This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction”“Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Two: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my addiction.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
This section will take courage. It is why the word “fearless” is used in step four of AA, “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In our nine step approach, this inventory is interspersed in our first three steps, but the courage needed to take them should not be minimized. What you’re doing is necessary for change, but it isn’t easy. If you struggle with this step, as with any, seek additional support from the friend, pastor, counselor, or group.
We will look at three types of impact our addiction may have had on others: (1) active offenses, (2) absent offenses, and (3) atmosphere changes. In short, we will examine what we’ve done to hurt others, what we’ve left undone that has hurt others, and the relational culture created by our addictive lifestyle; a culture which those who love us or depend on us were involuntarily forced to live.
Active offenses are things you did to cover up your addiction or to perpetuate your addiction that harmed your relationship with others. These are things you did which made it clear that something (your addictive behavior) was more important than someone (the person you sinned against). Regretting those choices later does not reduce their impact. Minimizing their importance, frequency, or impact only enables your addiction.
- Lies: We have covered this in significant detail in step one. You cannot be a good addict without being a good liar. As your actions become more destructive you become better at covering them up in order to perpetuate the addiction.
To whom have you lied about your addiction or its impact?
- Stealing: Addictions aren’t cheap, especially when they become so dominant that they impair your ability to earn money. Consider stealing in at least two forms: (a) the direct taking of money or property that is not yours, and (b) receiving pay for hours that you did not perform up to the expected standard because of your addiction.
From whom and how have you stolen to perpetuate your addiction?
- Character Assassination: If you’re not honest about your vices, then you have to invent vices for others to explain why life’s not working. This is not a necessity because of the act of addiction, but it is a necessity because of the life of addiction. You live with other people. If you don’t own your shortcomings, then you have to push them off on others.
Whose character have you maligned to protect your addiction?
Christians have long held to the distinctions between sins of commission (i.e., things that we do which are wrong) and sins of omission (i.e., things that are wrong to leave undone). We can harm relationships and hurt people as much by our non-actions as we can by our actions.
- Withdrawal: This refers to your absence from others (we will look at the other dynamic next). There are people who love you. They want to be with you and desire your flourishing. When you withdraw, they are rightfully hurt. Friends, parents, spouse, children, and co-workers have a fair expectation of your reasonable availability. When you withdraw, you place them in a lose-lose scenario. If they pursue you, you accuse them of nagging and being controlling. If they honor your distance, then you use this as evidence they don’t care.
From whom have you created a lose-lose scenario by withdrawing?
- Isolation: This refers to other people’s inability to access you. There are not only people who want to enjoy your presence; there are many people who have reasonable expectations of your involvement. Those who are part of your life need access to you in order to plan for household, work, or social activities. When you are unavailable, you force them to place their life on hold or “move on without you.” This is another example of how your sins of omission create a lose-lose scenario for those around you.
From whom have you isolated yourself in a way that disrupts their life?
- Dependability: When you say “yes” to something, it is right for people to take you at your word. Chances are there are many things you’ve said “yes” to because you knew they were reasonable or good requests, but failed to be dependable because of your addiction. This creates a third type of lose-lose scenario. If they accommodate your lack of dependability, they are enabling your addiction. If they try to force your compliance or micro-manage your involvement, then you claim this is evidence of an unfair lack of trust.
With whom have you been undependable?
These changes are less tangible and, therefore, more easily dismissed. But less tangible does not mean less real. It just means harder to define. Chances are as you read through these descriptions you will recall conversations where you felt like people were being unclear or making too much of a moment (i.e., they believed it represented a pattern, but you wanted to treat it as a single event). It may be harder to “own” these offenses at this stage in your journey, but at least begin to give them greater credence.
What is so disruptive about this type of impact is that they become a lifestyle for those who love us enough to interact with us frequently. For children, spouses, parents, and comparably close people we force them to live within this “new, unhealthy normal” mode of communication we create.
- Emotional Confusion: Imagine a parent who yells about misplaced socks, ignores failed tests, and falls into self-pity when their child runs away. In this example, the size of the parent’s response does not correlate with the size of the offense from the child. In addiction we are like that parent. The size of our response does not correlate with the size of the subject being addressed. Those around us live in confusion because there is little discernable pattern to the size (too large or too small) of our reaction and the life context in which it occurs.
For whom have you created emotional confusion by your inconsistent reactions?
- Six Degrees of Separation: You know the game. You try to pair two things or people within six examples of other things or people they’re related to. When we live with secrets, we force people to play this game in unhealthy ways. We don’t want to talk about our secrets, which means we don’t want to talk about things related to our secrets, which means we don’t want to talk about things related to things related to our secrets, etc… Pretty soon most of our life feels off limits and those who love us can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong to get such aloof or defensive responses to seemingly innocent conversation prompts.
Who have you trained to try to crack the code of your six degrees of separation game?
- Addiction Replaces Relationship: We tend to do relationships in a way that discerns where we “rank” in other people’s lives. “If I ask for [blank] and [name] asks for the same thing, who gets it?” When we struggle with addiction those who love us get used to living with a “mystery other” in our lives. Before they know about our addiction, they can’t figure out who or what they keep coming in second to. After they learn of our addiction, they begin to realize the rank of addiction is comparable to an adultery partner in a marriage. The sense of betrayal they have been feeling finally makes sense.
“Your addiction went from being a friend to a lover to a slave-master (p. 25).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction
Who has been replaced or demoted in your life due to your addiction?
Read Matthew 22:37-40. This is the well-known “Golden Rule” passage. Everything we’ve talked about in this section is a violation of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself (v. 39).” This simple principle is sufficient to protect us from hurting those around us in all the ways we’ve described. But it is not easy. The opposite of simple is complex. The opposite of easy is difficult. Your loved ones may have said, “It seems so simple what needs to be done.” And they’re right. Basic honor in a relationship is not complex. But chances are you’ve heard them say, “It should be easy to do these things.” The more honest you are about why it’s hard and the more faithful you are in walking this journey, the more confusion you’ll remove from your loved one’s lives and the more understood you will feel.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.