It began with those 5Ds- distance, duality, disillusionment, denial, and despair. Distance was to put up an unnecessary wall with others. Duality was that double life where one wore masks and played the games. Disillusionment was to not find satisfaction and to be afraid of one’s feelings and emotions where the only thought was to be numb. Denial was to ignore a dilemma and to pretend it was not there. Despair was to have no hope. But though it began this way it need not be the end. To restore a connection, to come to patient acceptance, to pay mind to those small joys often overlooked, to take off the mask, to be authentic and without fear. Therein lies the solution and the hope. The Lord gave these words to St. Faustina:
“O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.”
A Crisis of Meaning and Identity
At the root of addiction is that crisis of meaning and identity. Such leads to a desire to escape. But the attempts to escape lead one too but enslavement from one thing to another. In this crisis of meaning one begins to question not only their purpose but who they are, where they are going, and have regrets about where they have been which causes them often to go nowhere. When one begins to help others create meaning they will begin to create it themselves. There cannot be something without there first being anything. And from that void one does have a choice of what to fill it with. Will it be the junk food that alleviates a hunger but never satisfies or will it be something based on virtue which cannot be taken away and which provides nourishment? As for where they will go, that too becomes a choice and the path will be less tedious and more fulfilling when the journey takes place with others rather than in isolation. When one walks alone, it is likely they will become lost and there will be none to lift them up again or nurse wounds along the way.
If one wishes to understand addiction they must be willing to understand painful experiences. They must be willing to venture into that darkness and realize that some are too afraid to walk to the light. Some judge and fail to grasp how one may return to the same cycle. But it is the human condition for us to return to that which was familiar though it is uncomfortable. We must come to know those forces which led to a disintegration of identity, a failure to grasp the meaning, an isolation though among others. We must come to see that these persons are human beings regardless of how contorted their lives have become. They cannot be expected to give what they never had. Compassion and patience is a key. And once the door is opened we cannot expect them to immediately rush into it. They need those who will guide them to that opening and will encourage rather than further their feelings of hopelessness and despair. A confrontational approach will only give rise to retaliation, denial, and defensiveness. An approach of service and core human values based on benevolence will give rise to the restoration of their full humanity free from the contortions. Authenticity will give rise to honest interactions. Supportive guidance rather than judgmental dictates will give rise to functional independence and better decision making. Showing an example of humility and kindness will give rise to one adopting the same. There is the need for that process of unlearning, of casting off that which one perpetuated for it is all they knew. There is that need to be willing to suffer with, be with, and journey with the other, to demonstrate that there is no need any longer for masks, roles, and ultimately fear. To show that life can be beautiful and embraced rather than avoided.
Addiction and Mental Health
There is often an unnecessary dichotomy made between addiction and mental health. The two are intertwined in that it is often challenging states of mind which paves the way to addiction and once addiction arises there is then a greater deterioration of one’s mental state where for some the end result is complete despair. It is necessary not only to support the person who is in difficult emotional states whether addiction arose or not but to also take on the role of activists to seek to change what we are able in the dynamics which lead one to such states. And some may ask- why do some go through a painful or difficult experience and addiction arises whereas with others it does not? The fact is that all will react to oppressive dynamics, some will become depressed, some anxious, some even psychotic. Some will develop an addiction. Each is based on what is available (or not available) at the time. Each is an ill-fated attempt to alleviate that which they find to be an unbearable condition.
St. John of the Cross states:
“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God, and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”
A Longing For Connection
Addiction becomes that strange event by which one longs for connection but becomes disconnected and isolated, seeks meaning but enters despair, yearns to be free from anxiety but becomes a prisoner of their own thoughts, hopes to avoid pain but becomes engulfed in the unavoidable, seeks to be recognized for something positive but becomes unrecognizable, goes after pleasure and excitement but becomes apathetic and anhedonic. Addiction remains that compulsion only when the dynamics around the person remain compulsively chaotic and bewildering. The obsessive quality of addiction remains an obsession when one believes there is no way out and has no other focus. And though addiction was present, though the darkness has become pervasive, one may find through that hope combined with realism that inward path where the light is rekindled and one emerges anew with an insight, a connection, meaning, and a willingness to embrace life as it is.
There was that time of spiritual doubt. One did those things which killed the Spirit within. One replaces the Spirit with spirits. One does not want to see, recognize, or be bothered by God for a time for they had projected all their human resentments and negative feelings onto their image of who this God was. One could not be in control if God was. And though things were so out of control one played the game that they did have such control. When one admitted that this was not the case and began to see the face and workings of the Divine in their fellows, they began to discover amazing things and we discarded spirits for the spiritual.
It is not that some struggling with addiction do not want help. They do not desire to live in despair and turmoil. It is rather they have crossed the line into dependence and familiarity. It is that they are not ready for they do not know how to receive help nor do they trust anyone to help. Fear keeps them trapped in the cycle. A different way of life is foreign and anxiety producing. Some would say we must give up on these souls but it is when the door becomes cracked even just a tad that light may enter. The door can only begin to be cracked open when the person encounters in another the very traits they were lacking- patience, compassion, authenticity.
There are those extreme idealists whose hearts may be benevolent but whose thinking leads them to disillusionment, discontent, bitterness, and cynicism. They desperately want to see their vision unfold. But it is that attachment to this desire that leads to their confusion. Patient acceptance and a hope tempered by realism are what is needed.There was that time of spiritual doubt. One did those things which killed the Spirit within. One replaces the Spirit with spirits. One does not want to see, recognize, or be bothered by God for a time for they had projected all their human resentments and negative feelings onto their image of who this God was. One could not be in control if God was. And though things were so out of control one played the game that they did have such control. When one admitted that this was not the case and began to see the face and workings of the Divine in their fellows, they began to discover amazing things and they discarded spirits for the spiritual.