I am going to the dentist tomorrow in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and I feel terrified.

Last week I left a message for the dentist to call me so I could explain to him why, which was really me trying to get him to explain to me why I needed to come in for an appointment. I was obviously uncomfortable with my decision, and I was feeling it.

This whole time in quarantine I’ve felt comfortable. I’ve felt comfortable inside my apartment with my recovery meetings online and on the phone. I’ve felt comfortable engaging in my multiple projects and tasks safely tucked away from all the chaos and confusion of this new disease. I’ve felt comfortable protecting myself from all the harms of the outside world.

This is in direct conflict with the way I behaved in my addiction.

When I was acting out (using one of my addictive substances or behaviors) I thought what I was doing was comfortable. But in actuality I was doing something that I knew. There is a difference between doing something because it’s comfortable and doing something because it’s familiar. I always thought they were one and the same.

But in that “comfort” of what I think I knew, I was being eaten from the inside out.

What was really happening was that I was dying. I was literally becoming a casualty of my own comfort. (<—Ohhh I know, but I just couldn’t help it.)

Right now I am in the middle of working Step Nine in one of my 12-step programs. This is where we go out and make amends for harms done. There is a whole ‘nother discussion about amends having nothing to do with apologies, but I’ll save that one for later. The point is, there is nothing comfortable about amends. I could easily saddle up to the Sisters Denial and Delusion instead.

(For my lineage of somewhat questionable qualities, i.e., the Cousins Motivation and Commitment and the Brothers Compare and Despair, see the previous posts The (UN)Accreditation of Accomplishment and The Anger Apothecary.)

It is SO HARD to know if what I’m doing is because I want to stay safe and reasonable (i.e., limit my outings during coronavirus) or if it is because I’ve become comfortable hiding from the world and my responsibilities (i.e., a sore tooth, or for the purpose of Step Nine, a deceitful action). And this is why I don’t do this alone. I talk with my sponsor and make many outreach calls before proceeding. Oh yes and the biggest call for me comes in prayer and meditation. I am “calling” on my Higher Power for help.

The truth is these periods of discomfort are not life threatening. Even going to the dentist as he is completely suited up and doing everything he can to limit exposure. I mean really, it goes both ways. I am literally spraying saliva in his direction while he and his assistants hover over my mouth. We are all doing everything we can to be aligned in playing this out.

I once heard a speaker talk about moments of discomfort compared to the days, weeks, and months of betrayal and rumination when she behaved out of alignment with herself. I believe on some level this is why I’m so willing to do this work: to get back to my right relationship with myself and thereby others.

Today I will complete one of these amends, and tomorrow I will go to the dentist. I can’t be sure what will happen the next day after, or even the day after that. I have my calendar planned out for the year, but those are my human-made plans. What is really important is I showed up, stretched my spiritual growth, felt discomfort, and did the best that I could.

I might become a casualty at the hands of something beyond my control, but through this commitment to recovery work I am doing everything I can so it will not be of my own doing. And this is perhaps the first time I have ever said that and felt good about it.

This is the first time I have meant it . . . and believe.

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
—T.S. Elliot