It is right and not wrong for me to have, to possess; an autonomous, differentiated, individual sense of self.
It is in fact, essential.
I need an “I” to relate to a “thou” (whether this is a Higher Power and/or another human being) to become a part of a securely and healthy functioning “we”.
It is also true, that I need a “we” that is supportive, “I”- affirming, flexible, and stable or secure, to develop an integrated and whole sense of an “I” in all its richness and complexity. In other words, I need the “we” to be a safe enough place where I won’t worry about losing or jeopardizing our “us” when the formation of my “I” overtly or covertly differentiates from the “you”, in our “we”. And if I (or you) do worry, it can be openly talked about and worked through in the “I” space and the “we” space. It doesn’t become the proverbial elephant in the room that eventually eats the rug it’s being impossibly swept under due to deprivation.
When I experience being me, and you experience being you, and we can honor and affirm one another without denial or diminishment of one another’s differences, this is beautiful intimacy that generously supports You, Me, and We.
This “we” can include a couple, a friendship, a workplace relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a community, and a world of all these worlds of we’s.
When there is a breakdown in the You, the Me, and therefore our We; instead of interdependency, codependency is found in all its cunning and baffling forms.
To mind our “You, and Me, and We” business is essential, courageous, breathtaking, and rewarding work. I believe we are inherently wired to flourish and thrive in this work, together. After all, it is a lot of work.
But let’s also leave room for humor and work, along the path of humanlightenment.
There are many ideas and images we hold in our minds when it comes to addiction. Some of them are more Hollywood, simple, and basic and some are more comprehensive and complex. There are a lot of caricatures of “addicts” that portray a very negative and misleading idea on what addiction is and isn’t. Very seldom do those caricatures do any justice to what addiction entails. So sometimes a deeper dive into the mysterious nature of addiction is helpful. That’s what I’m doing in this post.
Even though addiction seems to be a hotly debated topic, most people would agree that it’s a formidable force that’s cunning and shrewd. And in its wake; kills, steals, and destroys one’s quality of life, relationships, and even one’s very own sense of Selfhood. This is often done in secrecy and isolation, until it cannot be contained there any longer. This can often be an invitation out of hell, albeit an abrupt and harsh one, that can at first feel like total defeat.
I’ve found that most people don’t want to be labeled by another as an addict. That’s tantamount to name-calling. If they identify themselves as an addict, that’s different. And sometimes identifying what addiction is, who has it and who doesn’t, can be chanted to a sneering beat of: “I know you are, but what am I”.
I believe that addiction is fundamentally a spiritual condition of disconnection; from one’s very own self, others, and to the ever-increasing uneasy parts of reality we would rather just make disappear. Its symptoms are deception (first to self, then others), discord, and disruption from receiving life-giving force or energy. This is why I believe addiction is fundamentally spiritual in nature: it’s initially invisible to merely physical metrics but will manifest its occupancy in the physical domain in only a matter of time. Just wait. Once it’s successfully enticed you and occupies your mind, body, and soul it won’t just stop there. It’s far too ravenous. Addiction is characterized by a spiritual energy which has an unsatiable hunger that doesn’t discriminate. It’s often been said that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Addiction is far more inclusive than any of the most inclusive anti-bigot activists out there. Truly, all are welcome. It doesn’t give a shit about how smart, stupid, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, conservative, liberal, socially privileged, marginalized, religious, non-religious, gay, straight, one gendered or non-binary gendered, physically or mentally abled, disabled, single, divorced, married, remarried, polyamorous, vaccinated, non-vaccinated, Black, White, Yellow, Red, Brown, Multi-racial, Bi-racial, young, or old, etc. etc. etc., you are. If you’re alive, it will accept you with open arms. It will take you in and devotedly take you down and not only that, but it will want to take down your loved ones as well. The more you love them and the more they love you, the more it will want their mind, body, and soul too. Addiction is a family contagion because family is often whom you love and care about the most.
