In 1987, Director Stanley Kubrick placed one of cinema's most memorable monologues into his Full Metal Jacket film.
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…
My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!
For those who've seen the film, it's a scene that is quite chilling in its intensity. It takes the viewer into an arena of unpredictability, discomfort and is without a doubt captivating as Private Pyle blindly chants the creed (granted, in the film, Pyle is losing his grip on reality).
The 'Rifleman's Creed' was intended to show the inseparable relationship between a US Marine and his weapon. The Marine understands that this weapon will save his or her life.
I find an incredible metaphor within this powerful piece of writing. And I'll share it like this.
Alcoholism has developed in my life as a symbiotic coping tool and became a part of my behavior patterns over the course of 23 years since my very first drink. Take alcohol out of the equation, and the behaviors would still be present...I just would cease to have a 'go to' or an 'out' when confronted with the typical things that my brain naturally says to hide from.
For example, let's say I relentlessly pound away on a project only to have it scrapped by a client, the standard communication that most would engage in to find solutions just isn't part of my repertoire. So the lack of assertiveness within my toolbox forces me to take the blow without any resolution and resentment sets its hooks. Resentment becomes frustration and anger. I go 'calm' my brain with alcohol...but there is no calm...only burying. Nothing changes. It's like feeding a hungry body empty calories in the hopes of finding nutrition - it's not going to happen.
Another example. Let's talk heartbreak...we've all been there. I put my dog to rest on December 30th of 2017. The cumulative impact from a very taxing year left me in a state of disrepair. I was unable to function in a manner that was remotely productive. I sought forgiveness, love, healing, relief and solace in any way I knew how, but the core of my soul was so broken. Even if available to me, I had no understanding how to accept them. This thirsty man couldn't find water while standing next to the river...but I COULD find a way to disappear. This period leading up to March was the first time in which I recognized that my alcohol consumption came with the intention to blatantly destroy myself. There was no fight left. I succumbed to weaknesses I had developed for decades. I was showing the product of all the missteps and failures I'd produced since childhood. The only thing left that I knew would remove me from consciously looking at my reality was a drink. Seeing how this works yet? It's a behavior-driven disease. If I can get the wheels balanced and aligned, the car goes straight AND the ride is smooth...but also requires that I frequently do the required maintenance.
So what about 'My Rifle..."? This creed resonates with me now that I've put a layer of protection between me and my 'enemy'. It's critical that I have my rifle, which is essentially my recovery and the ever-growing understanding of addiction. I recognize that there's a much deeper war underway...it's been raging at an exponential rate since my earliest days and that first drink was the gunshot that set'er off. Ever since it's been a game of retreat.
I stand today, claiming strength in knowing I can fight back. As the Rifleman's Creed states, I must fire true and straighter than my enemy. I must shoot him before he shoots me...I will.
There's irony in realizing that the one part of my body, my brain, that was created for the purpose of perfectly designing ways to protect me emotionally has actually shown itself to destroy me. Add alcohol to this and you can understand what alcoholism looks like in my life. Continuing to discover these pieces and to unravel the complex web of mechanisms is like taking apart the world's most complex machine, which is indeed the brain. Rebuilding it is like learning to walk. One step...then another...while holding my rifle. 'There are many like it but this one is mine'. There are many alcoholics in recovery like me, but all have their own weapons...all have their own fights.
Please don't bury us underneath the stigma. We are NOT weak. We are NOT failures. We need the same care, love and opportunities to heal much like a patient with a chronic illness. There are solutions. There IS hope. I'd love to hear your feedback...share in the comments below.
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