Addiction is one of the themes of my novel. All of the characters are affected by addiction either directly or indirectly. There’s also some stuff about 12-step programs. Before you click away from my blog in annoyance or boredom, let me talk a bit about that Higher Power.
(Disclaimer – I have not attended 12-step meetings except for research purposes during the writing of my novel.)
Step 2 states “[We} came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” A common complaint about AA and other 12-step programs is that they rely on religion and are therefore not useful for secular types. I disagree and here’s why.
The step, as written in the original Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps does specify God; later incarnations of 12 steps programs broaden the definition to include any power greater than the individual. I say that for some, that higher power can be, simply, reality.
One of the principles behind 12 step programs, and really, recovery from any flawed mental or emotional pattern, is that you must give up the idea that your emotions or wishes take precedence over reality. There’s a saying that reality is a hard master and it’s kind of the same idea.
Viewed from this standpoint AA and other recovery programs don’t ask you to give yourself over to religion if that’s not your cup of tea; they ask that you give yourself over to something that is bigger than you so you can get over the idea that you control anything besides yourself (and even then not always).
If you give yourself over to reality you won’t spend time trying to make other people into who you want them to be, you won’t waste cycles trying to bend others’ perceptions of you to fit a deluded self-image; you won’t fritter away your only life numbing out from stuff you think you can’t face.
If you give yourself over to reality you realize that facing it isn’t just the best choice, it’s the only choice – reality goes on about its business no matter what you do and if you have survived it while numb to it you will survive it once you face it. What’s more, you might actually be able to make some effective choices about how to work within the framework of reality instead trying to prop up a house of cards that’s going to fall down eventually anyway.
In real-life situations this can work in a number of scenarios:
Someone who is living a life different from the one they had hoped for might spend much of their time and energy spinning tales about how functional and happy they are, in an effort to deflect the reality that things are not as they wish them to be. Facing reality enables the person to use that time and energy to actually fix the things that are wrong instead of flogging their fantasy life around to anyone who will listen.
The relatives of an addict often think that if they keep trying, trying, trying to fix or help the addict, they are somehow helping them, but usually they are instead helping to perpetuate the addiction by protecting the addict from the natural consequences of their choices and by extension, buffering them from reality. Since reality continues on its way whether we acknowledge it or not, this is not a workable strategy and in fact prevents the addict from making meaningful change.
And, for the addict themselves, facing the truth about the internal agony that drives the addiction is constructive in a way that blotting it out will never be.