We addicts and codependents play a lot of little mind tricks on ourselves to keep from owning our issues and feelings completely. We say things like:
My addict is down at the foot of the bed doing push ups, just waiting for me to get careless. [Reality: there’s no “my addict”; there’s just me. ]
My mind would kill me if it didn’t need the transportation. [Reality: this is getting a little closer, but it’s still personifying my issues as something outside the real me.]
I have some anger about that. [Reality: owning my anger, saying “I’m angry!” Either I am, or I’m not.]
My addict is/was telling me….
Ever said anything like that? If not, I bet you’ve heard it lots of times in meetings, and maybe even in group therapy. Those are examples of the mind games we play with ourselves. They sound cute, and we joke that we don’t really mean them literally. But words are important.
Imagine standing in front of a mirror, looking yourself in the eye, and repeating out loud ten times: “I’m a piece of shit!” Sound like a good idea? I sure hope not. I can tell you I’m not going to do it! Instead, we are told to look in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations to change the way we think about ourselves. Those who have tried it report that it really does work. We think in words. Words are important. Accepting my addiction is important. It’s right between my ears, not at the foot of the bed.
My addiction is physical, involving changes in my brain. The jury’s still out on whether or not any of them were permanent, but they can surely happen again. It’s social, affecting the way I relate to the world in general: to employers, people on the street, relatives, old friends, even strangers. And my addiction is spiritual, in the sense of the human spirit. It affects my ability to function in areas of patience, understanding, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, connection, love, and joy–the ways in which I need to relate to other people, instead of the superficial level [what can I get out of this] where my relationships took place for all those years.
In order for me to put my addictive life behind me, I have to accept my addiction for what it is: part of me, residing in my head, affecting my entire being. It is more than chemical changes, it is more than abstinence, it is more than talking the talk and walking the walk. It is part of me. I can put that part of my life behind me, but I can’t walk away from it.
When I understand that, I can begin to look at those parts of my life that led me to want to turn off my feelings, to distract myself from the unworthy person I imagined myself to be, to present myself as other than I really am, to run away from my reality. In short, trying to hide from the lies I told myself about myself.
Personifying my addiction as something “out there” at the foot of the bed, or “my addict,” as if it were an annoying pet that follows me around, simply disrupts my process. Sobriety is expressed by speaking plainly and honestly–to everyone else, but especially to myself.