Am I my disease?
Is my addict the core of who I really am?
Was there a time my life that addict thinking and behavior was not in the “drivers seat”?
Persons in recovery often wrestle with these questions. When one is active in the disease of addiction, whether alcohol, heroin, gambling, fantasy, marijuana, food, sex or pornography it is hard to imagine a life without it. As the next moment, day, month, year goes by and the Addiction -with it’s constant demand for time and focus- persists, more of the authentic self recedes. Memories of doing laundry “straight” become fuzzy. Lived experiences of taking a bike ride or listening to a favorite band are lost. A compliment by a fourth grade teacher, a soccer trophy well earned, the loss of a treasured friendship are forgotten and disappear from the landscape of ones’ early life. Even recollections of enjoyable early acting out experiences are gone. The present is lived in a tornado with responsibilities, joys, birthdays, deaths, promotions, acting out all swirling around in a gray haze. Friends drop off the radar, deadlines are missed, appointments are forgotten.
Like a runaway train going 500 miles per hour, the world of an addict is powerfully driven by the disease. At work, the mind is drawn toward thoughts (which become obsessions or fixations) on the “drug”. A plan for acting on the obsessions is constructed. Obsession about the plan elevates mood, releasing “feel good” neurochemicals. Focus on work decreases. The addict is in the ” drivers seat”. Now stearing the ship, the addict is in control of the frontal lobes which is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, problem solving, and sending messages to other parts of the brain that aid in proper functioning. The addict has hijacked the brain. Acting out becomes inevitable.
Consider the following “letter to the addict” written by author, recording artist and person in recovery Super Star (yes, this is his legal name):
I know you hate me. I know you want me to fail at everything I have to offer in life. Fail at everything I try and do. Create havoc everywhere I go. To stop loving and to start hating everyone in my life. But I cannot let this relationship continue. You’re selfish and it’s been completely all about you from day one. You must understand my perspective. I love life.I enjoy happiness.I enjoy knowing who I am and have finally become comfortable in my own skin.To look in the mirror and see all my beauty is a gift.Why would you want to take this from me? I don’t think I’ll ever understand.
Truth be known I’ve been disappointed in you for quite some time. What started out as fun ended up becoming a nightmare. I believed you when you told me that you would take care of me. I didn’t believe anyone that told me otherwise. Now I know all of your promise of ecstasy was an outright lie. You are a murderer. A whirlwind of doom that wants me dead. I can see this now. How could I have been so naive to think otherwise.
I know you will be stalking me. Watching every move I make for the rest of my life but I won’t be paying you any more attention. So beat it! So this is our good-bye. It has to be this way. I will not accept any more of your advances or calls. You are pathetic and this whole relationship between us was a waste. It was all about you all the time. Well not anymore. It’s become about me now, my family, my friends. You are now a thing of my past
. -Super Star
The AA saying “first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes the man” is beautifully captured by Super Star in the letter. For sex and love addicts, the disease is a love affair. For many, the greatest love of ones’ life. No let downs, no expectations, no rejection. A fantasy relationship in perfection that never disappoints. There when I need you and gone when I don’t. On my terms.
So what will be the narrative of your life?
How will you be remembered?
What legacy will you leave behind?
These are the questions addicts in recovery give themselves the opportunity to contemplate.
The sober addict in recovery reclaims the ability to choose their path. To turn Left is to turn down the path of addiction, chaos, the gray tornado. To turn Right is to face into the path toward rediscovering the you of you. The self that was lost way back when.
Regardless of the number of years one is lost in the disease, or the magnitude of behavior, one can turn down the Right path. Page 58 of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous states “rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program…”
Recovery is not easy. It is the work of your life. Recovery is not for the faint of heart. Giving yourself completely to recovery is redesigning the self from the bottom up. From the inside out. Recovery involves the reconstruction of the self. Under the addict is the authentic self. The original you.
Those willing to give themselves completely to a program of recovery change their stories. In addiction their story is that of the hopeless drunk. In recovery Their legacy is one of integrity, empowerment, peace, self-reflection and the power of and ability to change ones course in life.
What will be the story of your life?
You have a choice.