Hosted by Jodi Hildebrandt.
This week’s episode is a continuation of episode 24, regarding the true meaning of recovery.
Why do we become addicted to people, activities, substances, etc.? What causes addiction? And how do we heal from them? This week’s episode is about several principles of addiction and recovery, including:
- Bottom lines
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Surrender & thinking in honesty
In order to recover from the underlying emotional causes of addiction, a person must:
- Live in emotional truth & be honest with self and others
- Maintain personal accountability
- Live a humble lifestyle
- Not alter or deny the reality of their life or their experiences. We must all embrace & accept life exactly as it presents itself to us.
- Experience and feel all emotions as they are connected to every experience
- Share with another person how they feel, and ask for validation and empathy. We all need at least one person to allow us to be vulnerable and risk.
- Surrender and let go of what they cannot control.
- Learn to live in the reality of life and not distort the perception of reality.
Impeccable honesty, rigorous responsibility and humility eclipse the drive to emotionally or physically alter the experience. As you live these principles, you will grow in wisdom, power, and emotional & spiritual depth. Your mindset and lifestyle will change as you recognize that emotions give information about yourself and others. You will then be able to accept all experiences and allow them to teach you. You will become whole and connected, so you won’t crave escape and distortion.
PDF Version: Episode 25: Principles of Recovery (Part 2)
Episode 25: Principles of Recovery (Part 2)
Welcome to ConneXions Classroom Podcast. We are so excited to introduce to you the opportunity for you to join us in a classroom setting where you will be taught the principles of connection. For those of you who have already joined us on the podcasts, and for those for you who have not, you are now ready to step into an extensive, hands-on, all-star classroom experience to better understand why you are experiencing and interpreting life the way that you do.
You will be introduced to the foundational principles of personal integrity, which are: how to live impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility, humility, vulnerability, openness, willingness, transparency, and boundaries.
This is a 12-week intensive course that consists of meeting one time a week for two hours. You will be given six workbooks. In each workbook, instruction will be given to you on core concepts of how to live your life from a position of emotional honesty, Reality, Truth, boundaries, validation, being able to recognize your distortions, and how choice plays a central role in all of your experiences and emotional outcomes.
Some of the concepts covered inside of the classroom include: what validation and vulnerability are and how to animate those principles your life; how to live in Truth rather than distortion; how to recognize your distraction and your controlling behavior in your relationships; and how to live a life of peace rather than pain. Powerful concepts that change lives, beginning with yours.
Hundreds of people have participated already, and have drastically transformed their lives by living and being in Truthful, emotionally honest relationships. They report experiences of personal empowerment and emotional and mental sophistication being introduced into their relationships.
So, now it’s your turn to come and participate. This classroom experience will change the way you interact with yourself and others in powerful ways, giving you the tools and emotional sophistication to connect deeply inside yourself and invite other in your life to do the same.
Come and experience connection. Go to www.connexionsclassroom.com , and hit the “Go to Academy” button and sign up. I look forward to meeting you and connecting.
[00:02:48] Principles of Recovery (Part 2)
Good morning. It is September 27th, 2014, and welcome to ConneXions Classroom Podcast. We are going to continue talking about addiction and the unmanageability that addiction creates. This is a follow-up podcast to session number 24. We ended on unmanageability and the chaos that comes when I am unmanageable in my addictive behaviors, so I want to pick up this morning talking about what bottom lines are, what the definition of a slip is, what’s the difference between recovery versus sobriety—at the beginning of podcast 24, we defined that, but I want to define that again—what powerlessness looks like, what living in recovery looks like, what white-knuckling is, and then how to manage the withdrawals that actually come from many addictive behaviors, whether you’ve ingested substances—the withdrawals from an actual substance—or the withdrawals from your own neurochemistry, which are very real for many, many people.
[00:04:14] Bottom Lines
So, let’s start this morning talking about what bottom lines are. These concepts that we’re going to be discussing are all in conjunction with being in my addiction. So, another principle of addiction recovery that supports me to appropriately manage my unmanageability is called a bottom line.
