Lack of meaning, validation and identity are common themes within addiction. Overcoming these themes is the key to opening the door to immense possibilities in recovery.
My personal struggle began with what I call the Five Ds:
I put up an unnecessary wall to distance my self from others.
I led a double life, wearing masks and playing games. I worked hard to help others, all the while ignoring the warning signs of my own wellbeing.
I was always an idealist. My unrealized dreams and visions left me unsatisfied and afraid of my own feelings and emotions. I preferred to be numb.
I did not want to admit that someone in the helping profession could need help, so I simply pretended my problems didn’t exist.
I sought to numb painful experiences at the bottom of a bottle as my life caved in all around me. Alcohol beat me down each time I reached out for a meaningful embrace.
It took the helping hands of others to gradually lifted me out of the grasp of my five Ds. Gradually, I came to a patient acceptance, a mindfulness of the small joys I had overlooked. I set aside my masks. I began seeking authenticity, acknowledging and addressing my fears. This shift became my salvation and restored hope to my life.
Many people search and search, then become disillusioned when they come up empty. Others are content to adopt another person’s concept of meaning, but in this, lose their own. Still others create meaning out of waves of painful experiences, filling the void with substances.
On my path, I discovered that meaning is not something that can be found; it is something you create. I created meaning in service to others and in forging community. It came as I brought down the barriers that had isolated me from other people. In their place, I developed new, adaptive ways of addressing my sensitive nature; meditation and mindfulness became key components in my daily life. I have also learned the concept of reframing, realizing that how I choose to look upon each day as a choice. If my day consists of one great event and a number of bad ones, I notice and appreciate the positive.
I began a journey of emotional growth, letting go of guilt and shame. I sought to transform my experiences, even the negative ones, into something that would benefit other people and myself. As I emerged from the fog of bewilderment from the five Ds, I found clarity. I discovered that a shift in perspective could turn tragedy into triumph.
To understand my own addiction, I had to be willing to venture into that darkness and understand my painful experiences. Such a journey can be frightening and lead some addicts to return to the familiarity of addiction. Those of us in the helping profession must martial our resources to help defeat the fear with compassion and patience, to keep addiction at bay.
Though the door to recovery may be open, we cannot expect people to immediately rush across the threshold. Those struggling with addiction need guidance and encouragement. A confrontational approach in the therapeutic setting will only give rise to an equal response of retaliation, denial and defensiveness. An approach that is based on benevolence, service, and support of core human values, will restore humanity to those who are broken. Authenticity will give rise to honest interactions between addict and therapist.
Modeling humility and kindness will create a ripple effect and the casting off of old, harmful behaviors, like those five Ds. With unfettered support addicts can once again discover a beautifull life, well worth embracing.