Recovery Workshop: Lesson Twenty
Mastering Your Addiction
To date, all of what you have learned has been geared towards developing a 'functional awareness' of addiction. Meaning, you are learning to see addiction not as it is described in health journals, but rather, you are learning to see it in practical, personal terms. You have developed a model for how addiction has worked in your life. And while this may sound odd, it does not matter if this model is scientifically accurate. Your model of addiction may be slightly different to my model. That's okay. Well, it's not to those who crave absoluteness...but it is okay for the purpose of recovery.
It is not necessary to know exactly how addiction works...what chemicals are involved, what electrical impulses are in play...any more than it is necessary that you understand the exact range of what constitutes 'red' on the color spectrum. What matters is that you perceive the color as red, and work with it under the assumption that it is red. Addiction is the same. What matters is that you develop a perception for how it functions in your life...and then use that perception to develop a strategy for eliminating it.
The knowledge that you are gaining cannot be quantified scientifically, it can only be measured practically. It can only be measured by how you are applying it to your life. And so, should you find yourself understanding the principles in play and find yourself with the ability to apply those principles to your own life — to your own addiction — then you are on the right path. Not that you will have mastered these principles just by reading about them, that's not realistic. But with a practical understanding of the role that addiction has played/is playing in your life...how logical it really is...how functional it really is...you will have laid enough of a foundation to begin isolating that addiction and eliminating it from your life. You simply can't do this while holding on to the belief that addiction is some fate that you are destined to. Or that it is some mysterious disease that you have no power over. These interpretations of addiction will force a lifelong dependence on recovery; and a lifelong crack — a potential weakness — in the foundation of your identity.
Certainly, you can choose to build a life around this weakness — build a life around the misguided belief that addiction is a part of who you are — but it is unnecessary. The healthy choice is to build a foundation without cracks. One based on an evolving value system...and the knowledge/experience to use that value system to manage your life.
Lesson 20 Exercise:
This exercise may take you twenty minutes or it may take you twenty days. The value in it will be found in the clarity that you are able to achieve in defining the roles that addiction has played/can still play in your life.
You are now tasked with applying what you have learned to your own addiction. There are two ways of approaching this:
1) Examine your addiction and the role(s) that it has played in your life to date. Look across your life span and identify the progression of the addiction, the sustainment of it, the absence of it and/or the stifling of it. Look at the major transitions that you have experienced (childhood to prepubescent teen; prepubescent teen through teenager; teenager through young adulthood; young adulthood through adulthood; explore also any major traumas that you have endured (parental divorce, sexual abuse, moving to a new school or neighborhood, etc.) and identify the role that addiction (or the rituals that eventually developed into an addiction) played in helping you through that time period.
Your goal is to develop a fluid understanding of just how these patterns progressed from early sparks (harmless fantasy, etc.) to an eventual wildfire (e.g. addiction).
2) Look to future transitions in your life. Divorce. Death of a partner. Death of your parents. Death of a child. Loss of a job. Retirement. Having another child. Empty-nest syndrome. Consider many different situations that you will possibly face in the remaining years of your life. Situations that could potentially cause major instability to an otherwise balanced, fulfilling life. Explore the role(s) that addiction could play in helping you to manage these times. What would it feel like for addiction to come back into your life? Would it be a rapid collapse or a subtle progression? What signs would you look for? What actions would you take?