Blind Spots and Repeating the Pain of our Past
Have you ever been driving your car at high speed down the highway and thought that there were no cars around you, so you begin merging over to the left lane, only to discover that you have narrowly missed hitting a car that was hidden from your view in your blind spot?
In life, it is my own blind spots that have kept me from seeing the truth about myself and how my life was out of control and dominated by the disease of addiction. During my nine months of chemical dependency treatment at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota, my counselor would often say to me, “Bob, listen closely to what I am saying, you have a blind spot and you are not seeing how the disease of addiction has been killing you.” One day, I was able to step back outside of myself and observe my own behavior. Finally, I saw what my counselor was talking about, and it was a breakthrough in my recovery. That was 18 years ago, but I still have dangerous blind spots, many of which arise out of my selfishness and pride.
I recently was horrified that even after 18 years of sobriety, the ghosts of my past still haunt me, my past can come to live in my present. Here is a current example. I was taking a leadership and personal development seminar with 76 other people. All of us have automatic reactions to certain situations. My primary automatic reaction is that when I feel threatened or disrespected or mocked by a person, I explode into an exaggerated level of aggression, and I verbally shred that person as part of my defense mechanism and my survival mode. So the teacher said something that caused me to feel threatened and insulted and in two seconds, I went from being content and calm, to a full-blown Werewolf. In three aggressive sentences, I communicated my message to her, which was “Back-off and Leave Me Alone!”
I was experiencing a major blind spot and the pull of my past. When I was homeless and living on the streets, this response to being threatened or insulted was one way that I survived. I had no idea that I was going to react that way—it was automatic and lightning fast. I learned that I was using my past of addiction and homelessness, and all the rage and anger that I had survived through, as ammunition against anyone who threatened or disrespected me in my present. I was using my past as a weapon. I stayed for the rest of the seminar and I was able to open my mind to why I reacted the way that I did. I was able to work with the teacher to identify my blind spots, and I got a lot out of the class. I learned that I was still living in and being controlled by my past.
I had not completely released and said goodbye to my past, and it was negatively affecting my present relationships. I had a liberating experience in that seminar and I finally began to understand that I was living in a prison of my past, wondering why I felt so angry and depressed. My past was preventing me from being free in my present. Our past is bound to repeat itself unless we say goodbye to it, release it from us, and then start our new life of freedom.
I also learned a fascinating fact. Not only can our past dominate our present, our past can also live in our future. Here is an example: Let’s say that six months ago you purchased airplane tickets to Hawaii. Every day after you got the tickets, you think about how great the trip will be, how beautiful the weather is going to be and you dream about the beautiful Hawaiian mountains and the spectacular ocean. As the time to fly to Hawaii gets closer, you are super excited and smiling at everyone at work and telling stories with your family members about the trip. You are happy and excited, almost like you were already in Hawaii. You bought the tickets six months ago in the past, but you are living in the future as if you were already in Hawaii. Your future is being experienced by you in your present. One more thought: In our present, we create our future. We are not victims or slaves to our future. We create our future while we are in our present. The lives we have today, we have deliberately created.
I have been able to say goodbye to most of my past. All that remains are the few secrets that I have been too ashamed to reveal. They say that you are only as sick as your secrets—so I have a little farther to go before I am completely free. The disease of addiction came close to taking my life five times. I am very grateful to God for saving my life and giving me a new life. I want to use the talents that He gave me to encourage and empower others to get free.
How do we talk to God? Quiet time and prayer are very good, but an additional way to communicate with God is to empower others. If I help ten people to get sober and empower them to recover and then those ten people each help ten other people to recover, then we have 100 people who have been empowered and if each of them empower ten more people, then we have 1000 people who now have freedom from addiction. And it keeps on going forward like ripples in the water created by the stone that you throw. We create the future and we can change people’s lives!