A few weeks ago a young woman who I had met and seen in a couple of different women’s meetings raised her hand when the chairperson asked, “Is there anyone here who has less than 30 days sobriety?” I had remembered she had a number of months and so this meant she had slipped. Throughout the meeting she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. This was a ticket meeting and anyone who wanted to share who had not had their ticket called was invited to share during “burning desires” usually the last ten minutes of the meeting.

She boldly raised her hand and began to tell the group about her problem. As much as she has admitted she is an alcoholic, her parents cannot. They had made it clear to her that they had put away money (to the tune of about $40,000 each) for the weddings of both she and her sister when the time came. But they would not spend the money for rehab. The parents are both professional people with Master’s degrees and it would appear they are successful in their careers. If she went into rehab, what would their friends think? As she told her story, you could feel and see how terribly heartbroken she was. This was about the worst case of denial I had seen in a long time. It was totally backward! Usually it is the alcoholic who is in denial. In this particular case, the alcoholic admits her disease, asks for help and the very people who “love” her, are denying her an opportunity to be healthy and happy. You have to wonder, who in this situation needs the most help?

In my own extended family that lives on the opposite side of the country, there is drug abuse and denial. Again, the denial is not necessarily coming from the user but from the family members who insist “it’s just a phase”. In this particular case it is not a matter of what others might think but more if we look at our son, we must look at ourselves and we can’t.

So whether the denial comes from the addict or the friends and family or both it is a huge problem that keeps one addicted or makes it very difficult to recover since there might be little or no support. Hopefully, someone will have that moment of clarity that would lead to Step One even if they are unaware it is a step toward recovery. Step One is the bridge crossed from denial to admittance and we can see the powerlessness over our addiction and the unmanageability of our lives. I think this is also true of the addict’s family and friends; that they finally can rid themselves of their own selfish ways and see the addiction for what it is—an incurable but not uncontrollable disease.

Once we truly accept and work Step One, it is hard to go back. It is the only step we must do perfectly every day. Many who constantly relapse lament over their unwillingness to turn their lives over to a Higher Power. That may be quite true but the real problem is that they have not yet fully accepted and believe Step One. So what does denial and Step One have to do with those of us who work a program and are steadfast in our belief in Step One? For some it might mean absolutely nothing but I had a very rude awakening that forced me to consider denial and how it was affecting my spirituality, serenity and happiness.

Consider all of your defects especially the one(s) you have been hanging on to and/or the one you don’t want to hold on to but it just doesn’t want to go away. Now consider the fact that most of us in any 12 step recovery program have more than one addiction. Is it possible that the defect is actually an addiction? Do you feel powerless over this defect and can it make your life less than manageable? Do you pray to have this defect removed but it just doesn’t want to go away? Does this defect attract other defects? If you have answered “yes” to these questions, then maybe the defect is an addiction and the only way to handle it is to take it to Step One.

I am having a difficult time admitting that what I called a defect is truly an addiction. It has all of the earmarks of an addiction yet I am trying to find reasons why I know it is not. When I read about it I am trying to stay away from the similarities in the stories and looking for the differences. I am not in total denial but yes, my friends, I am in denial. Experience and common sense tell me that unless I can admit I am powerless over it and that it makes my life unmanageable, I will not and cannot be free. Unlike my addiction to alcohol which I did not question, this one was identified by my therapist. Ugh! My first reaction was “how dare she?” Sounds like addictive behavior, doesn’t it? It is. My own reaction was part of what convinced me that maybe, just maybe she was right. The truth of the matter is I know she is right. I know that I cannot just pray to have this addiction removed but that I have to begin at the beginning and that is Step One.

You may or may not be able to relate to all of this but I can only tell you that I realized that denial is not just for those still out there or who relapse over and over again but can be alive and well inside the “best” of us. Certainly, not every defect is an addiction. But if you feel like it is something you cannot control and it is keeping you from feeling the sunlight of the spirit, consider the power of Step One. It is always the beginning of yet another miracle in recovery.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

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