How Addiction Changes Forms
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – C.G. Jung
I feel like there are few 12 step fellowships I haven’t qualified for at some point in my life. I’ve been to AA, NA, CA, SLAA, SA, OA, ACA, CODA, ACOA, and Al-Anon. Drugs, food, sex and relationships in general. I have been addicted to drugs, over 300lbs, unable to be emotionally present and faithful to any relationship. This was a result of addiction rearing its head in various forms. Today my life is fantastic, and none of these issues haunt me.
I realize that everything can change quickly if I don’t stay in motion. The driver for my daily disciplines isn’t fear of losing the life I have. It is the love I have for my new foundation in life that gets me out of bed and sets the tone for my daily disciplines. I have learned so much. Darkness has been an equal teacher to light if not a better one.
There are Levels to our Addictions
In many video games, especially in the 80’s, there are levels. Often at the end of the level, there is a boss that must be defeated to get to the next level. Life is similar. It can be said different ways, one of my favorites is “Life will present the same lesson over and over until it is learned.” Rudy Castro in the Tiny Buddha blog puts it this way, “I love the way the universe doesn’t let us get away with anything. Its loving energy allows us to repeat similar life experiences over and over again until we learn that spiritual lesson.”
We must identify the bosses and take them on one at a time. Substance abuse in any form is a gatekeeper boss. It must be addressed first. Who can work on deeper relationships, better physical health, gambling, or any other issue while battling active addiction or alcoholism? Other level bosses that are common are food, sex, gambling, and money. After a person gets sober and is actively involved in their recovery, the next boss in a person’s life will always present itself.
How to Deal With our “Bosses”
As with substance abuse healing follows the injury. When I was sober over a year the first time, my past abuses and unresolved issues surfaced in the form of relational failures with the opposite sex. When I was over 10 years sober and a dry drunk, I turned to food. I’m not sure where it originated, but I heard the famous pastor T.D. Jakes say, “For every level, another Devil.” We translate that into peeling the layers of an onion analogy.
Regardless of what comes up, your perspective is critical. I remember coming off the podium of 12 step meetings with hundreds in attendance and the pit in my stomach because of the hypocrisy I just spoke. The difference in my life and the message I had just shared were opposites. I was unable to see these were areas where I was unhealed. My actions were an opportunity to learn and grow past unresolved issues. I just labeled myself a hypocrite and judged myself. Character defects also play a role at this point being a dry drunk, they bring misery along with them.
How can we Realize the Difference?
Today I know different. Whatever avenue my spiritual bankruptcy aims at is the same area I can point the program (or outside professional help) to overcome and further improve the quality of my life. If it can be done with drugs, why not anything else. The approaches may be different, but the motto is the same. Chuck C. a very well know alcoholic gave us the slogan in his book “A New Pair of Glasses.” Uncover. Discover. Discard. Coping with this is an important part of recovery.
In another article on The Fix, many tell their stories on how their addictions switched. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of ‘healthy addictions.’ The bottom line is that moderation is the only way we can control these. According to Dr. Lance Dodes, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of Breaking Addiction states, “…it depends on the motivations behind the behavior. “If you were to buy a candy bar because you decided you deserve a reward today, that’s not an addiction,” he explains. “If you have to have a candy bar because it’s solving an internal problem where you feel intolerably helpless, that’s a compulsive behavior.”
In other words: if you feel out of control, you probably are. We can easily end up acting out impulsively and not realize that it’s our addiction cropping up in different ways.
The above sited Tiny Buddha blog leaves off with this: “When we recognize that life provides countless opportunities to heal, and develop unconditional love for those that fell short, we feel a sense of freedom. With that comes humility to face our spiritual lessons to overcome. If we take the opportunity, there is a release that is deep and everlasting. What spiritual lesson keeps repeating for you?”
Chances are the addictive tendencies we are dealing with now, is still just our addiction. It’s just resurfacing, with a new twist at best. We all know the first part of solving a problem is identifying it. So, I ask you to think about which bosses have haunted you? What’s the boss of your next level?