Tuesday, April 15, 2014

{Addiction & Co-addiction}

As you can guess from the title, this post on the addiction series will cover a dual aspect of addiction.  I'm going to start with the addiction aspect first, because it will make more sense when I talk about co-addiction if it's in this order.

No matter when an addiction is started, it's difficult to stop whether it's been 10 days or 10 years.  The addiction becomes a way of coping with life and a way to "numb out" and not feel negative emotions such as hurt, rejection, stress, pain, etc.

"Whatever our motive for starting [our addiction] and our circumstances, we soon discovered that the addiction relieved more than just physical pain.  It provided stimulation or numbed painful feelings or moods.  It helped us avoid the problems we faced---or so we thought.  For a while, we felt free of fear, worry, loneliness, discouragement, regret, or boredom.  But because life is full of the conditions that prompt these kinds of feelings, we resorted to our addictions more and more often."  (The 12 step addiction recovery manual states this under step one:)

This avoidance of problems or feelings, can create shame.  Guilt is when we've made a mistake and we feel it was a bad choice.  Shame is when we feel like we've made a bad choice and therefore "I am a bad person. "  This shame creates a tragic cycle called the addiction cycle.

The cycle is set in motion with preoccupation.  This is often started, like said above, to avoid negative feelings.  This is where we start thinking about our addiction "I know there is a plate of cookies on the counter..." hahaha. :) and really obsessing about it.  The difference between thinking about something and obsessing is that thinking is like a thought that just passed by.  Obsessing is allowing a thought to take center stage and replaying it or running with it.

The second "step" is rituals.  Rituals are usually something we don't even realize we are doing.  Whatever it is that takes us one step closer to being able to act on our addiction.  In the above example, it may be going into the kitchen.  For someone with a gambling problem, it may be stopping at the bank and withdrawing money.  For someone with a pornography problem, it may simply be booting up the computer or locking the door.

The third "step" is the actual acting on the addiction.  The addiction can be carried out on many levels, which can sometimes be subtle to recognize in ourselves.  It's all different branches of the same tree and I've learned so much through all of this that I have to examine what is underneath.  It's so easy to be focused on the outward manifestation, which is the addiction.  What is the true intent behind it?  Was I seeking to "numb out" when I ate that pan of brownies?

The final "step," interestingly, like any cycle will propel us back to the beginning again.  It's Pain.  We feel guilty for eating the whole bag of M&M's or spending 2 hours or face book, or committing to another thing on our calendar...whatever it is.  We feel guilty and maybe even some shame.  It "seems" that the only way to deal with these negative feelings is to start thinking about what we know can help numb that pain or hurt.

Behind all of this is the true, root problem.  Like I mentioned above in the acting out step, what is behind the addiction?  For most it is actual a faulty belief system.  Focusing on the addiction is like focusing on the symptoms, which is needing to addressed, but don't overlook the disease beneath or the symptoms will continue.  I feel that is where Mark's recovery remained incomplete.  The addiction was addressed very well, but the faulty core beliefs have continued, especially the shame-based beliefs (AKA the cause of the addiction).

Where do your core beliefs come from?  Many come from past experiences or important, defining moments in life.  They can also come from the way you were raised in your home and other important environments like church or school.  You can even develop core beliefs in your adult life.  Core beliefs can be true or untrue, positive or negative.  It doesn't matter how you came to have your core beliefs, what matters is if you are willing to sort through them with the light of truth and choose to keep those that are true and discard and replace those that are not true.  I posted more on sorting our beliefs before.  It's at the VERY end of this post.

The addiction cycle and the faulty core beliefs go so nicely hand in hand together.  Throw in some denial there and you have things set in motion and spiraling downward.

Now switching gears.  This was a big pill for me to swallow, but I'm thankful I have been strengthened to see my part in all of this.  Imagine living with someone who is living their life in the above situation.  Cycling through, faulty core beliefs...and actually as far as I know, the majority of us do because, again we all are dealing with our addictions, great or small. :)

When Mark would hit the acting out stage, it would set something off in me, which literally became my own addiction---my co-addiction.  Later, I had come to recognize the "warning signs" so well, that even the first or second step would trigger me.  I had no idea what was going on, but as a loved one, I could recognize that he was about to cycle through.