And, when addiction has fraternized and colonized your mind, body, and soul without a good enough fight and push-backsurrender to a Higher Power greater than itself by the one it occupies, you will remain under its control and governance.
This is all so easily disguised and therefore denied until the destruction is far more replete and obvious and stretches beyond the spiritual domain and manifests into the physical domain. Although, it’s admittedly baffling to witness people still denying its presence even when it’s so thoroughly manifest in the relational and physical domain.
This is a very cunning, formidable, and relentless thing. Dis-ease. Call it whatever you want or don’t call it anything other than addiction. It doesn’t matter what you label it or name it. And if you deny it, all the better, for “it”.
What I’m experiencing, little by little, is that the more spiritually perceptive, discerning, keen, awake, and surrendered you are; the sooner addiction can be arrested.
I believe that being human, makes you higher risk and more susceptible to addiction, although there are varying degrees of protection and varying degrees of affliction on an individual basis. Some may disagree because addiction or dependency/withdrawal symptoms can be replicated in lab animals. While I believe that animals are also spiritual beings, for some reason they are naturally less vulnerable to addiction unless they are being manipulated by people. Naturally they seem less susceptible, and I think it’s because they don’t appear to morally judge themselves or others, and therefore don’t struggle with the human affliction of shame and pride. Of course, to argue for or against that theory is insignificant. I can’t talk to rats or get into their consciousness. But I digress…
The point is: to win this battle and live in the solution is found in something that is pretty counter-intuitive to human survival. It’s quite the uncomfortable human paradox.
The solution is found in surrender.
Not to the addiction of course, but to a Power greater than it, and greater than you, whatever you name or call that Power doesn’t matter. I once heard someone refer to this Power as “Not Me“. What matters most is that you can see or even slightly believe, that this Power could truly set you free and do for you what you cannot do for yourself, but which you believe you “should” be able to do. And by all means, if you can do this for yourself and you truly do not need a Higher Power than yourself to do this, then I reckon you are not dealing with addiction. Not everything that’s hard to quit is an addiction, that could merely be a bad habit. There’s a difference.
The way I’m finding it works is this: This Higher Power will not go against my minimally cooperative, ideally enthusiastically given, consent. That is how surrender differs from compliance. Surrender to a Higher Power, not comply. This involves trust and desire, even if it’s very very small at first. It can grow, but you can’t grow something out of nothing. You need something to start with. This is the parable of the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32). This is the solution. It is simple, but not easy. Not at all. But like most things, surrendering becomes easier with practice, one day at a time, and not always in a row.
With this concept of addiction, it doesn’t matter what the chains are tied to. It could be to a substance, a behavior, a person, or a belief system. It’s usually to something impermanent, and what isn’t impermanent?
I’ve also observed that the more abstract in nature that the chains are tied to is, the more disguised its occupancy can be, and often more socially acceptable because it’s simply more common by that very disguisable fact. But do not be deceived. The proof is in the pudding, and that pudding often is spiritual in nature and in how much or how little you’re surrendered to a Higher Power that gives you freedom and not chains. Surrendering to addiction as your higher power gives you shame upon shame, or even harder to detect; pride upon pride, until you are leveled with reality.
As human beings, we are vulnerable, meaning we are surrendered beings. We are not the most Powerful beings or forces of nature in the universe or even on earth. It’s hard to remember especially when we’re so far removed from being intimately connected with nature. But the fact remains: there are powers and forces greater than us, so know your place and that surrender is unavoidable.
So, what are you surrendered to, and how is that working out for you?
If you scoff at the idea that you are addicted to anything, consider this before your dismissal: The addiction you might have may be revealed with a confrontation of losing something specific, against your will, that others live without and are OK without it. If you had to give this up and learn to be better off with its absence or at minimum, its non-guaranteed presence in your life, would you be, OK? Just something to consider.
Nonetheless…for all of us it’s good to reflect on and choose your surrender, wisely.
