When I started my addiction recovery, I was enamored by everything I was learning about myself. I learned that my parents’ own addictions had led to my abandonment issues. I learned that in becoming a parentified child, I had developed the need to control everything. There was so much more. It was like reading a very interesting book about myself.
This led me to believe that I needed to address all these narratives. If I wanted to live life differently, I needed to work through them and replace them with new narratives. And while this exercise did help in some ways, it was ultimately a red herring.
It is important to understand your narratives to give context to your addiction. You need to be able to recognize your narratives so that you don’t get caught up in them over and over again. But while working with your narratives might help you avoid past mistakes, it won’t help you move forward all that much.
Behind the narratives
One of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes states that “you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.” When it comes to addiction, this is so poignant and relevant.
We create narratives for one major reason: to deal with feelings that seem unmanageable. Changing the narratives will not get rid of the feelings. Nor should it.
Feelings are part of a healthy existence. Even the ones that seem unhealthy – guilt, shame, anxiety – only become problematic when we try to get rid of them.
The key to moving on is recognizing that those emotions are both par for the course and only temporary. If we feel them and let them go, they will disappear. They will come around again, and we will manage them again in the same way.
It is for this reason that the 12 Steps don’t mention those narratives. The 12 Steps are about breaking the cycle of your past, and starting a practice that will take you into a healthy future.
Many recovering addicts struggle with this idea that they are broken. They have suffered through so many trials and have done so much they want to forget. It seems like they can never work through it all.
But no person is broken. You are as whole as anyone else in this world. No matter what you have been through, you are a feeling human being, living a life that is inherently meaningful.