After a recovering addict with her own blog linked to me (here), I’ve spent some time reading her blog. It’s well written and interesting, but I must confess my failure to identify… It’s been more than three years since I attended an NA meeting, and I haven’t been following any other recovery blogs. As time goes by, I find myself further and further removed from other addicts, even those who take an alternative approach to recovery. It makes writing about recovery incredibly difficult. I do so anyway because some people have said I can be inspiring, so I feel like I have an obligation to those who are still struggling with addiction, as I was for years, if for nothing else other than to let them know that one can change completely from being an addict to being someone without any remaining interest in using drugs; this is contrary to the oft repeated notion that we remain addicts who must work on sobriety for life as if addiction is a chronic condition. (It isn’t. Not for me, therefore there must be others who feel the same way. Right?)
When I first wrote about my addiction, I could do so with candor because I detached myself from the reality of living with addiction. I found that a good way of writing about horrific experiences because being detached meant I could be open but not feel vulnerable or ashamed. I’m no longer merely detached… I just don’t feel it any more. I identify neither with a desire to use nor a desire to “work” on being sober. There is no drive to strive to be clean without a corresponding desire or temptation to use substances. Sometimes I feel like an imposter because this doesn’t feel like an achievement – I’m simply living my life.
(Apologies – that introduction was longer than I intended, and the intended point of this post is going to be short.) This isn’t the first time I have not identified with other addicts… Back in 2010 when I went to rehab, the group counselor asked us to do an exercise called “Facing the mirror”, which sounds like exactly what it is.
Everyone was asked to go to the front of the room when it was their turn, and individually face the mirror. I don’t know if it was because she introduced this as a difficult task, but some people, who had been in the rehab for longer than myself (they ran a rotating three month course – but also did long term rehab of up to two years) absolutely could not face the mirror. Their shame and self-hatred was of such severity that some refused even to try.
I went to the mirror, and was like… “Hi, you good looking guy. Hey everybody, look at me! I’m beautiful!” Honestly, I did suffer with self-hatred at the lowest point of my addiction, but that faded instantly when I escaped my situation, and I never had an issue with my looks, even when I looked like death warmed over. Well, maybe my issue is narcissism. Or vanity. Sorry not sorry. It’s important to love yourself, especially if nobody else will.
So I wonder… is this “facing the mirror” thing really a big deal for recovering addicts? Maybe it was there only because the counselor primed the residents into that view by telling them it was? My Google searches on the subject are not getting decent results, and instead I’m finding nothing related to it.
Are you a recovering addict and was facing the mirror a big deal for you, and if so, did you eventually get over it? Help me understand… Is this about shame, self confidence, self esteem, self-hatred… what?