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"This Is What My Addiction Couldn't Take Away" by John Gower

Gary Miller

I not only did the best I could but I did the only thing I could. There is no way I was going to get through this life without becoming addicted. The pull was too much to resist without first discovering why I should.   

Information is a strange word. Imagine there are levels of knowing. Think of knowing in a chemical sense, in the sense that a memory association is a chemical reaction. Now consider that we are always true to our structure and conditioning. Then doesn’t it make sense that we would always behave, not the best, but the only way we can, determined by what we happen to know at the time. And let’s not confuse “knowing” at a verbal sense with “knowing” as an organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environment.  

At twenty-nine years old I didn’t know how to live without drinking and drugging. I simply did not know how. But I still had the ability to be re-trained. My addiction hadn’t taken that away from me. That which can be trained can be re-trained.

I discovered that most of what I didn’t know was how to give myself permission to accept myself with all my frailties and faults. I hadn’t been trained to do that. I had not been trained to look down at my own two feet to see where I was standing. I did not know what it meant to practice. I did not know how the system worked. I constantly got the cart in front of the horse. I had images of what the ideal me, the average me, should be like but I gave little regard to the specific me. This confusion led to frustration and demoralization. Of course I drank, who wouldn’t.  

Much like playing a musical instrument, one improves with practice. The trick for me was to sit with my frailties and faults, just sit with them, and accept them, before moving on. I learned to be somewhere. I wasn’t use to doing that.

My personal limitations are what I had tried to hide. With the help of my sponsor and my new friends I began to laugh at my mistakes. Not in a sarcastic self-hating way but rather with the knowledge that my mistakes were perfect, they made sense, they were organic; they are the how of how I change.  

I am learning to live with uncertainty. By the time I know what I’m about to do 99% of the mechanics that will move me along has already happened unconsciously. To rely on rational thought is rather ideal. My addiction has made me come to terms with how I’m built. At last, I feel I am part of a system I do not fully understand and I love it that way.

All I need to know, if I want to survive, is that the most important thing I will do today is stay clean and sober. My curiosity has come back to life. My addiction has not taken that away.