I work as a custodian for a church and while I’m cleaning toilets I get a lot of time to think. I was recently scrubbing those lovely porcelain bowls and I had a thought about Monty Python and one of the hilariously famous skits.
Which one comes to your mind? Maybe this will ring a bell, “it’s just a flesh wound” it’s hilarious. If you’ve never seen it just stop now and click here. Welcome to the club, this skit will NEVER leave your mind, you’ll never be the same and now when people reference this skit you’ll be able to jump in!
It’s just hilarious on its own cuz it’s so dang ridiculous. The “black knight” is getting his butt handed to him and he just keeps on fighting. Even when you think, ok, that’s it he should give up now..he keeps fighting and keeps LOSING. That got me laughing but then I started thinking. The black knight is me or at least I’ve been there before.
Denial is a topic that we talk about in recovery quite a bit. In fact, our personal recovery cannot and will not begin without overcoming denial. That may sound obvious but stay with me here. We must come out of denial and admit there is a problem/issue or we will look very much like that “black knight” in the Monty Python skit.
Step one of the 12 steps of recovery states that “we admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.” For a select few this probably happens with relative ease. For the rest of us this can be a long, slow, painful process in which we finally arrive at a dead end like that “black knight” where we’ve lost everything and we’re still holding on to the thought that we can control this beast of addiction, we’re still trying to fight to no avail.
This process might look different for different folks but it’s often a slow fade that leaves us stating things like, “it’s not so bad, my boss hated me anyways or I don’t have a problem, The DUI was just bad luck…again and again as the consequences keep stacking up we make excuses to stay “in the fight” rather than just choosing the surrender that will start the process of healing. We say things that sound eerily similar to our ill fated knight In the example we’ve used. All our options are cut off and were still ignorantly claiming “I got this”. Trust me NO you don’t.
Another term we share in recovery is hitting our “bottom.” This is a place where you finally have to face the reality of your situation. There are no ways out except UP or jails, institutions and death. You’ve exhausted all resources, you’ve burned all your bridges, you’re life at this point is completely unmanageable.
This cycle has happened to me several times during my life and in my recovery for several issues but the one I can most readily think of is my battle with drugs and alcohol. I started drinking and using at an early age even though I swore I would not end up like my parents. It started out as something I would do for “fun” or temporarily escape my emotions and it worked for a while..until it didn’t.
I was about 25 when I realized it had turned on me. The thing I started using for fun and recreation was now using me. I no longer used for escape but I had to use to feel normal. Like I said this is when it became obvious to me but it retrospect it was a problem way before I realized it. I was at this point in my life saying “it’s just a flesh wound” but I was bleeding uncontrollably.
So, because the consequences began to stack up in my life due to my drug use I thought to myself, “I need some help.” Honestly at this point I didn’t really want to stop using or drinking I just wanted to pain to stop, I wanted people to get off my back about my bad habits. So I went to treatment for the 1st time.
I graduated my 1st treatment program in 28 days and I remember telling the counselors that Yes, in fact cocaine was a problem for me but alcohol was another story. I convinced myself in treatment that I could still “drink like a NORMAL person.” I thought as long as I don’t do cocaine I’ll be fine. So on day 28 I graduated and headed home.(I don’t know who came up with the idea that 28 days is the magic number but I don’t think it’s even close to enough.)
Literally 30 minutes upon leaving treatment I had my girlfriend stop at a convenient store so I could grab a beer. I flash back to our example of the black night, it was me saying “‘‘tis but a scratch.” Upon exiting treatment for the first time I was in complete denial about my disease of addiction.
There’s an account in the Bible that many know as the story of The Rich young ruler. He sounds very much like someone in denial. He comes loaded with excuses and ready to explain to Jesus just that “I’m ok, I have held it together and played by the rules” He is in denial but deep down he knows the truth. He knows he has a problem but is looking for a way around it, I’ve been there too. Jesus says in response to The Rich Young rulers question, you know the commandments but there’s one thing left for you to do. He tells him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor…ouch, Jesus. It wasn’t the money that was really the issue, it was the place the money had in his heart.
The scripture says that he goes away sad because he knows he can’t do it. All of his excuses occupy a place in his heart that he is unwilling to let go of. His denial sounds something like this. “How can he say that to me, I’m a good person, I don’t have a problem” or maybe he says something like “I still go to work everyday, pay my bills, I function just fine, there is no problem.”
My personal denial has run that deep. I remember trying to come up with any excuse I could to maintain something of a “normal drinker.” I tried non-alcoholic beer, I tried just drinking beer, I switched to wine cuz that’s what normal people do, normal responsible people drink wine, “normally.” I tried this approach for years and in several different ways. In the end it always led me back to the same place. I literally could not stop once I started.
I was like that Black Knight in the Monty Python skit who’d had all his limbs cut off and was laying on the ground screaming, “come back here, I’ll bite your legs off.” My denial ran deep. My life continued to be unmanageable but like the rich young ruler, I kept making excuses and looking for an easy way out.
I started to see the solution to my problems by attending 12 step meetings. I went begrudgingly at 1st thinking to myself, “I’m not like these people, I have a college degree.” The more I went and listened the more I realized I was in the same boat as all of the people in the meetings. The stories were varied and somewhat different than mine but the pain and problems seemed to be the same.
These meetings helped me start to come out of my denial. Meeting after meeting I heard stories similar to mine. These people had try to control their drinking, they’d switched drinking to different types of liquor, drinking only on days that ended in Y. I was truly in a setting where I could understand and be understood.
Not only did I start to come out of my denial I also began to seek a solution. I began to dive into WHY I drank and used in the first place. I started to see that all of my effort and excuses stemmed from a spiritual void. I began to see myself and my drinking for what it really was, a temporary fix for a deeper problem.
Many years later I’m still working on this issue. I uncover levels of this denial and work on them one day, one step at a time. The best news is in this process I’ve grown. I’ve ceased fighting everyone and everything. I’m nowhere near where I want to be but I’m no longer the Black Night laying in the road with my arms and legs cut off saying “it’s just a flesh wound.”