Addiction Recovery Means Accepting Our Helplessness

“We don’t want to feel helpless, so we use fear, anger, addiction, or unbridled sexuality to block out our helpless feelings. The fact is that if we cannot openly face our feeling of helplessness, we cannot receive help. It is important that we accept our helplessness, taking it to God and allowing Him to be strong where we are weak. When we let Him be God, we receive continuous healing for our woundedness. But when we hide our pain, helplessness, and insecurity, we find ourselves at the mercy of our narcissistic, wounded false self with its insatiable craving for validation and anesthesia.”    David Allen

My daughter was 5 years old when I came to addiction recovery. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to go to a home for recovering female alcoholics for 30 days in 1976. But I knew I needed all the help I could get. That humble home had individual counseling, group weekly counseling sessions, in house AA meetings, out of the house AA meetings, daily 12 step work, and meditation sessions. Plus we all did the all the house chores–probably the best therapy of all. Nothing like cleaning the toilet for a little humility.

That is the good news. The bad news is that it took me many years to find the wound from my childhood home that lead to my depression. My parents and I found recovery together so we healed our wounds. But my inner wound of feeling less than took years to heal.

From “Out of the Blue“:

Are you ever going through your day feeling fine when, it seems like out of the blue, your mood takes a dive? As if suddenly, the joy has been sucked out of your day. For us ladies, it could be a simple hormone flux. It could be someone greeted your smile with a frown, or hearing something sad on the news. Other than the hormones, it is usually easy to recognize the cause of the cloud hanging over your head.

For those of us with traumatic past experiences, it could have been an emotional trigger. What do I mean by a trigger? A trigger is something that draws out our emotions from a past experience. It could be a song on the radio, a ticking clock, a phrase, or something as ridiculous as the smell of Lipton’s noodle soup. Our brains are amazing. When a memory is created, all of the information of that moment is stored away whether we know it or not. Not just words spoken or physical sensations, but also, the sounds, smells and even lighting. It is actually quite incredible and can be wonderful when connected with a good memory. Unfortunately, when the memory is connected to something traumatic, it can send your emotions whirling.

The first step in overcoming the effects of triggers is to become aware of and understanding your own particular triggers. For me, several of my triggers were always very obvious to me even though I didn’t really understand what was happening. It took me years to be able to be in a room with a ticking clock without getting the tremors and feeling an overwhelming urge to run away. It was completely unsettling. To be clear, they were not excessive tremors. I doubt anyone else noticed. Though, they probably noticed me withdrawal and just felt it was part of my quiet nature.

From “A Lifetime of Loneliness“:

The trauma of being the child of an alcoholic has many complex and lasting effects and this feeling of loneliness I believe, is one of them. My loneliness was an internal ‘connection’ problem that I think has lot to do with having lost my sense of self, amongst many other things. As a child, I believe, I disassociated with myself on such a level, that I lost who I was. So I often felt like I was playing at it, because in many ways I was. I was unable to get vulnerable to any degree and vulnerability is important in the forming of any meaningful bond. As I write I feel like the guilt I felt around the alcoholism in the family would have also installed a deep feeling of loneliness in me and perhaps given me that perception that I didn’t belong or was not worthy.

From “Finding Hope“:

The first time that I attended an open Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) speaker meeting, I began to see this disease from the perspective of the addict/alcoholic.  I was drawn in from the beginning.  Before the speaker stood up to share his/her experience, strength and hope, a friend or sponsor gave an introduction that included  a bit of background: He/she was introduced as ‘someone who is lucky to be alive’ and  ‘was the worst case I’d ever seen.’

The introduction alone illustrated one thing for me: no one, no matter how lost they are in their addiction is beyond recovery.  And, that gave me hope.

I regularly attended my own twelve-step meeting.  I felt a lot of frustration because I had been trying to fight this disease on my own power.  I couldn’t see a way out.  My twelve-step friend reminded me that ‘I had my dependence in the wrong place.  I had been depending on my own power.  No wonder I was so worried.  I was told that I could hand my loved one over to a power that is greater than myself.  I’d never looked at God that way before.  This program gave me the understanding that I was putting myself in God’s place.  This new perspective helped me to go about the work of restoring that order.   And, that gave me hope.


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