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Monday, August 13, 2012

Confusion of the Will

So, I think we preceding posts should help clarify the problem of the will for the alcoholic.  His will becomes tangled up in a confusion between what he knows is right and wrong versus his impulses to either move towards good or avoid bad.

Another way to look at it might be the problem of working in a mirror: our minds have difficulty translating actions in reverse of the way our bodies are oriented. We see in the mirror we must move in one direction, but have to send the message to the muscles to move in the opposite direction.  It's not easy.

In my town, we have a high number of Japanese families, who work at several Japanese auto companies and surrounding businesses.  Every day there is an accident, and so appear rather silly.  One day, I saw three cars all mashed together on their front ends: one tried to pull out of a driveway, while the other two tried to pull in from either side of the street.  My friend commented that they were lousy drivers.  I had to remind him that the Japanese drive on the other side of the road, and when they come here and get in trouble, their instincts for left side driving kick in and they have major problems as a result.  They are not bad drivers, they just have contrary instincts that are hard to unlearn in 12 months.

So, the addict has similar problems.  His instinct or reflex is to avoid growth.  Every momentary impulse will be to run, and so we must realize that the addict will need time to 'reprogram' this instinct.'  He will always flinch in the sight of fear, and, particularly in earlier days of sobriety, will go very quickly into an anxiety mode.

So, we may wonder how we can help an addict in the early stages of recovery.  Obviously, it requires a great deal of patience.  What it also requires is the mindfulness to remind the addict that he needs to be mindful of how his 'car' is designed: when he is looking back over his shoulder into the abyss, he's facing the wrong way.  He must keep looking forward, past his fear and pain, towards the goal.

This is the position of hope.  Hope is looking forward, not back.  Living in the past is not hopeful, and neither is wishing that the past could be restored to the present.  The past is the past.  The past is also an escape.  You see, in the past we were ignorant of the future.  Now that we have entered into the future, the past is ignorance.

We must remain looking forward in order to enter into the new future.  Those helping the addict must always understand that preparing for the future is one of the addict's greatest challenges, and his hampered will has kept him from moving towards the 'happy destiny' of recovery.  Patiently reminding the addict of the joys that await his completion of growth will keep is important.  In order to make that proper 'shift,' he needs to be coached to slow down and not react, because his reactions will send the car in reverse.  He needs to slow down and think through the shifting process to put the car in forward.

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