Primitive reason says that if you have an addiction then you are an addict and if you are addicted to alcohol then you are an alcoholic. Addict, alcoholic: words that still carry highly negative connotations. They commonly infer a pitiful fringe of “proper” society. Inferior, undisciplined, weak-minded, unpredictable, unreliable. It’s a hard profile.
Without surprise, then, we can see why those who suffer from the more painful addictions do not want to admit to the condition. This denial saddens me, first because you cannot heal what you cannot face, but secondly because there is a missed opportunity to open a big door that leads to a smaller door into the larger recovery room of emotional sobriety, which we all need.
It is almost axiomatic that only great suffering will knock you off the treadmill of life and onto the path of human transformation – the spiritual journey, the next level of consciousness, continued maturation, or whatever you want to call it. Without a crisis, it is too easy to stay on auto-pilot, regarding your emotional addictions as emotional entitlements, to say nothing of the addictions of consumerism, group-think and righteousness.
Thus, the more obvious addictions to debilitating substances and behaviors, while very painful and wholly unfortunate in and of themselves, are also a strange blessing, if they get you in the first door of recovery. Otherwise, finding the second door is very difficult in our present culture. Although the labels of alcoholic and addict may look bad at first, remain calm, get on with your recovery and look forward to something deeper and better than you could have imagined – something that turns these shunned labels upside down. You are still on the fringe of society, but now it’s the healthier fringe! The mainstream remains unconscious in their subtle addictions.
The Twelve Steppers came up with anonymity in order to provide cover for entering the first door. They remain grounded in humility by announcing within the group, for the rest of their lives, “Hi, I’m Joe, an alcoholic.” Yet it’s more than humility. It’s also gratitude, for because of that once awful word, they went on the further journey.