During a recent conversation with my sister, she asked me why I devote so much time to studying psychology. “Don’t you get tired of staring at your own asshole?’ At first I bristled at the blunt crudeness of my sister. Then I laughed and told her this:
For so much of my life I have run away from my own issues. It started in high school when I used alcohol to separate myself from myself. In that space, I was able to distance myself from that hurt, lonely boy that I disliked to become the carefree, outgoing person I wanted to be. Drinking was like climbing into a superhero outfit. The introverted, troubled Peter Parker became the valiant Spider-man. If only temporarily.
For the next 30 years, I would use alcohol to live in a fantasy world where my problems couldn’t touch me. The more my buried pain cried out to be heard, the more I ran away from it. I became a fugitive from my pain.
Finally, with my business in the dumps, with my wife threatening to leave me, and with bankruptcy looming, I stopped running and I walked through the doors of AA. There I learned that I was only as sick as my secrets. And I had many.
The Fourth Step was a miracle for me. It forced me to face a life I had put together with bullshit and scotch tape. Rather than running away, I ran towards my problems. I felt the power that honesty and fearlessness had in freeing me from my pain and from my lies. Now, years later, I live a truth: The degree of my liberation is dependent on the depth of my investigation.
I ended my reply to my sister’s question by saying, “So, no. When I am aware of what is coming out of me, I am aware of what’s inside of me.”
My Higher Power has given me the fearlessness to continue looking within. As Carl Jung says, “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” When we run away from our selves and try to avoid pain through our addictions, we are asleep to who we are. When we embrace the Divine and open our selves to the practical tools psychology has to offer, we can finally awaken from the false realities we have been living.
And to be wide awake in reality is to be wide awake in splendor.
RJ Handley, Addiction Recovery Coach