An extremely worthwhile practice that will gradually give yourself invaluable inner strength and beauty, is simply increasing your tolerance level for uncomfortable truths.
This practice benefits countless areas of our lives. When our tolerance level for uncomfortable truths grows, the energy invested in avoidance, suppression, or denial is diminished and therefore becomes available in much more life-giving ways. For starters, you’ll have a lot more energy freed up to be present and consciously aware, and to heal and develop further on so many levels. That’s powerful.
There’s a lot of attention and talk lately on “raising” or “expanding your level of consciousness” or “raising your vibration”. But how do you do this when you have a low tolerance level for uncomfortable truths and a high tolerance level for bullshit, because it’s less immediately uncomfortable? You really can’t. Sorry, but that’s an uncomfortable truth I’ve bumped into. Consistently.
Just as with people who want to build their physical strength or become more flexible might go to a gym, dedicate time to workout, or stretch tight muscles each day; the capacity to tolerate uncomfortable truths takes some practice and intention as well. You go about it in similar ways as building physical capacity — you stretch your comfort zone on purpose, little by little, over time.
If you’d like to become more physically flexible you start where you’re at, inside your comfort zone, and you stretch beyond that until you’re mildly uncomfortable. Eventually you will experience that you can handle this. Self-trust develops. Your confidence grows, little by little and after awhile you’ll be able to stretch beyond your comfort zone until you’re moderately (not extremely or severely) uncomfortable.
You’ll be able to soon take pride and joy in these little incremental shifts in the direction you want to be headed towards. In other words: progress. Your progress.
If you were to physically push yourself too hard, it would likely backfire. You could injure yourself and need to stop and recover. It happens. Know your limits and respect them. This is similar to the non-physical capacities.
I want to become more flexible and resilient when it comes to uncomfortable feelings that are associated with uncomfortable truths. Why? Because I don’t want to compromise on integrity and honesty just to avoid immediate discomfort. I’ve done this and experienced results that are less than grand, let’s just say that. This unconscious habit I had developed way more pain than to tell myself the uncomfortable truth, it was just delayed pain. But it always came, just as you can’t throw things up in the air and expect them not to drop.
This is where self-deception breeds – avoidance of uncomfortable truths. It appears as a way to “protect” myself and “preserve” my comfort level, but in reality it comes at a high expense later, and often to others I care a great deal about. It hurts. Unless you’re so numbed out, you’ll be hurting later. And News Flash: Numbing out always ends. Reality has a way of being real, and is pretty patient.
What is the way through this? It isn’t to avoid truths that are uncomfortable! It’s to raise the tolerance level of discomfort by raising the level of self-trust. Trusting that I can befriend uncomfortable truths. I don’t need to turn away from them. That actually colludes with the notion that I cannot be trusted with uncomfortable truths. I can, but I just need time and intention to build this capacity, just like everyone else. This is time and effort well spent. There will be a better return on this than on denial and bullshit.
One way I’ve found most helpful is to utilize writing or typing in a journal (or a blog!) because I’ve found writing to be incredibly resourceful for me. If you’ve tried writing (like for real, tried) and it just isn’t your thing, find what IS your thing. Maybe looking into a mirror or just talking out loud in the safety and privacy of your own presence, while recording it and playing it back helps. Just make sure it’s kept in a safe space where you get to decide who and where it’s shared or not shared.
Ask yourself if there is anything you’d like to say that you’re afraid of saying (or writing) out loud or out in the open, just with yourself. It could be as simple as “I hate my aunt JoJo’s pies that I say I love” or “I think I have a problem with ________”. The point right now isn’t to do anything other than just practice telling yourself uncomfortable truths. Sometimes taking premature or impulsive action to “fix” or “improve” a problem (perceived or actual) can inadvertently be a slick escape route. It could be an indirect way to avoid being with an uncomfortable truth.
