8-minute read time.
It’s interesting for me to compare my young school years with my current state of mind. Back then, I couldn’t care any less about my education, or even being present at school. It was of little interest to me. I graduated only because of the adults around me that forced my hand (PS: I am so grateful for that now). The things being taught were just not interesting to me. I saw no relevance to the real world, and certainly none to my life at the time. I played the game (aka: memorize words and definitions), took the tests, and barely made it through. Things have certainly changed since then.
This being said, there has always been a few areas that I have been genuinely interested in. Food was the first, being an obvious area of interest for my career choice at the time, but with the greatest curiosity and most excitement, psychology has always peaked my interest the most.
The human mind, and its mass complexity, has always fascinated me. Why do we do the things we do, knowing that we should not do them? Where do these behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes originate, and why can’t we get past them when we know better?
I knew from an early age, around 16 years old, that I was different than most when it came to the use and abuse of substances. For me, I could not stop, nor wanted to. Knowing the damage these substances cause, and seeing the evidence of consequences, why did I feel the need to continue with reckless abandon? Most of my friends would also love to party, but would love to chill out for a while afterwards just as much. Not so with me. I couldn’t wait to get more, to have another, and to keep going. I was obsessed.
The obsession of the mind is the most problematic area of addiction.
I was completely engulfed with thoughts of using, partying, and getting money to do so – the whole process and lifestyle. That was the most difficult thing to overcome, and still is to this day. We reach a point that I like to call the ‘fuck it line’, where we know deep down the consequences of using, yet are so mentally fatigued by the constant thought of using that we eventually just say “fuck it”. Off we go, to the next use, and we do not come back until the craving has been satisfied. The psychological addiction is, and will always be, far greater than the physical one.
Instead of trying to remove that trait, I quickly realized that this was just part of who I was. This was my personality and something I would be for the rest of my life. I had to learn to cope with it and damped its control, but also how to channel it into healthier avenues.
Channelling this obsessive personality trait can actually be a tremendously advantageous place to be, as long as it is into healthy and productive ways. One example of this that has worked well for me has been in my education and self-development.
Ever since I became free of drugs and alcohol, I have not only learned to corral my obsessive traits, but I have brought that same mentality into my recovery. I made it my life. I have changed the need to use substances into the need to find out what is happening within, and what I can do about it. Self-help, self-development, being of service to others, learning and experiencing different modalities of therapy, the list goes on and on. I now go down rabbit holes of improvement and order, rather than down rabbit holes of destruction and chaos.
This all being said, I still am very aware that I have to be careful with what I surround myself with. People, places, and things can become problematic if I get enamoured with them. Being mindful, present, and conscious of these areas is very important.
If I do start to veer down the wrong path, and venture into territory that starts the mental process of “I wonder if I could just do one”, “I deserve a little __”, or anything towards the possibility of relapse, I know exactly what I need to do: Pick up the phone and call or text someone in my support circle. Which leads me to the next principle, connection.
They say the opposite of addiction is connection, and for good reason. In my addiction I may have been surrounded by many people, but I felt absolutely alone. The reason I felt this way is because I never communicated how I was feeling or what was going on internally – with anyone. Each and every day I put on the masks, and pretended that everything was perfectly OK. I did not want to show any signs of weakness, God forbid, and continued onwards with my life. The stress, the emotions, the insecurities, the anxiety – to me these were all just signs that I was a weak person and everyone would want nothing to do with me if I showed them.
I never wanted to be seen by others as ‘less than’. I was in a ‘better than’ position, and I sure as hell was not going to give that up. I was supposed to be the ‘strong’ dad, the ‘supportive’ partner, the ‘successful’ business owner, the ‘superstar’ chef, the guy who had it all together. And I kind of did from the outside, but internally I was crumbling, unable to deal with my the complexity of life. Because I felt so weak inside, my ego was over the top on the outside. It protected me from any signs of fragility. It is no wonder I would constantly go through the revolving door of relapse and sobriety.
As humans we can only handle so much, and without a channel of support or a place where we can open up and get everything out, we will implode. Life is incredibly hard for every one of us, and we all need support to help us through.
Building a healthy network of individuals who have been through this before, or are currently going through it, is paramount to continued success. Opening up lines of honest communication with family and friends is as well. The more people in your corner, the better chance you have. Having a counsellor or psychologist to help you dig through the past, to bring your demons into the light so they can be understood – these are the paths to healing that last long-term.
Connection is so important to me now, and is something that I need on a daily basis. I have several very close allies in this battle with addiction, and have let my family in as well. They may not understand completely, but that is okay because they want to try, want to help, and want to be involved in the process. Most of the time, it is those loved ones who can pick up on behaviours and attitudes that are abnormal far sooner than we can, because our egos like to protect us and pretend. If we let them be constructively critical (without getting pissed off and pushing them away), they can be an incredible asset to our growth.
This is also where 12-Step fellowships show their power. Within these rooms there is acceptance, vulnerability, connection, gratitude, hope, peace, and belonging. Within these rooms we are able to not only communicate our strengths and weaknesses, but see that others are just like us as well. There is no more uniqueness, or feeling as though you are the only one. I understand that some people trip up over the language, some find it cheesy, some can’t get past the word God, and a slew of other barriers that face newcomers entering – but if you can, and you do, these rooms are incredible places to be.
Ultimately, no matter where you find this connection and support, you must find it for successful, happy, and continuous recovery. Build a network around you that can lift you up, call you out, and provide you with what you need most. Channel the beauty of obsession into healthy, positive, and forward-thinking channels. Start growing and becoming a better human surrounded by love, belonging and meaning. Once you have these things behind you, propelling you in the right direction, then you are able to really get back into life, and be of service to others.
Missed the earlier parts? Click here.