I have finally come to understand that truth. Our addictions, the things we used to cope and manage and not feel were—at one time—life saving. My first therapist used to tell me this over and over and I thought she was nuts, but now with better eyes and better understanding I know it’s true. If I had not had the cushions of food, drink and drugs I could never have withstood the realities of my early home life and I would certainly have died or gone crazy.
But now, in later recovery, I am coming to understand another layer of this phenomenon. That is, that our addictions are not “bad”; they are actually the shadow side of something else we are seeking. Jung said something like this to Bill Wilson and before that to Roland Hazard, when he told them that alcoholics substitute spirits for spiritus—alcohol for the holy. The intention isn’t wrong, but maybe the route is.
So I think this is a task of ongoing recovery and later recovery: after we spend some time switching from booze, to food to work to relationships to expensive hobbies to shoes and then maybe some prescription meds and back to food again we have to get quiet and ask what’s underneath.
No huge surprise. We’ve had glimmers along the way. We want love and friendship and companionship. We want to be deeply and truly known. We want to give and receive love. We want intimacy and always, I think always, we want creativity.
It would seem that should be so easy. A workshop or two, some to-do lists, maybe counseling and some church? But no. I think—and I remember learning this 30 years ago in OA: real healing begins with crying, the kind where snot runs down your face. Deep release. Deep admittance. Deep longing.
Our addictions are accompanying us. They are the coded version of our best selves. They are our guides. And somedy we’ll look back and realize they were our friends.