Some justify their addiction by saying that their behavior is a victimless crime, but nothing could be further from the truth. An addiction always has a victim. Obviously, there are those that we use or betray, either directly or indirectly; then there are those who are being deprived of having our full presence and care, even if they do not know it; and finally, even if it were possible to live an addiction without either of those first two categories of victims, there is always the victim of our very own self.
For the addict to turn his attention to his victims is a very hard thing to do. It anguishes his very soul. And, frankly, it should anguish his soul. That is the right and proper consequence for one who has caused harm, and it is necessary for the addict to endure this if he is ever going to have a real change.
But this journey into the dark is not only for the addict. There is a parallel journey that the victim must pass through as well, one which involves coming to terms with his own brokenness and surrendering it. Throughout this study we will take a deep dive on the addict, his victim, and the journey of recovery that they both must follow. Let us start today by taking a closer look at the three categories of victims that I mentioned above.
This is the category that most commonly comes to mind when we think of the word “victim.” If one is a lust addict it might a person they molest, if one is an anger addict it might be a person they strike, if one is a drug addict it might be a parent they steal money from. In short, it is anyone who is harmed as a way for us to get the twisted pleasure or satisfaction that our addiction demands.
Also, there are the victims who were not harmed by the acting out of the addiction, but by its aftermath. These include the nieces and nephews who wonder why we aren’t allowed to play with them anymore, the ex-spouse who can’t get a loan because we ruined their credit score, and the new employee who is never fully trusted because of the cynicism we inspired in our former boss.
There are also victims that do not know they are victims, such as the girls we leered down the shirt of. There are also the victims that we never directly interacted with, such as the kids who started doing drugs because they wanted to be like us. I would even make the case that there are victims who were distressed by the invisible, evil spirit that we brought in our wake.
If we’re honest with ourselves, I’m sure we’ll all be able to identify many, immediate victims of our addiction. We’ll even come to accept that there are undoubtedly many more that we have forgotten or never knew of.
Even after all the types of victims mentioned already, there are still others. These are the victims who suffer from not getting to have our full presence in their lives. Most of the time, these people don’t even know that they’re getting a substandard version of us, and we might not even know it either. Most likely we’ve been emotionally handicapped for so long that we don’t know that it is a handicap anymore. Our loved ones say that we’re just “aloof” or “distracted,” never considering that in reality we are half brain-dead because of our addiction.
Our spouse doesn’t get the partner that they thought we were, our children don’t get the attentive parent that they deserve, and our employers don’t get the employee that they thought they hired. And as I’ve said, we don’t even realize just how much of our real self we are holding back until after we have been in recovery long enough to discover who that real self is. It is only in hindsight that we understand just how much our loved ones put up with that they shouldn’t have had to.
Cheating the world of our best self puts an undue burden on everyone else. It creates a perpetual sense of longing and dissatisfaction in others that they may never understand the source of. They don’t know how to vocalize the ways that we weren’t there for them, just the sense that we weren’t. They only ever got the shadow of us, when what they wanted was the real thing.
Victim of Self)
And, finally, there is the very first victim of them all. The one that suffers more than any other victim in almost every case. Every time we hurt another person, we also hurt ourselves. And even when we don’t hurt another person, we still also hurt ourselves.
We break our own heart, destroy our own innocence, and subject our own selves to misery. Every negative action we project outward also has a negative reaction directed inward. An addict who burns a hundred bridges deprives each of these people of only one relationship, but of himself he deprives them all. Everyone else gets a portion of the pain of our addiction, but we get all of it combined in one.
We lose our self-respect, our health, our optimism, our faith, our friendships, and our freedom. We subject ourselves to punishments that we would never accept at the hands of another person. There are plenty of addicts who may not break a single law, but whose behavior to their own self would be considered criminal if it had been done to another person. And while that addict may never end up behind real bars, inside he is prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated still the same.
Facing the Victims)
So, as I said at the start, addiction always has a victim. It must have at least one, and frankly I have never met an addict that didn’t have hundreds. It’s a grim reality that most of us go to incredible lengths to avoid facing. But denying the existence of a reality means trying to live apart from the truth, and that only tears us apart. Sooner or later, if we ever wish to be whole, the truth has got to be faced. The victims have to be considered and the remorse has to be felt. A little bit later, confession and amends will also be necessary, but first and foremost, one has got to look at their damage unflinching.