Let me say that again: bottom lines support me to manage the addiction that is unmanageable. So, bottom lines are clearly articulated lines or boundaries that I will not cross in any circumstance to access my drug of choice, my addictive external, my substance, my experience, my person, my behavior, anything that I’m addicted to. These lines are drawn in the sand that give me clarity of what I will not cross, because the second I cross that line, I move closer to my addictive substance, or person, or thing, or activity, such as sexual addiction, or pornography addiction, or I’m addicted to my spouse or my boyfriend, or I’m addicted to a fantasy of a rockstar. Anything that I have deemed as my addiction, I need to put bottom lines around.
So, I create bottom lines to alert me that I’m close to acting out with this drug of choice, and that I need to make different choices to return to a lifestyle of recovery principles. So, bottom lines are my allies, they are my protectors. They sound an alarm that says, “Hey, you’re getting close to that cliff, that cliff of acting out, that cliff of addiction, and you need to make a different choice.”
If I choose to cross my bottom lines, I will move closer to acting out with my drug or my addictive substance, my addictive behavior, whatever it is that I’m addicted to. I just get closer to it.
Here’s how you define a bottom line: they are concrete, they are measurable, and they speak in specific language and behavior, and they’re about and for me. They’re not for anyone else and they’re not about anyone else. So, when I make a bottom line, I don’t say, “So, my bottom line is that you don’t ever tell me that you’re angry with me. That’s my bottom line.”
That would be inaccurate. A bottom line is about me, that my line is going to be that I am going to hold myself accountable when I eat past 10 o’clock, so that’s a line I’m drawing in the sand, that I do not want to eat past 10 o’clock, or let’s say 8 o’clock in the evening. So, that is concrete, time is concrete. It’s measurable because we all know when 8 o’clock comes. It’s specific in language and behavior. And it’s about me, “I will not eat past 8 o’clock at night.”
The more clear, and specific, and measurable the bottom line is in language, the more I and others don’t have to guess whether I’m crossing it or not, or whether the line is present or not.
[00:07:35] Examples of Bottom Lines
For example, here are some bottom lines.
I will not be myself with a computer without my spouse with me, because I struggle when I’m myself and I oftentimes look at pornography.
I will not drive down State Street alone because that’s where I’ve picked up prostitutes.
I will call a person in recovery three times a day at 10 o’clock in the morning, noon and also at 6.
I will not go anywhere that sells alcohol without my partner for the first 10 months of recovery, starting on June 6th through December 6th. And then, I will reassess it with my partner or my sponsor, and/or my therapist at that time.
I will not contact or spend any time with (you name the person), I said Jeff, and I will delete his contact information from my phone, because Jeff is my drug dealer.
There are millions of ways that you can make bottom lines, they’re just innumerable, and every time you make one it allows you to live in a space that is further away from that cliff of relapse. I like to look at acting out—which is a relapse back into your drug of choice—as the cliff, and so imagine in your mind, you’re in a car or you’re walking, and you’re walking towards this cliff, and there are these signs that pop up to warn you. They’re’ saying “Look alive, look alive. Pay attention, you are in danger. You are getting to ready act out. You’re crossing these lines, these bottom lines that you’ve established for yourself to keep you safe.”
So, everything is on the table as a possibility of you making bottom lines. Basically, there’s not a bottom line that would be inappropriate. I mean, you can name anything you want as long as it’s going to keep you safe from acting out.
So, bottom lines are about my physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual safety. They help to wake me up to what I cannot manage, which is my drug of choice, whatever addiction that is.
So, bottom lines support me to commit and become conscious to specific behaviors in order to create more awareness of the fears, the hurts, anger, trauma and anything else that’s obsessive and compulsive, such as my thoughts that I entertain, and the controlling behaviors I engage in.
So, bottom lines are very, very important because as you can tell, they are very clear, they’re clearly articulated to keep you away from that cliff where you have characteristically or historically acted out before.
As you heal, as you become more and more aware and awake to where that cliff is and where your bottom lines are, and you become more conscious, then you will naturally want to change those bottom lines. So, the bottom lines that once kept you safe will begin to change and reflect the maturation that you’ve obtained. So, the bottom lines you’re ready to change will no longer be a challenge to keep, and you’ll want to tighten and be more rigorous around your bottom lines.
