By: C. W. Stratton
“Self-deception is the surest way to self-destruction. Reality has a way of catching up with us.”~Sam Erwin
How Am I Deceiving Myself? I’m Doing So Good!
Active addiction is filled with so many feelings and emotions; guilt, shame, low self-esteem, low self-worth, feelings of inadequacy and feelings of being inferior. Just because we decide to get clean and try to get some order in our lives doesn’t mean those feelings dissipate, just as we slowly removed substances from our lives. The residue of the destruction we inflicted on ourselves still remain a constant, that we so often try to hide or cover-up. At unexpected times, these feelings or states of being will surface. When they do, many of us have a difficult time identifying what is actually is. The difficulty that’s experienced is due to all the progress we’ve made in our recovery and our lives.
- Our family is proud of us and things seem intact
- We may have gained a professional network of people who we now associate with
- We may have returned to school to further our education
- We now have degrees
- We’re now employed at a meaningful job
- We’ve made new, productive and positive friendships
Inside: The Inner Turmoil
In the face of the above, we present as stable and grounded in our recovery. We continue to insulate ourselves with all these positives, in hopes they will sustain us. Consciously, this isn’t recognized, but subconsciously, this is what’s occurring. Every so often we are teased with the thoughts of our past experiences and the feelings associated with these experiences. What we do is quickly turn off the thought and avoid the feelings that may follow. Due to our lack of preparedness, we learn to master avoidance. We become quite charismatic and skillful at it. It’s like going dancing and never touching the dance floor. We listen to the music bopping our heads, as if; we just aren’t ready.
In all reality, we are frightened by this and we want to move away from it as fast as we can.
When this occurs, there’s a hidden message within. There’s an area associated with our recovery that requires our attention. The emotional twists and turns can eventually build into a storm that I call “The Whirlpool of Deception”. This deception is harbored and protected because we believe it protects us. At times, we rationalize by saying, “at least I’m not using”. This gives even more strength to the deception. Given that we continue with this thought process, we become consumed with deceit, that can result in tragedy… possible return to using.
Getting Free of the Deception with Truth
There’s more work that must be done. This very area that we try to ignore or push aside can surface at a time. We may not be prepared to manage; intellectually or emotionally.
- Some of us try to avoid confrontation or conflict at all costs; we are not emotionally prepared.
- Some of us are afraid to make commitments; we are not emotionally prepared.
- We may avoid relationships, intimate or otherwise; we are not emotionally prepared.
- We may have a difficult time asserting ourselves when right, we are not emotionally prepared.
Keep in mind that we don’t only use drugs and alcohol to escape reality; we use people, situations, and feelings to escape. These have been known to distract us from our true realities, or what we are currently experiencing. The act of using substances is only a symptom of our problems.
Courage to Overcome our Self-deception
Recovery also consists of a return to virtuous thinking and actions. There are many whose thought process and actions before active addiction, were pretty stable. Some of us began to move away from those so-called “right actions” and “right thinking” and began exploring a world that seemed exciting and a way to escape the mundane existence that was forced upon us; living right and being productive.
You know the thinking, “I know what’s right for me, what do they know”. Believe it or not, many of us carried this very thinking into our recovery, which resulted in a number of obstacles, slips, and falls; not just in early recovery. There are those who still maintain this way of thinking in later stages of their recovery. If we were to reflect on this form of thinking and how it played out in our past, we can clearly see that the outcome wasn’t very favorable.
Change or Die
Now that we are in a place to make significant changes in our lives, we must get to a place of courage and resilience. Meaning, the very so-called courage, and energy we displayed during addiction should be transferred to our current circumstances. This must be done by assessing and bringing to the forefront the deceptive behaviors and attitudes that were utilized for survival purposes. We may look at the behaviors and conclude that this is just the way we are. In fact, what we have displayed are negative “traits” and part of parts of the “personality” that we have confused as being who we are. The personality and traits are what others see, these can change. The commitment to change must be present; this includes the utilization of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.
The old saying, “change or die” is very prevalent for the substance abuser. The rationalization and minimization used about changes sound like:
*At least I’m not using.”
*Well, I could be in jail.”
*I haven’t committed a crime in three months.”
*I/m not hurting anyone.”
“I need to focus on changing one thing at a time, and that’s just not using.”
Looking at our Recovery Realistically
Yes, you may not be using substances, which is quite beneficial because we feel that the saying doesn’t apply (Change or Die). However, there are those that are internally deteriorating due to the self-deception, manipulation, and unwillingness to address the things that are connected to the very nature of what we’ve done. Or, why we are in the current position. If we neglect certain areas of our lives that require our attention, then we are prone to experience the unwanted.
Recovery is all inclusive which requires that we bring attention to all areas of our lives; substance use, relationships, psychological components, health, employment, family, etc. Addressing these areas can seem quite difficult because some of these areas can be quite sensitive for many. The inclusion of a positive support system is critical to the process. Outside counseling for added support and guidance is a valuable tool as well. Of course, there is some fear around that as well due to the stereotyping and negative messages we have heard regarding outside counseling. However, it has saved many lives. The use of deceptive is used as a tool to fool others, but we are the ones who suffer the consequences of it in the long run.
Remain optimistic, reach out for help, practice honesty and other spiritual principles, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. This will assist in the transformation we are seeking in this process. As is relates to the “Whirlpool of Self-Deception” we can seek higher grounds by connecting with those who are supportive of our efforts in recovery. This will help in protecting us from being engulfed by deception.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
Craig W. Stratton MS, ASCAS
Combining his passions with a purpose is one of his goals. He has worked to help marginalized populations understand their addictions and introduce them to the benefits of recovery, as a Case Manager for the homeless, and those in Drug Treatment Court.
He has also counseled adolescents, adults, and couples over the last 14 years in various agencies, and worked extensively on Alternatives to Incarceration, to offer treatment and not incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
Craig is an Adjunct Professor at Hudson Valley Community College, where he brings his personal experience of 17 years in recovery as well as his education to his students, ensuring that the next generation of substance abuse counselors understand knowledge of addiction, but more importantly, know a representative of the addicted population.
Bringing this human element to his classes, advocates for recovery and will help remove the stigmas and myths associated with faceless addicts. His unique perspective on various aspects of recovery besides not using is another of Craig’s strengths. For more posts that will positively influence your recovery, here’s a link to Craig’s blog.