When I first saw the movie “Avatar,” I was struck by the beautiful greeting the Na’vi use with each other, which is “I see you.” (That is also how the people from Swaziland greet each other, thank you internet).
Dr. Carol L Clark
You’ve heard the expression “Nature Abhors a Vacuum,” right? Basically, a vacuum, or empty space, cannot exist in nature. Something has to fill it. If you sucked all the air out of an enclosed space and then opened up a hole, air would be sucked right back in.
The same is true in our lives. When we say “I am not going to….. (take drugs, watch online porn, get angry) we create a vacuum. In the absence of anything else with which to fill that empty space, whatever it was we tried to remove from it will be sucked right back in. That is how Addiction Loves a Vacuum. No matter how hard we try to NOT do our addictive behavior, if we leave a vacuum, the addiction will fill it again.
So we need to frame our desires in a positive way. What do we want to do instead of our addiction? Pretty much everyone is able to do whatever they put their minds to, as long as it is framed concretely. “I will eat dinner with my family,” “I will go to a meeting,” or “I will take an hour-long yoga class.”
It is about Intention – the Intention to live in Recovery, the Intention to do those behaviors that are prosocial and health-promoting.
Start each day with an Intention for how you want your day to be, rather than how you do NOT want it to be.
Use the Intention for a Good Day from Addict America: The Lost Connection to make this day a good one!
INTENTION FOR A GOOD DAY
The power of intention is strong indeed. Begin each day with this pledge:
Will be a good day
I will be present and mindful
I will smile at everyone
I will listen to others and understand their world
I will nurture myself with good food, exercise, and fresh air
I will be nurtured with hugs and smiles
I will trust in the good intentions of those who love me
I will send Light to anyone from whom I perceive harm
I will be the person I want to be
I will be Connected
Addict America: The Lost Connection can be found at Amazon.com.
Taking It Personally
There is a great bit in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” when Meg Ryan’s character is talking to Tom Hank’s character about the falsity of telling someone “it’s not personal” when of course, it is affecting her on a very deep, personal level.
The line “don’t take it personally” or “it’s not personal” can be a great way for someone to relieve their own sense of responsibility for another person’s feelings by blaming them for the hurt they are experiencing. This is very disconnecting for both people – let’s call them Meg and Tom. Tom’s acknowledgment of that hurt would be far more effective way of empathizing with Meg and by recognizing that they are both feeling disempowered. This, paradoxically, leads to empowerment. In other words, Meg “taking it personally” is feeling out of control because the Tom is doing something “to” her. Tom, who has done the bad deed, is feeling out of control to relieve Meg’s the hurt and pain. Something as simple as “I see that this is hurting you and I’m sorry that what I am doing is causing you distress” can be far more relieving than “don’t take it personally.”
On the other hand, for Meg, the aggrieved person, recognizing that she has the power to “not take it personally” can be an enormous step in taking responsibility for her feelings. The situation (her store that was going out of business due to Tom’s new big business) was only the surface issue. The meaning for her was that she was losing her connection to her mother, her childhood, and her life’s work. Those were what made this personal and it really didn’t come from Tom and he was not doing anything “to” her, he was doing something that was meaningful for him, and the consequences were neither intended nor under his control.
As it was, Meg was able to move forward in her life and begin her own journey of becoming a writer, so with no change in actual circumstances, she was able to respond in a different way.
It is a natural part of the grieving process to blame others for creating an unwanted change. It is our responsibility to make the decision to accept our own part in causing our own pain.
Addicts experience this all the time. Initially, they don’t want to change - they blame, they fight, and they push away. Eventually, in recovery, they live the Serenity Prayer and take responsibility for their own destinies. In so doing, they eventually move from resenting their addiction to being grateful for it, because it brought them to a far better place.
Be In Light
The Serenity Prayer
God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference
I grew up in an alcoholic home and had a drug addicted boyfriend at one time, so I wanted nothing to do with addicts when I became a mental health counselor. The Universe had other ideas for me, however, and when I couldn’t find work anywhere else, I ended up in a substance abuse treatment facility. My father and ex-boyfriend went into recovery around the same time and made amends and I experienced a profound shift in perspective. Over the years, I became a Certified Addictions Professional and when I specialized in sex therapy, working with sex addicts was the next progression for me.
After years of working with couples and individuals, sex addicts and others, I formulated a conceptual framework of treating everyone that was based on Recovery principles. When I realized I was saying the same thing over and over as I educated clients and students about how we create barriers to intimacy by using addictive thinking and behavior, I decided to write it all down and voila! Addict America: The Lost Connection was born. It actually gestated for seven years but it eventually was completed and then translated into Spanish.
Working and teaching in the sex therapy field, I have been exposed to a few sexologists who are fundamentally opposed to the concept of “sex addiction.” They have posited various reasons for this, including opinions that sex addiction treatment professionals are “sex negative,” into “reparative therapy,” and religious fundamentalists. For me, none of this is true. A few other professionals are less oppositional but still questioning. While I try to avoid going head-to-head with anyone who is obviously not really interested in a discussion, I am happy to engage in more academic discourse on the subject. Still, I find myself fighting twinges of defensiveness and last night, as I explored this, I was able to move to a completely different place of perspective, which I want to share.
I am blessed to be able to work with addicts. Addicts, no matter the drug or behavior, go through hell and it takes enormous courage and willingness to change in order for them to begin Recovery. As they learn new ways of living, make decisions about everything from what shoes to wear to where to eat, work, play, to relationship choices, they are evolving to a higher spiritual plane. When addicts are living in Recovery, they are present and grounded. They have made choices as to what kinds of people they want to be and they live congruently with that identity. They have made choices regarding their values and what is important in life and are living according to those values. They are fully able to be in intimate, Connected relationships, whether with a committed partner, a child, a friend, a coworker, or someone just passing on the street. For each moment, there is Connection and awareness of Connection. They have Connected to a higher power and live the Serenity Prayer without rationalization, minimization, or intellectualization. They can truly say, and often do, that the worst day in Recovery is better than the best day in addiction. They are my heroes and my role models. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of their journeys.
We all have it in us to be in addiction or be in Recovery. I know when I am not present, not Connected, and not in harmony with the Universe. I know when I’m rushing around, angry or irritable, and blaming others. That is an addictive place. I also know when I am grounded, in the moment, and have a sense of myself and others in Connection. I know who I am and am responsible for myself. That is Recovery. It is where I strive to live.
Be In Light,
“I spent too long wanting what was taken from me and not what was given.”
King Caspian, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
What a powerful message this is! It goes to the heart of addiction and recovery. Addiction is wanting what we lost and often what we never had. It is about seeking fulfillment and validation from external sources, always looking for something to fill that hole in our souls.
Recovery is about seeing what we have, the beauty around us, the love of whatever people are in our lives who truly care about us.
As we move into this season of crazy commercialism and family pressures, pay attention to what you have and let go of what you think you are lacking. This isn’t a new message, it’s just something we all need to be reminded of.
While you have some time off, watch the movie. It’s a good one!
Be In Light