Why Are Addicts in so Much Emotional Pain?
Why do addicts seem to have a proclivity towards self destruction?
Why are addicts so inclined to blame others for their own choices?
And the biggie, why do our sponsors teach us to not ask “why”?
Answer number one: THE PROBLEM
I was in so much pain that I needed to numb myself due to a life-time of hiding away my true identity. By hiding intense feelings and thoughts away my pain lived inside me till I finally was taught how to let it all out.
Because of emotional neglect and a lack of spirituality I suffered pain. Notice I said “neglect” not “abuse”. Many alcoholics have good parents who have no idea how to emotionally nurture a child in their formative (young period of development in which our emotional patterns are formed) years. Our parents basically without meaning to, teach us we are bad, wrong, lesser than, and don’t really deserve a good life. At the age of 0-8 we have no idea what true love and caring should look like. I myself did not realize this until the intensive work I did into my past by both group therapy and a brilliant psychologist who had been through the same neglect and tearing down of his self-worth.
The “I am Bad & Wrong” Syndrome of the addict
Once I believed I was a bad person I reasoned I would prefer to be a good person doing bad things so in an effort to fix myself (subconsciously) I engaged in a life of bad choices. But wait that doesn’t make sense? You may say. Hear me out please.
I have been programed since birth with the jToxic Habit of Hiding My Fear
We can be extremely fearful to the point of anxiety, panic attack, and even complete emotional paralysis, which is the absence of not only faith but of peace as well. Mankind seeks out many destructive devices to outrun its torturous fears. Seldom if ever does the fearful and miserable man admit or even realize that he is afraid or that it is fear that tortures him. For he has been taught that to admit fear would be admitting that he is weak, bad, and not as good as his peers so, much of mankind (not just active addicts) choose denial over truth. Moreover, we all know what we were taught about those who fear when we were young and impressionable…scaredy-cat, chicken-shit, pussy, pansy, yellow belly, yellow, woosy, and any other negative descriptive word that would shame us for being who we are….human and afraid. I must remind myself that without fear there would be no courage and that every courageous act started with a fearful beginning.
So it’s ok to be human and afraid but we need to have a way to get out of fear.
What’s a fear list? I look deep in my heart and write down those fears that tend to paralyze me. Then I ask God to remove them. If I share my fears with someone who relates, even better. Page 67 & 68 Big Book. Fear is the human condition not some character defect. The character defects stem from the fears. No one who admits fear is a failure. It doesn’t mean your “not working a good program”. The way we treat fear in the world and in AA is as it’s something to be ashamed of. Therefore we hide it away.
Please SOMEONE tell me I am a good person!
Always struggling for the attention and nurturing my parents were incapable of giving. I started every day from the platform of low self worth. I beat myself up endlessly in hopes that if I punished myself enough I would somehow be a good person who really deserves Love.
I hid myself and my emotions away because I believed they were all bad and wrong. Why? That is what I learned, at home, and on TV, and in school through indoctrinations of fear and competition.
Surly no one would like me if they knew who I really was. Don’t be so hard on yourself my friend, you have been taught by devious and ignorant adults of who you are from the get go. Your were just following their lead when behaving destructively. Or maybe you enjoy being evil? I don’t think so.
Hiding our identity in Plain Sight
There is a deep price to pay for holding in who we really are and how we really feel. A body is not made to repress so many intense feelings. I caught Cancer by the time I was thirty-five partly because of repressing emotions. A large tumor had to be cut from my thigh. I was the great “repressor”. But the “screamers” (those addicts who yell at other people often) who also hide their true selves away, commonly suffer from heart attacks and strokes. ( My wise doctor’s theory backed by scientific studies, not mine but I experienced that theory first hand.)
Addiction is not Rocket Science or a mystery
You see, once I found a drug that numbed my pain it became my best friend. People who don’t have the pain that addicts have simply don’t react to drugs and alcohol the way those in deep emotional pain do. Common sense if you think about it. We are way over-thinking addiction in America. It’s really simple.
I was self-destructive because the fear of living so many years in great pain is a scary thought indeed.
The Dysfunctional Solution to my guilt and pain
Blame and accusation is the most widespread way of distracting and deflecting the responsibility of what I had done, who I really am and how I really feel. If I am blaming someone else then I don’t have to look at my guilt, shame, pain,fear.
In AA we are often taught to not ask “why” because one, we obsess, and two those teaching to never ask “why” have not had the opportunity to answer their own question of “why did I drink and drug, why did I need to numb myself”.
Unfortunately if we don’t look at the “why” behind our addiction then we can never really find an emotional and spiritual healing that consists of practical tools and a spiritual guidance system.
The program works if we get a God breathed miracle by step three and IF we do an in depth fourth step that brings into the light all of our shame and fear.
What’s a FOURTH STEP FEAR LIST?
If all we do is list our wrongs and not talk about our deep and intense fears, shame, and feelings then the program is just a band-aid. And when the program is just a band-aid of ongoing distraction we will require such ‘aid’ the rest of our lives by a perpetual need for meetings. Just like so many people preach in AA that we stay sick and will always need meetings because we are insane perpetually. This concept is akin to the adage that the old timer who knows the solutions by the way and has worked the program for years, supposedly, is just as close to a drink as the newcomer. Do the 12 steps work or not?
