It took a long time to come back from that not-so-slow descent into illness, depression and a loss of interest in being alive. Fortunately, when these moments were at their most intense, I had not yet become a mother. The greatest damage was done only to myself and given my existing state of mind, that didn’t seem to matter much.
Once it became obvious to all, and finally to myself, that I could no longer function in ‘acceptable’ society, I was faced with the need to do something …anything! … other than what I was already doing. I remember well the day that I left the therapist’s office with his words echoing in my head: alcoholic. I was stunned …and mortified … at even the thought that I could be so afflicted. Such humiliation! Not to mention all those other thoughts that flooded my awareness about my family, our history, the way we collectively behaved. Where was I to go with all of this? I remember feeling such deep shame at this discovery … and deeper gratitude that I had never had children.
I spent the next years on a journey of discovery. A journey that included 12-step programs of every sort – and there are many from which to choose! A frenzied search for both meaning and alternatives that was fed by volumes of books and audiotapes and programs and retreats. At those moments, I was grateful to be one of those who is nurtured by reading and by conversation; by analysis and examination. Otherwise, I would have only drifted deeper into a sense of despair.
For the next few years, I kept myself busy with what would be considered the traditional approaches to ‘recovery’. And then one day, I hit a wall. Nothing was changing. It didn’t seem to matter how many meetings I went to; how much I journaled; how many people I talked to; how many books I read or tapes I listened to or programs I attended; and it didn’t seem to make a difference anymore when I read my ‘thought for the day’ meditations from a variety of sources. I was no longer soothed or encouraged by these but actually felt agitated…and angry! It seemed that I could not move forward; and that everything seemed to be more of the same. Once again, that sense of desperation began to seep in. Relapse – and collapse – were imminent.
I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I discovered things that most people who carry the label of ‘addict’ (whether self-imposed or inflicted by others) rarely have the opportunity to explore. I discovered NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I discovered quantum biology. I discovered alternative approaches to wellness. I discovered the notion of ‘energy’ and its implications for healing – all grounded in the cold, hard fact of science, the god of the culture. I discovered the power of my own awareness, and intention. I discovered that I wasn’t crazy. And I discovered that I couldn’t lie anymore – especially to myself.
Consider, for a moment, that our approach to ‘addiction’ and to those who practice it, may be (at best) incomplete and (at worst) harmful. Consider for a moment that those we so easily label as ‘addicts’ may be much more. They may be the canaries in the mines of the culture, their acute sensing capabilities giving us advance warning that the environment is toxic and will not support and sustain life. Or perhaps, they may even be the mystics of the culture. The ones who know things at levels beyond what we’ve been culturally conditioned to perceive … and are trying desperately to tell us what they know.
Today, even though we know far more about the importance of flow of energy for health and healing (and have known for more than 50 years and continue to pay little attention to), we continue to interpret human behaviour through a standard that is not only inaccurate but potentially lethal. Even though we live in a time when quantum biology and its implications are beginning to reach and permeate the rank and file, we continue to develop recovery programs that are based on the therapy model and grounded in control. We already know – and have much evidence to support – that control is an illusion and will not sustain sanity or sobriety. And yet, not knowing what else to do instead, we persist.
Since discovering these wonderful alternatives, my life has changed significantly and profoundly. I have come to trust what flows through me and not be afraidof it. I have learned to allow the life force that you would call ’emotions’ to be completely metabolized in my body and to offer up their discoveries for me to ponder and from which to choose the quality of my life.
12-step has saved lives and it is not enough. Retreats and meditation and journaling and group processes have saved lives, and they are not enough. If we do not begin to allow the incredible knowledge that is just at the end of our fingertips to become a paradigm through which to consider the notion of ‘addiction’, then we are forever harnessed by and held hostage to the limitations of our interpretations. Were the situation not so serious, and were there not so many lives on the line, we could have the luxury of taking our time.
The problem is … maybe we’re running out of time.
Our lives can only be as big as the courage of the questions we allow ourselves to entertain. So, allow me to leave you with this question: if we were to consider our traditional approaches to defining and addressing addiction, what is it that by continuing to define and address addiction in this way allows us to continue to not pay attention to?