The memories of many addicts’ and alcoholics’ childhood involve feeling different or unloveable. Instances of culpability or unspecific guilt are often cited as common along with feeling less-than and undeserving. For some, these feelings of low self-esteem can be attributed to facts of abuse, but for others there is no actual explanation for these feelings. As they grow older many describe not feeling comfortable in their own skin, constantly feeling pressure or stress. Eventually, the comfort of discovering a substance that provides a sublime relief from the ‘otherness’ takes over.
Before we know it we have become addicted and there seems to be no way out. Our perception of the world becomes increasingly out of step with reality. Even with the dulling effects of drugs, our perception of the world was one of hostility. One reaction is to withdraw and cut off contact with others, another is to be somewhat functional: going through the motions of living yet using drugs as a shield to prevent us from feeling anything emotionally. There isn’t much room for trust in isolation. Despite the fact that we feel in control, we are steadily drifting further and further away from the world and human relationships. We lose our anchor and drift far away, losing any moral compass, way beyond compromising ourselves in just about every way imaginable. Our fears grow in the dark. We are overcome by negativity and devoid of hope. We cannot trust because we do not feel trustworthy and we behave in ways we never thought ourselves capable of. We are alienated and disconnected.
Having lost oneself so completely to the disease of addiction, still chasing an unattainable high, the best one can hope for is a momentary realization that we can go no further. Does one admit defeat and enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center or continue on with fragility towards a precariously uncertain future?
When an addict or alcoholic starts the process of recovery they are extremely vulnerable. They are full of fear and devoid of hope for they have come from a place of chaos and mistrust. However the act of not picking up a drink or a drug for a day or two or three can provide a glimmer of hope. Finding a support group of other people who are drink and drug free is invaluable. Nobody understands an alcoholic or drug addict like another one. As we acquire more time away from drugs and alcohol, the value of holding on to hope as opposed to living in fear becomes apparent. Slowly, we learn to live with our feelings rather than run away from them. This doesn’t mean that there wont be times when life seems meaningless and difficult, or we feel alienated. Living life in hope rather than fear is a leap of faith towards the unknown. Experiencing how this positive direction can help us grow, we find ourselves changing on a fundamental level. Although the nature of this transformation is hard to understand, we know, at least, that change is necessary. It may be uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, but if we focus on hope, and trust in the growth, we will be able to pass through the most trying of times.
In not succumbing to old negative thought patterns or resorting to self defeating behavior we can avoid plummeting back into the depths out of which we clambered so tentatively by the simple act of believing in hope and choosing not to use.