A while back I heard about a new model to describe addiction. Basically it states that we become addicted to a substance not because of the substance itself, but because of our lack of connection to our surroundings. The feelings generated by the substance help us to feel connected, or diminish that desire for connection. Sobriety happens when we make connections. This model was based on experiments devised after the US war in Vietnam. A large percentage of troops were using opioids on a very regular basis, but when they got back home, the didn’t go into withdrawal, or deeper into the drug world, but integrated back into their circle of family and friends. Yes, there were many who did end up in the streets or V.A. psych wards, but the percentage is relatively small compared to the percentage using on active duty.
I am quite fascinated by this model. It rings true for me and for my fall into addiction. I just didn’t feel connected. From a very early age, I felt different from everyone else. The first small glass of beer I shared with older cousins at the age of six, I remember because I was invited into their circle. At 12 and 13 I would drink because it helped me feel like I was a part of the ‘group’. Certainly growing up in a conservative, religious milieu that constantly physically and mentally tortured anyone mildly suspected of being gay did play a role in the development of my addiction. I rarely felt I fit in, and when I did, I felt sinfully wrong about the whole thing which pushed the cycle of separation further along.
There is no doubt in my mind that when I entered recovery I was very disconnected. My relationship was a house of cards awaiting destruction. I was living 2500 km from my family. I had few true friends, though I had plenty of barstool buddies. And I was spiritually bankrupt; there might be a God but we were mutually disinterested in each other. I had spiralled my way down deeper and deeper in the funnel, moving around faster and faster as I was heading to the hole in the bottom and hoping that it would finally suck the life out of me because I lacked the courage to do it myself. I was alone, separate and without ties to anything that didn’t get me high.
I am still here over six years later. Why? I believe that my Higher Power, in spite of my lack of cooperation, gave me an open door through which I could walk to a new freedom. I knew I was totally alone. I didn’t feel a connection. I just wanted oblivion and yet there I was walking into a twelve step meeting.
One of the main things that I found in the program were connections. First of all, I was invited to return. I wasn’t receiving any invitations at that time: someone cared enough to invite me back. I was told to share in the group because I too had a story. The members listened to me and afterward, talked and offered suggestions on what I might do to feel better and make it through the next 24 hours. Someone agreed to be a my sponsor and we shared intimate details of our lives. I heard my past and my feelings in the stories of others as well. I went through the steps and cleaned up the mess I had made of my past. I learned how to construct bridges, not how to burn them. It was all about making those connections with others, with myself and with my Higher Power.
(The re-connection with my Higher Power is a very special one to me and one that deserves a special entry. I will write about that in the next blog entry.)
By making connections I am now in recovery. I feel that I am now spiralling upward. I touch upon many themes over and over again, but each time I feel I have a broader understanding and a greater sense of awe. I am so grateful that I was given another chance at life. Certainly I still have my days where I would really like a drink. But I remember that I never had just ‘one’ drink. And I remember that there is no problem that getting drunk won’t make worse. I no longer follow Oscar Wilde’s advice of dealing with temptation by giving into it. I treasure the connections I have made in my program. I have a model for living that works for me and many others. I believe it is a model for living that everyone, addict or not, can enjoy. But that is up to you to decide.
If you wish more information on this model of addiction that was my jumping off point today, please check out the TED Talks link here: Johann Hari’s model of addiction It is a very enlightening talk.
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