There have been times when I’ve allowed myself to condemn and judge those who struggle with visible addictions–things such as drugs and alcohol. It’s easy to look at these people with disdain because society labels their behavior unacceptable and the negative consequences of their actions can be clearly seen. There have also been times when I’ve minimized the gravity my own issues by maximizing the severity of another’s struggles, but I too have addictions–private addictions that have the same power, as those that are unconcealed, to pull me into past the edge and into darkness.
Many of us are fortunate because our vices remain undisclosed. We either give great care to keeping them veiled or we are able to hide, in plain sight, behind the acceptance of addictions that we justify as essential to our healthy development and maturation, but I wonder:
- How obese do we have to become before we see ourselves as compulsive eaters?
- How many hours in the gym qualify me as an exercise fanatic?
- How many relationships will end in drama before we recognize that we are co-dependent?
- How much money has to be lost before we understand that we are reckless gamblers?
- How many hours of watching pornography are required before we too admit that we are junkies?
I now know that the same ruin caused by alcoholism or drug addiction will eventually come knocking at the door of the private addict. Private addictions are like cancer hidden deep within our organs; thorough, sometimes uncomfortable, examination is required to identify them. Without early detection, diagnosis and treatment, the infection will spread to every part of our being. If discovered, aggressive, nearly fatal measures are often required to eradicate it.
To overcome my private addiction(s), I’ve had to take responsibility for my actions and make calculated decisions to change. Calculated decisions require careful consideration and acceptance of difficulty that will be experienced during transformation along with commitment to making the needed adjustments to insure success. Seemingly unreasonable boundaries have to be established to insulate us from anything or anyone that could jeopardize our victory. If I know I shouldn’t eat hot dogs, but I hang around a hotdog stand with other people who eat hotdogs then it won’t be long before I’ll be asking someone to pass the mustard.
Once I really positioned myself to change, I had to come clean with those who are part of my inner circle because I needed them. Beating an addiction requires the support, love and chastisement of the people we are closest to especially those who are not impressed with who we are. I don’t have the strength to conquer these giants alone. If I did, I would have done it on my own.
Exposing me has not been easy. Pride has repeatedly reared its head by pointing out the fact that everyone has issues, but this is a foolish mindset. We should never automatically disqualify others from supporting because of imperfection unless they are toxic or unreliable. If you have any inkling that a person may be detrimental to your sobriety, cut them loose. Some people we have to love from a distance. Even if they don’t understand, you should understand that you can’t take a chance at jeopardizing your healing.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned is to never seek to prove how strong I am by testing the strength of my addiction. By the grace of God, I have recovered from my relapses, but each recovery has been tougher than the one before. As weeks of triumph turn into months and months into years, I cannot forget that a missed step or a bad decision at an inopportune time could lead to my end.
Before closing this post, I want to offer some hope to anyone that is battling a private addiction but can’t seem to shake it. Don’t be distracted by the feelings of shame or failure. Yep, I know you’ve tried 1,000 times, but attempt 1,001 might finally take. If you quit on yourself, there’s nothing else anyone can do so whatever you do, don’t EVER give up on you.
Moving forward…in control of our addictions.