It’s 5pm. I’m standing in another airport having not slept really in days and they are re-scanning my menacing body for the 3rd time because clearly I’m a terrorist.
I wonder if the bruises from weeks of travel will show up on the scan and make them curious about what the hell happened to me. The TSA clearance I have and drove 2 hours each way to get and waited months for approval on means nothing, obviously.
This airport is the second to last in a long string of airports and delayed flights and basement conference room meetings and taxi’s and dragging bags up and down and business casual meals and complete abandonment of the comfortable routine’s that assist in my peace and recovery.
My face hurts from smiling and greeting new people and being up and nice and engaging when I’m really tired and crabby and desperate to be alone.
My mind is exhausted from chatter and ideas and work and what to-dos and what not to-dos and where to start and what to achieve.
More, bigger, faster, better, Go!
I sprint to the gate, my fancy ass shoes killing my feet that were engineered for Birkenstocks.
The plane is delayed 3 hours. Rushed meetings and 4 hours of marathon crazy to arrive here to be in no hurry at all. Perfect. It’s not like I need to get home, the dog already bit someone and they took him to the pound and the kid watching the dog is now in the hospital so what’s the hurry?
I walk the terminal searching for food.
I pass a bar-ish restaurant and am so deeply tired I want to go in and just sit down but I keep walking… not from willpower of a sense of sanity towards any recovery I’ve achieved but out of habit. I’ve made the right choice now longer than I made the wrong ones so the default behavior just kicked in and kept my addictions at bay one more time.
I go to restaurant after restaurant. Vegans are not welcome in the airport.. or people with crazy ridiculous food addictions whose bodies turn sugar and carbs into the equivalent of a trailer full of meth. I cared about what I ate before but I didn’t care today, in fact I couldn’t come up with one reason on the planet why I ever cared. Who cares if even one wrong bite turns my entire thinking haywire for a solid week or that one drink could lead to a dozen years worth of crazy. I wondered if I had any painkillers left over in my backpack, that would take the edge off. Who cares that only a month prior I sat on the edge of my bed every night for a week warding off insane desire for those little pills after just taking one without realizing it.
I stood in line and told myself I had to just get whatever I could find. I needed fuel, any fuel. I needed to not feel.
I searched for what to order— I can’t order like normal people. I searched for what to drink.. I can’t drink like normal people either.
I searched for how to think, what to act like, how to even function. I was at a total loss. Complete engine failure.
Before the line advanced, I surrendered. I couldn’t even binge I was so defeated… even feeding an addiction takes energy. I walked back down the terminal and my thinking spun out of control. I made it back to the bar that first caught my eye. They had a special on pizza and beer and burgers and all the things I needed. They had a dark booth in the back corner and I took it. I consciously told myself that this was no big deal… that I was in the present moment; I was tired and needed to just take care of myself and get thru this day.. that everything would be fine tomorrow.. one night won’t hurt anything. I sold myself some fancy feel good quotes about insignificance and being in the present moment and just living for today…to not take things so seriously, to not be attached, just be easy.
The parts of me that reason, that guide me to be aware and awake and live with any semblance of integrity and health had evaporated.
My addiction was now in total control.
As I sat rationalizing, not even considering my 20+ years on a rigorous path of recovery, I looked across the hallway to a chapel room set up for people to go pray.
The bars and restaurants were packed, the chapel empty.
Before the server came I had already found my way over to the chapel and peaked inside. Empty. I’m not sure how I got there, the default behavior having navigated me to safety yet again.
I sat down and just looked around in a daze. I sat a while listening to the silence.
It might have been a moment or a minute but not much more than that before the parts of me that I’ve worked so hard to heal emerged. My practice kicked in and I caught my breath and realized what was happening. I assumed the familiar position of complete surrender to whatever it is that keeps me sane and healthy and let it fill me back up.
I walked out and found a crappy chalk flavored protein bar and an apple and a water and made my way to the gate. What had looked like hell moments before looked sparkly and fresh. I saw happy people everywhere and moved with ease and peace— experiencing exactly what I had been searching for in the first place.
I called a friend and told them what happened, keeping my commitment to reach out. They made some ridiculous comment about how I was so lucky, how I was saved from the brink. I gently explained what total bullshit that was. I know exactly what saved me and if I had relied on luck, I’d be totally screwed.
What saved was a hell-bent rigorous practice of working my program, of showing up even when I don’t want to.
What saved me was the 487million times I drove thru the dark to find a meeting or a meditation even when it was the last damn thing I wanted to do.
What saved me was going to the gym and the temple every morning for the last decade and learning to figuring out what makes my head clear.
What saved me was learning to get honest with myself and others, to admit my faults and being willing to clean shit up constantly.
What saved me was doing what was right and healthy for me so many times that it’s literally become my default— the behavior my body resorts to even when my head gets crazy.
This is why I work this spiritual practice… after hundreds or even thousands of times of feeling like it’s all worthless and useless and meaningless it swoops in and rescues me in a way nothing else can.
“Keep coming back, it works when you work it.”
- 12 steps to move beyond struggle.
- cunning, baffling, powerful
- …practice these principles in all our affairs