I realize that the title of this post sounds trite, or like the headline of some generic pamphlet sitting in a holder in a clinic somewhere. A cliche. Something said by someone who has no idea what someone’s personal struggle is. A phrase that rolls eyes more than inspires.
But it’s true. I was a life coach for nearly fifteen years, and I spoke to many long-time recovering (though I prefer to say recovered as it instills a stronger sense of accomplishment) drug and alcohol abusers, as well as ones newly into their treatment, or even just beginning to realize they had a problem. One thing in common with all of them was the—sometimes sudden—understanding that they had a problem, and, as the classic ideology says, admitted they had a problem.
And that they needed help.
Some had successfully quit cold turkey, but that was rare. The (self-)admittance substance addiction brings to light—unleashes—a whole plethora of tangled emotions, realizations, frustrations and confusion. What I came to learn from my clients was that, even with all of the anger that tears out of them, hatred, even—towards others, towards themselves—there was a sense of relief.
Climbing away from such a life is extremely challenging.
There can be a lot of false starts—nearly all of my clients had many of those in their lives for any and even all of the changes they wanted to make, whether it was simply a less-chaotic life, weight loss (weight gain, even) or some kind of addiction. This is why reaching out is so vital. Doing so is absolutely a sign of strength.
Not to make light of the vice-like grip alcohol and drugs can have, all the dysfunctional behaviors we cling to are addictions. Why? Because they have some kind of pay-off. “Pay-off” doesn’t necessarily mean feeling rosy and fine and like we have the spirits and souls of Raggedy Ann and Andy dancing through us. Rather, “pay-off” means we get some kind of satisfaction, even one that most would deem “negative” that fills a hole.
Even after all these years of working very hard on myself, I still have behaviors I cling to that I wish I didn’t (like getting short-tempered too easily sometimes).
Most of the really bad ones (well, really bad in my thinking) I’ve learned to let go of and replace them with better ones, but, for whatever (unconscious) reason, I still have some. When I’m ready to let go of those, I will.
When I spoke to clients (all my coaching was done by phone and email) struggling with present or past addictions, they were often mortified. Humiliated, even. The pain they felt for the damage caused by their behaviors—whatever they were—was raw and ragged. Many clients, new to the path of life changes, quit. It’s all about timing—there’s that bottom we have to hit, even hit it and try to keep digging before we’re really ready. I’ve had my own bottom, and, a few times, I found another shovel to keep digging.
But this post in particular is about drug and alcohol addiction. If you are struggling with addiction in any way, shape or form, I want you to know I don’t see you as broken. You’re hurting and struggling to heal. You aren’t damaged. You aren’t a lousy human being. Yes, maybe there are relationships that have become damaged beyond repair, but that still doesn’t mean you’re broken or damaged…or even unfixable. You’re a human being that made some (perhaps really lousy) choices—and that’s okay. Really.
There are people who want to help, and can help, and do so without judgment.
That was another thing I frequently had to tell my clients. I wasn’t there to judge. That wasn’t my place. My role was to encourage and help them move forward, and there are people out there who will do that for you, too.
Yes, it’s mortifying to admit there’s a problem. Yes, it’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do—but the people who are there to help understand. Maybe they haven’t personally experienced addiction (I have not), but that doesn’t mean they won’t have deep compassion for you (and compassion can also come in the form of tough love; there’s a phrase of care, don’t carry; if someone isn’t carrying you, that doesn’t mean they don’t care).
You aren’t alone, but the struggle is your own.
What I mean is that you can have two people go through the same experience, but experience it completely differently. It will generate understanding, but even if I’d been through an identical moment as someone else, I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) presume to know what their experience was. But it does mean someone understands in their own way.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, What a crock. I’ve heard all this before and it’s just more schlock and crap.
That’s okay. Maybe it is. I just want you to know, from one more source, that there’s truth in the schlock and crap.
In Coming Home, two of my characters struggle with addictions. Well, three, actually. All in varying degrees as a way to cope with a sense of desolation, internal and external. What I wanted to show through them is that finding your way back home is possible.
It will be a new home, even if you’re in the same house and city, but there’s always one to come home to.
There are two great websites that were brought to my attention by Samantha Bale, the Community Outreach Coordinator for the AAC—the Alcohol Awareness Council:
Treatment4Addiction.com—an online resource of treatment centers and ways to get help, and simply Drugabuse.com, another very comprehensive resource. I encourage you to look at them and consider using them. You can do this. If you need to borrow my belief for awhile until it’s your own—do so. I’m happy to be your “training wheels” for awhile.
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org (or use the “Contact Me” form in the menu at the top) or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.