Addiction has played a part in my life as early as I can remember. Most recognize addiction to be a physical dependence to a particular substance or behavior, although it covers more areas and can really only be fully understood to one with firsthand experience. Being an esoteric encounter, addiction is best described and understood by an addict who is living a recovery program and is persistent in relentless application of spiritual principles involved in that program.
My experience is mostly connected to a twelve step fellowship where recovery is concerned, though I have been through many court and counseling programs. From an outside perspective recovering from addiction can’t fully be understood, making it difficult for court programs to aid an individual in all that they ‘need’.
Spiritual development is essential to a recovering addict and is often misunderstood. I have always found it interesting in the many misconceptions about what spirituality really is and how it plays a role in a recovering addict’s life. Because addiction is a disease that involves more than the irrational and compulsive use of mind altering and mood changing chemicals, its needs additional treatment, rather than just abstinence. It was vital for me to ask, “Why am I consumed with thoughts of always doing something that causes extensive harm to myself?”
Addiction is a disease that is rooted in fear, insecurities, low self-esteem, and a negative outlook on life; its main ingredients are obsession and compulsion. Obsession is easiest described as an overwhelming thought process that is seemingly never-ending and impossible to escape without a compulsive action. Compulsion for addicts denotes an inability to stop without outside help, usually closely tied to desperation or ‘rock bottom’.
At twelve years old I was incapable of stopping myself from consuming something that would help me to escape my reality. My inability to accept reality and who I was in relation to the world around me, gave birth to obsession and compulsion in many areas of life as well as a negative image of self.As a result of this familiarity, I can easily argue that addiction did not commence when I began using opioids and marijuana, rather it manifested itself when I began attempting to resolve a spiritual question with a material answer (taking something outside of self and putting it inside self to fill a misunderstood void or empty feeling on the ‘inside’).
Although I was young and some would say “not yet addicted”, I was using consistently, frequently, and couldn’t get enough. The physical dependence hadn’t yet begun, but my inability to control my use of drugs regardless of the consequences was evident. I compromised many relationships for drugs, including my relationship with people, sports, education, and worst of all myself.Spiritual bankruptcy is the total disconnection from self, when I no longer had the need or desire to be loving and caring to myself in what I said and did, and hadn’t any knowledge of what was actually going on inside me. My uncle always has always said “When you’re getting high your living in fantasy”, so when I wasn’t in touch with self my life became increasingly unmanageable, just as it would if I ignored my responsibility to pay a parking ticket. The fee would increase causing my life to become progressively unmanageable.
It’s hard to imagine for someone who isn’t an addict why we “allow ourselves to get that bad”, but a determining factor in addiction is a denial system first initiated by justifications and rationalizations. When an addict communicates to themself a lie, the result is denial: “A predetermined characteristic of one’s own ability to accept or see reality for the way it is.” I continued to lie to myself about my condition. My irrational decisions conveyed that I believed the consequences of my actions were completely irrelevant to my drug use.
While in denial I was trapped in compulsion of addiction (my inability to stop using once having started) that is progressive. Consequently, my drug use became horrific as I became an intravenous drug abuser.
After reaching a level of unbearable pain, I became willing to try something different. The 12 step fellowship in which I belong, has played a role in my life for over 27 months. In which I have stopped using drugs, lost the desire to use drugs, and even found a new way to live.
Being new to recovery, I frequently claimed I wanted to pursue a career in writing later in life. Recovery has given me that opportunity in several methods as well as the opportunity to participate in activities that I have learned to enjoy without looking for the next “feel good”.
The internal change that has taken place in my life is profound and evident. Because I have built a relationship with ‘self’, and discovered who I am without the images and labels, I am capable of “being myself”. To ‘be’ in a present state denotes a state of living in the present time in the speed of reality without the turbulence of the past or future. It expresses the importance of responding appropriately, rather than escaping by taking something outside of me and putting it inside of me. Because I have taken interest in becoming loving and caring to myself I have become capable of doing the same to others, consequently, rebuilding, transforming, and constructing new relationships.
By far the most beneficial part of recovery has been the thorough understanding of who I am in relation to everything else. That I can just exist with the deep need and desire to alter my perception of myself and everything else. In shorter terms; the gift is serenity.
Just as addiction can be as random to anyone regardless of age, race, sex, religion, cultural background, etc., recovery can work for everyone and anyone. Addiction is not a curable disease, but it is treatable. According to several addicts in recovery, “Recovery requires more than abstinence, it requires extensive spiritual growth…There is hope.”
by: A Lafayette Resident in recovery