Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Running Into The Fire

I’ve watched a lot of 9/11 coverage today. I’ve seen countless stories about brave firefighters who survived the war of that day and so many more to follow. When their efforts were recognized as heroic, to a person the response was that the real heroes were those who perished. These firefighters were unrelenting in their belief they were just doing their job and if under the same circumstances, anyone would have done what they did.

I don’t agree with that. I don’t think just anyone would do what they did.

I think those who keep running into a proverbial fire while others are running out have amazing courage. They find the strength to fight regardless of how tempting the urge might be to quit. With full knowledge of what they are up against, they continue to face the very thing others are shielding themselves from.

I liken this to those who say “I need help” and somehow manage to find their way to the rooms of recovery. In that somewhat desperate state, many have said, “I can do this. I know I can. Just show me how.” Well, the truth of the matter is, yes, anyone can, but not everyone will.

I lived for well over thirty years running from the fires of life rather than stand still and fight. I ran away to the scale and/or a glass of wine. These short-term solutions allowed me to ignore feeling emotions I couldn’t handle or avoid the situations I didn’t want to face. Yet no matter how hard I worked to remain numb, the things I defiantly tried to resist would still be there.

And then one day I stopped running from what I was so afraid of. I took a deep breath, turned around and started walking back into my personal fire. I began to examine my history and uncovered the very essence for why I challenged that life. What I found was what I needed in order to survive.

Since then there have been many moments when I’ve had to face extreme adversity. Moments I assure you I wanted to run away. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had many people say how they would completely understand if I had a glass of wine.  To them the circumstances required that level of numbness.  When I adamantly refused the mere idea, they commended me for being so brave.  I could not disagree more. There is nothing brave about simply doing what’s necessary to stay alive.

Further, to be perfectly honest, there are times when unhealthy thoughts do pop into my mind but I’ve come to learn I’m not responsible for my first thought yet am responsible for my first action.

My first action during those moments of adversity, those moments I felt on fire, was to run into them, not away from them. I had to deal with them as hard as I could. Today, this is what I do because that’s all I know how to do.

So I understand why those 9/11 firefighters believe anyone would do what they did because that’s what they know. That’s what they do.

Every single person who chooses life in recovery over picking up a drink of alcohol, restricting/purging/bingeing their food, gambling away their paycheck or shooting heroin, has courage. Not everyone who asks for help is willing to do the opposite of what felt so right for so long.

No matter how much time has gathered since my last drink of alcohol or engagement with eating disorder behaviors I will always have a choice. I can either stay on course in recovery or return to the temporary comfort I found in addiction.

Like the 9/11 firefighters, I take commitment very seriously. I will do all I can to honor my life and the lives of those who love me. When called to do so, I will run back to fight the fire of fear, come out for some air and then run back in if necessary. In the end, while I may be a bit tired and banged up, I’ll know I’ve put out those flames of fear so I can live in peace.


What fire are you facing today? Are you willing to keep running back in or are the flames of fear holding you back? Share your thoughts by replying with a comment or two.


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2 thoughts on “Running Into The Fire

  1. Leanne frm Fl on said:

    I completely relate to the running. I don’t ever want to face feeling large, sluggish, like I’m trapped in my body. I have gone to any lenghts to avoid these childhood feelings. I seem to forget I have tools today to deal with these. I also slowly am seeing what it means to let go of such extreem self focus. I’ve heard it said some people can become too selfish to recover. That’s the core of the desease for me. Selfishness generated by fear.
    Today I embrace scarey feelings and DO feel grateful to be feeling, rather than numb. Have a way to go with this, but I want to be alive.

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