Friday, 7 April 2017

Outing the Shame of Addiction

Given my life free of addiction has now been twice the length of time as when I was actively ensconced in that "life style" (now at just over 30yrs) well for one thing - I ain't no Spring chicken. Another distinction might be, that when I say "addiction" I refer to Drugs & Alcohol (which incidentally, are the same thing - it's all drugs). It just so happens in the world of ego-based hair-splitting; some like to make the distinction that alcohol is "legal" and therefore - (fill in your rationale of choice). For many, some form of "substance" abuse, might be as far as they would cast their net, when considering an addiction.

For the purpose of my discussion I will define addiction as: the compulsive, repetitive attempt to focus outside myself on (              ) in order to avoid the pain brought on by what amounts to, a chronic disconnection with myself. Typically at some point this continued self-abandonment will lead to various areas of my life that are suffering due to this neglect. The other thing is, that though this behaviour is in response to and a strategy for, coping with chronic pain ... it does nothing to provide lasting relief.

Though other forms of addiction are allegated varying degrees of shame; seemingly on some sort of gradient, chemical addiction somehow, has been assigned among the most negative of stigma. This may be due to the fact that someone that is on the downward spiral with these addictions is quite visible to the public eye and therefore can readily draw their scorn. Those in society who may be courting various other forms of addictions, that are not so visible, can effectively & conveniently conceal this truth. In fact when one considers how many in our modern society might be indulging in these "hidden addictions" a viable answer to the stigma reserved for the more visibly afflicted materializes. The age old practice of "scapegoating" rears its nasty head. All too convenient for those that are scrambling to conceal areas of their own life that have gotten "out of control;" to project their self-contempt on those that lie on the front lines and trenches (in some cases literally) suffering in the clutches of what for many, will be an addiction, that leads to their demise.

I only now mention a "history" of addiction for the purposes of outlining my "education;" I have zero shame associated with this history. This certainly was not always the case. I don't "identify" with this history any longer. It is my intention moving forward to serve, in the capacity of coach/mentor/guide/healer. As such, it is inevitable that addictions in all shapes and forms will present. It is my contention that without making "addiction" a continual focal point; but disclosing with full transparency my "background;" I demonstrate my knowing of the subject matter is far beyond conjecture, and that complete freedom from a history (any history) is possible. Obviously it doesn't remove the fact the history occurred. The difference is one can be far removed from their history and still hold themselves in the associative container of pain (shame, self-hatred, victim consciousness). This is not "my pet theory" nor is it even a compilation of the company of thousands of individuals and countless hours of both their "drunkalogues" and their "recovery" stories, that seed my assertion. This is, the unassailable truth of my life experience.

I have been extracted from literal hell on earth and granted the grace to have complete freedom from that past, in order to tell my story. Not to parrot the group mind of twelve step rooms, religious or mind-based behaviour modification strategies. I'm not here to malign or negate any other path.

My path included a wake-up call well into multiple years of sobriety (that already made me a statistical anomaly) - that despite "beating the odds" and remaining sober 5 yrs. 10 yrs. 15 yrs. +++  there still existed for me a crippling presence of shame (self-hatred, self-contempt, self-criticism - energy and mistaken unconscious beliefs, that I had not just made mistakes .... I was a MISTAKE!!)

Long before the end of my attendance at twelve step rooms I sought "outside help." The "desire to drink" had long since been lifted and was at no risk of returning. I knew with every fibre of my being that drinking etc. was no longer my option. But I had to find relief from the suffering that no amount of repetition of the panacea times twelve, was going to relieve. Trust me, any suggestion from the fundamentalists in the rooms, that I was not "fearless and thorough" could soon be laid to rest by some of the sponsors that I left in comas, as they agreed to witness the comprehensive self-disclosure I presented doing fourth and fifth steps. I did the subsequent steps again and again ... I made the lists, the amends, did the ongoing service etc.

The founder of A.A. himself way back when, said that "sobriety" is but the tip of the iceberg, for many, there still remains significant mental/emotional/spiritual malady, for which it may be necessary to seek "outside help." This was in the late thirties or early forties, when there wasn't a great many additional options available. Still he acknowledged, that the program itself, was not necessarily the "be all to end all." No question it's a good place to get started; for someone that has been chronically addicted ... there are few other places where you can be surrounded by others that have a similar history, will accept you without judgment (theoretically and until, you start trying to think and speak for yourself).

