There is a very profound Cherokee legend that tells a story of two wolves. One is evil, and one is good. The story goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The moral of this story is quite obvious and gives everyone reason to pause and reflect. However, for those in recovery, feeding the right wolf is not merely the difference between a good or bad day. It is life or death.
For us, there are indeed two wolves. But, unlike those without the struggle of addiction, they are defined a bit differently: one is recovery and the other is a relapse.
Relapse occurs long before the first drink or drug use. It actually starts with mentality. Once individuals begin feeding the negative thoughts, victimization, fear, self-pity, etc., they are in relapse thought and well on their way to full physical relapse.
All the aspects of the evil or shadow wolf—anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego—listed above are aspects of every human being. We all possess or experience these from time to time. It is our shadow side; a part of ourselves we must also accept and love without shame or judgment.
However, to feed the shadow side or evil wolf is to do more than accept it. Feeding into the feelings and experiences will only serve to grow it. And, with regard to successful recovery, that is a detrimental act.
Hungry Like the Wolf
As most every recovering individual knows, addiction is more than a physical disease. It is behavioral, emotional and mental. The dysfunctional behaviors that accompany active addiction are, for the purposes of this analogy, equivalent to that of an overfed, morbidly obese wolf. In other words, in active addiction, too much time is spent feeding the wrong wolf.
Recovery is about trimming down the wrong wolf and feeding the right one.
Still, we can’t pretend the shadow wolf doesn’t exist. Suppression is not recovery. Therefore, it is best to befriend both wolves. Recognize, sit with and accept each of them and deal with both in a respectful and honorable manner.
Just be sure that when the wrong wolf cries out to be fed, offer only what you feed the right wolf as sustenance. After all, nothing shuts down ego, false pride, guilt, resentment and anger like joy, peace, hope, humility, and love.