So, what that means is, if there’s a cliff and a foot away from the cliff you have a bottom line, and then a foot away from that you have another bottom line, so you’re moving away from the cliff, your bottom lines will continue—as you become more honest and more responsible for yourself—your bottom lines will change and they will become more rigorous, they’ll become more specific to you.
For example, you have a bottom line that says I won’t eat past 8 o’clock at night, and let’s say that that bottom line is fairly close to your eating addiction. So, as you become more and more conscientious about why it is that you act addictively with food or with a particular food, then you’ll be able to make these bottom lines further away from your cliff. So, you’ll say something like, “Yes, I have a bottom line that I won’t eat past 8 but now I’m going to add another bottom line that says I am going to engage in these particular food choices before 8 o’clock as well.”
So, it’s not just, I’ll eat whatever I want until 8, I’m going to choose very specific items that will be beneficial or will nourish my body, and so I become tighter. And then, maybe I make another bottom line a couple of weeks later, or a month later, that says, “I will drink eight glasses of water throughout the day.” And so, I become more and more rigorous about wanting to get healthy and wanting to use food as a way to nourish and nurture myself instead of use it to harm or injure me.
So, bottom lines are boundaries that you place around yourself to keep you alert to the distractions that your addictive behavior brings. You can also have bottom lines in other areas where you want additional support to keep you conscious. So, they’re not just there for addictions. I mean, you can put a bottom line around anything. You can say, “I have a habit of procrastinating, and so I’m going to place some bottom lines around procrastination. So, when I hear myself say, “I’ll do that later,” that is an indicator for me that I just crossed a bottom line. So, I’m not going to postpone anything. The minute I make a plan and I set a timeframe for this thing to be completed, I will not allow myself to say, “I’ll do that later.”
So, the minute I hear that kind of comment in me, I know I’ve crossed a line and I’m moving towards acting out behavior of procrastination. So, I put a line there that says, when I hear myself in that kind of attitude or that kind of language, I’m going to make a call to someone to hold me accountable.
So, here’s an example. In order to take care of myself physically and to not act out with (put any addiction here), I have a curfew, a bedtime that says I must be in bed with the lights out by 11, and that is really hard and uncomfortable for me to keep. I want to keep my bottom line at 11 until I am willing to humble myself and follow through with the commitment I have made to myself. Once I consistently honor that commitment of being in bed by 11, and emotionally and physically understand and appreciate the wisdom behind that bottom line and I keep it consistently and appreciate that it keeps me safe, then I’ll be ready to tighten it.
Tighten it might mean I move the bottom line up to 10 instead of 11 because that will give me 8 hours instead of 7 to sleep. It will better support me physically to get more rest.
So, bottom lines are absolutely necessary to keep you safe.
Now, what do you do when you’ve slipped? So, slipping means I’ve gone past a bottom line. We’re going to talk about that here in a minute.
Let me tell you what a slip would look like. Slipping indicates that you have become conscious of the bottom line and you either willfully go through it, or maybe you’re unconscious and you go through it, maybe it’s you have a bottom line of be in bed by 10 o’clock and you’ve been out with your friends and you look down at your watch and it’s 10:20, and you think, “Oh my goodness, I’ve just passed, I’ve just slipped past my bottom line.”
So, what you need to do is:
- You need to recognize that you’ve slipped.
- You need to be humble and teachable in that moment.
- You need to be honest emotionally and aware of how and why you gave yourself permission to cross that bottom line—and telling yourself I forgot is not being emotionally honest. When we’re adults, we don’t get to use that kind of terminology. We are responsible for our time—or we need to be responsible for our time.
- Be responsible and accountable for the choices you make that supports you to cross bottom lines, such as make a plan to not continue past your bottom lines. Stop where you are, call somebody—if you’re in addiction and recovery, call a sponsor, call somebody in your support group—to hold you accountable for specific behaviors that you want to change. Call another person in recovery, you need numerous people in recovery that you can call and account to for your choices.
- Exercise your plan and move back to the other side of your bottom lines. And so, what that means is that you’ve made a decision to say, “Okay, I need to stop what I’m doing and pay attention to how I crossed over that line. How did I get from going out with my friends at 8 o’clock and all of a sudden not paying attention to the time until it’s 10:20? I can’t do that. I need to be more conscientious because I have made some commitments to myself and also to other people that are supporting me, that I will be in bed by 10.”
