By Pat Mandryk
Many clients arrive here at Top of the World Ranch desperately wanting recovery. Most of them come here thinking that they will leave our facility with recovery in tow. Their addiction has beaten them, beaten them to a pulp and they cannot imagine living with it another day. They have no concept of what awaits them in treatment, just that they don’t want what’s behind them in their addiction. Perhaps they’ve been to treatment previously, yet struggled to stay clean and sober. It baffles them to learn that their fear of recovery is greater than the pain of their addiction, yet there it is.
This is a very real problem in recovery. The fear of recovery being greater than the pain of addiction. It doesn’t make sense, some would say, but then what about addiction has ever really made sense? People come in focusing so much on the past, on the addiction, that they don’t consider the fears of sobriety, of being clean. What fears of recovery could possibly be more powerful than the pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization of addiction? Let’s take a look at some of them.
Let’s start with the greatest illusion around addiction and recovery. Maybe one of the greatest illusions of mankind. Freedom! It is a quality we all crave with our very souls, to be free. Addiction, being the great trickster that it is, gives us a false sense of freedom. Freedom from pain, freedom from fear, freedom to interact socially, freedom to do what we want whenever we want it, freedom to escape, freedom to have a good time, freedom from all our inhibitions, freedom to be who we think we really are or who we really want to be, freedom to not heed the voices around us. We come into recovery and it is pounded into us over and over again that we need to go to meetings, or get a sponsor, work the steps. In short, become a rat in the 12 step maze. Doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of freedom we got in our addiction!
The great illusion is this: in our addiction we were giving ourselves an outwardly appearance of freedom, yet in our very soul we were trapping ourselves more and more each time we drank or used. Mentally we obsessed about our substances. Emotionally we reacted to our substance, we were bitchy and short fused when we didn’t have it and happy when we did. Physically our addiction had us in its grasp through a mechanism it employed called cravings. Spiritually we sacrificed our dreams and hopes for our lives for the sake of a drink or a drug. Socially we isolated anybody (sometimes unaware that we were doing this) who wasn’t a part of our addiction, and only saw value in those that co-signed our addiction with the exact same patterns and behaviors. We kept falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit whole and farther away from where and who we really wanted to be. And we convinced ourselves that this what we really want. We followed the illusion blindly, faithfully, religiously and unhesitantly. After all, isn’t this freedom?
Now let’s look at the other side of the illusion. We come into recovery, attend meetings regularly whether we want to or not, and some things begin to change. Mentally we obsess less about our addiction and think more about living life. There is a difference between obsessing and thinking. Emotionally we begin to give ourselves the gift of managing our emotions rather than them controlling us. Physically we begin to heal and lose the curse of craving. Spiritually we give ourselves the promise of pursuing what truly makes our heart, our soul, our spirit happy and content. Socially we begin to have more meaningful connections with people. Those in our lives and those we have yet to meet. Even financially. We have more money to do things. Aside from the obvious dollar cost of our addiction, we no longer need to pay lawyer’s fees, medical costs, impound fees, splashing money around so people think you are a somebody, babysitter costs, auto body repairs, repairing damage to your home or somebody else’s, fines, clothes to replace the ones with blood or puke on them or roach burns, taxis, STI tests, hotel/motel rooms, and so much more.
And yet we consider recovery a loss of our freedom. I say stop listening to your broken, prejudiced, addiction trained mind! Listen instead to those that have had the same mind ailment and found a way to gain the very freedom the addiction promised, but never really delivered.
Another fear is change. Cursed word, Change! It is far easier to stay stuck in a big pile of shit. You may not like the way it smells, but it’s warm and comfortable and you know all the rules there are to know about that pile of shit. Everybody you know lives in that same pile of shit, and it’s a wonderful shitty community. And it’s always there for you, no matter what. Change means stepping forward into an environment where none of that applies. You don’t know the rules, it feels different, people know more than you and you are not used to that. You would have to leave the Kingdom of self-convinced make believe and step into something called “the Real World”. Most of us began using to either escape “the Real World” and all the pain associated with it, or simply rise in defiance to it. We have another illusion that change is bad, it’s harmful, we just can’t do it, and we’re too weak, too afraid. “You don’t understand what I’ve had to endure.” Change is really the only constant in life. We all change all the time despite our best efforts not to. Take aging for example. That change will happen no matter what. Addiction forbids us to change except for the worse. That’s a guarantee!! Recovery gives us the opportunity to change for the better. That’s an opportunity!! It will happen, one way or the other. You get to make a decision whether it’s for the better or for the worse.