Let's face it, if I was for a good portion of fifteen years drinking and using drugs in an addicted and self-destructive fashion; then if I stop and stay stopped, it's better for everyone. However, though this ongoing abstinence is significant - it is not nearly enough (for me) and I can assure you, there is so much more. Twelve step adherents would have you believe that should you ever leave those rooms - relapse is inevitable. This is simply not true. Again I draw on the founder's words which stated: "Sobriety is contingent on the ongoing quality of one's spiritual maintenance." He never said that "maintenance" need consist of a lifetime of those meetings, and those meetings only.  As far as I'm concerned this is where the collective have taken liberty with some of the spiritual principles woven into the program and have allowed the cultural consensus within the rooms, to become dogmatic.

I take issue not with those that choose to make stopping drinking, the pinnacle for themselves. The problem lies where those that pound tables and program literature like some sort of southern evangelical preacher; but choose not to address their own underlying issues, often don't restrict their  choice and belief to themselves. There is considerable "peer pressure" to tow the party line in those rooms. Again they have their place - for someone with patterned repetitive relapse... whatever it takes to get a stay sober is a really good idea.

So then what begins as a "supportive" environment, then shows its shadowy underbelly if you "rock the boat." Soon there after, it is discovered how close to its shame-based religious roots it still remains. You tell me (a somewhat rhetorical suggestion - I'll discuss my views and experience but only to the point of mutual connection and understanding - if all you want to do is change my mind forget it ... I've done all the investigation I need) - so again, you tell me, how someone that is already suffering at depth, vast amounts of shame, how can anyone think, that additional shaming is the solution to that?

I understand anyone's fear of relapse. I wouldn't wish that hell on anyone, let alone that they return to it after a respite of any length. If you never stop, you might be able to continue to deceive yourself into thinking "this is it." But once you stop for even a short while, it will always be known, that an alternative exists.

For me among other insights, I realized after a certain time, there was no particular challenge in discussing my addiction in a room full of others who had lived the same thing. However there was no release from the shame either. When I began exploring other forms of personal growth and healing groups, circles, workshops and perhaps; I was, the only one in the circle with an addiction history (or at least the admission of one) then it took considerably more, to open up about that. It was a far greater "risk" and though initially; I might have thought I was seeking acceptance from others regardless of my history - the longer term result was, I both realized; I was lessening my shame around this history, and more and more, coming to win the acceptance, of the one hold-out that had been present my whole life.... namely ME!

Once a word or phrase has been so completely charged with the negative energy like "alcoholic" or some racial slur, what possible good can it do; to on a daily (multiple times a day) basis, reinforce that stigma "and I am a ..............." Clearly I need to recognize and admit where and in what ways my life is not working ... but it serves no higher good; to beat the shit out of myself with that, for the rest of my life.

I drank and used drugs abusively, self-destructively, with relative impunity followed by immobilizing remorse - until I felt well enough to get up and do it again.  All this having been true..... there is so much more to me than just this. There is so much more to every single person than this - but they have to be willing to find that out for themselves.

This self-discovery, recovery, remembering, reconnecting was for me, the beginning of the end of the long term pain of utter self-abandonment and disconnection. I can't speak for anyone else but I can tell you shame existed in me long before I picked up my first drink - even though "long" in my case, was age thirteen. Imagine if you will (or can) the kind of pain, a thirteen year old boy might be experiencing that a path of numbing out would become what he opts for. I can assure you, the ensuing fifteen years of making that choice, only served to heap shame upon shame upon shame.

The path I stand for and represent is one of love. I will write about it, speak about it and do my utmost to live it into the world. I will share myself, my story and my experience whether it is with one person or one thousand and one people - it doesn't matter, I will do so without shame.

I know at depth the pain of separation, isolation, shame, exclusion and disconnection; I simply won't be part of anything, that perpetuates that.

I also know freedom, connection, love, acceptance, inclusion and more consistent inner peace than I've ever known ... I want to share that.

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