A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Still off the Canvas – Beating Addiction

Bill Farrelly

by Bill Farrelly

LAST YEAR, I wrote  candidly of an addiction that has plagued me for much of my life and, as a postcript, I mentioned that I had joined a 12-step program to try, finally, to get the monkey off my back. What I want to share with you, and what I hope may be of help to some, is that although I will go to my grave an addict – there is no cure for a true addiction – I have now enjoyed more than 14 months of freedom. As a result, my life is the best it has ever been.

With one reservation. As many readers may know, I have confessed that the addiction cost me my marriage because of the hurt and suffering I caused my wife. Thank God, she had the courage to leave me. Please God, that marriage may one day be revived. In the meantime and because of the peace I have found since beginning the 12-step program, I embrace – though often reluctantly – the loneliness, the shame, the pain of separation. I hope it will end but it is infinitely better than feeding my addiction and the terrible hurt it caused.

In my previous musing on this subject I wrote of the countless efforts I had made to rid myself of the chains that bound me. I could not understand why, when I constantly prayed and begged for God’s help, I could not succeed. I also mentioned that, after my wife left me four years ago I pledged to myself that I would succeed and for 13 months I did succeed.

And yet, I fell again. After a brief period of self-pity I got off the canvas and started again. Over the next 20 months I struggled to stay upright. There were many times I failed. Sometimes I succeed for several months, others for just days.

On March 23 of last year I was feeling confident. Although it was only a couple of weeks since my last “fall” I felt particularly strong and firm in my resolution to succeed. But, as every addict can attest, that is the great fantasy.

Then something happened. Something that I now believe to have been a truly spiritual experience. As I took courage and warmth from that feeling of confidence on March 23, 2011, a very distinct voice within me said: “You know you will fail again.”

Finally, finally it dawned on me. This was not the voice of pessimism. This was Truth, with a capital T. More correctly, perhaps, it was truth with a capital G. God.

I listened to the voice. I knew it was right. I got onto the internet and found a support group. I rang the number and got an address. There was a meeting the following evening. I went to that meeting and I have been to almost every meeting since. Like all addicts, I told my story  at that first meeting. They had heard it all before, of course, because they had been there – were still there in many cases. I told them that I could not understand why I had not been able succeed on my own when I constantly prayed and went to Mass.

What I had finally realised was that I had to be accountable and it has been this accountability that has helped to keep me off the canvas ever since that first meeting on March 24 last year.

Curtis Stevens climbing off the canvas to score a knockout

Curtis Stevens climbing off the canvas to score a knockout
ESPN Boxing

I say “helped” because, several months into the programme, I had another very important realisation. The reason I was having success and continue now, thank God, to have success, was that I was willing to surrender more than my addiction.

It is not enough to give up a destructive behaviour itself. I must also give up the underlying and contributing factors: the resentment, the envy, the anger, the judgementalness, the self-pity and the one that really surprised me because I had never considered it my nemesis – the pride.

Some of these I still struggle with – especially resentment – but I surrender that, along with my addiction, and I move on. The addiction itself still seeks to snare me and I have had some close calls. There have been times when I longed to feed it. By God’s grace, I did not.

I believe the 12-step program would benefit every human being. You don’t have to be an  addict – although hundreds of millions of us are (often without realising it) – to gain enormous benefits and peace from the programme. I will talk another day of how it works.

In the meantime, I have only just begun and I know the journey will never end. I know that I can fall at any time. I thank God every day for what He has given me. I pray every day that I will keep it. I reach out to share what I have found with others.

I am truly blessed.


Tagged as: , ,

Comments are closed.