want deep, meaningful, genuine healing. I want to better understand and deal with my problems. Change my heart and along the way I'll experience recovering life.