For myself, the road to recovery was a lot like going through a haunted house. It could be a haunted house, haunted mansion, or even a haunted forest… whatever you want. The point is that there’s a beginning and an end, with a whole lot of scary shit in between.
Think about how you might enter a haunted house. Sometimes we go in with bravery and sometimes we go in absolutely terrified, but there’s no right or wrong way to enter, only suggestions on how to handle it. Many of those suggestions are usually from people that have never been inside, but at least they come with very high and optimistic intentions. Hold on to that optimism because it’s that, not the advice, that will help you get through it.
Now imagine that you were told that you’d have to stay in that haunted house for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, that’s the common view of recovery from addictions in the cultural hypnotic state most people are in, but like everything else, that must change with the times. The addiction recovery culture is ridiculous and if you want to tell me that the current process is the best we have, then why is there so much failure in it? If the culture in recovery has taught me anything, it’s to keep away from people and groups who are reluctant to change because that’s their life not mine.
With major advancements in our understanding of the human brain and body, why do we stick to convictions so old and arduous? Over the past century, society has taken what should’ve been a great tool to help someone along in recovering from addiction, and made into another form of bad interpretations that actually hinders most of the good people that are in recovery. Like politics, government, and religion, twelve-step programs have been turned into a fear based ideology. People are told that a full recovery is impossible or only happens to a lucky few, and continues to be less and less effective as there is evidence that it’s getting worse. People are stuck in this terrifying and stressful place for extreme amounts of time making relapse an inevitable fate for nearly 90% for those who enter according to an americanaddictioncenters.org article published on December 26, 2018.
In health care these days, keeping people sick is where the money’s at after all, but you don’t have to be a part of any such statistic if you’re even a little bit informed. According to a January 4, 2017 article published by stress.org, 75% to 90% of all doctor visits are directly related to stress, which means that simply relaxing when our body says to, or a meditation practice can help deter those visits. To dive a little deeper, diseases like addiction, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and many more are now being heavily linked to the way we live our stressful lives. To dive all the way to the bottom of the ocean on where our stress begins, we must look at the self-sabotaging subconscious behaviors that the majority of people aren’t even aware of, because most of them begin in childhood, and then haunt us throughout adulthood until some sort of rock bottom forces a person into change.
The haunted house is a metaphor for that scary place in your head that comes along with trying to eliminate your addictions for good. Recovery might not seem frightening at first, but try getting through an alcohol, drug, or even food craving without the tools to do so, and see how spooky it can get. To witness this without having to get out there attain a new addiction, just follow anybody in recovery on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, and you’ll get a terrifying picture painted for you on how helpless many people feel while going through this process. These poor people carry so much guilt and shame about their addiction, that they’re left with nothing to do but cry out to strangers who tell them to go to a meeting where they’re encouraged to reaffirm their addictions out loud. Neuroscience says that this action keeps the subconscious in the dark about their intentions of recovering, so it’s like starting over multiple times per week.
Unfortunately, many people hit the emergency exit and relapse, but then are told that they have to start over all the way from the beginning and it only gets more difficult each time. This comes from folks who show themselves as uneducated about the human mind and body, many also have superiority complex and want to micromanage a life that isn’t theirs. Whether you agree or not, it is my opinion is that your badge of honor should be how long ago you were in recovery, not how long you have continuously been in recovery. Keep your coins… we’re not at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
From October 2016 until October 2017, I was stuck in the haunted house where I wasn’t drinking but I wasn’t healthy either. I was optimistic and had a positive attitude, but life was kicking my ass. With each step I was took, it felt like I was leading myself deeper into what might be the scariest part of the journey, which for me was always failure. I was buried at work, often spending nearly 100 hours per week there including commute time, effectively never giving myself the opportunity to actually sit down and find the peace that is required for recovery.
So I started studying all things mind and body because I knew there had to be a better answer than whatever common knowledge is out there. I knew that soon, if I kept trying to learn how to make myself a better person, even with very little action taken in the beginning, that it would eventually click.
One of the first subjects I stumbled upon after meditation was Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Even though I was only casual in how much time I spent learning because of my schedule, I knew that I was about to discover just how powerful the human mind really is. I began by being made aware of the effects of how words trigger people, and how to take those words so they have zero effect on how you react to them. It’s about observing exactly how your body feels when trigger words come up, realizing what’s going on in your head, and then changing the meaning that word has to you. I caught onto this immediately and began to change the limiting stories I was telling myself about my past. They were the same stories that I used as excuses to become addicted to substances like sugar, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals.
Instead of being afraid of what would word or emotion would trigger me into panic and cravings, I was gaining the confidence to walk through the haunted house and come out a better person… and not once did I think about using the emergency exit by relapsing. Instead, I began to believe that the haunted houses’ days were numbered and continued to immerse myself in all the incredible new discoveries science is making on how the mind/body connection works.
I was using the Kindergarten Mentality with everything I was learning which made information that was new to me that much easier to grasp, and only a few months later, I knew that I would never look back. Having a good comprehension of how our subconscious behaviors are programmed at an early age, including the meanings we assign to different words, along with 40 years of alcoholism experience, granted me access to a side of myself that I had never seen, but had always been looking for.
Finally, I was at the exit of the haunted house and ready to walk out the door and never look back. I had recovered from alcoholism. A lot of people will tell you that you can’t recover from alcoholism or addiction, but they’ve been doing it wrong for so long that I almost understand the pessimism.
Whatever recovery path you decide to take, it’s up to you to stop giving your addiction so much power and validity. The key is to walk through life doing the things that make your mind and body feel good because you absolutely friggin’ deserve it! You will always be with the person you see in the mirror, no matter who you decide that character should be, and there is nothing more important. If the person you see in the mirror is healthy, then that is somebody who will be better able to help and understand the people around them, solidifying relationships and rebuilding trust.
The haunted house is temporary, just like everything else in life that we think is going to go on forever and never does. Your recovery from any addiction begins with you and your experience in life, even if somebody that loves you had to convince you to take the first step. The tools are all around you, but you may have to recognize that your head might be in your ass in order to be able to see them. That’s 100% what I did to get out of my addictions, and just as important, the recovery process. Never have a problem with calling yourself recovered when you feel you’re there no matter what anybody says. Just make sure that you’re able to hold yourself accountable by learning about you above all else, because you really are far more powerful than you’ve ever imagined!