“Alcoholism is the only disease you can get yelled at for having. Damnit Otto you have lupus! Damnit Otto you’re an alcoholic! One of those just doesn’t sound right.” – Mitch Hedberg
When I was in college I thought this line from my favorite comedian was hilarious. It’s still funny, don’t get me wrong. But now when it comes to mind it brings up all of the hurt that I have caused while living in my disease of addiction. It brings up sadness and guilt.
Earlier today I attended a meeting and we read from the “Big Book” which in non-addict language means we read from the official AA book. One particular passage was a stark reminder for me that this disease is no laughing matter:
“An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list.” – Big Book page 18
I have become comfortable with being labeled a recovering addict and have many friends in the program. We go out together and inevitably will make jokes about how we relate to others and the things we think and say. The insanity that we carry around that non-addicts can’t really relate to. We joke a lot actually. But we also carry the terror of the reality of this disease. It is stronger than us and it can and will kill us if we don’t work the program.
It’s also very sad to think that the comedian that delivered that line died of a drug overdose 11 years ago. Mitch never found recovery and eventually the disease won. The same disease that claims millions of lives around the world is inside me. That is a scary and sombering thought. And its not funny at all.
My sponsor is guiding me through my 4th step. It has been a very long process to say the least. The 4th step is becoming the step that keeps on giving. What the 4th step is currently giving is the reminder of all the people that have been touched by my disease. My assignment recently was to make a list of every single person I have hurt while suffering with lust addiction. The list is incredibly long. It includes family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, students, players, on and on and on. After making that list, I am to go back over each and every name and write down the story of how I hurt them the most. Okay so this is not a fun process – at all. It makes me feel like shit actually.
But these steps are not to make me feel like shit. They are to make me realize I have a disease and since I am in recovery and treating my disease there is no shame in the process. A cancer patient receiving treatment does not feel shame about having cancer. So neither do I. I realize that my disease was perpetuated by selfishness and destructive choices. But right now as I am in recovery – there is no shame. That feels good.
It feels good that I am not unknowingly (and knowingly) hurting people every day! It feels good that I am getting well.
It feels good to allow God to clean up the wreckage of my past.