Addiction Recovery and Coming to Terms with the Past


Forgiving the past. Okay, anyone here totally happy with everything you’ve ever done in your life? Nor am I. I’ve done some dreadful things; addicts do horrible things, nasty things, unpleasant things. We do, we try to glance over them, forget them, minimize them rationalize them. We try all that but in the step four inventory that we have to take the fallen fearless moral inventory. We do have to come to terms with what we’ve done. Now listen to what I said. It’s a full and fearless moral inventory.

When we read that we think they’re talking about the fallen fearful immoral inventory.  We think we’re going have to write down all the terrible things that we’ve done. We’ll we do but a moral inventory involved looking at our good things as well as our bad. We have to look at everything right across the board.  And it becomes much more acceptable when we do that. When we look at the good things we’ve done. It’s much easier also to look at the things that we’ve done that have been crazy or stupid or unkind, or cruel.

The past can be past. There are things I did thirty years ago, forty years ago, fifty years ago that are past now, aren’t they? I can’t afford to forget them because I know that I can go back to being like that.  Therefore, I remind myself of them and I acknowledge them but I don’t have to live with it every day of my life. I am allowed at some stage to say, “I’m not like that now.”

Its twenty-one years since I last used an addicted substance or process. I think I’ve earned the right to say, I’m not like that now. I’ve got twenty-one years experience of not being like that.  However, I don’t have the right to say, “And therefore I will never be like that.” because that’s not true. I’m an addict. I’m still shortsighted. I’m still allergic to bee stings. I’m still an addict. Those things do not change.

I can’t just with will power say, “I’m never going to do that again.” That’s as bad as saying, I never had a problem. I did have a problem and I do need to remind myself about it. Therefore, I have to come to terms with my past. I have to befriend it, to see that it’s just part of my journey, and a part of my journey was pretty awful. But there are other parts of my journey which are good.

The step four moral inventory looks at both parts. I’m not all bad; equally I’m not all good. I look at both. Now as far as my past where I’ve hurt other people is concerned, I do need to make amends to them. I do need to acknowledge what I did, make the amend and say, “I’m sorry.” But again, what we tend to do is to say, “Sorry.” Or alternatively will say, “I’m so sorry.” We’re great drama queens. In fact, do you think my wife wants to hear me say sorry? She’s heard it a thousand times. She really doesn’t want to hear it anymore.

What she wants me to do is to change my behaviour. So I don’t forget the past, I modify it into the present so that I don’t do what I did before. I think, you know, from experience that’s by and large what families most want. They don’t want the “sorrys”. They don’t want, you know, “I’ll be a good boy.” They don’t want that; just change our behaviour that’s all they want. Then we can move forward and make a different present.

I have been married for forty-five years. I’ve been in recovery for twenty one, well subtract one from the other and you will see that Meg lived with me as a using addict for twenty-four years. I haven’t even got to half time yet.

I’ve been in twenty one years in recovery and twenty-four years in my marriage as a using addict. I still haven’t even got to half time. You wait till I do, then. No. I just don’t want to go back. I’m not going to settle a score. This isn’t that sort of concept in life. I don’t settle scores. I don’t pay people back. I want to change my behaviour regardless of what other people do. I’m responsible for reactions to other people. If you hit me, I’m not going to hit you back because I don’t hit people. If you’re unkind to me, I’m going to be kind back because I believe in being kind.

I am responsible for my reactions. I’m responsible for I behave regardless of the provocation. I don’t settle scores. I don’t want to go back to being, the [0:05:38.8 unclear] the immediate anger response and then the justification, and then the apology. I don’t want to go back to that. I’ve had enough of that. I’d rather stay as a person I am now but I can’t stay as a person I am now if I forget the person I used to be because that’s my natural self, just as my natural self can’t see. This is my normal self. This is artificial but I need it. I need something artificial to be able to function.

I’ve done exactly the same basis. I cannot afford to forget my normal past and my normal past was belligerent, angry, resentful, mean, that’s my normal self. The self that you know is the artificial self, built on going to meetings of the anonymous fellowships and working the twelve-step program.

I find it has healed me of all that inner anger and resentment and depression. It’s not there provided that I do what’s necessary by going to meetings and working the steps. That way I can keep the past in the past.

Okay, so one of these days, Robin will kick me out and I will no longer be at Promis so I can stop going to meetings. True? I’m afraid not. My addiction is worse now than it was before. I find just incidentally, I now need to go to three meetings a week instead the two meetings a week that I used to do when I was first in recovery. I actually need more meetings now because my addiction is stronger now than it was twenty-one years ago.

These are not the same specs that I had five years ago, let alone ten, let alone twenty, let alone thirty, let alone forty. These specs have to be changed because my eyes get weaker. My back is into itself. I’m three and a half inches shorter than I was when I was twenty.

I can touch halfway down my shins but I can’t touch my toes, there’s no chance because my back is crumbling. My blood pressure is perfect. There are other things about me which is pretty good. But my addiction is not good. It decays in the same way as my back has decayed or my eyes have decayed. It gets older as I get older. Therefore I find I need more treatment now even though I haven’t used for twenty-years.

People who relapse after a long time find that they go back so fast woof straight down back to worse than they ever were before. They don’t get the benefit of the many years of recovery because the addiction has been getting worse all that time they’ve been decaying. Then woof, into the pit they go.

I know that and I ain’t going to go back. I want the relationships I’ve got now. I want them forever. I can only do that by saying, “My name is Robert and I’m an addict.” Therefore, I need the treatment for that day by day by day by day by day. Just one day at a time. But we accumulate progressively more days.