I used to have a friend who played the 12-string guitar. He’d built it himself when he worked for Gibson and it was a fine instrument, but like all 12-strings it was a bear to keep tuned. Dick was a folksinger. He’d sit on his little chair in front of the mike, plonking on his git-fiddle and making little adjustments, and for the benefit of the audience he’d mutter, “I’m going to get this thing tuned and have it welded!” We all thought that was hilarious (folksingers are easy to amuse). It wasn’t until much, much later, when I was a couple of years into recovery, that I realized how well that phrase describes the way us alcoholics and other addicts think.
It’s been my observation (correct me if I’m wrong, here) that addicts will do just about anything to avoid change. Oh, we give it all kinds of lip service. We tell all sorts of tales, to ourselves and others, about all the things we’re going to do, the places we’ll go, the novels we’ll write, the fame and fortune that the gods will shower upon us. But really, even when we make changes we don’t change. We may travel to another part of the country — even to other countries. We may change jobs, spouses, cars, drinking establishments, dealers, drinking and drugging buddies. We may decide to “further our education,” and may in fact do so with some success. We may take up religion. We may diet, exercise and otherwise attempt to improve our lives — but deep down, where it counts, we don’t change.
That’s because change is an inside job. It doesn’t make any difference what I change on the outside if I’m the same stubborn, denying, my-way-or-the-highway addict on the inside — and we are all that way. We get our internal life as comfortable as we can, and then we try to have it welded. We don’t examine the possibility that we might be wrong about much of anything, because doing so might open up that chink in our armor that would force us to look at the fact that, despite our best efforts (and they are our best efforts), our lives are rapidly swirling around the porcelain bowl, and about to take a little trip.
Alcoholics and other addicts — and that includes compulsive gamblers, shoppers, eaters, lovers and other dysfunctional lifestyles — spin great webs of denial, because the last thing we want to consider is change. Change would mean admitting that something isn’t right, and we have an uncanny ability to convince ourselves that we’re doing what’s best, even when all evidence points decisively in the other direction. We dare not open that chink that could let in the doubt. To do so might mean that we’d have to really change.
Even after we get into recovery, we resist change. We resist what we hear in rehab, in AA, NA or whatever support group we may embrace (if that’s the word). We know, deep down, that we have no idea what we’re doing, but that addict bravado makes it hard for us to give in and follow the suggestions of others. “Well, AA may be OK for them, but it’s ‘not right’ for me.” “Well, I can see where some people could get into trouble if they have a relationship early on, but this is true love.” “Those people don’t understand me; I’m (more intelligent, better educated, more sensitive, more rational, cooler, more”…whatever. And why? Because we don’t know how to do it, and we’ve spent much of our lives trying to keep other people from finding that out. We have it welded because we don’t know how to tune our lives in a different key. We don’t know how to change, so we convince ourselves that we don’t need to. And every day, some of us die because of our own rigidity. When the stuff hits the fan, we go back to dealing with our difficulties in the same old ways, because we haven’t learned how to react to life’s rough spots in a healthy way. Because we fear change.
And that’s a shame, because change is the only certain thing in life. There’s no way to have it welded.
Think about it.