Developing a spiritual path is rewarding, though not always easy. The belief that once drugs, alcohol, self-abusive behaviors, and other forms of addictions are removed life becomes easier magically appears. There are many who are convinced that it is the drugs, alcohol, or other substances that is the root of all his or her problems. If only getting sober were that easy, recovery would be instant.
No one planned on becoming an addict, turning life into chaos and filled with horrors. In the beginning, it was experimental, give it a try, see what happens. Even self-mutilation is an experiment gone wrong. The first use is euphoric, all problems fade, and you feel great. Maybe even the second or third time still feels good, but not as great as it did. Each use tempers the body, adaptation occurs, soon it takes more to feel good, and one day, it is a matter of feeling normal. That first high is elusive. You have traveled the path from recreational user to addict. It did not happen over night, tho it may seem like it.
A belief system was developed, then shifted and became set into stone, reinforced by the choices made. The time line may vary, but the simplest explanation goes something like this:
As a child, you learned certain lessons about the world around you. Deciphering and defining in a manner that you can understand. Children feel the problems around them and those that happen to them are their fault. The common thought is “if only I were good enough.” A simple statement with several variations, all meaning the same and the result is a low self-value.
Teen years occur the experimental time of life, following along with peers, trying out the various options available. Alcohol, drugs, sex, risky behaviors, and maybe cutting, binge eating, purging, again a simple statement about a complicated problem. Depending on the substance a good time is had, or not. Some would never repeat the experiment due to a bad result, then there are those determined that the next time will be better. This is usually because peers have made it fun and “I must have done something wrong,” happens to the young mind.
If the use continues by the 20’s control is beginning to fade. The rules that were set have been broken, not once, but several times. Eventually, there are no rules. The speed in which this occurs varies from person to person. Some take years, others days or weeks. The last thing to go is the work, after all there has to be a way to pay for the drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Rarely does the job go before the family, a place to live, belongings, and other relationships.
The family may try to intervene, thinking that by feeding the addict, providing a warm bed and shower, maybe he or she will finally “get it together,” only to find disappointment. Sending the addict to treatment may seem like another great idea. The problem is, the addict may not feel like his or her life is a problem. Some will even change substances, or add another to counter the effects of the first one. Experimentation, rationalization, justification, and glorification are common practices.
Beliefs are the problem. Throughout a lifetime, one develops beliefs about the world and self. In childhood without sufficient education and valid information, the blame is taken on for all that is wrong in the child’s life. Beliefs are developed that can bring damage throughout a lifetime to self and others. Some beliefs are in the level of awareness, others are hidden.
Setting aside the substance is not enough to change a lifestyle. Addicts learn how to live to support the lifestyle. Sobriety requires a new belief, a change in core values. This takes time, sometimes as much time as it took to become an addict, sometimes longer. If a trauma is involved, which is almost always is, then it can be a treacherous road. The nightmares are another enemy of a sober person. Physical health is another problem as is mental health.
The substance used wreaks havoc on the body, physically causing major changes and destruction. Recovery is about healing the body, the mind, the soul, and the psyche. Mental illness may have preceded alcohol and/or drugs, in many cases it is a definite result of addiction. The damage to the liver, kidneys, and other organs can be severe. A health check should be completed as soon as possible. A mental health check is usually suggested after 90 days of sobriety. It can take that long for the mind to begin to reorient to a sober state.
Your beliefs are a part of whom you are, giving them up is not easy. Some of your beliefs are superficial, others are deeply ingrained and will take some time to uncover. Change must occur, especially those beliefs that keep you repeating the same behaviors.
The world is filled with resources to assist in belief shifts. Mindfulness is an indispensable tool in recovery. Learning to become mindful of your beliefs will aid in changing them. You cannot create change by ignoring them or by pretending everything is alright when it is not.
Keep a journal, use it faithfully, write in freestyle. Set pen to paper for fingers to keyboard. Write the problem or thought that comes to mind, do not censor it. Open yourself to hear what is hidden, allow yourself to feel and move through the emotions and thoughts. Judgement does occur, include it in your journal. This is yours, no one else ever need see what is written.
Take a breath in through the nose, notice how it feels, listen for a sound, focus on the breath. Breathe out through the mouth, feel the air pass through your throat, feel it leave your lungs. This is mindfulness. In all your daily moments, listen and notice what it is your do and your breath. Record your observations in your journal.
The beliefs will surface, you will find new ones to replace the old. The lies are revealed in time and wounds do heal. Support in your journey is available. In some cases professional assistance is required, especially when underlying health issues arise. There is no shame is asking for help. If you have the willingness attend a few 12-step meetings, try out different ones at various times and places. Talk to other 12-steppers, read the literature, explore your options. For further reading about the 12-Steps, click here.
You are not alone in this journey.