How to Love the Inner Addict | The Ranch Pennsylvania

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How to Love the Inner Addict

Mayhem. Chaos. Conflict. Confusion. Destruction. Dysfunction. All of these are words to describe the experience of addiction. Each is attached to an experience of placing a substance or behavior in front of health, relationships, finances, career and freedom. At the root of addiction, according to Alcoholics Anonymous, is self-centeredness.

Healthy self-esteem and the egotistical “me first” or “me only” attitude that pervades addictive behaviors are not synonymous. The former arises when a person knows that they are worthy of love, care, support and success. The latter manifests when someone is seeking to fill the proverbial “hole in the soul” that is characteristic of substance abuse. What takes the place of love is a desire for needs to be met, much as one would expect from a child who requires adults to provide for safety, security and shelter. When someone believes that the source of love is another person, they will be on a fruitless search for validation.

If you were to walk into a 12-step meeting and poll the attendees, inquiring whether they truly loved themselves, the responses would likely not come as a surprise. They have loved the substance, the excitement, the physiological sensations, the emotional rush, the risk-taking more than they felt their own sense of worthiness. Although addictive behaviors are coping skills meant to quell pain or increase pleasure, ultimately, they are not self-loving acts.

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” according to Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance-Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and, True Refuge-Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  

Said Brach: “Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call “radical acceptance.” If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.

What Is Self-Love?

  • A genuine belief in one’s innate value.
  • An acceptance of all aspects of self.
  • A willingness to be compassionate toward oneself.
  • A desire to be authentic.
  • Seeing strengths and not just limitations.
  • Moving toward growth and positive change.
  • Allowing for mistakes and do-overs.
  • Letting go of the need to people-please.
  • Treating oneself as you would a beloved other.
  • Providing for one’s own needs.
  • Reinforcing successes.

What It Is Not 

  • Arrogance
  • Narcissism
  • Entitlement
  • Excluding others
  • Co-dependence
  • Putting others down to elevate oneself
  • Verbal or physical aggression against self or others

Debbie Ford, a former drug addict most known for the best-selling book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, died from cancer in 2013. In an interview she explained, “It’s easy to love yourself when you feel good enough, when you feel special enough, when you’re loved enough, when you have enough money, and you’re appreciated. But what about loving yourself when you’re crying and you’re in pain, feeling powerless and hopeless; when you feel like a reject and nobody loves you? That is love and that is what shadow work demands from you. We were birthed with one soul to take care of, and we must take care of it.”

In an interview she once said: “It’s easy to love yourself when you feel good enough, when you feel special enough, when you’re loved enough, when you have enough money, and you’re appreciated,” she said. “But what about loving yourself when you’re crying and you’re in pain, feeling powerless and hopeless; when you feel like a reject and nobody loves you? That is love and that is what shadow work demands from you. We were birthed with one soul to take care of, and we must take care of it.”In an interview she once said: “It’s easy to love yourself when you feel good enough, when you feel special enough, when you’re loved enough, when you have enough money, and you’re appreciated,” she said. “But what about loving yourself when you’re crying and you’re in pain, feeling powerless and hopeless; when you feel like a reject and nobody loves you? That is love and that is what shadow work demands from you. We were birthed with one soul to take care of, and we must take care of it.” In an interview she once said: “It’s easy to love yourself when you feel good enough, when you feel special enough, when you’re loved enough, when you have enough money, and you’re appreciated,” she said. “But what about loving yourself when you’re crying and you’re in pain, feeling powerless and hopeless; when you feel like a reject and nobody loves you? That is love and that is what shadow work demands from you. We were birthed with one soul to take care of, and we must take care of it.”

Ways to Love the Addict in the Mirror

Addiction thrives in an environment of self-loathing. A bold statement, but one that is borne out in anecdote. Clients in a group setting at an outpatient rehab expressed feeling “broken,” “like damaged goods,” asking, “Who could love a loser like me?” Their drugs of choice varied from alcohol to cigarettes, cocaine and heroin, from sex and shopping to gambling and overeating. A common thread was that they were also hooked on self-harm. Using was a means of reinforcing what they believed was so about themselves. The self-abuse perpetuated the cycle that may have been set in place by someone else out of their own lack of love. The therapist encouraged them to break the cycle of addiction by simultaneously changing the programming.

  • Imagine the most worthy and loveable person you know. Ask yourself what it is about them that has you feeling that way about them.
  • Treat yourself in the same way you treat that person.
  • See the innocent child you once were. What qualities did he or she possess? Visualize cradling that younger version of yourself and saying to him or her what you wish was said to you.
  • Take out a photo of yourself and have a conversation called, “What I wish I knew when I was you,” as you share lessons you have learned in the interceding years.
  • Remember that a stumble doesn’t have to turn into a tumble. If you relapse, reclaim your recovery.
  • Remind yourself how far you have come. Since you are reading this article, it indicates at least an interest in recovery.
  • Create a self-love routine. It might include having the first words you speak in the morning be encouraging, as a personal pep talk. Consider what acts of love and service you might offer to someone you care about and do that for yourself.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi, 13-century Sufi poet

By Edie Weinstein, LSW Follow Edie on Twitter at @EdieWeinstein1

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