So, slips are another principle of addiction and recovery. When you slip, you cross your bottom lines that you’ve placed around yourself to keep you from getting close to your drug of choice. The act of slipping means you have established bottom lines and you are consciously or unconsciously crossing over those bottom lines—you are slipping past them.
So, a slip is kind of a gentle way to say you’re crossing them. Choosing to cross over your bottom lines puts you closer to your drug of choice, whether that’s acting out addictively with a person, a substance or a behavior. Being close to that drug of choice is a precarious place to be, because there is nothing to keep you safe from engaging with that drug. If you do not recognize or if you’re not conscious that you are slipping past those lines, you are even more likely to continue to make choices that support you to act out addictively with that drug.
Unawareness makes it more difficult for you to choose to move away from that addiction. So, being in recovery means you are conscious of your bottom lines and you do not go past them.
Being in recovery means you consciously keep your bottom lines in your awareness. You might do this by writing them down and keeping them in sight, by telling someone about your bottom lines and that you account to this person daily, and you account when you’ve slipped past those bottom lines.
You give yourself permission to go through or slip past your bottom lines in one of two ways. One, you are conscious and feel that it’s not a big deal to go through them. Or two, you’re unconscious and unaware, so you are attempting to control your emotions by slipping past those bottom lines.
So, either one of those two ways that you slip past bottom lines, you are stepping closer to acting out or engaging with that addiction.
Addictive thoughts and behaviors are impulsive and reactionary. Therefore, by creating these bottom lines and being conscious of them, you become less impulsive and reactionary, and you can think through your choices, your feelings, your emotions, and respond to them rationally rather than reacting to them impulsively and in fear.
So, slipping is a very important concept because it triggers something in you that alerts you that you are walking closer to that cliff. Now, early in recovery you want to place those lines as far back as you can from the cliff but not so far back that you don’t accomplish them. So, what that means is, don’t have like 10 bottom lines because they might become overwhelming, just have one or two, where you say I am going to take this particular route every morning to work because my other route was really triggering. So, that’s a bottom line, you go down that route every single time.
Another bottom line would be I will not check my spouse’s phone and be controlling about who he or she is calling. That’s a bottom line for me. I won’t ask my spouse or my partner or my child, “Did you make recovery calls today?” I won’t check up on them like that; that’s their responsibility.
Let’s talk about relapse for a moment. So, if I continue to cross bottom lines, therefore I’m slipping, I will go right into relapse. And relapse is another very important principle of addiction and recovery.
Relapse is very painful and devastating experience, not only for yourself but for everyone who is connected to you. The goal is to live a life where you no longer choose to relapse, and where relapse no longer gives you the illusion that you are managing yourself and your emotions. That’s really important because relapsing, there’s something “right” about relapsing. And I put the quotes around “right” because when I was using my drug it felt appropriate, it felt right, it felt like it was the only thing that understood me, it was the only way that I could find a reprieve from the unmanageability that I felt. And so, I continued to engage it.
However, I started having such life damaging consequences that I’ve now wanted to choose something different. So, it no longer gives me the illusion that I’m managing life.
When I relapse, you traumatize myself and everyone else that I’m connected to. I tell myself that I’m the one who’s been impacted, but that is not true. You affect—or I affect—or violate and impact everyone that is any type of relationship with me: my family, friends, business coworkers, roommates, spouse, children, extended family, and anyone that I interact with, is affected significantly.
When I relapse, I reinforce a faulty core belief system that has distorted the Truth about myself and my Reality.
So, relapse means I’ve gone through bottom lines. Now, that’s plural. I’ve gone through bottom lines. So, relapse doesn’t just happen with one choice, it is a series of choices, and I would say there are hundreds of choices that get made before I actually relapse.
Once I relapse, I’m using my drug in an attempt to manage my emotions, my discomfort, my traumas, my fears, my boredom, my loneliness, my stress, my excitement, instead of being connected to my current Reality, emotions and experiences. So, I’m using this activity, or this drug, or this person, or whatever I’m addicted to, to eclipse the Reality of my emotions and my experiences.
So, I am a human being and I’m scheduled to experience and feel all emotions. All of them. And when I don’t want to feel those, I engage in my drug of choice, I relapse.
