Some of my most life-changing realizations have come while watching movies. For instance, in 1986, I went to see the movie 16 Days of Glory. After years of angst over "what I wanted to be" when I grew up, feeling that writing-- or any other art that didn't directly serve the greater good the way being a teacher or a nurse would--was an unworthy vocation, that movie about the athletes in the 1984 Olympics helped me understand: We are each born with certain talents and passions, and our real job is to practice those things, aim for perfection in those things that make us most fully ourselves, and to do it all with love and gratitude.
A few years later, when Sadie was about three and The Wizard of Oz on VHS was her reason for waking up in the morning, I learned from the Scarecrow the truth about the soul: "First they took my legs off and they threw them over there! Then they took my chest out and they threw it over there..." It occurred to me that if the flying monkeys kept taking parts away, the scarecrow would still be the scarecrow.
There have been other moments, but the most recent happened last night while I was at the Y, on the elliptical machine, watching Kill Bill 2. But let me back up a bit. For the past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about addiction--how we beat it, what kind of miracle has to take place to free us. A friend was quizzing me about my own addiction history--binge eating, alcohol--and how I managed to stop, how I was able to finally give up sweets and liquor. This friend struggles with food some herself, like so many people do, and I wished I could give her the answer--explain it to her. I told her about how many times, and for how many years, I had tried to stop unsuccessfully, and how one day, it was as though someone flipped a switch. God maybe. The moment came when I was done.
I posted that 'quote of note' (upper left corner) last week because it seemed to illustrate that moment of being done--that moment when it was no longer about WILL POWER but, rather, a deep, unwavering desire to change, a complete giving up of the old way.
So, as I said, yesterday I was striding to nowhere, watching Beatrix fight Pai Mei, and I found the answer. If you go along with (and I do) the idea that we use the substances or activities we're addicted to in order to satisfy our god-hunger, or our need for unconditional love, and if you believe the old saying (as I do) that 'you can never get enough of what you don't need,' it makes sense that alcohol or drugs (or shopping or gambling...) are never going to take the place of god or love. We use up our energy and waste years of our lives trying to satisfy that hunger through our addictions until the addictions have all the power. We actually make them god--or our divine. They are stronger than we are, but we still maintain an illusion that we have control. We fight and fight. Eventually, they deal us a near-fatal blow and we hit bottom. We realize we are powerless.
For me, this scene (between 4:25 and 7:25 in this particular Youtube clip) shows clearly what hitting bottom is like: