A monthly column by CEF’s very own:
There was a phrase I learned in prison. It was in a class designed to teach me and my fellow inmates how not to re-offend. “If nothing changes then nothing changes.” One of my fellow inmates would express that thought cast in a slightly different way. “If you keep on doing what you always done, you’ll keep on getting what you always got.” Makes a lot of sense don’t it ?
But as is the case in all the little catch phrases we learn along the journey. It’s easy to change, the difficulty lies in staying changed. By lunchtime on the day of my release I was right back to doing the very same thing that had always gotten me locked up in the past. You see I am an addict and my addiction follows me even when I am not actively using. The whole time I was in prison, staying sober but gorging myself on Honey Buns and Reese Cups, my addiction was on the weight pile and running laps in preparation for my release.
While I readily accept that not all the members of our class took the same road to homelessness as I did. I have come to believe that we share more in common with one another than the relatively small ways in which we may differ. It would seem to some that it’s simple, if something is not working for you, just change it. My confounded non addicted friends would often tell me, “all you need is more willpower.” Fair enough; but towards the end of my addiction I always felt like someone that had taken a whole bottle of laxatives and was now trying not to go to the bathroom.
I know full well that my willingness to change was the key to my recovery. But how do I get others to come to that same conclusion? There are times when I feel totally inadequate for the task. But I don’t spend too much time lamenting the complexity of my goals. That would not be good for my own vulnerabilities. I don’t spend a lot of time telling them what they should do. But I am never reluctant to tell them what I did.
I think that the best thing that I can do for them is create an environment in which they will choose to do the right thing. If I want them to think a certain way I know it best if I leave the book open to the chapter that I want them to read. But I also know that there is great therapy in a good example. And I make every effort to be that good example. Because as much as I must accept my powerlessness over them. I can and I do have power over my own behavior.
I’m sure they must think me boastful when I talk about how well my life is going. But it’s not the house nor the possessions that I most cherish. It is my self respect that gives me the most pleasure and of course the respect of my family and friends. What I want for them is just that. That thing that till now was not there for me. Because I have had the housing and the money before. But today I have learned that the best things in life are not things at all.
Don’t get me wrong, housing and money are precious commodities and what I want for all our members. But character is destiny. Had I taken my same bad habits into the house that I currently reside I would not have been one bit better off. If all I do all day is sit around the house and stay sober, pretty soon I’ll be drunk. So thanks CEF for giving me the fantastic opportunity to try to help others. It keeps me grounded. It is in my self interest to do just exactly what it is that I try to do.