Addicts are attracted to chaos. Although we crave stability, many of us find it extremely uncomfortable. Despite what we believe to be the case, we find chaos and lack of control normal, because it reflects the conditions in which we grew up: lack of autonomy, capricious decisions and behavior by others, and no stable foundations for our lives.
Whether we came from dysfunctional families where complete chaos was the norm or equally dysfunctional roots where all the reins were held by others, the effects are the same. As kids and in adulthood we continually tried/try to gain control of our lives by controlling others or by acting out. By attempting to control others we unconsciously create the familiar conditions of our childhood in an adult setting. By acting out, we stifle our lack of control beneath drugs, eating, sex, shopping or what have you. In either case — usually, both — we are attempting to control feelings and/or situations that we find uncomfortable or intolerable.
Those of us who consider ourselves “intellectual,” who try always to be rational, who spend a lot of time trying to work through our issues in our heads and purport to trust only understanding and reason are trying to control the world around us out of fear. We seek to understand the universe, ourselves and other people through pure logic, trying to force rationality on a world that is anything but. I run into such people constantly because I hang out with a lot of folks in various stages of recovery. I’m also continually working on my own similar issues.
I recently read a line that summed things up nicely: “If we stay up until 3:00 A.M. reading a book on balance, we may be missing the point.” Although the writer was referring to something slightly different, the thought still applies in principle. When we spend the great proportion of our time trying to force life — which is inherently illogical and chaotic — into a form that can be understood by the intellect alone, the result is not what we expect. Instead, we are stifling our intuition, our subconscious, our imagination and our dreams. Pounding the square pegs of logic into the round holes of a chaotic reality results only in chips and messy sticks coming out the other end. If that’s not an unbalanced life, I don’t know what is.
It all comes back to accepting the things we cannot change and changing the things we can: ourselves, and only ourselves. As our slavery to our other compulsions lessens, control often becomes a substitute. That creates another form of chaos, that ingredient of dysfunctional lives to which we are so accustomed, but as we become less controlling we are able to relax and access our spirituality (the things of the human spirit) and open up inner resources. We become able to see new possibilities and options. That not only aids our recovery but also can be a huge help in dealing with the confusion and difficulties of everyday life that invariably plague us as we “trudge the road of happy destiny.”
Letting go of control and embracing the absurd and illogical things that make up most of life is scary. However, it frees up parts of our minds — especially our subconscious — that are then able to integrate with our logical mind and make us more cognizant of the subtleties of living. There’s nothing New Agey or metaphysical about that. It’s the way our heads are supposed to work. And as any gymnast or diver can tell you, where the head goes, the body will follow.