So, the Truth is there are no bad emotions. Emotions are only uncomfortable or comfortable. One or the other. They’re uncomfortable or comfortable.
You must mature and sophisticate yourself spiritually and emotionally to manage life’s ups and downs. As an outcome of choosing the distracting path of addiction, you will exacerbate your uncomfortable emotions, your uncomfortable conflicts, consequences and emotional chaos, because you continue to choose disconnection or addiction.
The choice to engage in addictive behavior comes with additional natural outcomes including increased disconnection, so I continue to be disconnected and I increase it when I engage my addiction. It increases my shame, my pain. I continue to lie and be irresponsible. I hide secrets. I have increased emotions that are uncomfortable like hurt, or sadness or fear. I increase my avoidance strategies. I feel more lonely, more isolated. And I then, because I feel all of those uncomfortable emotions, engage the cycle yet again. And it just continues over and over and over again.
So, I have to be willing, that’s the whole key. I have to be willing to recognize my powerlessness. When I engage in addictive behavior, I am out of control. I am unmanageable in that moment. And so, the time that I can be managed is when I am not engaging those particular drugs, whether they are my own neurochemistry or something I ingest into my system.
[00:25:17] Powerlessness & Cross-Addiction
So, powerlessness and recovery. Let’s talk about what powerlessness looks like. It is sometimes frightening to become aware of powerlessness and my unmanageability around my addiction or my drug of choice. That fear can lead me to cross-addict.
Cross-addiction means I don’t become aware or responsible for my emotions and my life experiences, and therefore I don’t live a life of impeccable honesty. So, cross-addiction just means I pick up another way to act out—I pick up another addiction. It is very common for someone to have a secondary, tertiary addiction. One that they access in conjunction with their primary addiction, or one that maybe sits a little bit more dormant and so when I’m trying to manage or get into recovery around my primary addiction, my secondary addiction pops up and I start accessing that one. So, if I’m trying to stop looking at pornography, I very easily can turn to food, or to anger, or to exercise, or work, and start engaging in those things addictively.
Let me give you another example. Every time I feel stressed, I “need” a cigarette. It’s the only way I know how to manage my emotions and feel calm and relaxed. Recently, I quit smoking. I still don’t know what to do with my emotions, stress, anxiety, worry, etc. Now, I eat sugary foods as a substitute for smoking to manage my emotions. I am hooked on cookies.
So, in order to avoid becoming cross-addicted, you must heal your primary addiction, which basically healing your primary addiction is co-dependency. If you don’t know what co-dependency is, we do have a podcast on co-dependency. I would encourage you to listen to that.
You must recognize how you feel and allow those feelings to be present. You must acknowledge, and manage, and feel them. Don’t chemically alter yourself by introducing a chemical into your system or by engaging in an experience, or event, or an attitude that causes your own neurochemistry to alter you.
Cross-addiction is common for people who are already addicted to something. Look for your secondary addictions and even tertiary addictions, so you can address all of them at the same time.
You need to recognize your unmanageability and your powerlessness over those externals in your life.
You need to not be afraid of your life, and choose to embrace it. Now, that’s really hard to do that, because many of us are scared to death about what’s going on in our lives, and we are afraid to face it, and so, we need support. It’s one of the reasons why we have a 12-step program is because we all need support, we need at least one other person that understands us and we feel like they get who we are.
So, if you run and try to hide from your addictions, you will never be able to heal them. You will just stay in them the rest of your life, because these are things that you must turn and face and address. And basically, what you’re facing is not so much what you do addictively, it’s more about how you feel, and how you become triggered by certain experiences or life events, and the emotions that accompany those experiences.
- So, living in recovery means that I engage in a conscious process that is comprised of choices—choices to react impulsively or responsibly to people, situations, circumstances, expectations that weren’t met, and so forth.
- To live in recovery means I choose to slip past bottom lines or not slip past bottom lines. Recovery living creates peace and joy when you choose to follow the principles that govern it, which are number one, living in emotional Truth and being impeccably honest with yourself and others.
- Living in recovery means maintaining personal accountability in all things. For example, maintaining my bottom lines.
- Living a humble lifestyle.