So, for now you don’t need to fix any problems or take any actions other than just telling yourself this truth. That is big enough. Of course if you find wisdom perking up, take it and converse with it. But if you don’t, that’s not an indication you’re not doing this “right”. Re-read the title of this post: “Raising Your Uncomfortable Truth-Telling Tolerance Level”. That’s it for now.
While you do this, consider affirming how proud you are to be admitting this difficult and uncomfortable truth out loud. For me, this often encourages me to trust myself more. To trust that even if this uncomfortable truth doesn’t shift, my fear or angst around it does. The fear starts to loosen. I experience accepting myself more and more because I am being REAL with myself, and that is tapping into my own power.
You may notice harsh self-judgments, that you don’t like yourself and you have a strong opinion about your opinion. There’s a reason why you’ve avoided this – herein lies the discomfort. Right here.
You are facing it.
Breath slowly and embody your body as you do this.
You are engaging your courage in a way that might be very new to you. Take it as slow as you need. Recruit others you trust for support, that has been immensely helpful for me, including having a trauma-informed therapist.
Affirm that you value being honest especially when it’s hard and therefore you value this practice. This uncomfortable truth might not even feel the same or as true or powerful for you tomorrow, or in an hour. This is the mysterious and powerful nature of bringing things into the light. Into conscious awareness. The hold that avoidance and denial have weakens and your perceptions and experiences may shift and start transform or even shed.
Avoidance of uncomfortable truths demands a lot of energy. A lot. This energy could otherwise be used for say, your immune system or other life-supporting endeavors. Once you put your energy into turning on the lights on whatever you’re truth-telling, I’m telling you…that energy or life may take flight or change. As in what you’re feeling and thinking might not seems as intense or strong, and/or you may gain more clarity.
Denial can be like an energy vampire. Truth-telling can be like a powerful shield from this vampire. From bullshit. Of course I’m speaking metaphorically here but it’s to make the point that truth-telling is a powerful way of taking back your power that was sucked into avoiding uncomfortable truths.
You may discover or uncover pearls of wisdom and insight while practicing this. Or you may just expand your own tolerance level and build more capacity for uncomfortable truths. This in and of itself adds to a felt-sense of being, that feels stronger and safer versus taking away from it in order to maintain “comfort” that does not serve you because it’s an act of self-betrayal when we self-deceive.
I should clarify, when I use the word “truths” I’m referring more to subjective truths, not objective truths, although it may include that too.
What is your perspective, your experience, opinion, or feeling? Name these. Own these so they don’t own and control you. They are often more flexible and less rigid when they are accepted and integrated into our conscious awareness. It’s when we cannot tolerate uncomfortable admissions of truth or self-honesty, that we will attempt to hide from our very own experiences, feelings, thoughts, and parts of ourselves (as if you really can; hence self-deception).
This creates fragmentation. A disconnection within.
You can have your own back. You don’t have to turn your back on yourself when you trust yourself more.
This is empowering.
Integrate these uncomfortable truths little by little, and you will be owning more and more of yourself by BECOMING more connected within yourself, and interpersonally with others.
It’s hard to know how to resolve issues or conflicts with ourselves or others when we are disconnected and fragmented by denial within. Often, numbing out with distractions or chemicals is utilized, only to reinforce that we shall not be trusted with our uncomfortable truths. Bullshit. You can raise your tolerance level, with practice and patience.
You really can build this inner well of deep self-trust, this inner sense of power by raising the tolerance level for uncomfortable truth-telling.
Be gentle as you go. You can live in integrity and honesty as an integrating being, and enjoy the benefits from the inside out. You were made to enjoy this way of being fully alive.
There’s a story of a man named Simeon in the Bible (see Luke 2:25-35) who was described as being “righteous and devout”.
What does it mean exactly, to be righteous and devout? I’ve got my personal stereotypes and caricatures that portray someone who is “holy”, meaning a bit emotionally cold or stoic, conditionally approachable, not very down-to-earth or relatable, probably intelligent, sophisticated, and rather arrogant. That’s the best description of the image I find that initially emerges into conscious awareness.
