The definition of Integrity from Miriam Webster’s Dictionary is: “The quality of being honest and fair: the state of being complete or whole.” In addiction recovery Integrity often becomes flexible. My disease of addiction pushes and pulls my Integrity in every direction. My Integrity started out as an inflexible moral code. The more I continued to compromise my Integrity the more malleable my value system became. For this reason I went to great lengths for my next fix or drink. A flexible sense of Integrity creates pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. As a result, this principle will always come up in my recovery as well as something that I can trace back to my youth.
Being different from others felt painful in my adolescence. Day to day I sensed a yearning to belong. I wanted to look and think like my friends, we were like carbon copies of one another. I held an entitled outlook and grandiose dreams, which was unanimous among my friends. This dynamic among my peers antagonized us, for it felt easier to hold the same dreams and opinions rather than risk being different. We all engaged in social plagiarism because we had no solid sense of self. I was perpetually faced with the question, who am I? I seldom knew the answer, for I was adapting my sense of self to movies, books, celebrities and people in my community that public opinion had admired. I surrounded myself by the glitz and glamor of the LA life style and looked up to the wrong role models in the media. This proved to be injurious to a young impressionable girl. It took some time for me to realize that: behaving like others purely to fit in – dishonors me, and each time I do this, it’s easier to betray myself the next time.
My self-betrayal is evidenced in my drinking and using. Today, I can say I’m a die-hard alcoholic and a heroin addict and my life had become unmanageable, but I know it did not start there. I continually crossed lines that I said I never would. I went from cigarettes to alcohol to weed to methamphetamines to PCP to hallucinogens, to cocaine to benzodiazepines to heroin. The ways, in which I said I would use drugs, was also crossed. I said I wouldn’t get high in school to taking acid the night before my SAT’s and missing all my classes to get high. I promised myself I would never intravenously use drugs, which I ended up doing. I promised myself I wouldn’t use drugs after kidney and liver damage from an overdose, and I did. I said I wouldn’t spend money on drugs if I didn’t have it, and I ended up being homeless on the streets in Murray Utah, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vallejo. I stole my friend’s sticker book at 5 years old and said I would never steal again. I continually betrayed my Integrity with stealing where I ended up with a grand theft felony, stolen cars and serious financial amends to pay off. I said I wouldn’t hurt the people I loved anymore after my first rehab and went to 24 more sober livings and rehabs. My Integrity was smashed. A majority of the people I tried to emulate earlier on did not end up as addicts or alcoholics. Later on, my friends refrained from betraying themselves where as I stayed in insanity. Among other strong evidence, this fact led me to believe I am bodily and mentally different from my fellows. There is something biologically different within me that trigger a craving after I pick up the first drink or drug.
Integrity plays a strong role with the disease of addiction and my cravings. My problems lie in my selfishness and self-centeredness, therefore, there is a strong urgency for honesty and fairness. Integrity will improve the quality of my program. That being said, I need to bring the principle of Integrity into the three areas of my disease of addiction, which lies in the mind, body and spirit.
Alcoholics and addicts commonly reference the spiritual malady as a “hole.” With my addiction, I formed the habit of filling this hole with material items, rather than filling it with a Power greater than myself. Feeling incomplete required contact with a Higher Power (other wise known as God). My moral compass needs to be recalibrated and God enables this for me. The principle of Integrity engenders a sense of open-mindedness towards God. I had to have an honest relationship with God as well as my peers.
In relationships the people closest to me, praise me for my Integrity rather than judge me for lack of it. They support me being who I am, even if that’s “different.” They don’t expect me to share their opinions unless it actually matches my beliefs. They understand that taking on their truth, rather than my own, would dishonor both sides of the relationship. In recovery, my ego has begun to get a little trickier. My desire to look good/fit in with my peers as a result of taking the 12-steps, can cause me to try and bend my Integrity again. So I have to ask myself am I talking sober and living drunk? Am I living these principles behind closed doors? Being dishonest in this area of my life will make the next opportunity to bend my Integrity a little easier. This can push me closer to committing the ultimate act of insanity, which for any alcoholic and addict would be to pick up another drink or drug.
If I firmly plant my Integrity, I don’t feel the need to re-sculpt my image or imagine myself as someone else. When I look at myself honestly in the mirror, I can see my imperfections that make me who I am. It is so important that I begin to see an honest picture of myself. I truly believe seeing my honest reflection and accepting it, brings me one step closer to maturity and wisdom.