- Not altering or denying the Reality of my life or my physical and emotional experiences. Now, that’s a tough one, that’s a core one. What I’m saying is that you are willing to embrace and accept life exactly as it shows itself to you, exactly as it presents itself to you.
I was driving today and I got a text, and when I pulled over to read it, this person had said that their father-in-law had just killed himself, I was just devastated, just so sad—that happened out of nowhere. And I responded back to this person and after I responded, I just sat in that experience and I don’t know how this person did this to themselves but I was just so sad for how it was affecting them and then this man’s wife, and his children, and anybody else that he’s connected to. So, I just sat and experienced that, even though I don’t know who this person is, I know somebody who knows him and who cares about him and loves him, and so it affects me kind of on a third level. And so, being able to not alter or deny the Reality of that experience.
- Experiencing and feeling all emotions as they are connected to every experience, such as grief, sadness, loneliness, boredom, tired, joy, excitement, everything.
- Sharing with another person how I feel and asking them to validate and have empathy for me. I need at least one person to allow me to be vulnerable and risk. That’s another really important principle, that I need other people to validate me, to see me, to understand where I’m at. They don’t have to agree with where I’m at or what I think and do, but they need to at a minimum see me and appreciate where and what I think and I feel.
- I need to surrender and let go of what I cannot control. I need to learn how to not be judgmental and be able to judge experiences without being judgmental of them.
Learn to live in the Reality of life and not distort the perception of Reality.
So, when you live in recovery, you will not need a drug of choice. Your willingness to be honest, responsible, humble, and present in the Reality will eclipse the drive to physically or emotionally alter your experiences, because the experience you will be having will be the real experience and you will engage it in its present form. You will not feel a need to alter yourself, but you will stay true and present in life’s honest presentation of the experiences.
And when you do that, you will gain incredible wisdom and emotional and spiritual understanding. Empowerment will come as a result of you choosing to stay present in the Reality and feel the emotions.
When I am in recovery, I become familiar with life and I learn to embrace all experiences and all emotions. I learn to have a mindset or a lifestyle where emotions give me information about myself and others. Emotions are not bad. Emotions are all about giving information to me about myself and my experiences, my environment, other people. I learn to accept any experience I’m involved i, and allow the experience to teach me so I may mature, develop, sophisticate and become whole and connected, and thus not create escape and distortion.
So, living in recovery is a beautiful place to be even though it as time very, very uncomfortable, just like this text I received from this individual. It was very, very tragic and unexpected. And so, those kinds of experiences are not pleasant experiences. However, if I try to distort myself and engage in addictive behavior, then I check-out, and then I’m not able to be present for this person, and he or she needs my support more than ever right now. And so, if I get selfish and go towards my addictive behavior, then I can’t be there for that person, and that’s the very thing that I want to do, is be there.
Let’s talk about another principle of addiction. It’s not about recovery but it’s a part of the addiction cycle that we get into and it’s called white-knuckling.
White-knuckling is an expression many of us recognize. Perhaps you’ve seen somebody grip the podium as they gave a speech, or hang on so tightly that their knuckled turned white. They were probably very nervous and trying to will themselves to finish their speech or presentation. Or maybe you’ve hung on for dear life while riding a rollercoaster.
When we are white-knuckling, we react to our feelings of fear by using our physical strength to keep ourselves from falling or becoming out of control.
In the context of addiction recovery, white-knuckling means I’m barely holding on by force or willpower to not slip into addictive behavior.
If you are white-knuckling any kind of addictive behavior where you’re barely holding on, you’re just kind of by the skin of your teeth, and you’re just hoping that you can do it, you will lose that battle. The addiction will be patient until your discomfort reaches a level where you cannot hold on any longer.
So, don’t be unwise and attempt to get into recovery on your own. You need support. You need others in recovery. You need validation. You need to be heard. You need to have people hold you accountable and help you see the Reality of your experiences instead of just your perspective. And you need to know you are not alone. White-knuckling does not afford any of these things. White-knuckling is a solo experience and it creates an illusion, an isolation and pride by encouraging you to believe you can do this by yourself. You can’t. You cannot do this by yourself. It is not a threat, it’s not a challenge to you. It’s just the Truth. You cannot do this by yourself because all you’re doing is circling in your own thoughts, your own perceptions. And your thoughts and perceptions keep leading you to act out, so your best thinking leads you to your drug of choice.
