September 14, 2018

Addicted to The Story

A LINE I’VE BEEN HEARING A LOT LATELY HAS BEEN, “I CAN’T STOP RIGHT NOW BECAUSE…”

This statement can be completed in a variety of ways but there’s one thing that’s always going to be true: we’re about to hear some version of The Story.

THE STORY
The Story tells all of the reasons from the past that justify the addictive actions for the future.

Basically,

“Bad things have happened to me, therefore I have permission to keep on using.”

The Story is not all bad, it just jumps to conclusions.

EXAMPLE - ALCOHOLIC
Jenny’s Story goes like this: “I can’t stop drinking right now because it’s not safe for me. Last time I went into a coma! The doctors warned me that detox is a serious thing and the next time could be my last.”

Yes, absolutely. That’s all true. And these facts cannot be argued with.

So, the problem does not lie in the facts; the problem lies in how these facts are manipulated. With Jenny, as it is with most Stories, the facts are used to reinforce the Story and perpetuate the drinking.

When I confronted Jenny with this exact scenario, she came up with several ways to keep kicking the can down the line.

Her response was:

  • I can’t stop drinking right now because I might have serious health complications
  • I can figure out a way on my own to titrate myself down.
  • I’ll google the exact ratios of how much to cut back and at what times.
  • I think I’ve got some librium left over from an old prescription. That should help.
  • I’ll get to all of this soon. Right now, I’ve got to go to the liquor store, stock up and figure out my plan.

Not exactly the solution I was hoping for.

Fortunately, and eventually, Jenny was convinced of another possibility. She entered into and successfully completed a medically assisted detox. This time, everything went smoothly. Sometimes though, we’re not so lucky and the Story wins out.


DECONSTRUCTING THE STORY
Jenny and I worked through her resistance using Alchemist Recovery’s Lesson, Addicted to Your Story.

The first thing we did was identify the components of the Story based upon time. The Story breaks time down into two phases:

1. The past
2. The future

And this is how the Story views these two:

1. The past: Bad things have happened to me
2. The future: Using

And this is how the Story perpetuates itself:

1. The Past: Bad things have happened to me, therefore, I have justified reasons
2. The future: My justified reasons provide me with permission to keep using

How we break the spell of the Story and interrupt its cycle is by introducing a third element of time:  The present.

Now, this is what it looks like:

1. The past
2. The present
3. The future

And now, this is how we can view the Story:

1. The past: Bad things have happened to me
2. The present: Hmm. Let’s stop right here a second. I identify and acknowledge the past, breathe, and I recognize that I am not its slave.
3. The future: There are other options to drinking.

This is a drastic over simplification but also an accurate one. In that second phase of time, the present, the Medicine of Awareness is introduced.


MEDICINE OF AWARENESS
There are a number of ways to do this, and everyone will have their preference, but some constants will always be present.

In this case, the Awareness introduced contains these truths:

  • “I” am not my Story.
  • “I” am not the sum of all of the bad things that have happened to me.
  • “I” have a choice in moving forward.

This is exactly what Jenny and I were able to accomplish. And now that she’s detoxed and remains sober, we can build upon and strengthen this Awareness, so that whenever her soothsayers of The Story start their inevitable whispering into her ear, she is confident that she doesn’t have to listen to them, and knows that she has other options, is supported and carries the tools necessary to choose her own future.

Randal Lyons helps people struggling with addiction who want long term, holistic care. He uses his own experience in recovery combined with his training as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine through his program, Alchemist Recovery.

If you've got questions about this or any other topic in sobriety, please contact me.


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