Hello everybody. This is Rokelle Lerner, senior clinical advisor to Crossroads Center Antigua, and you know, it struck me that we take so much for granted in our lives. This has been particularly underscored by this pandemic. You know, what we’re learning so profoundly is that we can’t separate life’s beauty from its fragility. Every day, every day, the clock resets and we are given another 1,400 minutes to use, as we wish. As the wonderful poet, Mary Oliver says, “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?” Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? This has been an opportunity for all of us to focus more inward than outward.
We know that an integral part of recovery is healing our relationships, but I’ll speak for myself: I never counted on being with the same person day after day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day for weeks. It reminds me of the lyrics to a country music song that goes, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” But the truth is that this has been a chance and is a chance to do some needed repair work.
So, this little talk is going to be all about connection. Not just connection to others, but connection to ourselves. I’m going to quote another poet, an Indian mystic named Kabir, who says that, “What is most alive is inside our own house. Yet we walk from one holy city to another, with the confused look.” Kabir will tell you the truth, “Go wherever you like Calcutta or Tibet. If you cannot find where your soul is hidden, for you, the world will never be real.”
We are all on a constant quest to find where our soul is hidden.
Particularly, after the ravages of addiction, healing is not just a desired outcome of treatment, by the way, it’s a potential. It’s a potential that’s there from the start. We are all hardwired to heal, to grow, to transform. This is not just a metaphor. This is what the program promises us. And it’s also about neuroplasticity of the brain. We are shaped – all of us – by a deep desire to be known, to be seen as we come into contact with parts of ourselves that had been frozen for years. Our birthright is open-heartedness and true liberation, which we only feel, by the way, when we’re able to be connected to our bodies, to our feelings, to take responsibility for ourselves and dare to be intimate with others.
Look, breaking any addiction is enormously difficult. We know that. We also know that recovery is more than sobriety. Recovery is finding a way of living that works for us emotionally, spiritually, physically, sexually and if we don’t address our fundamental thirst for connection, we don’t really leave the present, do we? What we learned to do is decorate our jail cells better, and we hear things like, “I’m clean as a whistle, but miserable as hell.”
No addicts set out one morning to be addicted. Addiction is much more covert and seems to sneak into our lives by the back door. But what is it that propels us to dive down to the depths of insanity? An addict is someone who’s starving for connection, connection to others. Connection to spirit. Ironically addiction is the ultimate disconnection. When one feels empty inside, so hungry to feel a part of someone, desperate to be held close, craving to be loved and admired. After a lot of use and years of addiction, that longing turns to shame and so one uses more to anesthetize this longing. So, ladies and gentlemen, the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.
Bill Morea from Hazelden says, “I have an illness,” he says, “which has its origins in the brain. But I also suffer from a hole in my soul, the pain that comes from the sense that I’ll always feel alone because I’m not good enough.”
For addicts, alcoholics, it isn’t just about the right medication or the correct therapy. It is about the spirit and dealing with that hunger we have… hunger for our soul, hunger for connection. This is at the core of addiction that at a very deep level, we have become cut off from our basic goodness, and we are on the road to connect again. It’s like awaking from a deep, deep sleep.
Stage one is getting out of our primary addiction. But stage two is rebuilding the life that was saved in stage one. So, emotional sobriety that I will talk about more, emotional sobriety means becoming connected with ourselves. Allowing ourselves to feel. To be able to tolerate feelings without acting out. To undo aloneness and disconnection. When our emotional wellbeing is determined by our inner guidance rather than by what others are doing or what’s going on around us. It’s becoming reconnected.
And I’d like to end with this poem called love after love by David Walcott. David Walcott says this that, “The day will come when with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror and each will say to the others greeting, ‘Sit here, eat. You will love again.’ The stranger who was yourself, give flowers, give bread, give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who’s loved to all your life, who you’ve ignored for others that knows you by heart. Take down all the desperate notes, all the painful images, peel your own image from that mirror. Sit feast on your life.”