There are several things that can weigh us down. This is true. There is more than just the weight of the body and sometimes, the weight of the mind can be the heaviest weight to bear.
There was a place somewhere up along Route 17 and far away from the city life, far from the places I knew, and far from the people I knew and the things I did which kept me sick. I call this place The Farm. It was here on a farm in the upstate New York Mountains that I underwent a change for the better. This is where I was stripped of my image. I was removed from my surroundings and taken away from my behaviors. I was young, of course, and just a kid (or a guppy as some would call me.) I was placed here and remanded to treatment and sent far from everything I knew and understood.
This was the last stop on my tour. My first stop was in a small 30-day place which used to be an old resort that went out of business back in the 60’s and 70’s. It was here that I learned about the correction of a few of my misconceptions. It was here that I learned exactly what Alcoholics Anonymous meant, which in fairness, I knew what the words meant; however, my idea of what a typical meeting looked like was much different from the reality of what transpires in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
First, and foremost, I learned there was no drinking at these events, which was a shame because this is why I decided to go. Somehow, I interpreted the words “Alcoholic” and “Anonymous” much differently. It was clear to me that drugs were illegal and problematic. I knew that since legally, drugs were not an option; I figured it was safe to assume that A.A. was the place for me. Therefore, my reasons were simple. I had no idea what actually happened in A.A. meetings but in my small mind, I knew what an alcoholic was and I knew what the word anonymous meant. And so, I chose to go to these meetings because the math explained of course I would go. This is Alcoholics Anonymous. This is where people go to drink and since it was anonymous, they just never told anybody about it. Alas, I thought I found me a secret club. Unfortunately, however, I was wrong.
(Note: I always tell this story when I do my speaking engagements and the laughing response is always funny to me. I suppose I am not the only one who thought this way)
I never knew there were steps or different aspects to living a good clean life. Then again, I never knew I was capable of living a good clean life. I never knew about a 12-Step program of recovery nor did I understand what the recovery meant. All I knew is I was filled with something. I knew I was filled with something toxic but at the same time; I just thought this was me and this was how I lived. I never considered another way of living because I never believed another way of living was possible.
My first 30 days was more of a fog than anything else. I was uncomfortable and sick in the beginning. Once this cleared up, I was unable to sleep. I was uncomfortable in my skin and the anxiety machine was always on high alert. I was twitchy at best, skinny, and my face was drawn in. My skin was a pale shade of green and I weighed about 80lbs. Yet still, I never thought I had a problem with my habit. I just thought the problem was me and my usage of substances was my only way to level the scales or even the playing fields. I had no faith in the idea that I could live differently nor was I sure that I wanted to live differently.
My second stop on this tour was a 42-day stay. This time I was in a facility with people closer to my age. And no, none of us really “Wanted” to be clean. In most cases, we were all remanded here for one reason or another. Most of the others had courts over their heads and a few were sent here through a family intervention. I lived with people who had undergone this process several times and yet, there were only teenagers.
Still though, we went through the counseling process, which was not a real thing to me. And I say this because I could not and did not truly give myself to this process. I went to 12-step meetings but I did not practice the steps or what I had learned. No, I was simply filling my time with hopes that I could go back home but going home was not an option for me.
As agreed upon between my attorney and the courts, I was to complete a long-term treatment program or spend one year (also known as a bullet) plus 90 days in the county jail. And while yes, I successfully completed two programs; neither of the two were considered long-term.
In accordance with the courts, I was to complete 18 months in treatment. Therefore, after my time in my 42-day stay; I was then remanded to The Farm where I would complete the terms of my sentencing.
It was here that I unwillingly learned more about the 12-step program. It was here that I learned about the terms of honesty and how honesty and I had little in common at the time. I was more than just a habitual liar. I was more than just typically manipulative. I was more than commonly ashamed of me and more than simply depressed.
I never took notice of the things in my thought system that weighed me down. I never took notice on the weight of my addiction nor did I look at the weight of my fears, my insecurities, and the weight of my guilt and shame. I was always uncomfortable. I was always socially awkward and I always felt threatened.
Something I had heard in the beginning was perhaps something I had heard a thousand times before; however, when I heard someone tell me, “Were are as sick as our secrets,” something clicked in me.
I had been carrying around the burden of guilt for so many reasons and for so many things. In fact, the list was so long that It would have been hard for me to detail or define them. I was a thief. I was a liar and a cheat. I was manipulative and attempted to be a con artist. But deeper, I also carried the weight of shame. I was ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed of what I looked like. I had secrets in me that no one knew about and if left to my own—no one would have ever known about them.
This was all senseless and useless weight. This was heavy enough to keep me sick and keep me in the same mindset. These were the aspects that kept me in the belief that other people were capable of living a good life—but not me. No, I was not worthy of a better or different life.
