“Change is Good Donkey”, is a bit of deep philosophy by Shrek that never fails to get me wondering who exactly is this cartoon targeting? The donkey who is representing the intended audience, sees him digging his hooves in attempting to resist change. Like his human counterparts, Donkey is happier with the devil he knows rather than the devil he doesn’t. Of course we all laugh at Donkey’s antics if only in view of the fact that we recognize them in ourselves. It may be funny if you are 6 years old and immortal, however as we become aware of pain and mortality we silently cringe at Shrek’s admonishments. So we laugh nervously much in the same way alcoholics laugh at the speaker on the AA meeting podium. Not laughing at the alcoholic but profoundly relating to their own past experiences of the horror and aloneness of addiction.
Our minds do fervently believe that change is good and necessary. Unfortunately, Lizard Brain who is tasked with keeping us safe, erroneously overtakes any thoughts of change, taking its host hostage burying them deep within the bowels of fear. Substance use was actually a place the mind agreed to in the first place. It hid them from the anxiety of living. The addict compromises, willing to trade feelings for safety.
The problem becomes obvious when it is found that the trade is lopsided, not realizing they would have to give up the good feelings too. Flatlining is Lizard Brains answer to pain. No bad times, but willing to give up the good ones too; that’s the trade off. Addicts are like Donkey, they do not like change to a fate unknown; they want to know exactly what they are walking into. Ask any heroin addict how they feel about drug withdrawal symptoms.
It takes a lot of something to boost an addict from contemplation into the action phase of recovery. Whatever it is, the Mind and Lizard Brain have to be in total agreement if only for the time it takes to check into detox. It has to be strong enough to keep the host in detox until the frontal lobes take over. Once Lizard Brain loosens its hold and relaxes, it inherently understands recovery is the safest option for the protection of its charge. Its upward and onward now, learning the skills to stay clean and sober. Everything is in sync now, it’s hard staying clean sometimes while learning how to deal with life, but everyday inch by inch things get better. Heads clear, jobs are landed, life is good.
And then relationships which require emotional attachments rears its ugly head, and Donkey digs his heels in again still unable to form compassion and empathy which are at the very heart of any successful relationship. They don’t understand what happened. They should be at the apex of success but relationships sour and takes them down at the knees. All areas are infected now and relapse is imminent. How can this be after all these years? Anger, resentment and dissatisfaction is like a virus and infects everyone one in its path.
This is the final bridge of recovery. No one thinks of it like that but never the less there it is staring at you in the mirror. You’ve never healed from the trauma of growing up, you focused on sobriety skills. No one knows until its staring them in the face. Some worse than others but thoughts become things, and the things you learned way back then goes deep, deeper than you ever knew.
So now is the time to set resolve and deal with it. Use all you’ve learned to stay sober and apply it to relationships. The ups and the downs of it. From the butcher and the baker, to your spouse and your kids. You already know the pain of the work. You also know what it’s like rising above it and coming out the other end.
And all through it you know that Change is Good Donkey!!