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December 19, 2013

Addiction and The Power of Breaking Isolation

We as humans have many God-given instincts: the desire for power, sex, companionship, entertainment, nourishment, shelter, comfort etc. Each of these instincts if used in the proper way can bless our lives and the lives of others. However, when one or more of the instincts is pushed to the extreme, and abused beyond its natural limits it can become a seemingly uncontrollable force of destruction.

Addiction thrives in secrecy, and when a person begins to suspect that he or she is abusing an instinct, a natural reaction is to hide it from others. "What would other people say if they knew what I was doing? What would they think if they found out?" So the behavior is forced underground and begins to grow in isolation and strength. "Just me and my habit, "Nobody can ever know the extent of this little problem that I have".

There are many ways in which a person can abuse instincts. Alcoholism abuses the instinct for comfort, codependency abuses the instinct for companionship and power, overeating abuses the instinct for comfort and nourishment, pornography abuses the instinct for sex, and this list goes on and on. Abusing instincts can dull the senses and numb emotions to the painful aspects of life. It can provide a false sense of excitement. The intensity of the secret experience cannot be matched by other things in life, and normal activities simply are too boring to merit much attention.

But, the excitement of the addictive, compulsory behavior will eventually wear off. At some point the person will not be able to stop, even though they desperately want to. Their will or power to choose is seemingly non-existent in this respect. How could a person who is caught like this ever hope to escape?

The answer is here, many people have found recovery through the 12 Steps. In group meetings we finally discover that we are not alone, that other people have felt the same heart wrenching life-numbing feelings that we have wallowed in. Saying "I am addicted to ____" in a meeting is so liberating that many people will feel strong emotions the first time they choose to admit it. But going to group meetings is not enough. The isolation of addiction must be broken every day.

Phone calls are a powerful way to break isolation on a daily basis. At group meetings, it is easy to obtain the phone numbers of other people in the program... just get the number and call. Everyone in the group meetings is starving to break their isolation and it is such a relief to receive a phone call from another person who is struggling. Together we are strong and when temptation comes on, it will become almost instinctual to pick up the phone and call someone, surrendering the lie that we can make it all alone.

Nobody can recover on their own. It is true that we entered the addiction all alone, but we cannot escape without the help of others. The group meetings provide the beginnings of a strong support-net for an individual, but adding a sponsor to the mix is necessary to really work the steps and clean up the wreckage of the past. Life in recovery is possible, and it is a beautiful and meaningful existence. One day at a time, and by the grace and power of God we can begin to trust in life once again. Reaching out to others is the first step in reaching out to God. By breaking isolation with our fellow beings, we are lifted to our maker. When the secrecy and isolation is taken out of the mix, recovery is very possible. As we begin to live in the mainstream of life, hand in hand with our family and new found friends, our instincts will be kept in check, and our once grey-scale life will begin to transform into a colorful and real experience. It works, it really does... try it.