Sammy had a hard time looking in the mirror. A real hard time. Because every time he did risk a look he could see right through himself. Not just what he’d become, mind you. But all that he’d done to become what he’d become.
And Sammy had done much; very little of it good. He lied. He cheated. He stole. Usually all three at once, from the same people, over and over, again and again. All to feed his addiction. And when those people had had enough he’d move on to the next person, and the next, and the next.
Sammy’s family suffered the brunt of it, of course. As did his friends. What few he had left anyway. See, Sammy went through friends like a shark moves through a school of tuna, and the ones that didn’t wanna get eaten simply scattered. And fast.
That’s what Sammy saw every time he stepped in front of a mirror -- the lying, the cheating, the stealing, and, mostly, the scattering. It made him ashamed of himself. Shame is a tough thing for anyone to carry around; to see it etched into one’s own face everyday, well, that’s double-plus tough.
By the time Sammy had made it to Recovery Boot Camp he’d punched so many mirrors his knuckles had scars on ‘em. That didn’t go unnoticed.
“What happened to your fists, buddy?”
“Oh, it’s nothing; I used to box is all.”
“Never knew boxing to cut into your hands like that, man.”
“Bare-knuckle boxing does.”
“Maybe, if all you hit is teeth.”
Sammy laughed. So the fellas laughed with him. But he knew they knew better; they knew he knew too. They also knew it’s better to prompt than to push. And to show some camaraderie.
Back in the courtyard three days later, Sammy started the conversation with one of his new RBC friends.
“Hey, uh. I’ve gotta tell ya. Those scars on my knuckles aren’t from boxing.”
“What are they from then?”
“Smashing my fists into mirrors.”
“Why’d you smash your fists into mirrors?”
“Because I was ashamed of what I’ve done.”
“What did you do?”
“Lied. Cheated. Stole. From everyone.”
“So you feel guilty?”
“No, that only. Shame is about who we are. Guilt is about what we’ve done.”
“But I feel both.”
“We all do at the beginning of recovery,” said Sammy’s new friend. “But once we start accepting responsibility for what we’ve done, that shame goes away. Trust me. And trust the program.”
One month later Sammy sat down smiling next to the same fellow RBC client.
“What’s got you smiling, friend?”
“Just made a couple amends,” said Sammy. “Admitted I was wrong and asked what I might do to make it right.”
“Everyone was super cool.Truly... You know what the best part was though?”
“Well, after we’d spoken I looked in the mirror and didn’t wanna smash it.”
Sammy smiled again. So did his new friend. And together the two just sat there, in silence, appreciating the miracle of no longer being ashamed.