Give, And Then Give Again.
Take, take, take. Captive in the cycle of addiction, that is what I did. I took your drugs, alcohol, money, food, shelter, help. I took your trust in me when I lied to you. I took your enablement so that my disease could continue to flourish.
How did that work out for me? Not too well. More importantly, it did not work well for my family, friends, employers, or my community. My need to take caused a lot of harm. I’d like to believe that I am a decent person by nature. It was never my intent to maliciously harm those around me. Today, I understand that it was my addiction that motivated my behavior. The disease of addiction took away all logical, rational decision-making ability and, despite my best wishes, I made bad choices. I did things of which I am not proud. And yet, I am responsible for those things that I did. What I took. To whom I caused harm. That will not change.
What has changed is that I am in recovery from the disease of addiction. And with that comes a significant shift in how I view and interact with the world and the people around me. It has become my goal to be a person that now gives instead of takes. I try to see where I can be of service, who I might help and how I may contribute, rather than consume. In this season of love and giving, it is easy for me to want to participate in this way. It is natural to volunteer, to write a check to an organization that helps, to be friendly to those with whom I interact. It’s what I’m supposed to do this time of year, right? Yes, and, for me, it is a way I need to live all year round. Not just during the holidays. Giving has become the way to express my gratitude for the life I have been given back. A life that I sometimes do not believe that I deserve. When I work to give instead of get, I find that I accomplish numerous things. In giving I have the opportunity to make living amends for the harm that I caused in the selfishness of my addiction. In giving I am able to look at the needs of others less fortunate than I. In giving I can make a difference to those around me and the community in which I live. And in giving, I find that I get back so much more than I ever could imagine if I was still living a life of taking. The love, appreciation, and gratitude I witness is worth so much more than anything of tangible value I might want. And, it is often very difficult. I am inherently conditioned to want, need, obtain. My security, self-interest, preservation, and happiness are all drives that are programmed into my limbic brain. To recognize these motivations and consciously put them aside to help others is not something that comes easily to me. I am still selfish sometimes. I would not be human if I wasn’t. The difference now is that I TRY. Giving takes effort, focus, and sacrifice. It is about progress, not perfection. For me, the reward is in the journey to be a better person – to give when every instinct tells me to take; to help others, often at my own personal expense. And to do it consistently, all year. To have the holiday spirit, even when the holidays have passed.
I am no Mother Theresa. Trust me. Yet I will continue to make the effort to help others. To make the needs of my family, friends, community, and those less fortunate a priority in my life. To give, and then give again. I am very, very fortunate to have a life in which I can attempt to be a different person. Different from the man that took, at the expense of all around me. In doing such, I remain firmly grounded in my recovery. And, it reinforces my attempt to have it always be the holiday season.
Paul L. Scudo is the Executive Director of Step Denver and is in recovery from the disease of addiction.