Monday, January 14, 2008

Be the Butterfly

It is folly to die for fear of dying ~
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (the elder)

At first glance, this quote may seem confusing. Is it literal, or metaphorical? When we apply it to our addiction, both meanings are true. When we are drinking, (which Seneca described as "voluntary insanity"), we often do so out of fear of our everyday life and the requirements it places upon us. In this way, we allow the best parts of ourselves to wither. Not to die completely, but to be cut back like a rose bush and then covered to prevent the sun from allowing us to grow again.

From this perspective, our drinking is voluntary insanity. We may be addicted, but we make the choice to continue to feed that addiction when we continue to drink. We voluntarily abandon our responsibilities, as well as our rights, in order to protect ourselves from pain or failure. We don’t recognize that our “protection” is merely another vessel for what we are so afraid of.

In the literal, drinking will lead to death. If we choose to continue along that path, we allow ourselves to be killed by the one thing that we think is saving us. When we are actively drinking, we can't see the folly, the paradox, of what we're doing to ourselves. We are so afraid of dying, whether literally or in some personal sense (such as failing at a relationship) that we allow ourselves to poison our bodies and bring on our own literal demise.

This is indeed folly: to kill ourselves out of fear of failing is the extreme in avoidance. In the most literal sense we are afraid of our own death. We use alcohol to mask that fear, not allowing ourselves to realize that we're merely hastening the inevitable. We're going to die. We're going to fail sometimes and we're not going to be perfect. Those are the facts. Why compound that certainty by allowing it to control our thoughts and actions?

It is part of the cure to wish to be cured. When we take that step, admit the folly of what we're doing, and determine deep within to ourselves that we do not wish to and will not die at our own hand, we begin to heal ourselves.

We see things often for the first time without the haze of our alcohol induced cocoon, and with the wonder of an infant becoming aware of her world. At first we crawl, reaching that moment when we can say we are ready to start over. Then we begin to walk, often hesitant, tiny steps - sometimes falling but having the courage to stand up and walk again - and find as we practice that our steps become surer, more powerful.
As Seneca also says, "begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life." The past is gone forever. In admitting our addiction, we take charge of our lives and refuse to allow the negative thoughts that once held us captive to alcohol. We learn to be at peace with the world and ourselves, changing what we can and accepting what we can't.

Finally, I will paraphrase another of Seneca's quotes...
The most powerful is she who has herself in her own power.
copyright © 2007 by M. Broughton Boone.

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