As both a professional recovery manager and manager working with addicts for over 20 years now, I frequently see how those early in their recovery have the tendency to glorify their behaviors. Many new to the transformative process will smile with pride at recounting their sorted exploits as the elegantly wasted. One client I have recently begun treating for sexual addiction still identifies herself fondly with the behaviors of her former exploitive sexual self. When presented with the logic of what it is she was doing, being manipulative with her sexuality and acting irresponsibly, she immediately grasped the idea on a rational level. However at the same time she confessed despite that and her progress in treatment she was still baffled, and a little ashamed; to acknowledge that her feelings and some of her current behaviors still followed a pattern she knew to be unhealthy.
In another example, a client who was battling an addiction to cocaine had been made aware of the hurt he had caused his children, and how detrimental his behavior had become to their long-term mental health, pleaded with me to fix him. He clenched his teeth in anguish as he said, “ I can not bear the idea of hurting my children”. Though he acknowledged the gravity of his actions it wasn’t enough to prevent him from longing for the next fix, and occasionally (or so he said) didn’t prevent him from a “little taste” now and then.
Clearly knowing is not enough. Try as they might, those battling addiction must accept that there’s no short cut in the process, you have to work through the feelings that fueled the behaviors. Part of the process involves being honest, perhaps for first time in your life, with those feelings surrounding your desire to “act badly” or contrary to what you know you should be doing. When you do this, you begin to weaken the power those feelings have over you and your impulse towards behaviors that are destructive.
As a recovery management professional I know that many of those thoughts and feelings are a source of shame for my clients. That’s why it’s so important that you have a healthy support system around you and your recovery. Our goal here is to make you feel safe in sharing those feelings and thoughts that would normally cause you to feel shame. It’s immensely useful to be able to share the dark side of oneself with others who don’t respond with judgment or ridicule. Only by risking exposing whom you truly are, first and foremost to yourself and then to others, can you hope to reclaim your life.