I know it must seem strange to draw a fly trapped inside a window screen. However, I know of no other way to tell you about my escape to freedom, unless you yourself have already experienced it for yourself. Let’s forget about the fly for a moment and come back to it later.
I hope you have never lost a loved one to addiction. But I am willing to wager that you have. Whether a father, sister, cousin, pastor, actor, teacher, lover, or spouse, I bet they were someone very unique. Alcoholics and addicts are like that. The last of the genuine “real characters”.
Maybe you knew someone who had a problem for a long time. Good old Uncle Charlie. Or that wonderful teacher. Or your parent. Or worse, your child. I bet you started to say something to them a thousand times, but when the moment came, you lost your nerve. Or maybe you started delivering your planned talk, but as the words reached your lips, they suddenly didn’t make a damn bit of sense. Maybe you found yourself apologizing to them for bringing it up. Maybe you gave up, feeling like a miserable failure. I know I did.
Don’t feel bad. I have read that the vast majority of alcoholics and addicts die without even realizing they have a problem. Plenty of people warn them, but the truth never gets through. They just keep on going and going until they reach the End. People who do make it into AA and other Twelve Step meetings are a small, small minority compared to those who go to the bitter end believing they have no problem.
How could they not see it? I do no know, even though I have been one of them. I too was trapped but insisted I was totally free. It didn’t bother me one bit to be dying in that way. Every time I crashed into reality, I thought surely that reality was wrong. Every time I banged into someone, I thought they should have stayed out of my way. My life was full of emotional collisions. Crash. Boom. Bang. But I never could figure out why.
I was like a fly. Trapped inside a window screen. I could see the whole wide world right in front of me and energetically flew straight at it. But I kept crashing into something. It was something my mind could not comprehend. I was doing everything right….according to every instinct I had. So I ignored it and tried again. Crash. Boom. Bang.
Few of us realize that whatever this incomprehensible thing we are trapped by will never yield. We can fight against it, but we will not win by doing that. And so slowly or quickly, we die. By the dozen, the hundred, the thousand, the millions. (Did you notice the dead flies littering the bottom of the drawing?)
Dying for what? Because we continue to believe we are free when we are trapped. Our false belief drives us again and again to try what doesn’t work. Addiction—like that simple wire window screen—will not yield to our most brilliant and energetic efforts. Many of us die in the bottom of that window, eyes filled with visions of freedom just outside our reach.
Why do some reach freedom when so many others don’t? The 1930s Webster’s dictionary says freedom is “Not being subject to an arbitrary external power.” The window screen is an arbitrary external power. The fly didn’t create it any more than addicts create addiction. But the screen does not care whether it keeps flies out—which is its intended purpose—or traps them inside. Like addiction, the inanimate screen doesn’t care about anything.
My Twelve Step work involved abandoning the arbitrary power of addiction. Instead, I placed my trust in the loving power of a Higher Power. It took a while, but I finally found that one escape from an enormous and baffling window screen. That Higher Power was not arbitrary. It wanted me to be out of trouble. It cared whether I lived or died. My Higher Power wanted me to be free. Today, that Promise has come true for me.