Overcoming key barriers to healing addiction
Earlier today, I walked two separate clients through the exact same material: An understanding of 8 key barriers to escaping from addiction and how those barriers actually represent a very clear roadmap out of addiction and into healing.
(If you have not already read them, please do so first as little of this post will make any sense without such.)
The last client of the day pointed out just how dark and hopeless those barriers appear and I realized that, though I had long posted the barriers, I never posted how much hope is actually present in understanding them – or how clearly they expose the lie that is the statement, “Once an addict, always an addict.”
So, let’s look at those barriers in reverse. Let’s look at what they really are: A road to freedom.
(1). The first step towards ceasing to be an addict is taken when we look at our heart of shame, fear, guilt and the terrifying wave of unworthiness that comes with such and say in ourselves, “Forget fixing it. Even with all of this mess, I wonder if there’s someone out there who can love me, not as I should be, but just as I am.”
(2). What happens in that moment is that a veil is pulled back from our eyes and we start to see just exactly how many good people our lives always were filled with. We see all of the people who, for years, have been longing to love us – if we had only reached out. And, hands trembling, we risk…
(3). And, in that risk, we start to become aware of our desperate need for skills. We look around and realize that, during all of those years when our hearts were numbed out on whatever behaviour or substance we were using, other people were experiencing pain, learning skills from it and growing-up in their ability to navigate the often confusing rapids that are the reality of personal relationship with others. And, we finally get really serious about both growing-up and learning those skills – often looking for a short-cut to such via therapy.
(4). Then, trust starts to grow. As other people are allowed into the former, “No-go zones,” and they consistently demonstrate that they have the willingness and the ability to love and care for us, that dizzying rush of trust and vulnerability that is relationship starts to seem less and less insane. (Merged into this level is a nearly frenetic pursuit of skills for dealing with emotional pain and confusion and tools for addressing awakened damage from the past when things don’t go so well.)
(5). And, as we start to trust our hearts to love, those other people start to perform a critically important role: They start to point the way towards the meeting of needs. They start to be able to say to us, “It sounds like you need a hug, could use a good talk, need to get that off your chest, need to go for a run, need to pound on a punching bag…”
(6). Little by little, connections start to be formed in the addictive mind. “You know, every time I have that tight feeling in my chest and feel like I can’t breathe, my friend tells me I’m feeling powerless or anxious and need to talk. And, by the time we have drunk far too much coffee and talked, I no longer feel that way. Hey, I think I know what this feeling means and what I need!!!”
(7). But, that’s a scary place. Dysfunctional homes not only inflict trauma on children, they also teach us to ignore what we are feeling and distrust such to the very core. It takes time to see that emotions really are consistent, that they reliably depict what is happening inside of us and that they do change to feelings of fulfillment when the deep needs they reveal are met.
(8). Then finally, a life transforming realization begins to grow: That when we live out of our whole heart and delight in the wonder of all we were created to be, it’s impossible to still be an addict because WE FUNDAMENTALLY NO LONGER WANT TO BE NUMB.
That’s when we realize that we’re free!
Again, yes, those 8 barriers are a pretty dark and depressing read.
But, that’s hardly the end of the story.
The first step to healing any problem is, in all it’s raw ugliness, to map out the full extent of the problem and come to understand how it works. Once you have that accomplished, the task of fixing it is at least half done.
“Once an addict, always an addict,” may not, strictly speaking, be a lie – for a lie implies the intent to deceive.
But, it’s also nowhere near being true.