There is an ancient Chinese saying: even the longest journey starts with just one step. The road to Recovery also starts with just one step. Except, with addiction, it is not ‘just’ one step, it’s the hardest step that anyone might ever have to take in their life. And it’s the first step that anyone with an addiction must take, if they want to overcome their addiction.
One of the first goals of therapists is to help that person get to the point where they can take possession of their addiction – to ‘own’ their addiction as a part of themselves. What does that mean?
Owning Your Addiction
Owning your addiction means acknowledging to yourself, and others, that addiction has become a part of your life – it’s a part of who you are. Once you are able to acknowledge that, and face up to that difficult fact, you can start to take control of your addiction, and your life. It’s setting the ground rules for the battles to come! It’s the line in the sand that marks out the start of a whole new life for you and your family.
It’s genuinely admitting to yourself, in your heart, that you really do have an addiction – not just ‘a problem’ – a problem you could still control if you really wanted to. You have to face the difficult fact that this in not, in fact, just a bit of a problem – it’s a real addiction. That’s not easy to do, but once you can do that, and you can acknowledge it for what it really is – you ‘own’ it as being part of yourself, and who you are.
This doesn’t mean blaming yourself for it, or hating yourself for it. It means deciding to stop the denial of reality, and the justifications (excuses) that are a normal part of addiction.
Denying difficult truths is part of human nature, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a normal defense mechanism we all use when the truth is too difficult to accept. The problem that addicts have, is that this denial is not protecting them at all – it’s ‘allowing’ them to continue with their addiction. So to overcome and control that addiction, addicts first have to acknowledge their addiction as a fact – reality.
Admission = Confession = A Courageous Act
Admitting to something that we feel ashamed of is one of the hardest things to do in life. It takes enormous courage. Declaring it in public is even harder, but a genuine declaration of “My name is …..and I’m an alcoholic’ is an integral part of AA and NA and other similar support groups for a very good reason. Why?
Because a public declaration (confession) that is accepted, by others, for what it really is – a courageous act – brings relief, even a sense of pride and accomplishment, and most of all – hope. And it is where everyone has to start on the road to Recovery, whether it’s with the help of AA or NA or as part of any other Rehab program.
One of the big advantages of AA, NA, other similar support groups, or group counseling in rehab programs, is that it provides a safe place to make this confession. No one is going to humiliate you, or blame you for anything you might have done, because you are among ‘friends’. You are all in the same boat together, and you understand what it really means to have an addiction.
Group support from fellow addicts, and people already in Recovery is extremely important in encouraging other members of the group to ‘stay strong’. It inspires hope and proof that recovery is possible, and allows addicts at the start of their journey, to see that they can still have a meaningful life after addiction – not an easy life, but a meaningful and fulfilling one.