I’m Lance Armstrong, which I say rather gratefully believe it or not.
Following the first day’s television broadcast of Mr. Armstrong’s confessional with Oprah, I heard a radio conversation with Daniel Coyle, co-author of a book with Tyler Hamilton, one of Mr. Armstrong’s former cycling teammates. Titled The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, the book evidently (I haven’t read it) includes Mr. Hamilton’s account of wide-spread use of illegal performance enhancements, to which Mr. Armstrong was party. When Mr. Coyle was asked by the radio talk show host what he felt as he watched Mr. Armstrong’s statements to Oprah, Mr. Coyle said with great compassion that it was about ten percent of the story––but a significant achievement for Mr. Armstrong.
Mr. Coyle went on to explain that, in his opinion, the depth and elaborateness of Mr. Armstrong’s self-delusion was so intricatly woven into his psyche and so long in duration (he did win seven Tour de France titles) that it would likely take him quite some time to grasp a fulsome understanding of his choices, and speak about them.
To which I, fellow delusionist, say, “Yessss.”
Addiction, if my mud-wrestling with it is any clue, is only incidentally about what we put in our body and everything about the compulsive focus of our attention. Texting; anger; gardening; reading; the approval of others; defiance of authority; the need to understand; the need to be right; the need to push ourselves beyond any limits of body, mind and society.... The ways addiction shows up are endless. The impact of addiction is reasonably predictable. When the compulsion meter hits the red zone, one’s moral compass becomes increasingly unreliable.
This doesn’t mean we’re inherently dishonest. It means we’re nuts. That’s the impact of addiction. It limits the maturing process. We ignore the voice of our heart in the face of our own fear or the fears of others.
I can’t define Lance Armstrong’s addiction, but I sure know what it means to have a wacky moral compass.
I drank alcoholically for 30 years. During that time, various parts of my being didn’t mature as they would have otherwise. I’ve been sober for 24 years. My moral compass has been reliable for a while, but I’m still growing up.
Even if he had run for president of the moon, there still would be nothing Lance Armstrong has done that surprises me. I get the craziness of addiction. All bets are off. But I also get the potential for healing when addiction is acknowledged and responded to with loving action. And throughout the rest of his life, should Mr. Armstrong become a symbol of resurrection, that won’t surprise me either.