Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It has been almost two months since writing of the passing of Uncle Jimmy, and I confess it was a hard posting to put behind me. But the disease doesn't issue slack to anyone because of grief. In fact addiction uses grief like grease on a steep staircase, preparing the complacent recovering addict for that next "slip." The recovering addict either grows toward recovery or begins sliding back to the nightmare, so we move forward. What brought all this to mind was the closing meeting at this year's Unityfest, a very small, very intense NA convention at the Notre Dame Spiritual Center in Alfred, Maine.

The subject was gratitude. After the intense sharing, tears, honesty, and damn hard work done by the folks at Unityfest, recognizing the gratitude each individual felt at the end was a lot like counting your receipts at the end of a very profitable business day. It was great watching the speaking turn go around that big circle, each speaker sharing what he or she was grateful for. Man, it was all sunshine and lollipops until I heard a newcomer say, in effect, that she couldn't imagine using drugs again after such an experience as the Unityfest.

The chills her words caused me reminded me of all the times I've seen the Monkey Lie and shook my head in despair. What is the Monkey Lie? Many refer to addiction as "a monkey on my back." NA convention tee-shirts and sweatshirts sometimes print a picture of this monkey on the recovering addict's back, but the creature is depicted as sound asleep. This is supposed to represent recovery. That is the Monkey Lie, because that monkey never sleeps. When you think he's sleeping, he's really over at the gym working out, getting stronger, leafing through his data base on you to see what Step you aren't working.

The evidence is helping to fill the world's graveyards. It's a stock saying in NA, AA, and other Twelve Step programs: "If you go out again, you don't pick up where you left off; You pick up where you would have been if you had never stopped." I've heard too much testimony from those who have researched this phenomenon first hand to need to repeat the experiment for myself. This doesn't keep me safe, however.

Hang around the halls long enough and you'll hear about the guy who had three, five, fifteen, or twenty-five years clean time and then went and picked up! Everybody thought the monkey was asleep! What happened?

The monkey doesn't sleep, and neither does the dragon. In my area, we refer to addiction as the "Dragon," and there are way more dead addicts than there are dead dragons. I have a little gift that keeps reminding me of how vigilant my disease is. Every time at a meeting, during the reading of "What Is The NA Program," there's that line: "If you are like us, you know that one is too many and a thousand never enough." When whoever is reading finishes that sentence, there is this little echo in my head. It says "...a thousand..."

"...a thousand..."
"It's not enough," says the echo, "but it's a lot!"

I have just over thirty years clean and sober, and I still get little messages, dark little desires, and an occasional yearn for a quick answer to a chronic pain? You're damned right I do, which is why I still go to meetings, why I share at those meetings, why I work the Steps, do service, sponsor newcomers, have a sponsor myself, and use my own sponsor. That's why I go to Unityfest, Brothers In Spirit, and The Miracle. I am not a recovered addict. I am a recovering addict who now has the ability, by the grace of this program and fellowship, and a Higher Power, to stay in recovery if I stay alert one day at a time.

Enjoy your recovery--that's what it's there for. Bathe in the peace, the serenity, the sheer joy of being a human free of addiction. However, never forget the price. That monkey is awake. You'd best be awake, as well.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." --Thomas Jefferson


Pdogge said...

Thank you Barry for your continuing commitment to sharing your "experience, strength & hope". My wife and I read a chapter from "Y T" every morning and I give it to sponsees.... Regards from us down in NZ and very big large thanks...

Barry Longyear said...

To Pdogge... you're welcome, and visiting NZ is on my bucket list (and has been since the '60s). Glad to hear there's a meeting.

Jeremy Freeman said...

Thanks for blogging. It helps me

- Jeremy

California Clean and a Brief Peek at Reality

  Denial, that old Egyptian river. It is the principle symptom of active addiction. This is why addiction is often described as the disease...