Psalm 73:22 – "When my heart was grieved, and my spirit embittered, I was a brute beast before you."James 1:22-23 – "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."One of the most important, yet misunderstood, aspects of Chemical Recovery is the journal. For an addict, the journal is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things he or she could ever do for themselves, and for God. Most Chemical Recovery leaders have had the person come in to the meeting, and after hearing everything laid out asks, "why do I need to do a journal? I left all of that stuff behind."
It is a difficult question to answer, but it deserves one nonetheless. My answer to them is, the goal of the journal is to make you "self-aware." The inevitable follow-up question is, "what does that mean?" Jesus often taught with parables because they helped illustrate a spiritual concept that may be hard for someone to grasp, and thereby make it more understandable. To help them understand the concept of self-awareness, I tell them the parable of the Dumb Dog.
In the animal kingdom, there are only a small number of animals that are self-aware. This means that they have a sense of individuality. To test this, scientists will place a small amount of paint on the forehead of a chimpanzee while it is asleep. When he awakens and is introduced to the other chimps, they all look at the spot on the forehead and touch it, because they notice something different. When that chimp is placed in front of a mirror, it does not reach out to touch the spot on the chimp in the mirror, it touches its own forehead. It realizes that when it looks in a mirror, it is looking at itself rather than another chimpanzee. It thinks in terms of "I have something on my forehead," as opposed to, "that chimp there has something on its forehead."
The only other animals, aside from primates, that are self-aware are some elephants, and dolphins. Dolphins, when introduced to a mirror will pose in front of it, and scientists believe, make what they perceive to be "funny faces" in the mirror.
Dogs, on the other hand, are NOT self-aware. My daughter has a dog named "Hershey." One night, I was on my bed reading. Hershey was on the bed with me. I noticed that Hershey kept looking into the master bathroom and would occasionally growl. He suddenly got up, barked and ran into the bathroom. He then came out of the bathroom, looked back in, barked, and ran back in. He did this several times until I got a little irritated with his constant barking and jumping. I finally figured out that he was seeing himself in the mirror of the master bathroom and thought another dog was in there. From Hershey’s position, there was a very serious problem! There was a dog in the bathroom and it needed to be chased out! From where I was sitting, it was hilarious because this dog was NOT SELF-AWARE.
When we are raging in our addiction, we lose touch with our personal awareness. Things that are vitally important seem not important at all, and things that are unimportant become extremely urgent to us. People who are normal look at our behavior and think, "what a stupid person. Why are they doing those dumb things?" The purpose of the journal is to get us back into that state of personal and spiritual awareness.
The job of the CR group is to help someone work through the process of becoming self-aware via the journalling process. What we call a "passing" or "acceptable" journal is one in which the person writing owns their behavior. By shedding the minimization, glamorization, and blame-shifting, we obtain a new spiritual insight into our behaviors that causes us pain at our own brutish ways. We often feel like the dumb dog that suddenly realizes that it was barking at a mirror rather than another dog.
The process of writing the journal is an indispensable part of recovery, and must never be avoided, short-changed, or explained away. The rewards for recovery are just too great to be missed.