This guest blog post was provided by Toby LeBlanc, LPC.
In my last blog I brought up the idea that empathy can give us greater responsibility over the management of our internal world. This might seem a little crazy, but I think giving away some responsibility for our internal world could be helpful, too. I promise I’ll make sense here in a minute.
There’s a lot of judgment of addicts out there. Though science and media have tried to humanize this disorder, there are many people who still think we are flawed and weak when we can’t “just stop.” The judgment doesn’t stop there. Hearing those things for long enough can make us take on this perspective and begin judging ourselves (by the way, this often leads to some level of depression). I have never seen an addict get clean using judgment. But then again, maybe we are judging the wrong thing.
I have heard several clients talk about how “the addict” in them wants them to do unhealthy things. By calling out the addict as something separate from themselves they are allowed to heal. It seems as if these clients often side step the self-judgment of believing they are broken in some way and put it on the “addict.” I don’t know about you, but trying to fix something which is broken in us seems harder than acknowledging, nurturing, and encouraging something which is healthy. I find it tends to feel better, too. The separation from the “addict” also allows a person to see when it is starting to rear its ugly head. Instead of having an unhealthy urge forcing one to judge one as flawed, we can disagree with the “addict” in us and turn toward the parts we know are healthy.
There are two things which I need to acknowledge. This first is how much this may seem like a cop-out. Even reading my own words it looks like I am suggesting we do not hold addicts accountable for themselves, but instead we should blame this imaginary “addict.” We can’t get angry at the big bad “addict” boogey man. We can’t be cautious about the “addict” vampire. No. Addicts still need to be held accountable for their actions. It’s essential to recovery. The anger we feel toward them and the guilt they feel afterwards shows an addict the guidelines for healthiness. This brings up the second point. This concept operates under the assumption we know what healthy parts of ourselves look like and feel like. It also assumes we want to listen to these parts of us. If you are early in recovery, you may want to hold off on trying to disagree with your “addict.” Without the knowledge of what is truly healthy for you, and the ability to accept responsibility for your actions regardless of if it was your healthy self or your “addict,” it may come off as “The devil made me do it.”
With that in mind, I’d like to challenge you find your healthy self and disagree with your “addict.” Consider these questions for self-reflection:
What part of me wants that? Is it my healthy self or my “addict?”
Which voice am I hearing in my head right now? The self I want to be or the self I’m trying not to be?
Do I want to listen to what I hear in my head?