I heard a funny story recently, about a woman who had a smart little pup that she taught an interesting trick. The lady would put a real dog bone on her sofa and her dog would jump up, “pretend” to furiously dig a hole in the sofa, then “pretend” to bury the actual bone, then feverishly appear to cover up his bone, his back legs moving at warp speed. Dig, bury, cover. Nice recipe for relapse, eh? All the while, the woof’s actual bone sat exactly where it was. Cute. And this has what to do with anything?
Well, maybe nothing, except that my smart little sponsor and I had been talking a lot about holes recently. Particularly, digging holes in my life and recovery. No, not the golfing type of hole, aka “hole-in-one.” The kind of hole that sneaks up on me, or I just flat-out jump right into (or dig quietly, as if posturing to weed my garden), screaming with glee for about .5 seconds, until I realize this was not the clear blue, gleaming waters of a resort pool in Sanibel I have launched myself into, but a massive “life hole” and, doggone it, I am now deep into a smelly, hot mess.
Got me to thinking about holes, wholes, and the holy messes I’ve stepped into… often willingly, sometimes unknowingly, always to my utter disdain. Dang! Did it again. Stepped right into the pit. Sigh. And with a few 24-hours in recovery, I have had a year pecked with holes. Holes in my heart, holes in my soul, wholly insane, holed-up, whole-wheat bread, in the hole (yeah, the big black hole, which is kind of like my purse, only it’s in my head). Whoa, holy batbags, HOLD UP!
A few months back I found myself, my big-girl sober self, in a massive, mostly self-created monster hole, which seemingly encompassed my entire life, which is to say, everything was wrong, bad, against me, painful, pitiful, horrible, hopeless and (cue violin music) DON’T tell me, “This too shall pass” (sniff, slobber, sniff). And for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT tell me, “Be grateful, you’re sober, and/or make a gratitude list,” because if you did that, I might bite your arm right off your shoulder in one whole piece, while simultaneously sobbing so hard that my dog would soon be in treatment for fungus from the overgrowth of mold on his tear-saturated neck. At this perilous point, I finally called my sponsor, and between heaving sobs of sober desperation, she calmly pointed out that I had stepped into (um, dug by hand with my own shovel) a cavernous hole, which could have been avoided if I had been doing a few simple things. Oh, and did I mention that I kinda dug this hole all by myself? WAIL!
Simple things like, oh, say, calling her, getting to meetings, not isolating, asking for help, praying, working with others, and taking care of my sorry self. Then the boom was lowered, and the bone that was in plain view to her, in perfect view, the bone that I “pretended” to bury, suddenly came into my blurry focus, right before the fear set in. Now she’s going to make me DO something about it (cue death metal music). I was then presented with a little list of “suggestions.”
If you think suggestions are for wimps, I stand here to tell you, they are not. I knew that this hole was big enough to take me flying out to the outer edges of a space bar, or dive bar, as seen on TV, and though I didn’t want to drink or use, that’s where my swiss-cheese-ridden brain was going…to the worst hole ever. Doom.
Fortunately for me (and my formerly soggy canine), the “hole guru” sponsor and I began talking about being aware of these holes, and all the forms and shapes they take. Some are little potholes, others are a gully-ish looking dips in the terrain of life in recovery, and yet others are the underwater caves — they look stunning, but what if you run out of air? Holes can present from outside forces, like hurricanes, fires, illness, or death; and some are voids that my shovel and I make happen, or my bulldozer, bought and paid for with my own thinking and my own action or lack of action. Anyone need a bulldozer? Mine is up on eBay, no need for that thing.
So how do I spot the hole and how do I get around it, jump over it? Do I fill it in with dirt? Do I run the other way? Well, the first thing for me was to see the hole. OK, I SEE IT. It’s there, I feel it, I feel “not whole.” It’s a void and I sense it, even if I choose to ignore it, which I do not recommend. That’s the thing, sage sponsor said; you see that dang hole again and now what.
Now what? Am I going to move toward it, thinking I’ll just slither by it, maybe dip my toe in, just to check. AHA! What am I checking, and why? The depth, temperature, or that shiny little piece of glitter right on the edge of the bottomless unknown? Oh, but life is not exciting unless I check THIS out. Hmmm.
Have I checked my motives, or am I checking myself into the arid desert of dry recovery? Or, perhaps a trip to the looney bin? Never thought about that part. No, no, no, she said, I have to do the things I know to do for my recovery, and when I see it and feel it, I must go around it. If I try to jump it, I could fall in. Ouch. If I run away, it will appear again. Egads. But if I take a nice wide berth around it, holding on to my network, my Higher Power, my sponsor and friends in recovery, meetings, I’ll soon notice that not too far from it, there’s a little path that leads me away from that horrid muddy pit.
Bonus: If I practice this hole-spotting gig, I see the pits and valleys faster, and most of the time they are further away. I start feeling and becoming whole again. Amazing.
Yes, it takes effort, and yes, for lazy instant-gratification me, it takes time. I get in what I put in. Holy Canines! It works. I can now look at that bone, and know it is not intended for consumption by sober kids like me. I don’t have to bury it; I just walk way around it, with actual live-person and HP help—and soon enough, I’m a whole enchilada again. Not just bone dry, but wholly engaged in life (wagging more and barking less). A hole-in-one for recovery!