So what are the solutions?
The solutions are to rebuild who we are and our perceptions from the ground up. We need ways to continually process the way we feel and what we think so we don’t become emotionally constipated again.
Open-minded Realization and Willingness to explore who we are is the Key
Our childhood fears and intense feelings need to be let out. Journalling, writing, crying, screaming in a safe quiet place like our car releases endorphins. God gave us tear ducts for a reason. Crying is a healthy emotion. Physical exercise coupled with an emotional outpouring can relieve years of backed up emotional fear. If we feel horrible don’t lay down. Take a bat and beat the bed with it till tears come and intense anger is released by sweet and tears with expression by groans. Take a whip and beat a tree with it. The tree will not mind. It can join in your healing. (Oh wait Laura you have crossed the line to insanity! You may think, but what if this stuff really works?) Buy a punching bag if you’re a man and include a diary with your workout. Start writing and find out what is really in your head and your heart.
No More Sick Secrets Steps 4 & 5
WRITE DOWN CORE FEELINGS AND CORE FEARS. THE ONES THAT WOULD EMBARRASS YOU IF THEY WERE DISCOVERED. WRITE DOWN THE WEAK AND VULNERABLE THOUGHTS THAT HAVE HAUNTED YOU FOR YEARS.
(Step 3) Pray to find your Step 5 Listener who won’t shut down your heart-felt confessions and can relate and listen with utmost respect and empathy. get a priest if you must.
Share the thoughts that are ongoing and twist at your heart. We need at least one person we can tell anything to, even if it’s in confessional. Work all the steps in depth including shame, fear, and core childlike thoughts and needs. “I want people to love me” Read the book yourself. Both the 12 x 12 and the Big Book.
Kick Shame’s Ass by exposing secret fear to the light of truth
“I am afraid” “I hate myself” “I struggle for my father’s love” “Why won’t Mommy Love me?” Our fourth step needs to work on our wrongs and on our deep hidden emotional fears.
Step 12 Builds Confidence and Pure Vital Self Worth
We are rebuilding who we are by doing step twelve on-going. Not only do we need to address our core issues to heal but we also need to develop new patterns of behavior. We must take our step three seriously. We need to admit that we don’t trust God or His choices for us. And why would we? Look at our past lives and what we have suffered. We need to get real with God Himself. “If you’re there show me”. Pray from the heart not from some mantra robot prayer.
Step Eleven Meditattion
Lay on the bed. Put your arms straight out to your sides leaving you vulnerable. Now show God your true heart not hiding or covering any of it. Admit to him you are lost and need help but that you don’t really know if He will help you or if He exists. JUST BE REAL WITH GOD.
AA Fellowship and Participation
Join a homegroup and make commitments to do stuff that is scary to you. Chair meetings, tell your story at a speaker meeting. Chair more meetings. Go to jails and institutions and share your story again. Do this and keep doing it. Every time you’re scared of relapse write it down and tell God your not trusting Him again and ask for help. Remember the program works and it’s not you that is healing you it is the program/God which you are working that is healing and keeping you sober. “so you’re OK and you’re going to be OK”. Ask yourself; am I OK right now? Then that is good enough.
Fear List step 4
Do fear lists on a regular basis. Then find your part (not trusting God/program) and realize you’re OK. Do step Eleven regularly with positive affirmations of all the good things you have been doing for your recovery.
You are okay if you perceive that you are. Write an autobiography of the most intense childhood experiences and feelings and share it.
Ask God to remove your character defects. Do no harm. Help others. This is the will of God. Never say negative things about yourself like name calling and putting yourself down in your own head.
Give thanks every day to God….aloud. If you seek a spiritual experience to give yourself the supernatural boost that Bill W himself got then go to places that people seek God. I recommend the Pentecostal church because of the laying on of hands and prayer. I also recommend the Catholic Church because of the confessional. Be Catholic for a day and go to confession. The smaller Catholic Churches will accommodate you that.
Finally-make amends to those you have hurt without expectations of their reciprocation. Use a dictionary. Start learning, Set life goals. Eat right. Exercise. Do not engage in sick relationships anymore. If someone brings out the worst in you then it’s time to move on. Quit reserving a beast of burden to blame for your feelings and actions. No one can process the way you feel except you.
One Step at a Time
Tall order? Yes. Read the book I wrote for more help to really heal. Not so you can drink again but rather so you won’t want to drink again. You won’t want to change the way you feel because you will feel fine. And sometimes you will feel great. And sometimes you will feel like shit but you won’t hold it inside. If your angry you will beat the bad and write down your feelings. If your hurt by someone you will tell them “I am hurt by what you said.” That is if you want an ongoing relationship with them you must quit acting like a stone wall. You share not so people can fix you No. It is your sharing in itself that will fix you. You need noone to fix you but you do need to start sharing the more intense feelings and thoughts.