I read a book that was very helpful called, "Co-dependant no more."  It gave me so much insight into this dynamic that was happening with Mark's addiction and my reaction to it.  My addiction became obsessing.  My whole life would come to a complete stand still if I felt like he needed me.  The kids would get shipped off to Grandma's or parked in front of TV for hours, so I could wait on Mark hand and foot.  NOW, I know that sounds very harsh and that is why I struggled so much.  Isn't that how it's suppose to be?  A husband and wife relationship?  So I gave more and more and more and did whatever he asked or said.  I literally lost myself.  I feel this was exactly what President Eyring was talking about last night at the Relief Society Broadcast.  The problem is not in giving.  The problem comes when the individual gives when she herself doesn't have or gives more than she can.  You see, I've been reading my scriptures, and praying, and attending the temple, but I've felt guilty to do anything for myself or to say no to anybody, especially my family.  More on that in a later post.

The second problem with what I was doing was trying to save Mark.  I felt like if I put more effort into my appearance or if I was more interesting or if I had the house spotless and dinner ready and the kids quiet when he came home he wouldn't be in a sour mood.  If I just checked his e-mail more and his phone more and if I just knew where he was and what he was doing all of the time, then it would be okay.  That was part of the cracking and shattering that I mentioned in the first post on addiction.  I realized I was completely powerless.  Until I grew my faith, I was terrified and felt as if the jaws of hell were right there to swallow my family in one gulp.  More on that in a minute. :)

The third problem with my co-addiction has been boundaries.  That will be a post in and of itself, but just an overview.  I felt responsible for Mark, as mentioned above.  I felt like his addiction was my fault and that my efforts would fix it.  Often, my co-addiction, padded the consequences for him.  Just like a mother of a sick child, you ache and don't want them to go through hard things, so you try to make it better for him.  Those consequences were not mine to carry.  Similarly, I was so focused on him and what was in his stewardship, I neglected what was in mine.  I was taking care of Mark, but nobody was taking care of me. :)

As I have learned, obsessing and trying to control does not change the addiction or the loved one.  That was God's work to do and healing and recovery can only come in and through Jesus Christ, not me.

With the path of destruction of his addiction and now mine too, I cannot tell you how my emotions all spilled out when I attended my first 12 step meeting.  My page has tear stains and I sobbed when I read the following because that was exactly how I felt or had felt...
"As we tried in vain to deal with the challenges of our addicted loved ones, we found ourselves periodically feeling controlled by one or more of the following fears:
*Fear that our addicted loved one would never get better and fear of the real possibility that he or she may even die physically as well as spiritually.
*Helpless to prevent the harm our addicted loved one might do to others around them, especially children.
*Bitterness, resentment, and alarm over financial challenges as we dealt with excessive spending, treatment programs, legal expenses, fines, and destruction of property.
*Physical weariness as sleeplessness, stress, and anxiety took a toll on our health.
*Confusion as to why our loved ones were behaving so irrationally and why nothing we said or did seemed to make any difference.
*Shame, isolation, and hopelessness as we took responsibility for our loved ones' choices and tried to protect others from knowing what was happening.
*Sorrow that baptism and temple covenants may be irreparably broken and eternal family ties severed.
*Anxiety that our loved ones' continued addiction somehow reflected our inability to access God's help in their behalf.
*Exhaustion at constantly reacting to the emotional upheaval in our family."

(Note: At the time there was an additional manual for loved ones and this is where the above comes from.)

A big part in my co-addiction has come with confusion on boundaries.  Like I said, that's an entire post in and of itself, but I did want to talk about feelings and boundaries.  I somehow felt responsible for how Mark felt and reacted, and I also was neglecting the way I was feeling or reacting.  I felt so guilty to be angry or hurt or any of the negative emotions that I literally stopped feeling.  It was so much easier to "numb out" and suppress negative emotions than to deal with them (or so I thought).  The tricky part about that is that you cannot select which emotions to "turn off."  Although I wasn't feeling the pain or the anger, I also wasn't feeling the joy and love.  I somehow felt that it wasn't Christian to feel those negative emotions.  The interesting part is that you can never completely bury feelings.  They will eventually come to the surface whether in the form of erupting like a volcano for no apparent reason or even physical symptoms, our feelings will always catch up to us.  Our feelings, our thoughts, our beliefs...these are all OURS to own and nobody else is responsible for them.  The biggest help I have found in dealing with negative emotions is to recognize how I feel and give myself 3 seconds to feel that.  Any longer than that and you begin obsessing.  It's like you pull out the "file" labeled whatever emotion and you replay any wrong or hurt associated with that and every bad thing that has ever happened that "made you" feel that way.  You can't do that and expect to be able to stay in a good place emotionally.  It's important to feel it and release it in a positive way whether a walk, a bubble bath, music, etc.  Negative feelings are there to alert us that something is wrong.  Usually if we feel angry, our boundaries have been violated, etc.  Feelings aren't bad and it's not "bad" to feel how we feel, as long as we do so appropriately.

