I’ve spent this series having a pretend conversation with a person who is unsure about whether they have an addiction or not. I’ve approached the topic from different angles, providing an answer to to all of the responses I typically hear from such people. I believe that all these different angles can be grouped into two main categories, though, so let us review those.
At various times in these posts I have tried to hold a mirror up to all those that are in denial. I hope those that minimize or turn a blind eye to their weakness were able to face them more fully through this journey. I asked the person who thinks he can control his unhealthy indulgence to prove it by swearing it off entirely and seeing how it goes. I called out those who refuse to acknowledge the burdens they put on others. I invited all to take a full inventory of themselves, fearlessly tabulating their failures and flaws.
I personally believe that the majority of people have not stepped out of denial and honestly appraised their souls. And, in my experience, those that have not taken this critical step tend to put more evil into the world than good. By avoiding the hard questions, they are perpetuating burden and abuse upon everyone else, and they are the main driving force for the deterioration we see in society today.
Now I do realize that that is a very stern pronouncement to make, so let me follow it up by acknowledging the decades I spent being just such a person. I was in complete denial for years, and I certainly put substantial amounts of hurt and burden on other people as a result of it. I also admit that even after looking into the depths of my soul, I still have a tendency to flinch and turn away, to revert back to selfishness, to continue to cause harm to myself and others. What is more, this is the case with most, if not all, of those who have awakened to the reality of themselves. We have to repeatedly recognize our denial and return ourselves to a place of unflinching honesty in order to keep doing good.
Semantics and Society)
I have also considered those that do not necessarily deny the reality of their problems or the harm that they are causing, but who struggle to adopt the label of “addict” for various other reasons. They might feel that their behavior does not fit under the category of an addiction, even while admitting that it is compulsive, habitual, and destructive. To these people I suggested that it really doesn’t matter what they or anyone else calls that particular area of life. There is no need to debate whether it is to be referred to as a “problem area,” an “addiction,” or a “deadly sin.” There are members of my addiction group who introduce themselves as “I’m an addict,” others as “I struggle with unwanted behaviors,” and still others as “I’m a son of God.” It doesn’t matter that we use different terms and labels, just so long as we’re there to do the same work.
In this series I did push back on those who avoid admitting to their problems because of social pressures, though. Those who don’t want to be lumped with “addicts” tend to retain a sense that they are above the group. Anyone who is trying to admit that he is fundamentally flawed while still making distinctions between himself and the “other” fundamentally flawed people is in argument with himself. He is trying to hold onto his old us-vs-them worldview, while also realizing that “us” really aren’t any better than “them.”
In short, people in the “Semantics and Society” category need to break a few of their walls down. They need to accept the common humanity that encompasses us all, accept that all of us are broken, and talk about that brokenness without worrying about the labels attached to it.
On the Brink)
When I see someone teetering on the edge of joining our twelve-step group I feel a great excitement for them. They are lingering at the entrance, trying to let go of the old perspectives and agreements hold them back. They want to confess and surrender and throw themselves into an authentic way of life, but they need to cut ties with whatever lies still remain. There are only a few bonds left to sever, and if they manage it, then they are free to make the single most important choice of their entire life: the choice to live sincerely.
I do not think them petty because they struggle at the doorway. All of us who are in the room had to do that to some extent before we got through. Neither do I think that I can pull them in against their will. I can offer perspective and advice, but this is a choice that everyone has got to make on their own. Some of them choose to walk away, and there is nothing any of us can do to prevent that.
Here at my conclusion, I want to acknowledge that I have been blunt in these posts, but it is not because of any animosity towards those teetering on the edge. I merely wish to shine a bright light into whatever dark corners still remain for them. Clarity and honesty, even bluntness, are the best tools to combat any lingering self-deception.
If you have found yourself pacing at the doorway of recovery, but unable to pass through because you weren’t sure if you really had an addiction, then I hope this series has helped you to see the reality of the matter. I would love to welcome you into the community of the awakened as soon as you are ready to join us!