Updated: Jan 21
My name is Vince, and I am a recovered addict. I'll Bet you don't hear that one too often. Inside the front cover of the big book of AA, it says: "How millions of alcoholics (works for addicts too) have recovered from Alcoholism (defined by a hopeless state of mind and body). I am one of those.
I have recovered from addiction by doing a great deal of work. Firstly my addictions lead me to a place where I needed help. I found the 12 steps rooms of recovery. This started my journey to wellness, balance and coherence. Took me a long time to get it. I was a classic relapser. I'm grateful that it finally clicked for me and I lived to tell the tale. I had such low self worth from my childhood traumas, religious oppression, violent beatings, and ex-communication from the religion I was raised in, that the only relief I could find was in drugs.
What was I addicted to? "More" it was my drug of choice.
Because the nature of drugs is only a short temporary relief from pain, that I required more, more often, and preferably yours because one of the side effects of addiction is selfishness. The obsessive part of my mind kicked in, and then immediately the compulsion to get "More" kicked in right after. Chasing the elusive first high that could never be found.
Fast forward to the moment where I was so desperate. Suicidal Ideation overwhelmed me. When the drugs and the money ran out, I had to face myself, and all the mess I had created. Along with the rooms of recovery, there has been countless therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, personal development courses, and stacks of self betterment books, gurus, ceremonies, schooling and a whole lot of prayer to get me where I am today. A whole being that exhibits wellness and walks in gratitude. It has gifted me a heart of compassion. I wouldn't trade in those past experiences for the world.
Many people whose addictions have gotten the better of them, tend to do things they are not proud and carry a burden of shame, and low self esteem. Studies have shown that people of higher intelligence, will often become addicts. https://www.stonewaterrecovery.com/adolescent-treatment-blog/how-do-smart-kids-become-addicts/
Maybe they were gifted before, and, the drive to get more, has unearthed many gifts in people with addictions, including the understanding that they are capable finding ways and means to get more. Many skills were developed during their time in compulsion. Myself, I would never have gone and done the things I did to get my fix, there was a need, a hunger, a thirst that was relentless, unbearable. It felt like life or death. An Absolute Must Have. People do incredible things in this state. The great news is that our greatest weaknesses become our greatest gifts once we recover.
In the rooms of recovery there is a statement heard often: More will be revealed. Our undiscovered gifts are one of those revelations. An example: Imagine someone who manipulated, strategized, and carefully and meticulously planned to execute a robbery. Imagine the neuropathways that were opened in them during this time. That person now knows a much greater personal capacity and belief that they can do it, or something similar again. When they do it again and again, it becomes a pattern for them. Then it becomes a routine. Now, take this same person, have them in a state of sobriety, do the work on themselves to be a "Productive member of society" (AA Big book), and now you have a person who is creative, knows when others around are being manipulative, can see danger a mile away, and is very strategic to mention just a few of the gifts.
There are endless possibilities of career choices for someone like that with those gifts.
These gifts can be discovered in a state of sobriety. Step 1 is get help. There are many ways to recover. The 12 step model is a great place to start. One addict helping another is without parallel.
What is Addiction?
American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioral habits. They’ll often ignore other areas of life to fulfill or support their desires.
Dr. Maté uses three criteria in his definition of addiction. Firstly, craving the addictive substance or behaviour; secondly, engaging in the addictive substance or behaviour in order to experience pleasure or temporary relief from some kind of pain; and finally, the inability to give the substance or behaviour up.
Addiction is an attempt to solve a problem. It is the symptom of a deeper malaise, in most cases, trauma.
When bad things happened, or simply when good things that should have happened didn’t (when children didn’t get their needs met and were neglected), this can lead to addiction.
The most important question is not “why the addiction” but “why the pain?” In order to heal addiction, we must look at the underlying trauma.
This last point is what I want to draw attention to.
Dr Gabor also states that "Addiction is a lack of connection". Being understood, heard, validated, cared for, appreciated, given compassion, and feeling loved are connection.
In my counselling school, it was stated: "All trauma happens in connection, and it is also healed in connection"
So, we all need to find a way to connection. To be seen in our struggle. This is something I can provide in one on one session or in the groups we run here at LoveAlive.
This topic is important to me, because addicts generally carry deep guilt and shame before they take care of the wreckage of their past in step 7. Once restitution is resolved, they generally begin to carry their head much higher. The low self esteem, which is a side effect of all that burden basket of guilt and shame they have been carrying. In the Wellbriety Men's Step Groups I facilitate, we show them that the stuff that was handed to them to heal in this life is not their responsibility, and the only thing they are responsible for is their own healing (Which heals their ancestors 7 generations and more when they do the work in thi