Well according to how Jesus answered a teacher of the law, the highest form of morality can be boiled down to love (see Mark 12:29-31). Sequentially and specifically; loving God with your whole inner and integrated being. And then Jesus adds an addendum that seems inseparable to the first command (and that’s much easier to measure) – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, I think it’s safe to presume that being righteous and devout means loving an external, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract Being with YOUR whole internal, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract being – measured by an empirically validated and evidenced way – how you treat “your neighbor” as well as yourself.
It’s so simple that we don’t buy it and we often find ourselves adding on a multitude of “morality measurements” with countless other morality clauses than what Jesus added. Just love your neighbors as yourself, that’s hard enough. And your “neighbor” is something else to contemplate in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, which I won’t go into in this post.
So, the question I’m pondering here is this: How is mental health and development, factored into this command – to love so integratively in a way that it manifests with congruency with other people?
By all appearances and experiences of mine thus far I’m quite sure of this: being loving is not an inborn human trait. Being loving isn’t innately and independently present in human infants. I’ve given birth to and am raising 3 human souls, and I’ve watched them closely.
Now to be clear— being IN NEED of love, at birth and onward is inborn and innate. And when you form a secure attachment and nurture and protect your babies they coo, smile, and affectionately bond with you right back. It’s a beautiful circle of love. But it didn’t begin with the baby first loving me. It started with a baby who needed to be loved and cared for, FIRST.
The nature of the intimate dyad of human caregiving determines (although not exclusively) a great deal in how “loving” a person will eventually be, influenced by how much they themselves felt loved, or more specifically – securely attached.
“Loving” is not to be confused with merely how “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, or virtuous they appear in public. This is about way more than mere etiquette. Rather, it’s far more about how much they’ll be able to enjoy consensual and reciprocal vulnerability, authenticity, and work through the inevitable interpersonal conflicts with a selected few. In other words: healthy interpersonal relationships.
In an ideal world, humans would produce loving human beings – generation after generation. It doesn’t take much to see that we don’t live in an ideal world. Far from it.
So if children grow without enough of this kind of emotional secure attachment created within their earliest and formative interpersonal relationships, how can we expect them to give what they don’t have? For so many who didn’t, are we screwed? No. There is a path of healing and inner recovery. God is sensitively attuned to the broken-hearted, who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Just meditate on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
I believe humans are biologically wired to be moral creatures. When we are immoral, we suffer and often find ways to escape or find relief from suffering. To be clear again: We are innately moral creatures which means our biology is wired for thriving when we’re morally strong. And I hope I’ve made it clear enough by now that when I say “moral” I mean we’re biologically created to be loved and loving – this is how we’re morally biologically wired – for love, aka to need to give and receive secure emotional attachments. Possessing a familiarity of attachment styles in both childhood and adulthood is helpful to understanding where I’m coming from. Hopefully if you’re making a living within the mental health field or personal development arena, you’re more than a little familiar with the scientific literature on attachment styles and neurobiology. Hopefully.
I digress. Getting back to morality and love…
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
So, to those who perceive themselves as morally righteous, and therefore loving as described above – What is your detailed and coherent, autobiographical narrative that’s made sense of your adulthood in light of your childhood?
In all transparency, this is somewhat of a trick question. I’ve heard people saying they grew up with love and support from their parents, yet these same people are often times some of the quickest to criticize or judge others and are also some of the most emotionally cold or shallow people I know. To be sure, they are often very “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, and fluent in practicing social graces/etiquette. Yet, there seems to be a gaping hole, a sense of wtf-ness that’s hard to explain and even harder to convince them of.
Now of course, I could very well be totally off myself here. But the disjointed feeling I get in this wtf-ness experience is because I hear they consider themselves as lucky for growing up the way they did, and therefore they don’t “morally” struggle much. Yet at the same time, I observe that they find it very difficult, unvaluable, and unnecessary (if they even notice) to be emotionally vulnerable, authentic, and show capacity to work through interpersonal conflicts with their loved ones. It’s a head-scratcher for me.
