Some don’t realize it consciously, but all of us addicts have one thing in common, a feeling, deep down inside, that we want to be different people from who we are. Regardless of the reasons for that, the desire to change what we perceive as our reality, to overcome the feelings of worthlessness, to feel worthy of love, to feel safe in loving – to be whole human beings – is common to all addicts.
I changed who I was in a lot of ways. I fooled other people (some of them) by concocting tales about how wonderful I was and all the amazing things I’d done. I learned the skills necessary to back up those tales, without ever amassing the real experiences that would have made them genuine. I hid the worthless me behind a legend, and slowly became one in my own mind as well. I became a know-it-all, a person who pressed my ideas on others until they either agreed with me or went away and left me feeling superior. I became a jerk, and later a drunk and drug addict when I discovered that chemical transformation really did work – for a while, at least.
I didn’t notice when I began sliding into an alternate world, but I suspect it was around the age of four or five. I do know that I carried it on into late middle age, bolstering it, as time passed, with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and anything else that would help me stuff that unworthy person back out of sight and assist me in forgetting that one salient fact: that I thought I was unworthy of love, whether others did or not.
We call that feeling, in all its guises, shame. Shame, when you get right down to it, is based on fear of losing connections with others. Of not being good enough. Of being unloveable. Of being broken and wrong. Some of us try to fight it with drugs, some with service without regard to their own needs (we call them codependents), some by pursuing sexual experiences that we perceive as “love.” Some of us try to fill the empty place in our guts with food, things, and thrills. Some of us give up and die, one way or another. The lucky ones get into recovery.
Because that’s what recovery is about. It’s about clearing up the mess of our past, both internally and externally, and becoming convinced that we really aren’t that piece of shit that we’ve always believed we were, way deep down inside. It’s about learning that the “real me” is worthy, and finding that when we’re real and genuine people really do love us without need of chemicals and legends.
Recovery is about getting real in all aspects of our lives, but mostly it’s about learning that we are who we are, not who someone else or long-ago circumstances led us to believe. It’s about re-writing the legend in our own minds, and finding the truth of our story that will allow us to accept others – and (if we desire) God – fully into our lives.
There’s plenty of help out there, but we have to do the actual work ourselves. No one can do it for us. The good news is (as they say), “It works if you work it!”
But the work is real; day trippers and Sunday drivers need not apply. How’s your story going to end – reality, or lie? It’s your choice.