Where do we stand?

Where do we stand?

I like stability. It gives me a sense of safety and well being. Having a solid foundation in my life reduces my stress and makes it easier to grow, heal, and learn. I met with a man recently who told me that every time he trusts someone he ends up, “having the rug pulled out from under me.” My first thought was, “well, if you keep getting it pulled out from under you why the hell do you keep standing on them?” He stays where he feels comfortable and amongst those he feels comfortable with. He ignores his instincts and allows his hearts to choose, most often to his peril.

Neale Donald Walsch said that, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Those of us in recovery from addictions, trauma and abuse are comfortable standing in the midst of drama, chaos, and dysfunction because it is what we know. Staying stuck in these patterns and amongst unhealthy people provides endless distraction from ourselves but it also leaves us with endless uncertainty.

We often wonder where we stand in relationships, at work, amongst our families in and in our own recoveries. We fear taking stock and prefer testing others over ourselves. We push you away to see if you return. We stage crisises to see if we can count on you and we ensure your failure by not asking for what we truly want and need. We stand on the edge of cliffs hopping up and down and wishing you’d stop us, convinced that you would if you really cared about us.

We stand up for those we love and believe in, but not for ourselves. We stand beside those we support, but we do not allow them to support us. We stand in the shadows of our memories and shame. We seek the light but fear being exposed. We perpetuate our suffering by all that we hide and by all the false beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world around us. We are the best kind of hypocrites for we stand in judgment of ourselves in a way in which we would never judge others. We stand by our resolve to hold resentments against ourselves. We forgive ourselves nothing for fear that doing so ensures that we will repeat our past mistakes.

We stand at the crossroads – motionless, breathless, afraid to move and peering as far down each road as we can see. Having made so many past mistakes we are crippled by our fears of making another. We are standing in our own way, telling ourselves that we are confused when in truth we’re scared shitless.

We stand alone. We stand in the eye of the storm and believe that we shall emerge unscathed. We are the strongest people you have ever met and we get back up no matter how many times we knock ourselves down. We are resilient against what others inflicted upon us but we seem powerless to end our self persecution.

We stand on slippery slopes and on thin ice. We are masterful in our ability to stay three steps ahead. We are stressed and anxious and this gives us the illusion that we’re doing quite a lot. In truth we often devote more energy to what we cannot control than what we can. Instead of seeking safety and stability we seek out the next high risk choice.

So many of the young people I work with seem to be standing on train tracks. I suggest to them that the ground is vibrating beneath them and that a light is coming toward them. They smile and shake their heads at me and explain that I am old and do not understand that the trains cannot hurt them. I remember being immortal. Sometimes I miss it. Standing on the tracks is knowing that what we’re doing is dangerous but believing that we somehow will jump out of the way before we get hurt, addicted, caught, or killed. The rule of threes holds no exceptions.
My religious clients sometimes tell me that they are “standing.” This most often means that they are steadfastly staying a course that they believe is God’s will despite the fact that it is not working. In contrast, spirituality affords flexibility and room for growth that religion generally does not. Those who have sought a God of their understanding are free to relinquish control on a daily (or even hourly) basis. True stability, safety, and security are afforded us when we pursue conscious contact with a Higher Power.

Many of us came to recognize that our Higher Power works through other people, therefore we stand in fellowship with those who seek to heal and grow. We saw the need for spiritual practices because life gets in the way of our goals. We found solace in the serenity prayer, the 3rd, 7th, and 11th step prayers. We found that we can talk to a Higher Power as we talk to a friend and that doing so makes life infinitely more manageable and more serene.

Recovery is like mountain climbing – the view gets better as you climb. We are prone to standing on the plateaus of past growth and fear moving onward and upward. We reason that having climbed so far we have further to fall. If we maintain conscious contact with a Higher Power we will find ourselves becoming uncomfortable when we stand too long and we will start eyeballing the next ascent. If we are in fellowship with those who are further along the journey than we; we can notice them lowering a rope toward us.

What HP wants for us is so much greater than what we would settle for. We have trod dark valleys and we have wandered far and long into the forest. It’s a lifelong journey. We have learned countless times that we are powerless over that which enslaves us. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us that we cannot manage our own lives, that no human power can relieve our suffering but that (a Higher Power) could and would if (She/He/It) were sought. Instead of trying to understand what our HP is or how It works we can simply ask to be saved from ourselves. We surrender to win.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.