As a couple, we go through the 9 core emotions every night.  The rules are that you allow each other to just talk, without interrupting or interjecting or discussing (unless welcomed afterward by that spouse).  They are: Fear, Anger, Pain, Shame, Guilt, Loneliness, Joy, Passion, Love.  This has been a wonderful opportunity to get out some of those negative emotions.  Iv'e learned with keeping in mind that my feelings are mine, it's best to say, "I feel____ when this happens/you do this" instead of "You make me feel ___."  See the difference?

The first step to recovery is looking at your life with honesty.  For the addict, that means recognizing the reality of where you are and the reality that this is bigger than you.  You must recognize that you cannot control your addiction.  For the loved one, it is similar.  Recognizing where you are and that this is beyond anything you can fix.  You must recognize that you did not cause this, you cannot control your loved one's addictions, nor can he/she.  You need help, whether that comes in the form of the Lord, ecclesiastical leaders partnering with the Lord, or the previous coupled with professional help, it's beyond you.  That help cannot come until you recognize your need for it and go down in the depths of humility to see that need and ask for that help.

Once you are honest with yourself and Heavenly Father, you can work in moving forward.  If you don't make efforts to move onto step 2, you may begin to feel stuck or even depressed.  It's a big deal to realize that you are where you are because of your choices and that you cannot fix your life alone.  For me, it was the first time I truly realized that I, as in ME, am a fallen being and have natural man tendencies I am powerless to fix.  The second step is Hope.  Specifically in Jesus Christ.  One of my favorite scripture passages comes in the chapter after the very familiar sermon on faith and planting the seed of faith in Alma 32.  Chapter 33:

 "19 Behold, [Christ] was spoken of by aMoses; yea, and behold a btype was craised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
 20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would aheal them.
 21 O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in aunbelief, and bebslothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?
 22 If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and abegin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die tobatone for their sins; and that he shall crise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the dresurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be ejudged at the last and judgment day, according to their fworks.
 23 And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall aplant THIS word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, bspringing up in you unto ceverlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your dburdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye ewill. Amen."
Hope in Christ and the plan of salvation is the seed and the word we are asked to experiment on in chapter 32.  As we begin step 2, we may not be able to exercise that kind of faith yet, but as Alma says, in Alma 32:27, even a desire to believe can start this process for us:
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than adesire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."
The third step is Trust in God.  This can be very difficult for both the addict and the co-addict.  It's easy to trust in God when the way is easy and cheery, but when the difficulties of life or heartache comes our way, we often throw that trust out the window.  It's easy to begin asking "why me?" and feeling angry with God for giving us something difficult "because we have been faithful and don't deserve 'this.'"  I had to realize a big way I was avoiding Trust in God and actually a form of pride was holding on to my own plans.  Step 3, like the previous steps, is such a huge burden lifted, when we come to recognize that Heavenly Father loves us and that no pain or circumstance is beyond His reach and His love.  He is very aware of us and our needs and He wants to give us something better if we can let go of our old ways.  A scriptures I've grown to love about trusting God is Alma 38:5:
"...I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your atrust in God even so much ye shall be bdelivered out of your trials, and your ctroubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
I find it very interesting that is says "as much as."  If we place our FULL trust in God, we will be FULLY delivered.  If we put a little trust in God, we will have a little deliverance of our heartaches.:)
Placing that full trust is a big step.  I've done it once on big scale, and now it is something I must do every day...and sometimes on hard days, I must give Him that trust over and over again as I find myself trying to take that trust back.  I have learned that Heavenly Father is patient and will wait until we are ready.


Your challenge is to take some time to learn or learn more about agency.  What does my agency entail?  As I interact with others, where do I end and they begin? What does it mean to act?  What does it mean to be acted upon? Why do we have agency?  (And/or any other questions you may have or discover along the way).  Two resources to get you started: Elder Bednar's BYU Devotional "In the Strength of the Lord..." and this clip of Elder Bednar's 10 conference talks where he talks about agency.  Understanding this doctrine and surrounding principles helped me see with more clarity what I could do for myself to find relief and recovery and to TRULY support my husband as he was seeking his own recovery (and not just draw him away from His healing source).  I wrote more about this here.

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