Lessons We Learn By Overcoming Addiction
In recovery we learn much about how we are put together. We might regard it as a process of self-study. In particular, we learn how we have sabotaged ourselves and all our best intentions. Until we become rooted in our Healthy Self, we remain vulnerable to our worst elements.
At this point we already know how acting out under the influence of the inner Addict results in great suffering and harm. We may have learned from professional therapists and from people in recovery how to abstain from our primary addiction. But the addictive side of our personality, the inner Addict, still has some tricks up its sleeve. It sneaks into our lives by sweet talking us into some supposedly harmless behavior, which can easily turn into a substitute addiction. Now what are we going to do?
Obviously we still have a lot to learn about the addictive process. And we each have our own delusions that arise out of our past conditioning. Some of us, for example, are prone to think of our abilities as superior and even unlimited, while others don’t believe they have much talent at all. Both of these evaluations are wrong, and we need to challenge these mistaken images of ourselves and see just how they set us up to become victims of our own making.
We know from our primary addiction that we have a craving to get high. Getting sober from our favorite addiction does not abolish this craving. We will seek another way to satisfy it, because our craving is so intense and so deeply rooted in our psyche. Eventually we learn that our efforts to get high are not worth the trouble. The high doesn’t last very long, and we get hurt in the hunt. And so we realize we need to let go of this craving and replace it with a desire for peacefulness.
Conclusion: How to Outsmart Your Inner Addict
We have seen how the inner Addict survives by seducing us with a replacement addiction. And we have learned some of the techniques it uses to control us.
In summary, the inner Addict is:
It creeps into our thoughts and whispers in our ear. It wants us to reward ourselves for being so good by indulging in a “harmless” activity or substance.
It tempts us with promises of happiness. If need be, it hints that we will become delirious, although it doesn’t explain exactly how this will happen.
The inner Addict knows us better than we do, it knows what buttons of ours to push to get us to do what it wants. For this reason, we need to improve our self-knowledge and learn how the inner Addict operates.
It deceives us into thinking it is flimsy and weak, but in reality the inner Addict is enormously powerful. As long as it appears to be invisible, it can dominate us and destroy us.
The inner Addict manages to persuade us by using shrewd tactics. It always exaggerates how wonderful we are going to feel when we get high. It inflates us with flattery by telling us how invincible we are. It minimizes any problems that might occur and tells us to ignore any evidence to the contrary.
This addictive side of our personality is always in a hurry, it wants us to act quickly before the opportunity is lost. It doesn’t want us to take time to evaluate the consequences.
It overrides any inhibition we may have and tells us it’s all right to have some fun. In fact, it insists we are entitled to have lots of fun.
It casts a spell over us with the irresistible desire to get high. Once we succumb to its allure, it’s as if we were hypnotized or acting on auto pilot.
Obviously the inner Addict is a troublemaker.
By learning how it manipulates us, we can free ourselves from its control and be able to help others as well.
Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.