Sunday, October 13, 2013

Twelve Steps

Sorry, time for more self-indulgent philosophizing. For three years now, I've been walking around with a  "New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portlandmessenger bag sashed across my chest. I don't know if anyone has interpreted that as being from a substance abuse rehab (not that there'd be anything wrong with that), but the possibility inspired me to review the 12 steps of addiction recovery and see how they apply to brain injury recovery (and life) Remember, it's an exhibition, not a competition:

  • Step 1We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable 
I have definitely at times felt it was important to relinquish any sense of control over my circumstances. That's not the same as giving in or giving up but simply recognizing that a certain amount of acceptance is required for me to get on with my life. For me, I suppose Step 1 could end with, "we were powerless." I am not addicted to my stroke, but hopping a ride on the Victim parade float can be tempting at times.
  • Step 2 - We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity 
I've struggled with this one, in that I've come to see my own resilience as a power greater than myself (no, I am not God; but there is something within me I was only able to access under the right -- admittedly unfortunate -- circumstances. The whole "sanity" piece is debatable. I'm long gone; no amount of sanding or coats of varnish are going to restore me.
  • Step 3 - We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God 
I suppose this one might go back to acceptance, which works well with my somewhat fatalistic nature. I don't feel I'm being cared for or watched over, and there's only so much I can do. I am open to the universe.
  • Step 4 - We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves 
What do you think? Isn't that pretty much all I've been doing for three years? I have definitely gone through phases of asking, "What did I do to deserve this?" The answer is nothing and that no one truly gets what they deserve, because no one deserves anything. Deserving is too close to entitlement, and I don't believe anyone is entitled to anything. Inalienable rights, my ass. There are things you can ask for. Once in awhile, there are things you can earn. Like Mick says, "You can't always get what you want..." And as my friend Tess tells her kids, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset!" Doesn't work, but words to live by nonetheless.
  • Step 5 - We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs 
I've certainly had some heart-to-hearts with myself, friends, and Jamie, but I have a hard time identifying the nature of my wrongs in that I don't think any wrongdoing on my part played a role in my illness or that admitting them heals me, other than helping my brain reconnect with my "self", which is as close to my "soul" as I get. Are wrongs the same as regrets?They say you regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did, but I don't know that you can count romantic ideals as wrongs. From a Karmic perspective, I always thought restraint was rewarded. Is it possible that you lose points for not doing some things you wanted to (did I just blow your mind?)? But for all that's gone wrong for me, a ton has gone right. I attribute many of those blessings to what I call Social Karma. When it mattered, I made good choices and have been rewarded with strong relationships. Nothing mystical about that; it's basic socio-economics. (Shameless plug: If you're looking for some Instant Karma, I've added a fundraising page to my site, to assist with the purchase of a recumbent tricycle this spring.)
  • Step 6 - We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character 
Too much God in here for a devout agnostic. Again, if I've discovered what I feel are true defects in my character, it would be up to me to resolve them, and I don't think I've found anything I would completely excise. I think our flaws make us as richly dynamic as our strengths. Particularly with my brain injury, it can sometimes be difficult to identify psychological, social, and emotional truths. I remember immediately after my stroke how people remarked on the "flat affect" in my voice. Given my already-bone-dry sense of humor, I wasn't as aware of it as others. I've continued to struggle with better expressing my emotions in a way that comes across as more than sarcastic. I'm a work in progress.
  • Step 7 - We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings 
No, I have have not asked for the removal. I simply have to remain vigilant of some deficits (such as a lack of filter) and show restraint.
  • Step 8 - We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all 
I have approached some people from my past, not so much to make amends as to rebuild connections.
  • Step 9 - We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others 
Didn't I just do that?
  • Step 10 - We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted
I'm all for The Examined Life, but I'm feeling like 8-Minute Abs would have sufficed here.
  • Step 11 - We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out 
I can't go exactly there, though I have tried meditation and mindfulness exercises as a way of resting my brain and encourage neuroplasticity. And lord knows I'm trying to make the most of what I've got.

  • Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs 

Does this feel like more of a list of steps to redemption than recovery? I'm sure it's helped a lot of people and will help many more, but my stock pot runneth over. Have I properly carried this message to you, my Followers?

Okay, should I get a Betty Ford Center messenger bag now? Honestly, I don't think I could hack overcoming addiction. Too much work.

1 comment :

  1. Hi Ken, you are an inspiration! God loves you and his love for you is perfect and unconditional. Continue to seek Him and you will find Him. Have you started reading the bible yet? Any of the 4 gospels would be a great place to start. Mark, John, Matthew or Luke. Send me a message on Facebook and we can discuss specific passages if you like. Julius P.