Being addicted to alcohol or drugs is a rather intense experience. It’s as though the forces of life and death are pulling on you, and the addiction claims your soul. The addiction is the venue for experiencing the transcendent, the soulful, the wild, and expansive. Yet, at the same time, the addiction brings you into the depths of hell, utter destruction, and self-annihilation. It might sound dramatic. But if it weren’t extreme and intense, you wouldn’t have gathered all your inner strength and courage to get sober. Finding sober help and beginning the road to recovering also means bearing with the forces of life and death.
In fact, there’s a saying within the drug-counseling field: Addicts are very spiritual people; they’re just knocking on the wrong door. Whether that applies to you or not, getting sober comes down to choosing life over death. Having had enough of destruction, you feel the urgent desire for life, for sobriety, for a healthier existence.
And perhaps this pull between life and death is true for all people. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, identified two primal urges that perhaps addicts exemplify the best. These are the libidinal urge towards life and the aggressive drive towards death. These two forces are forever bearing their influence on an individual, and perhaps in its most acute form on those struggling with an addiction.
In fact, each choice to pick up a drink, to ingest a drug, or to puncture your skin with a needle is a choice towards death. What’s worse is that over time, as the addiction becomes more and more a dominant force, denial strengthens. The life force inside becomes more and more anesthetized. Meanwhile, the death force gets stronger. Alongside this, with sobriety comes one of the most difficult issues to face: the shame and self-hatred that is directly related to the destructive choices of addiction. The continued choice to get drunk destroys the body, healthy thinking, and impairs the maturity of the adult. The choice for drinking or drugging is a self-abusive habit, and in a way, it’s an attempt to destroy a part of you that feels worthy of rejection.
On the other hand, the choice to find sober help, to quit drinking, and to stop using drugs is a life-affirming choice. Seeking a sober community, undergoing therapy, participating in the programs of a sober living home, and making the commitment to stay sober are all a part of making the great change from destroying your life to creating your life. Often, along with this, is the necessary task of re-parenting, finding the mature adult inside who can tend to the young child in need of love and acceptance so that you are no longer rejecting yourself through the use of drugs.
These are all ways to begin that challenging but incredible shift from destruction to creation of your life. Transforming the self-abuse that is inherent in addiction to life-affirming choices and behavior is possible. Yet, even deeper than this, Guy Kettelhack, author of Sober and Free: Making Your Recovery Work For You, wrote that even beneath life and death there is another gift waiting for you.
He wrote that there are times in which a recovering addict might feel caught between the light of sobriety and the darkness of using. If choosing sobriety becomes another experience of choosing right over wrong, light over dark, and feels like a binding trap to behave in a certain way, than it might lack the deeper meaning and purpose. It might lack the feelings of self-love that you’re really looking for. In this case, sobriety might not be able to offer deep solace for that inner child who is really yearning for love and affection. In this way, sobriety feels vacant and no longer nourishing.
Kettelhack suggests that when you’re caught between the light and dark of the recovery process, let go. He wrote, “There is a softer, wider, profoundly more comforting consciousness awaiting you when you’re able to relax your fierce grip – either on being sober or on getting drunk.”
By letting go, you can sort out life from death. Rather than getting caught in the binds of right and wrong, what’s acceptable and non-acceptable, you can pursue fulfillment, passion, and life in the choices you make. You can choose life over death by finding self-love through sober help and support.
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