It’s a paradox of sorts, clinging to addiction to feel so alive, when, in reality, it’s bringing you so much closer to death. And still, you continue to cling to the chaos, relentlessly pursuing the false narrative that somehow you’re safer when high, distracted and disconnected to the misery weighing you down. These endeavors always leave you feeling alone and helpless, constantly craving a manufactured bliss, forever held captive by the entity you feel “sets you free”. An all or nothing approach renders you trapped as relapse is inevitable followed by binges and despair. This cycle is familiar to so many, even those foreign to substance abuse. Addiction wears many hats, is delivered in a variety of packages, yet yields the same emotions of despair, isolation, guilt, and helplessness.
This cycle of highs and lows becomes interrupted, at times, giving the opportunity to peer through the curtains, pierced by the light that comes flooding in, bringing in too much visibility of the gaping scars and bruises that cover your war torn frame. Wincing, you’ll hastily pull the curtains shut…. But, wait, not so fast. The light and the stillness that surrounds you is exactly what is needed to heal. Truthfully, the sun feels good. Maybe it is time to bask in it and marvel that you still exist despite the bruises and scars. And, seeing them in the light may make us realize how strong we actually are. If you are sitting there in the stillness and silence with the sun warming your skin, you have survived thus far. It will be the stillness that saves you. When you quit running and sit in the light and warmth, it’s easy to see that the war has always been with yourself. It’s time to turn towards yourself, accept reality completely, and sit with the pain. Sitting with the pain now, will protect you from suffering needlessly.
I have been fortunate to never struggle with substance use, but I have struggled with addiction. I struggle with gambling and have lost a lot of money and time sitting at slot machines. I currently manage my addiction by self-banning at the casinos that are closest to me so I rarely gamble. Even so, I think of gambling often as a way to escape and distract myself from emotional pain.
My sister and some of her adult children have suffered with severe and persistent addiction issues for several years now. It has affected our whole family and relationships are strained as a result. As the one who has continually confronted and questioned, I’ve been alienated and scapegoated. I am unable to trust those in my family and feel discredited, dismissed, and ignored. I feel I have attempted reconciliation many times, but it’s always during times when there is need for my help and during a crisis. When it is quiet, no one is reaching out to repair or to connect. I have been hurt and even suicidal, at times. But, I am healing and want to stop the continual bleed and learn how to communicate effectively and safely. I often get ugly and abusive by raging and have ended up losing my dignity many times. I’m ready to let go and be free.
The damage that has been done on both sides is too great to reconcile. I personally don’t want to continue risking my emotional health for people who actually feel that my goal has been to have my sister’s grandson taken from the home and potentially placed in foster care. My goal was actually to help those in the home that were using to get help if they would accept it. My goal was to encourage the mother of the child to get her GED and work so that she could actually provide for the child. Currently, she is 20 and doesn’t even have a driver’s license. My goal was to help her eldest daughter get the treatment she needs for both a mental illness and an addiction that has been a factor in recent incarcerations and violent behaviors that have occurred in the home. My goal has always been to help facilitate the healing process so that people can connect in healthy ways and live a life that is full and peaceful.
I longed for the people in my life to recover and to take back their lives. Selfishly, I longed for the connection I had with them before we all lost ourselves in the fire that consumed much of our interactions and occupations. I have missed my family greatly. After years of fighting, I was struck one day recently, by realizing that what I was grieving was not the loss of my family to addiction, but the loss of never having had a close family in the first place.
Memories of abandonment as a young child flooded me and I winced in pain, tears flooded down my cheeks. In an instant, I became aware that I had been holding on to a fantasy of closeness and protection that never truly existed for me. Sadly, I feel it didn’t exist in the generation before me either. My spirit was longing for a space that wasn’t often occupied by others in my family. Love was present, but displayed in sometimes ineffective endeavors which were overshadowed by addictions and other mindless preoccupations that served to provide distance from anything too emotionally charged or intense. I held the intensity of the family and was a constant source of confrontation, always demanding connection and change. However, I was always losing connection, moving farther away from the target I had aimed towards.
The process of confrontation has never been productive. Instead it has often revealed the old, archaic habits and fears that get recycled over and over again. This brutally painful process left me grappling with my grief, completely unraveled and confused.
I was left alone a lot when I was a young child. I was fearful of my step-father as he was often explosive and unpredictable. My Mom worked and my older sister was rarely at home as she was out with friends socializing. I can recall having nightmares and feeling abandoned and afraid much of the time. My sister would come home and stir up problems as she was very rebellious and she would constantly “butt heads” with my step-father. I remember her threatening to run away one afternoon after a heated argument with Dad. I sat there on her bed watching in shock and disbelief as she packed her things. My heart sunk and I was paralyzed in fear, feeling panicked and abandoned. Things felt chaotic and out of control, and I did not feel close enough to anyone to feel protected and safe.
A lot of these past feelings continue to play out again and again as I hopelessly watch the chaos resulting from years of drug use in my sister’s home. I’m not certain if there is current drug use or not, but there has been recent assaults and an incarceration. It’s impacted relationships and has significantly diminished the potential that exists in each of her now adult children who all struggle in various ways. I believe my desire and intensity to help my family stems not only from love and concern, but also from my own feelings of not being protected in times of crisis. The intensity is higher because of my own feelings of abandonment and fear. Their situation in many ways is dire and in need of intervention and yet the constant refusal to work with me and professionals to truly get help has left me feeling perpetually victimized. I’ve finally recognized the unhealthy pattern and am eager to disengage from a hopeless relationship where my needs are continually not met, in order to process the grief of never really having had a close-knit family. It’s going to be ok, because in my stillness, I have discovered the root of so much that I have been struggling with for years.
This feeling of abandonment that has driven so much of my impulsive and destructive behaviors has finally been uncovered. I understand now where it stems from and can work to give myself the protection needed to finally feel safe and ok. And, I can grieve the loss while rebuilding in love. I also will be disengaging with people and situations that re-traumatize me. I love all of my family members and I can recognize that they are all struggling in their own ways. I also know that I have, at times, added to their struggle and have hurt them. Still yet, I am convinced now that disengaging and grieving, while processing the past, is the only way to move forward in a peaceful and healthy manner.
I had to let go of certain people in my life to clearly see why engaging was so damaging and invalidating for me. Trauma results in so many ineffective ways of coping, involving habits and addictions that can be extremely destructive. These negative ways of thinking can trap you, keeping you continually preoccupied with picking up the pieces that fall as a result of employing them. I’m going to one day be completely free from the cage that has confined me and the ineffective coping mechanisms that has kept me trapped.
I would guess nearly all addictions and negative coping mechanisms result from some deeper pain within you that feels too difficult to process. The light that floods in and the stillness that surrounds you is a gift of discovery if you are willing to do the difficult emotional work. The freedom you will feel from letting go is the purest form of joy that I have ever tasted. It leaves me feeling peacefully connected to myself. That is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. It cost absolutely nothing and is pure, its benefit, endless. Peace and light to all. Wishing you light along the journey toward wholeness.