“When I am in my head I’m behind enemy lines” I have heard that saying in AA rooms for years and always hated it.
Coming to AA from ACOA where I had to fight hard to learn to not criticize myself it sometimes seemed that there was an undercurrent of self-hatred in AA. That saying about my mind as the enemy epitomized that hatred. After all my mind is part of me and if I hate parts of me I’m hating myself.
I do know what people mean when they say that, and I have had experiences that let me know what Bob Earl, my favorite AA podium speaker, means when he says,—“My mind thinks it can kill me and go on without me.”
Last Friday for example, I was getting ready to go away for the weekend. I was leaving for a spiritual retreat. I planned to take the day off and give myself the whole weekend. So as I was preparing to leave the house I noticed the message light on the answer machine. I listened to the message—big mistake. And it was the office saying a big client called and wanted me to call him right away. Ugh. I know this guy and he’s the type to say “I need to see you right away”. I decided that I would simply not acknowledge that I got the message and I left on the trip. For a split second I thought, “Score one for recovery and self care”. And then I watched, and it felt as if I could actually see this happening, my mind began to attack me. The image I had was an octopus because of the way it went after so many parts of my identity and psyche all at once. First: “You are a very bad business woman, really good businesswomen always return client calls, and really good ones cancel trips to please clients.” I knew that was nutty, but then another tentacle struck, “and you are also a bad friend” Where did that come from? Before I could answer my octopus mind continued, “And people don’t like you; you are a fake, your spiritual life is a fraud; you are not smart; you are kidding yourself about your art work and writing; people probably don’t even want to know you.”
This took a matter of minutes and the mind tentacles attacked every part of me. The Octopus shot its poisonous black ink into every part of my life. While I watched!
Now, you may be wondering—I was too—How is this testimony to 20-plus years of recovery, counseling, spiritual direction, acupuncture, and even dance therapy?
This was not exactly an “If you want what I have” recovery moment. EXCEPT that—and here is the recovery nugget: I watched the whole thing. Some part of me had become conscious enough to actually see this game play out. I know this has happened over and over al my life, but this time I watched the tentacles grasp and sting and shoot and foul all the best of me. And because I could see it happening I began to act. I prayed, I wrote in my journal. I talked back to my mind and said, “Whoa”. No, it did not shift into Louise Hay sugar –sweet affirmations, but still I took back a tiny piece of the power. I did not become Happy Recovery Girl, but I began to put a foot on the ground and drag it against the momentum of the octopus mind and slow its progress. And then, and most important I got on the phone and called a friend and told her answering machine what I was watching my head do to me, and I made this commitment to her machine: I will not eat junk, shop like crazy or use any other addiction to fix this extremely uncomfortable feeling.
And then I got off the phone, erased the message from the office—without listening to it again—I mean I can learn! And I left for the retreat.
And that’s when I remembered that AA saying; When I am in my head I am behind enemy lines.