H.O.W. do we Change?

HOW do we recover...from anything. My deal is recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, even work or anything else, but the principles apply to all of us, addicts or not. Recovering addicts are just human beings with a disease (dis-ease, and if anyone wants a discussion on the disease concept, let me know. This is not an opinion or a belief system, but a fact: addiction is a disease). Anyone who wants to change, grow, or simply increase his or her level of emotional and spiritual health, can learn from the process healthy recovering people use. I emphasize healthy because everyone knows alcoholics who simply stop drinking, never getting beyond other old behavior. See It's not Just About Not Drinking, for more details.

Anyhow, H.O.W. do we grow emotionally and spiritually? Many ways. Here is one idea:

      H is for honesty,
      O for open-minded, and
      W for willingness

Honesty, especially with ourselves, is tough! Alone in our own heads, many of us are in bad company. God (whatever concept or lack thereof works for you) made other people; we are not on this planet alone. We can support each other on a journey towards positive growth. Periods of solitude are imperative for some, especially introverts who need alone time to heal from too much "people time", but few of us have the capacity to actually grow and change alone...until we learn some basics. Those of you already on this pathway, those who have developed the foundation to retreat in a positive way, even for a few hours, have learned how to do this, thanks to some mentor. You have enough of a positive sense of self, perhaps enough connection with your own spirituality, to make being alone a healthy time.

In contrast, most addicts have been bombarded with negative messages much of their lives; being alone just allows more time to continue the negativity, to beat themselves up and feed their self-hatred. Remember the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the scene with Sir Lancelot in front of God, "I'm so unworthy"? Response from God: "Quit Groveling!" (British accent).

So, HOW do we get honest with ourselves? This usually requires not only self-searching, but also letting other people, at least one other person, a mentor, therapist, or just a trusted, responsible, and mature friend, really know us. Tough! Acknowledging our own behavior, as well as our thoughts, to ourselves, much less to another person, is really tough. We get to see, and maybe let someone else see, who we really are. Sometimes just talking to another human being about ourselves is healing. We find out there are others who understand, who have been there, who feel or felt just like us. Other people have done some of the same embarrassing and shameful things we have done. We don't get to find this out until we get honest with ourselves, and eventually with others. We stay in isolation and self-hatred until something happens that helps us "hit bottom". Finally we become courageous enough to let another human being into our secret world. Someone else out there has had difficulties similar to ours. We are not alone.

The catch is that to grow, we need directions and help. We need others who have been there and are willing to help us, to encourage us, maybe take us by the hand, while continuing to be our friend and support, even though we are not perfect. Sometimes this requires a very persuasive (read: pushy) person to drag us into a better way of living; sometimes we can just no longer go on and we actually seek help.

Honesty with ourselves and others frees us. We no longer have to worry about getting caught, about what story (lie) we told, who knows what, or anything else. We are just as sick as our secrets and if we loose the secrets, we get to heal just a little bit more.

Honesty: it's what's for healing!

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


 

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