Addiction’s Seven Companions
Every person’s recovery journey is unique, but there are some common characteristics that seem to mark the road to recovery and some common challenges that those in recovery must overcome. Addiction has seven companions that conspire to keep you in the clutches of your disease. These are the secret weapons of addiction, and when they are defeated, you are well on your way to finding freedom and lasting recovery. Are you letting any of these things keep you in chains?
Almost everyone knows the first of the twelve steps outlined in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Addiction’s best friend is denial, and it is not hard to imagine why. Nobody chooses to become addicted, and with the persistent stigma surrounding addiction, sometimes it feels easier to just pretend the problem does not exist. But that will not make the problem go away.
Naming addiction is the first step to understanding it and overcoming it. If you find yourself choosing to use your drug of choice again and again despite negative consequences, there is a good chance you are addicted. Serenity House also offers a simple, free addiction screening tool on our website.
They say that relapse is a part of recovery, but this is only true if we do not allow shame to draw us back down into the cycle of addiction. Shame often starts as guilt, a negative feeling associated with having done something wrong; but unlike guilt, shame can take on a life of its own and keep a person from moving past their mistakes. The recovery skill essential for overcoming shame is self-forgiveness. Only when we forgive ourselves can we accept setbacks as a part of the journey to freedom.
Pride is the big guy holding you while addiction beats you up. Pride is what keeps us from admitting we have a problem. Pride is what makes us think our own way is best, even though experience has proved us wrong again and again. Pride is what keeps us from reaching out for help. Pride is what harbors resentment and denies forgiveness.
Pride perpetuates addiction, which ultimately leads to humiliation. Humility, on the other hand, leads to recovery. It says “I have a problem.” It says, “Something greater than me can restore me.” It says, “I will make amends for the pain I have caused others.” And it says, “I don’t have to be perfect to make progress.”
Addiction thrives in the dark when no one knows about it. Before recovery can begin, addiction has to be brought out into the light. We have to start being honest with ourselves and others. This is what the fifth step is all about: making a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”Addiction is fueled by secrets, and when the secrets dry up, it is like a car running out of gas. What secrets are fueling your addiction?
No addiction happens in a vacuum. Addiction affects every relationship we have in one way or another. Many people find their way into recovery because they have seen firsthand how addiction can wreck a family. Friends and family members are forced to trade their normal healthy roles for dysfunctional roles that compensate for the addict’s behavior. In some cases, family members become addicted to the dysfunction, the constant neediness, and the non-stop crisis. For recovery to work, it cannot just be for the addict; friends and family must recover their healthy roles and relinquish their dysfunction. Go to our addiction glossary to learn more about codependency, and click this link to learn more about Serenity House’s Family Services.
We live in a culture that rewards individual effort and looks on any interdependence as a sign of weakness. Just as much as codependency can fuel addiction, so can this sort of hyper-individualism.
Consider this statement from the National Institute on Drug Abuse: “In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.”
Addiction is a disease. Recovery is hard.
Nobody would be expected to handle cancer or diabetes or heart disease alone, and no one should be expected to handle addiction alone. When it comes to recovery, independence is a recipe for failure.
More often than not, addiction is one huge cover up. We use it to cover up pain, insecurity, anger, and bitterness. When this cover is taken away, many people find that old resentments begin to surface. An essential part of lasting recovery is learning to forgive past wrongs and release old resentments. Recovery involves a constant process of self-examination, confession, and forgiveness – forgiving ourselves and others. Serenity House uses a twelve-step model to help our patients walk through this process of relinquishment and find hope.
What has been your biggest challenge in recovery? What advice would you give to others who are just starting out? Leave it in the comments, and be sure to like this and share it with your friends!