Community Cures Addiction

15958849001_df8085408d_zThe foundation for addiction/mental health recovery is community. Finding your “tribe” who share your life experiences is needed daily. I am an alcoholic because I used alcohol to run away from the emptiness of depression. Alcohol made me feel alive. It also made me crazier. So I quit drinking Nov. 24, 1976.

For 40 years, I have belonged to the most underserved population in the addiction/mental health field. Dual diagnosis/co-occurring members have special needs. Living with the “Double Whammy”–addiction and depression recovery, I have had to learn relapse prevention for both. Luckily for me, I decided in 1976 that I would go all in with addiction recovery.

The 12 steps taught me the way out of addiction. But they didn’t help me with depression. I have dysthymia which is milder than other depression types and it comes and goes. I have had to learn everything about my depression by myself. I am sure that is true for most of us with co-occurring or dual diagnosis. The mental health field can provide labels, medication, and sometimes, if you are very, very lucky, good counseling. But we have to become our own mental health expert. It is an individual journey.

The source of addiction is pain.

“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience,” Maté wrote in his 2010 bestseller, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. “A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden — but it’s there.” Dr. Gabor Mate

Addiction is not the cure for the pain.

“Addiction is merely external behavior that is the “fruit” in a person’s “tree” of life. If the fruit is cut off but the root left intact, the addict will be “changed” for the moment, but that seed will eventually regenerate the “plant” of addiction and produce similar fruit. Removing the fruit alone won’t change the production cycle! This is one reason people often switch addictions. Recovery is about dealing with the seed and the roots. An addict will require an entirely new system change. In fact, all those “bad seeds” (lies) will need to be uprooted, and new seed sown in order to establish the production of God’s fruit—fruit that leads to abundant life in Him.”     Robert and Stephanie Tucker

Addiction has many layers.

We must move in our recovery from one addiction to another for two major reasons: first, we have not recognized and treated the underlying addictive process, and second, we have not accurately isolated and focused upon the specific addictions.                Anne Wilson Schaef

I call codependency recovery the second recovery.

My 33rd year of recovery from alcohol addiction began Nov. 24, 2009. Needless to say to anyone living a spiritual quest, many emotions are stirred up during an anniversary.

In taking another 5th step, I realized that I had recreated the home of my childhood.  I had the good mommy role and my husband was the bad daddy. As I have written before, he acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.

This experience led me on the path of healing my childhood wounds. I was the oldest child–or rather–I was the youngest parent in that home. I took my duties so seriously that I taught myself to deny myself anything that would challenge my mother. In return, the power connected to this role of being the boss was my first addiction. One that I am only now, after 70+ years, giving up.

That is why I call codependency the addiction of power. And I believe all addicts must go through this 2nd recovery–the recovery of codependency. I will always be codependent. It is about loving too much. But I know my pattern now and know when I need to redefine my boundaries.

Codependency begins when as a child we are taught to be the “parent”.

“Wounded parents often unintentionally inflict pain and suffering on their children and these childhood wounds causes a laundry list of maladaptive behaviors commonly called codependency. These habits restrict people to love-limiting relationships causing much unhappiness and distress.”    David W. Earle

“At its heart, Codependency is a set of behaviors developed to manage the anxiety that comes when our primary attachments are formed with people who are inconsistent or unavailable in their response to us. Our anxiety-based responses to life can include over-reactivity, image management, unrealistic beliefs about our limits, and attempts to control the reality of others to the point where we lose our boundaries, self-esteem, and even our own reality. Ultimately, Codependency is a chronic stress disease, which can devastate our immune system and lead to systemic and even life-threatening illness.”    Mary Crocker Cook

The cure for our pain is community.

“Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.      Judith Lewis Herman

Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis–alcoholism and depression. Yet 50% of those in the rooms have both–addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?

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