Vulnerability: The Key to Overcoming Addictions
I think you can see, we are all very prone to addictions because they give us relief when we don’t know how to get it relationally; from God or others. We may be medicating present pain, but often, there is a childhood root to the pain we currently feel. For example one of my prison ladies said this week that her most prevalent childhood feeling was “overwhelmed” and “confused”. These feelings were mainly centered on a mean, abusive older brother from whom she was never protected as both parents worked. He often took his anger out on her. She currently works for a controlling, intrusive woman who is unpredictable and unreasonable. She leaves work feeling overwhelmed, confused and used. Her battle starts on the drive home. I’ll just have one drink before I go home. Soon, she is on her way to the nearest bar for a drink before she goes home to the kids. One too many DUI’s landed her in jail. The alcohol gets rid of the bad feelings but her kids pay a big price. Until our group time, this incarcerated woman did not realize the feelings she was battling and needing to medicate had been present for a long time before she ever got this job. Her boss just acted as a trigger to stir up an old yucky pot.
Addictions are about getting rid of bad feelings and feeling good; at least for a while. There is always a negative consequence. Our childhood home trains us in how to deal with painful feelings. Can we take them to relationships or are we left to find a solution on our own?
The healthy solution? Painful feelings need to be acknowledged, tolerated and processed within a safe relationship. Sounds easy, but most of us did not have childhood experiences that equipped us with the skills we need to do this. Today we will talk about getting help from people. Next week we will think about getting help from God.
Why is Alcoholics Anonymous one of the most effective treatments for addiction to alcohol? It has a higher success rate than any other program. Personally, I think there are three reasons.
1. You have to admit you are powerless over your addiction and that you need a “higher power” (Jesus and the Holy spirit in my opinion). Facing this truth means you are no longer in denial about having an addiction and you are admitting you need to go to a group. You will never beat and addiction until you admit you have an addiction and you need help.
2. There is honesty and vulnerability. The first time I went to an AA meeting was thirty years ago. I went to fulfill a school requirement and I left the meeting with a heavy heart because I knew this is what the church should be doing. I had never heard people share with this level of honesty and brokenness in church. Over the years churches have made progress, but have a long way to go. You won’t beat and addiction without honesty and vulnerability and showing others the weak broken places inside you. Shame is a big part of addictions and shame is only healed when we are loved in our sad, broken places.
3. You have a sponsor. This is the most critical part. It is where you learn that you need someone further down the road as a mentor and you call your sponsor when you are in trouble and are overwhelmed with negative feelings and want to run to your addiction. In most AA groups you must choose a sponsor (ask someone to be your sponsor) and then your sponsor will require you call them for 30 days in a row.
I can just feel some of you recoiling at that. This is training in connection. Call…even if you don’t want too. Call….even if you think you don’t
need too. You are being trained to reach out and ask for help. This is the key to overcoming your addiction. Success is not about being free from the desire to use or act out. Success is reaching out for help to overcome that desire IN THE MOMENT OF NEED.
Let’s go back to our prisoner. She gets out of prison, joins a group, acquires a sponsor and calls her for the first 30 days. She journals about her childhood experiences and learns to grieve her brother’s abuse. She reads these entries to her sponsor and to her husband. Sometimes she cries. At other times she is angry. She is cleaning out the wound. Eventually, it will be less of a trigger.
She knows her most vulnerable time is the way home from work. She has agreed to call her sponsor as soon as she gets in the car to travel home. She talks about the difficulty of the day and the interactions with her boss. She admits her craving for a drink but chooses the comfort of connection instead. Her kids are thrilled to see her, on time and sober.
I can hear a lot of you saying, “But my addiction is not alcohol”. It does not matter. It is the principles that are important here. There are many groups for different issues. The point is, you absolutely cannot do it alone. So make a choice today to find a group and a sponsor. Next week, I’ll discuss the spiritual part of healing.