This is the best I can come up with to try and explain the dissonance between morality and love, profoundly the kind of love from God, that pours out interpersonally. Unless you experience it yourself with God, it’s hard to explain to others.
There was a woman who was described in Luke 7:37 as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life”. She wept on Jesus’ feet (portrays her as probably crawling on the floor in approaching and being next to Jesus) kissed his feet, then wiped his feet with her hair, and poured perfume from an alabaster jar.
To be loved and to love.
I think she gets it.
Her story might help shed light on this gaping hole for those who need an explanation. Jesus saw that Simon the Pharisee didn’t get it either.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
How well you understand the love of God for yourself has much to do with how much you’ve experienced forgiveness from God. And if in your own self-estimation, you don’t have much to be forgiven for, you’ll find it hard to love others who do.
It boils down to compassion. If you don’t have much need for compassion from others, you won’t feel much compassion for others either.
If you’ve never felt much need for love from others, you likely won’t feel much love for others.
I’m trying to work through the 12-Steps and keep bumping up against what appears as dogma with the Disease Model of addiction. I’m reading Al-Anon approved literature as well as material written by other addiction experts like Gabor Mate and Jamie Marich and am feeling more and more disjointed.
I’ve been personally impacted by a loved one’s addiction and have entered into recovery myself. In 12-Step recovery I’ve been urged to study alcoholism and the disease of addiction. I’ve been studying this subject for years as I’ve been in relationships with people who’ve either been addicted themselves or been impacted by a loved one’s addiction, or both actually. I’m finding myself feeling confused and disjointed, unless I strictly read Al-Anon approved literature! I’m trying to integrate 12-Step approved literature with non-approved addiction literature and am forming my own understanding with as honest and open-minded of an attitude that the Al-Anon program promotes, probably mixed with some of my own defects of character, in process too.
This is my take on addiction thus far coming from someone who finds this subject matter so relevant to her personal life. It’s become an area of passion and vested interest due to my family relationships being touched by addiction. Although I’m not an addiction professional, I represent a voice that’s been deeply impacted by this subject. I’m forming my understanding from a conglomerate of reading from addiction professionals inside and outside of the 12-Step model. It also comes from my lived-experience of going through a loved-one’s relapse into hell. So for whatever it’s worth, I offer my personal reflections from this vantage point. I’m still making sense of my own lived-experience as well as studying the topic of addiction from a variety of sources as I work through the 12-Steps. In other words it’s still slowly brewing, like me. If this benefits someone who has or is going through their own experience of this, I’m grateful.
So without further ado this is my evolving summation on a very complex subject that touches millions of lives every day.
To the Unnamed 12-Step Literature Approvers
I’ve read addiction and codependency literature, outside of your approval. And this is what I’d like to share as a newcomer member of Al-Anon, who also feels deep gratitude for the service of Al-Anon Fellowship. What have we learned about addiction since the 1930’s when A.A. first formed? That it’s complex. And a coherent narrative of addiction in layman’s terms could be that it’s not merely a chronic disease. Consider this narrative that’s backed by addiction and trauma research, and please integrate your approval for literature that offers more. Perhaps something along the lines of this…
Addiction manifests in its burgeoning stage as an unconscious adaptive survival trait in the presence of feeling overwhelming distress, coupled with the absence of a close and secure relationship to an attachment figure like Mom, Dad, or another caregiver.
Notice the Theme, it’s a Duet: Presence + Absence
A presence of Distressing Emotional Experience (based in past and/or present) PLUS an Absence of a Safe enough or secure relationship.
These overwhelming feelings may not even register on the level of conscious awareness until it over-reaches maximum capacity. Until then, the response to overwhelm is constructing and maintaining a thick wall of emotional armor. Any unprocessed feelings from the past accumulate while current feelings which bare any striking resemblance to the past also gets heaped onto the pile. This occurs all while the Absence part of the equation remains – Absence of a Safe Enough or Secure Relationship.