In 12-step, they say, “Your best thinking gets you loaded.” And that is the Truth. So, you need others who understand how to support you. You need the right kind of people, those who are sufficiently educated on addiction, who will provide you with accurate information, responsibility and accountability.
You need these people, and these people need to not be your family members. And this can be kind of a touchy subject because many people would prefer to have their loved ones support them, those people who they’re familiar with. I would encourage you to not have them be the ones who are supporting you in addiction and recovery. They can be there to love you, and make dinner, and do things that are typical of a friendship or a love relationship, but not support you in accountability. Family and friends have an emotional connection and relationship with you, and they cannot support you accurately because they’ll be inadvertently biased and they won’t be able to do what’s necessary for you to have success such as hold you responsible. Or they might hold you responsible and you just get angry at them.
Just as a surgeon will not operate on his or her own family member, neither would a family member be adequate support for someone wanting to live in rigorous recovery.
So, you need people in recovery who will allow you to be vulnerable and risk, and expect that you be impeccably honest about your decisions and choices. And ask you, they’re going to ask you to clean up your side of the street, like clean up all the things that you’ve done to other people, your choices, your behaviors that have hurt, or offended, or injured yourself or others.
So, be wise, don’t white-knuckle. It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of emotional and physical effort and emotion. Don’t do it.
Many people, when they’re in recovery, will talk about the power of willpower, and willpower is necessary as you are learning how to live a life of recovery. But willpower on its own will not take you there.
So, many people talk about willpower as a necessary component of living a lifestyle of recovery. Willpower, when living in recovery is not enough by itself. Just as having uneducated people who love you is not enough to accurately give you the tools to succeed. These people, though they mean well, they do not know the magnitude of what addiction is and how deep it truly runs in you.
Will power is similar. Will power is needed for the physical items of recovery, such as getting up when you commit to, making a schedule, doing your exercise routine, going to meetings. Those things can be done by willpower for a period of time but if you don’t choose to have a willingness or desire to change, willpower doesn’t have the power or authority to sustain your efforts.
Humility, desire for change and a willing heart ar needed first. And then, willpower plays an incredibly important and powerful role. So, willpower is needed in conjunction with a desire, a willingness, a humility for change.
So, there is a role for it but it is not the solo thing.
So, when I watch people get into recovery or they choose to get into recovery, some people will say, “Yes, I want to change.” And as they start going into the change process, they don’t have a willingness, so they work and work and work, and they just get more and more frustrated. It’s like, how come I’m spending all this time and yet nothing’s changing? I go to meetings, I have a sponsor, I’m working on my steps, but nothing’s changing. And every single time when that kind of presentation is presented, it’s because the person has not surrendered, they have not been willing to do those things. They’re just doing them because they’re supposed to. They’re like checking a box. And that will never work. You have to be willing in conjunction with doing all of these types of things of going to meetings, and working on your 12 steps, and maybe going to a therapist, or tracking your responsibility, or tracking your co-dependency. You have to really be willing to do those types of things.
Let’s talk for a brief moment about withdrawal. So, a very important principle to recovery is to understand and appreciate the experience of withdrawal. Anyone who is involved with an addiction will experience, to some degree, physiological withdrawal symptoms, whether they’re aware of the symptoms or not. What’s happening is that the body, whether I’ve ingested drugs or I’ve used my own neurochemistry to become addicted to, as it starts to regulate itself—the body starts to regulate itself or find homeostasis—I will experience a withdrawal. Withdrawal is very real and it can affect people in very demonstrative or more subtle ways.
As a result of more than 40 years of research, we now know that our brains have the capacity to create its own neurochemistry or its own neurochemicals, which I can become addicted to. Thus, we understand that we can become addicted to anything.
Because our brains have the capacity to create massive amounts of powerful addictive chemicals, we can become addicted to any experience, situation, person, attitude, ideology, emotion, substance, activity, power, authority. You can become addicted to literally anything.
So, in our brains we have over 100 neurochemical transmitters that pass information or messages along to different areas of the body to support everyday functions. For example, dopamine creates a spaced out, hypotonic, out of this world feeling. So that’s one of the chemicals. Endorphins are connected to experiences of calmness and relaxation. Norepinephrine increases heartrate and blood flow to muscles. Adrenaline causes arousal and heightened response. Oxytocin causes bonding and connection in sexual, and social, and familial contexts.
