There is an old song that the words go “there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…How shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza”. It’s a catchy tune and reminds me of how we as human beings have holes in our hearts and we ask how shall I fix it? Let me explain. You may relate to this story. You go to a party and you see someone that seems to know people and connects with them. They seem happy, confident and loved by others. You feel a longing that you wish you could connect as well as that person. You may go talk to someone that you know but you still have that feeling down there of emptiness and loneliness so you want to fix it by getting a drink. After the first drink you feel a little better so you may go get another…then another and so on until the feeling doesn’t bother you anymore. Of course we all know that when the alcohol wears off we feel another feeling, usually guilt, with perhaps the physical feelings of a hangover. Then how do you fix that hole? Well we will repeat the cycle most likely. I talk to my clients about the holes in our hearts that can lead us to try to fill them with substances such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine or maybe we fill it with work, business, sex, shopping, spending, eating, religion, video games, exercise, TV and other behaviors that keep us from feeling those feelings that we so want to avoid. Addiction makes us dull. We are meant to be sensitive, but as we deaden our senses, we compensate by trying to bring them back to life through more indulgenc3e. The more we do so, the more we need to do so. We are on a cheap pony fide that turns in tighter and tighter circles until the tether rope is wound so tightly around the center pole that neither pony nor rider can take even one more step. Thus we are immobilized. (Dan Allender)
But let’s back up a bit and talk about addiction. What is an addiction? Any substance or behavior that causes disruption in our daily lives when we need increased amounts to get the same effect, when we make attempts to stop but are unsuccessful, have anxiety or stress when it’s absent from our lives, and it begins to effect our work, family life, and friendships. Addiction will eventually cause substantial damage to our lives emotionally, physically, or spiritually. When an addiction takes hold of our lives, our time and our minds, we become unable to see the evidence in our own lives as to what is happening. Usually the person develops behaviors of lying, verbal reality (believing their own lies), manipulation, isolation, blaming, anger, intensity, and hiding. The greatest damage is the shame and guilt that comes from not being able to stop or control the behavior. Shame is the greatest killer of intimacy and blocker to happiness that exists in our culture today. Shame is usually already in our emotional make up from childhood. It is one of the main feelings that we want to anesthetize and cover up. We could write books on the effects of shame and how to deal with it, but our subject is about addiction.
Some of the issues that must be dealt with is the cycle of addiction, the triggers that start the cycle and the damage done to the addict as well as others in their families and community of support.
Since so much of our wounds come from relationship, I believe that it is in relationship that we can heal our wounds. Accountability is essential in helping us to overcome our addictions. This is why 12 step programs and groups are so important to ending the behavior. It is (almost) impossible to overcome a deep addiction without help. As we act out over the years we develop thinking, beliefs, and habits that seem overwhelming. I believe in the 12 steps, but I also believe that dealing with the family of origin issues and trauma is essential for relapse prevention.
There are different beliefs between therapist and the helping professions. Addictions are sometimes called a disease, compulsivity, and some will say that addictions do not exist except for substances that have the chemical affects, but whatever we call it, addiction is destructive to our body, minds, souls, families, friends, and all that encompasses our well being. The good news is it can be overcome. Understanding our cycles, triggers, and making plans, escape plans, and being accountable, having support, and learning to feel again, are all a part of getting into recovery.
The hardest part is to begin. We can only begin when we admit and realize with one simple (although nothing about recovery is simple) admission that we are powerless over … you fill in the bank. “There’s a hole in the bucket (heart) dear Liza, dear Liza. There’s a hole in the bucket (heart) dear Liza, a hole. How shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza?” Will you try to fix it with behaviors, substances, or with recovery?