The Absence is a void. A hole consisting of profound disconnection and isolation. A substance or “filler” which acts as a substitute, is reached for in an attempt to fill that void. The momentary relief from pain, and fleeting sensations of pleasure string you along while making increasing demands that you sacrifice more to get more. The constant pursuit and chasing the carrot-on-a-stick can never deliver what you’re pursuing. Freedom from suffering. As this phenomenon takes root like a seemingly innocuous weed, the human’s soul becomes a host for a parasitic-type entity of whatever addictive filler hooks you.
12-Step Fellowships offer a beautiful solution to the Absence part of the equation. The absence of intimate connection which is a fundamental, hardwired, basic human need – creates a void. Filling that void with non-human substances is often a way to cope and while enabling dependency on emotional vulnerability armor. The core issue is an aversion to emotional vulnerability within relationships. When a substance or sabotaging behavior mitigates this aversion despite negative consequences and disturbances in other areas of life, you’ve got the active mechanism of addiction at hand.
So why do relapses occur even after dramatic changes in lifestyle going from using or drinking, to being clean and sober, occur? Well, the other part of the equation needs to be looked at, the presence of distressing experiences especially pertaining to the past which haven’t been processed and integrated.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
The etiology of addiction is hotly debated among experts, addicts themselves, and those who love them. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The addiction or the unresolved trauma? They both feed off one another, so does it really matter? Not in order to reduce harm and initially get clean and sober. But to stay clean and sober, heal from the aftermath, and truly make living amends – I believe this is relevant.
It’s my developing opinion based from what I’ve learned from various schools of thought and my own experience, that unresolved childhood trauma provides fertile soil for addiction to take root. Along with family history, social conditioning, lifestyle habits, and genetic factors. I don’t hold to the belief that addiction is merely a disease. This belief is antiquated now that so much multidisciplinary scientific inquiry and findings regarding addiction and the plight of human suffering, have been shared.
The strictly disease-based model that posits addiction and/or alcoholism as a disease, is sometimes a helpful simplification for such a complex phenomenon like addiction. Yet further down the road of recovery after encountering relapse, it’s a harmful over-simplification which can create a false sense of security. I believe it inadvertently creates barriers to healing the roots of addiction when these roots prove to be deeper than what first appeared. The disease-model of addiction can inadvertently bypass critical trauma recovery, which can weaken relapse prevention.
Growing up in family subcultures which are reinforced outside the home by the broader culture, enabling self-ignorance, self-neglect, and/or self-abuse in response to distress – creates ripe conditions for addiction. And relapse. An innocent ignorance or a blatant indifference towards healing trauma in response to addiction recovery, furtively enables the practice of emotional self-neglect which often leads to physical self-abuse/harm through drug/alcohol abuse. When this is tacitly considered “normal” within recovery programs, you’ll find that necessary, deeper recovery is stilted, versus the addiction.
I realize my take on addiction and its development doesn’t exclude many people, including myself. Addiction development is quite inclusive and many will be counted as vulnerable towards investing in its empty promises when you have a permissive culture of enabling trauma denial.
Addiction is a very human struggle. It accounts for the struggle of being human in dehumanizing cultures and environments. In my opinion, relegating it as strictly a “disease” seems ignorant. Much has been learned about the nature of addiction and I wish recovery programs would honor this progress. It would help those suffering from addiction and those who love them.
Spiritual principles make room for progression, because you keep an honest and open minded attitude. How can the spirit of 12-Step fellowship principles include the latest findings of addiction without losing it’s unity?Is there room for a different ideology beyond addiction and alcoholism as a disease? Well, even if dogma doesn’t make room for it, my own understanding of the 12-Step spiritual principles, do.
This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway – these ideas are a representation of my own evolving perspective. Take what serves you, leave the rest.