Samuel Johnson [1709-1784], the famous English writer, essayist and moralist wrote in 1755, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  Those were wise words then and they are still wise words today 250+ years later. Many who have fallen prey to the disease of addiction have succumbed to its powers unable to free themselves from this perpetual state of bondage. The only hope of recovery from this chronic, progressive and potentially fatal illness is to abstain from all mood-altering chemicals and compulsive behaviors. This premise comes from 78 years of Alcoholic Anonymous wisdom and the simple saying: once you’ve been pickled you can’t become a cucumber again, but breaking the chains of addiction is hard and there is a process. Most assuredly this is a process and not an event. Getting arrested is an event. Giving your partner a STD is an event. Getting caught in an affair or looking at porn is an event. This is a process and this is how it works.

This is the first state of the process and without a strong denial system in place full blown addiction would never develop. Most human beings have the capacity to learn from their own negative life experiences. The first time drinker who ends up praying to the porcelain god most often after coming to, feeling hung over and having to smell his own vomit will make a self-correction plan to ensure that he never repeats that experience. The newly sprouting alcoholic will wake up and tell himself that he just needs to drink on a full stomach or create some other strategy to ensure a better drinking experience. The seeds of addiction have been planted. The same is true for overeating, drugs, gambling, sex and video gaming just to name a few addictive distractions.

Dr. Arnold Washton, author of a wonderful book Step Zero says: “No one knows how desperately and completely you depend on alcohol, other drugs or certain behaviors to take away your anxiety, fear and loneliness,” and he goes on to say about addicts: “they feel deeply alone, like there isn’t anyone else on the planet quite like them.”  Their intimacy disorder is well established. The anachronism for denial is Don’t Even kNnow I Am Lying. If an addict never gets out of denial there is but one certainty, he will die a premature and alone addict’s death, e.g., Lenny Bruce, Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendricks, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and countless others, famous or not.

Somewhere right now there is a guy walking out of an adult bookstore, strip club or pulling his pants back on before starting his drive back home to his wife and family who is beating himself up for what he has just done again and to himself he says, this has got to stop. He is admitting that he has a problem. Hopefully he will begin to see how much disparity there is between what he feels is going on around him and what actually is going on within him. The key is admitting that he is in pain. Unfortunately pain, though a possible touchstone to recovery, often by itself is not enough. Within a few days, weeks or even months the compulsions will return and so with it the behavior. The voice in this addicts head rings, there is nothing I can do to change. The lie of admittance is still in place. I can always tell when an addict is still in admittance; his language will always give it away. Speaking in a heartfelt way he’ll tell me something terrible that he’s done immediately followed with a yeah but, kind of like when a guy says “I know I drink too much, yeah but you’d drink too if you were married to my wife!”  It’s classic.

It starts with taking the time to take a good hard long look at your life. Can you see how you keep sabotaging your life around topics like spouse, kids, work, family, friends, money, and even your health and freedom?  Finally getting to the point of becoming willing to be willing to stop is the start of acceptance. You start to realize that you can no longer do life business as usual. Something has to change even if you don’t know what or how.  The seeds of change have been planted yet it takes time, attention and care to create a new life garden. It says in Alcoholic Anonymous’ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions on page 42: “Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us.”  This is true also with sex and love addicts. The Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous Big Book says on page 82 that “…in continuing to “go it alone” we were suffering from emotional and spiritual constipation”… it is in the acceptance stage that we seek help from others. For shame based people this is a huge and dramatic step.

Simple stated it means willing to go to any lengths to get well and that is very hard to do. The Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book gives a fair number of illustrations of people who thought they had sobriety only to relapse. The dogma of Alcoholic Anonymous says that this disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. I believe it is also patient; it waits for you, doing push-ups in the parking lot. What I know about addiction is that when YOU LIVE [sober] your addiction can only exist but when the addiction lives YOU CAN ONLY EXIST. Addicts are never cured; the best they can hope for is a one day reprieve. But after all we all only get to do life one day at a time.

This four stage process of recovery is not linear in nature, it’s not one and done, it’s fluid. A person can retreat back into denial in a New York second. The tools for recovery are simple yet hard to do. Trust in a Higher Power, clean and keep clean your own house [sobriety] and help somebody else [be of service to someone else]. That’s it. This will materialize by getting a recovery coach, joining a men’s group for accountability, going to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings, getting a sponsor, creating bottom lines and keeping them, doing written step work with your sponsor, reading recovery literature, finding your own God, prayer and meditation, making phone calls and utilizing a fellowship to break the shame and isolation cycle. “What an order I can’t do through with it!” comes right out of the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book. It goes on to say that no one does these suggestions with any kind of perfect adherence to these principals, we are not saints.

If you’re coming out of your own personal denial, and you have to be just by the virtue of being on my website, it’s a start. Don’t stop now! A new life of freedom awaits you. Make the call. All it takes is 90 seconds of courage.

Comments Off on The Process of Recovery