The Power of Addiction
The power of addiction is a force built on denial. This power is so dominant in active addiction that addicts can neither see nor hear the devastation and losses occurring around them as a result of their disease. Sometimes, maybe years down the road, some crisis occurs that causes them to “come up for air” and breaks the shell of their denial. They look around and find career, children, time, opportunity, trust of loved ones, physical health, and mental health are seemingly, all gone. While this is an extreme example, unfortunately it is also a fairly common one. Life becomes “using to live and living to use,” and none of it feels good anymore.
Remember, the heart of the definition of addiction is continued use in spite of negative consequences. One of the most frequent losses addicts describe is the loss of the trust of their loved ones. Too often the addict have the unrealistic expectation that because they enter treatment and are serious about recovery, their spouse or loved ones should trust them in short order. Trust is not lost in a day and will not be regained in a day.
Another negative consequence of addiction is loss of one’s identity. The further addicts fall into their addiction, the more all-consuming it becomes. It becomes the center of their world, and, unconsciously, other priorities are pushed to the periphery and eventually lost. The longer the addiction goes untreated, the more it becomes a person’s main identity. The addict unconsciously takes on the role of being the victim and/or being bitter about life and tends to blame others for his or her problems. When the denial begins to fade and recovery begins, the addict may find little of his or her old self remaining. This is a scary proposition. In addition, the addict must look at living life on life’s terms, and having to become emotionally accountable for him- or herself. This emotional accountability is perhaps one of the toughest hurdles in recovery.
Being emotionally accountable means first no longer blaming others for how you feel or for your lot in life, no longer “needing” problems to perpetuate your addiction, and attempting to identify your most painful feelings and then being willing to risk sharing them with others. For some, this means disclosing the long-held secrets. For others, it may be the act of surrender—“jumping off the cliff” and trusting that someone or something will be there to catch you. For others, it may be putting themselves first emotionally for the first time in their lives.
Every addict and everyone working in the field of addiction needs to have a healthy respect for the power of addiction, but also remember that this is a treatable disease.
This blog post is an excerpt from Finding a Purpose in the Pain - A Doctor's Approach to Addiction Recovery and Healing - by James L. Fenley, Jr., MD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).