One immutable law of sailing is that you can’t sail directly into the wind. Taking the wind head-on causes the sails to luff and lose power. In heavy winds, this luffing is often violent as the sails and lines flap chaotically in the oncoming headwind moving straight onto the boat’s bow. In essence, the ship is shackled or imprisoned in this no-go zone. However, with a few strategic moves, the skipper and crew can fall off just enough for the boat to angle to the wind where the sails can fill, create lift, and resume course.
Being in irons is much like being held captive, imprisoned by our addiction. The addict’s or alcoholic’s version of in irons is denial. Put simply, you’re stuck battling a headwind, unable or unwilling to make a slight adjustment to put you back on course. Staying in denial means staying in irons. When you feel off course, stuck, or in irons, you can always gain balance using a few simple strategies for course correction. At Crossings, we refer to these strategies as willingness, spirituality, and a little guidance from the skipper and crew. Once a sailboat is freed from being in irons, the serenity, peace, and calmness quickly resume by simply moving the tiller in one direction. The violent, chaotic aimless flapping of the sails and lines calm as the wind fills the sails and the boat resumes course at a different point of sail.
Denial requires a course correction. When I found myself in the full force gale winds of addiction, my denial, refusing to admit the truth or reality of my addiction, kept me imprisoned and stuck on a never-changing course of abuse. Without action on behalf of my crew and a loving and caring family, I would have stayed in irons. Truth be told, I knew I had a problem. Most of us do. Life had become unmanageable. I was buffeted by the stressors of everyday life. You likely know them as well. Worry, anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of control at work, family pressures, and financial pressures all add to the woe is me victim mentality, the excuse I used to self-medicate. Some of these symptoms I inherited through the DNA passed to me, and some result from early childhood and adolescent environmental conditioning. At least, that’s what I learned in grad school. None a worthy excuse. The more I drank, the more I thought everyone else had the problem. “Just leave me alone; I’m not hurting anyone,” was the excuse; I continued to tell myself as I isolated and sailed further into the ocean of despair. The lasting effects of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications long dissipated. Hence the need to add the alcohol. The more I remained in denial, the more damage I did to myself and everyone around me. They were just as stuck in irons as I was.
This may sound harsh, but it is the truth. A truth that still hurts me to think about even after years of sobriety. Only now can I live with the acceptance that I was willing to change course by first being willing to take action. When I sit in the rooms of AA and hear the stories, I realize many of us are one and the same. Denial dislikes interruption. It’s a dreadful demon that doesn’t like to let go or give up. However, denial has a weakness. It crumbles under the pressure of willingness to change. Denial has no power over a clear mind or a conscious decision. Denial has no power when you fall off and let the winds of change alter your course. Maybe you feel a little off course, stuck, or paralyzed in your current state. Perhaps it’s the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Maybe it’s depression, anxiety, or a combination of all three or four. Trust me, I’ve sailed that course. I plead that this course can be altered and a new one charted to peace, calm, and serenity. It starts with a willingness to change.
If you’re unsure how to navigate what’s next, let’s have a confidential conversation. There’s no shame in addiction. It wasn’t likely an intentional choice you made either. Crossings Recovery was founded to remove the stigma of addiction, help the willing, and be a resource to connect you, your family member, loved one, or a friend to chart new courses in recovery.
Press ever onward!
Roy Page, MA, Founder & CEO
Crossings Addiction Recovery is a 501(c)3 non-profit, residential recovery program that uses the art of sailing in combination with evidence-based spiritual, 12-step, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Solutions Focused Therapy to help clients reclaim their lives, relationships, respect, and the reason for waking up each day.