Addiction: The illusion of self
One of the first things the addict must deal with is powerlessness. The first step of the 12 steps of AA is: “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction.”
But admitting to the problem is difficult. The addict is convinced that he/she is in control. That’s why they ‘act out.’ It’s an effort to remain in control. And this illusion of control is strong because the addict is convinced that they can stop any time. Denying the problem continues until their lives are so out of control – completely unmanageable – that the evidence forces them into program. This often called bottoming out. An addict is ready to begin recovery after they have “hit bottom.”
The illusion of self-control is so strong that it takes years to convince the addict of their powerlessness. The most convincing evidence of powerlessness is their inability to stop. The trail of broken promises has everyone who knows the addict convinced that there is a problem.
Along with the inability to stop there are tell-tale signs of powerlessness and unmanageability. One of them is the willingness to take risks. These risks involve not only their own safety, but also the health and safety of their loved ones. Love for husband or wife or even children cannot stop an addict from giving in to the addiction. A run-in with the law will merely slow the addict down momentarily. But once their freedom is restored, its business as usual. The addict just tries harder to fly beneath the radar. More precautions are taken, but carelessness soon takes over and the addict finds himself back in prison.
Personal loss will not stop the addict. Loss of a job, a house, family, friends and health are the things that eventually lead to hitting bottom. But with each individual the “bottom” is different. For some their bottom is death; they are terminal.
- “How do you know that an addict is lying?”
- “Their lips are moving!”
The addict has lost all sense of integrity and common sense. They live for one thing, and one thing only: Their drug of choice. And most addicts are pathological liars by necessity. To get and keep their ‘drugs’ and plan their escape involves a complex string of lies.
It is shame that fuels the addiction keeping the addict hopelessly addicted. The habitual nature of addiction is commonly known as the “cycle of shame.” The addict begins the cycle with feelings of self loathing, plans to use, uses and returns to self-loathing.