So, when trauma or dis-ease, stress, shame, or ingested drugs are introduced into a person’s life, the neural transmitters or the chemical messages are affected and can become dysregulated or disrupted. And it will disrupt the norm and the appropriate creation or the release and flow of these very important chemicals to the body from the brain.
So, by repeated engaging or activating these particular neurotransmitters in your brain, through repeated trauma, sexual acting out behavior or sexual arousal, ingesting drugs, fantasies, thoughts, experiences, any kind of addictive pattern or behavior, you will create pathways in your brain that lead you to that particular drug you are desiring to experience or that drug that you’re familiar with.
So, for example, if I’m engaging in some kind of addictive behavior, I might be looking for an adrenaline hit. So, if I have an addictive behavior like, I like to speed in my car, so every time I get in my car I speed, I get really anxious during the course of the day and so when I drive home, I’m always speeding. And so, I’m looking for that adrenaline hit because I always feel better, I feel anxious and I don’t want to feel anxious, so when I go and drive my car really fast I get this adrenaline rush, and so instead of feeling anxiety, I feel this feel-good, it increases my heartrate and my blood flow, because I want to feel that kind of excitement instead of anxiety.
So, remember addiction is the seeking out or altering my mood and augmenting my pleasure. Therefore, when life becomes uncomfortable, I now know how to change my mood by activating these particular neurotransmitters to give me the release from the discomfort or dis-ease that I’m experiencing. Dis-ease, not disease.
So, I can appreciate why recovery from any type of addictive behaviors would include a period of withdrawal symptoms, dependent on what chemicals you are withdrawing from. You could have a myriad of symptoms and timeframes. It’s important that you look up the drug if drugs were ingested, and see what withdrawal symptoms and timeframes are expected.
So, some common symptoms that come with withdrawal are insomnia or any kind of sleep disturbances, irritability, depression, sadness, crying, rashes, sweating, shakiness, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, body aches, increased or decreased desire for food or sex, shortness of breath, skin sensitivity, just to name a few. Those are all the physical and emotional types of symptoms, and there are many, many more, but there are some of the more common ones.
So, some people may not experience withdrawal in a real demonstrative way, and as the body regulates itself again, it will go through some kind of flushing out process. You will crave what it is that you’re not giving your body. So, if you’re used to speeding down the road, or you’re used to eating lots of sugar, or you’re used to taking a particular drug, and you withhold that drug from your body, your system is going to crave that.
Now, if you will hold out and use not just willpower, I mean willpower is a part of it, but use your support system to talk to and have them validate you, and see you, and be vulnerable with them, and be honest with them about how your feel. If you will let enough time go by, your body will regulate itself again and every body, every person, every physiology is different in the timeframes.
And that craving will go away—in conjunction with you managing your emotions. You cannot just stop taking the substance, stop ingesting, or stop creating the substance in your body. You must couple that with emotional honesty and personal accountability. Those things together with the withdrawal of the substance will put you into a lifestyle of recovery.
So, if you are needing additional support after you’ve listened to this, and you don’t have anyone that you can talk to about addiction and recovery, you’re welcome to contact us on the website. There is a phone number, there’s also an email address at www.connexionsclassroom.com , and we will do our best to get you connected.
There are always 12-step meetings, they’re all over the country and now they’re all over the world, so I would also send you to www.AA.org or, www.SA.org , or www.al-anon.org, that’s for the partners of alcoholics and drug addicts, or www.s-anon.org, which are for the partners of sex addicts as well. There’s also Under Eaters Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous. I mean, there’s just all sorts of 12-step groups all throughout the country and the world.
Again, get the help that you need. If you’re in need of direction, please give us a call or contact us on the website.
Enjoy your day and I encourage you, if you are someone or you know someone who has an addiction, I encourage you to learn these principles and share them with that particular loved one, so that they can too can get into recovery instead of just living a life of sobriety.
Take care, stay connected, and we will talk to you again very soon. Bye bye.[ENDS]
See the following materials for more in-depth study of the topics in this podcast: