“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain Our body weak, our thoughts racing, nausea and depression consuming our entire existence. We know we need to change, but overwhelmed with fear. Drugs and alcohol are all that we’ve known. Feeling happy? Time for a celebration! Feeling sad? Better grab a drink. Someone making us angry? We know just the remedy! We contemplate the need to change and the discomfort this will bring. Who am I if I don’t have alcohol? Who am I if I can’t inject heroin? Who will I become when I take away my shield and discover a emaciated soul, craving to be nourished, loved and cared-for? This post is intended to validate and encourage you to move towards change, by addressing the following components:
The Addiction Cycle
Taking the First Steps
Addiction Cycle Emotional Trigger - Also known as pain. The fuel that ignites the disease are the painful emotions we refuse to acknowledge and embrace. It shapes our perception of the world around us, yet any conscious existence of it quickly avoided. Craving - Fantasizing about the act of obtaining and using the substance. Cravings typically begin following an emotional trigger and can create an obsessive train of thoughts. Ritual - “The ritual stage is defined by regular use of an addictive behaviour or substance and a specific routine that goes along with it” - https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-ritual-22450 For many, rituals include the effort to self-inflict pain (emotional or physical), consequently providing a reason to use. Rituals tends to occur in the same order and time each day, building a structured, predictable routine around drug-use. Use - The act of engaging in using the substance or addictive behaviour. As the ritual begins to strengthen, so too does our justification to use. Guilt - Once the euphoric effects of the drug have subsided, overwhelming remorse and anxiety are experienced. The Cycling Story of Addiction After an out-of-control period of using a substance, lying in his bed overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, and physical exhaustion, he vows to remain abstinent. “THIS time, is going to be THE time,” he says to himself. By the third day, reality sets in, as he argues with his partner. The emotional pain he experiences from this situation communicates a warm welcome to the disease. The invitation is received and the disease begins to creep in, sending encouraging whispers to find comfort in its embrace. Obsessive thoughts begin to overwhelm his mind. The ritual slowly edges its way back in. Ahh, the comfort. He walks through the doors of his favourite bar and a draft of stale beer and cigarette smoke hits him in the face. Immediately, he feels a surge of warmth race through his body – bliss. He manages to abstain from using, and begins to build a false sense of confidence. The ritual continues and the disease strengthens. Within a week, he’s quickly spiralled into an aggressive, senseless binge. Waking up the following morning, he’s devastated with racing thoughts. Pain - the fuel that ignites the disease, is prepared to repeat its cycle once more.
Fear Fear is a biological response, ingrained within us to help detect danger in the environment and react accordingly. Whether real or imagined, fear can help resolve threats in our immediate presence, or allow us to prepare for future events. Where fear begins to obstruct our ability to cope effectively is when the thought of an action or event paralyzes us. Specifically, fear is experienced at every level of recovery. While this emotion is normal, it carries the potential to harm your progress. Learning to identify and process your fears will provide you the space to move forward in your journey. Below is a list of 3 commonly experienced fears when contemplating the need to change: 1. Fear of Change Irrespective of the destructive lifestyle addiction entails, the idea of stepping away from familiarity and into an unknown territory creates anxieties. What will I use to cope? Who will I talk to if I can’t see my friends? Will this even be worth it? Suggestion: Ask yourself if where you are right now makes you happy. If you aren’t happy then the only way change will occur is if you embrace it’s every step, one day at a time. You aren’t in this alone, and through every tear, scream and smile, you will be validated and supported. Think of it this way, the acknowledgement that you may need to change, in and of itself, is a step towards change – and you made it through that. Continue moving forward, and trust the process. 2. Fear of Shame and Guilt The experience of shame and guilt are highly anticipated prior to seeking treatment. It involves feeling flawed or unworthy, and undeserving of being accepted by others. As a result, shame is directly linked to self-blame and low self-esteem. Suggestion: Should you experience these thoughts, consider the following steps: a. Acknowledging and Confronting it - These feelings will only continue to linger unless you take the power back, and become honest with yourself. b. Source of Your Guilt - Are your feelings of shame and guilt reasonable or unreasonable? c. Forgive Yourself - Are you always so hard on yourself? Accepting it, becoming honest and changing the related behaviour will begin to give you power over these emotions. d. Let go - Whether or not your actions were intended to harm others, or perhaps the actions of others hurt you, the past is the past. Learning to let go is not forgetting the event, but rather accepting that it has happened and you are choosing to move on. 3. Fear of Losing Your Identity Behind the drugs, behind the self-destructing behaviour, behind the hurt and pain, who are you? How do you begin to find hope? Suggestion: Recovery provides an opportunity to define who you are. The deep self-exploration as you process your pain will simultaneously create a serene and trusting space to redefine yourself. Challenging deeply held beliefs, removing yourself from familiarity and stripping away the self-destructive identity you have created is terrifying. While this may be true, these fears, when acknowledged, accepted and confronted, create a foundation of empowerment and peace.
Need a Little Push? Looking to initiate change but unsure where to begin? Pain. What are you running from? Do you notice yourself blaming others for your emotions? This, although an easy trend to fall in to, is a way to avoid accountability, and place your emotional power in the hands of others; a perfect recipe to justify substance abuse and/or self-destructing behaviour. Desire. What do YOU want in your life? Forget about the noise surrounding you; forget about the subtle whispers of the disease. Is what you’re currently doing working to benefit, provide fulfillment and leave space for personal growth? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, then perhaps consider exploring your options. Letting Go. Let go of the weight on your shoulders. You’ve walked through the trenches, fought for your life and sacrificed your deepest desires, in order to survive. Let go and trust the process. Understand you won’t agree with every concept; understand you will struggle; acknowledge your resistance, but let go of the weight that you’ve been carrying for all these years. Treatment options are endless and created in order to meet your needs. Consider the following support resources:
The first step is to acknowledge that what you’re currently doing is no longer benefiting you. Become honest with yourself, ask for help from someone you trust and join a network of support as you confront your fears. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” – Brene Brown