I had these secrets in me. I had memories and pictures in my mind of faces. I remember terrible things. And some of these things were enough to keep me awake at night. Some of them ranged from simple resentments and conversations that I held onto and relived during my quiet moments alone. Some were recollections of events that I had endured as a small boy, which I had that left me diseased in a sense.
I had thoughts and beliefs that I was unlovable and unlikable, that my parents only loved and liked me because they were obligated to do so. Therefore, i thought I was nothing more than a disappointment.
It was here on The Farm that I dove deeper into the 12-Step process, which, on an interesting note; only the first step mentions alcohol. Only one step defines drinking and unmanageability. The other steps all refer to a sense of mental stability. The second step talks about restoring us to sanity. But first, one would have to come to the realization that who we were and what we did was insane. This was an easy process for me because put simply, I knew what I was doing was insane. I knew that my thought process was nowhere close to the ideas of sanity; however, I lacked the faith that I could be restored. Perhaps, in orderly fashion, this is why the third step comes into play and instructs upon a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.
I understood God plenty—but I was unsure if He understood me. I was also unsure if I, being of sound mind and body, was able to be redeemed. I had too much weight on me. I had too many hits against me, so to speak. I was too guilty. I had too much shame. I hurt too many people and I stole too many things. But more, it wasn’t what I did as much as it was that I knew where my heart was. I knew where my thoughts were, and yes, if is so that we are what we think; then I was capable of the worst murders.
Next, after the third is the fourth step. This requires a bit of time and honest effort. I was given a workbook to help me along with this process. This book was designed to help me make a thorough, fearless, and searching moral inventory of me and my life. There were questions about my dishonesties. There were questions about my family. There were questions about the way I lived my life and how I acted. There were questions about the way I fed my drug and alcohol usage, which of all, those were the easiest questions to answer. However, as the book went on, there were other questions I had to answer. This was the hard part. And for this step to work I would have to answer honestly, which in fairness, I refused to do (in the beginning)
Nevertheless, after my written admission of guilt, resentments, memories, and sins, I was to follow this up with the fifth step, which meant that I was to admit to myself, to God, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
My first few attempts were not honest attempts. Mainly so, I could not and did not trust this process nor did I want to openly admit to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
Eventually though, the weight became too much. I just couldn’t hold it anymore. I was too tired of always being on high alert. I was tired of carrying the weight of my past. I was even more tired of carrying the weight of my resentments and fears. I was tired of the anxiety machine and tired of the guilt and shame. I was tired of feeling so untrusting of me and everyone else. But still, I needed to be careful who I talked with. I needed to be careful who I admitted my inventory to. I lived in a close-knit community and while yes, we all had our sins; there was still a gossip mill that churned on occasion. But more, I did not want to feel humiliated when I looked at other people. As it was, I could hardly look people in the eye because of my shame.
When I chose to do my fifth step, I chose the best person I could think of. And, since The Farm was a Franciscan house and since there was a Priest on the property; I decided to sit with him and say the words, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” and I read off the exact nature of my wrongs. I relieved myself from the burden of lies. I gave up my secrets. I told about my uncomfortable truths and the unfortunate occurrences of things which were not in my control, but ye, I still somehow felt stained by them. I let go off everything that had been weighing me down and I allowed the good Father to take them from me. I did not want the shame anymore. I did not want the weight of the guilt, fault, and shame system in my head. I gave it all away to let the old me die and celebrate the birth of the person I wanted to become.
I was given a clean slate, which, even after all my resistance and fears was pretty easy to do. The harder part was to keep that slate clean. The harder part was the constant maintenance. The hard part was to allow the things I let go of to stay gone and leave them given up and given away.
After an unfortunate turn of events and after I failed my daily routine of maintenance; I found myself filling my mind with new shades of guilt and committing new sins. I created new problems, which inevitably led me back to where I was before my time in treatment.
When I went out on a 24hr binge, I suppose I thought I would just simply keep this to myself. I figured I could keep it a secret. I just wouldn’t tell anybody.
One day, I took a road trip to The Farm to see my old “Family” friends. The shame was so thick that I couldn’t stand myself. I couldn’t stand to look at any of my old friends. In fact, when I saw one of the owners of the farm who was like Mom to us all; I instantly began to cry. The shame was too much.
Shame is what keeps us sick. Blame, guilt, and the idea that there always has to be someone at fault is a draining thing. In my case, it was nearly a deadly thing. The weight I carried for a long time was too much on my legs and at one point, the contemplation of death seemed easier than the contemplation of taking another step.
It was not until I relinquished myself from the doubt and fear; it was not until I let go of the shame and wholeheartedly admitted to the exact nature of my wrongs that I found some kind of freedom.
Put simply, it wasn’t until I let the old me die that new me was able to be born and come to life.
Sometimes the weight of our body is only heavy because the weight in our mind is too much to handle.
This was my best kind of weight loss