The Masks of Addiction and Recovery

636x460design_01I’m a fan of pretty much anything Bill White writes, but this is the kind of thing I most enjoy:

To be addicted is to be an imposter -to wear so many masks for so long that any semblance of a true self exists only as a faint memory.  The masks become thickly layered and more elaborately constructed over time,  each seeking to convey sanity and self-control as these very qualities crumble to ashes.  The masks often become prisons of one’s own creation.

Escaping this state of imprisoned imposterhood requires facing the terror of nothingness–the terror that nothing, or at least nothing of value, exists behind the masks.  This dread is so great it can rarely be faced alone.  There is no landscape more terrifying to the addicted person than the secret-strewn wreckage of his or her own soul.  Confronting that landscape without the aid of fellow travelers can provoke breakthroughs of self-perception and self-repugnance so overwhelming that few can traverse and survive this territory alone.

The good news today is that no one need make this journey alone.  No one need die from staring into a mirror and seeing only pain, numbness or nothingness staring back.  Communities of recovery are spreading around the globe and can be quickly accessed by a phone call or computer click.  The journey shared is not an easy one, but it is one that can be filled with joy and great meaning and purpose.  Put simply, a future day is possible when you can be comfortable within your own skin and when your lost self will be recovered or, more likely, a new self will be forged.  Recovery is a process of rebuilding the self–one piece at a time, one moment at a time.

. . .

There is something deeply human about recovering from one’s deepest wounds. Recovery is simultaneously a retrieval of lost parts of the self, discovery of previously hidden resources within and beyond the self, and a conscious reconstruction of character and identity. To become a person in recovery requires first becoming a person–a real person. There is much to be learned from this process of rebirth and self-acceptance–this spirituality of imperfection.

via The Masks of Addiction and Recovery | Blog & New Postings | William L. White.

5 thoughts on “The Masks of Addiction and Recovery

  1. From my experience there is great truth in the many masks that are worn as an addict. I hid my drinking, I hid my insecurities, I hid my fear not only from everyone else but from myself as well. Alcohol was what I primarily used to hide from myself and I was perfectly content to hide my drinking, even at the moment when I was fully drunk, in order to show everyone else that I really did “have it all together”.

    Opening up to others, learning to be vulnerable, learning to ask for help did not come naturally, was quite a bit of work and still is but was necessary for me to succeed in sobriety. I still work at it and still need it. Transparency and the act of acceptance have been great milestones and building blocks in my life without substance abuse.

    Thank you for an insightful post and the reminder of where I came from and what I do not want to be.

  2. Of course the challenge is in helping the afflicted recognize this truth while there is still time–and, in such a way that it doesn’t have the reverse effect to be so painful that it drives them right back to where they started. In fact, I doubt most folks in early recovery can handle such a truth. Reminds me of the line from A Few Good Men: you can’t handle the truth! Or something like that:-) In working with people over the years I’ve found it best when they realized this in small chunks of reality as too often sudden, profound awareness is relapsive. Good article as always from Bill White.

    Mark Servatius, Recovery Coach

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