The first three steps of the AA twelve steps are focused upon surrendering to the power of addiction and reaching out for help. One of the reasons addiction is so powerful is due to a growing, rigid denial system. As the term denial system suggests, reality is “denied” or blocked out, or veiled – the intensity of which corresponds to the strength of the addiction.
Steps Four and Five
Steps four and five, force the person in recovery (if the addict is willing to live in a sober state), to take an honest look at the addiction and assess the damages, internally and externally. This is crucial, because, the addiction, never wants to leave. That is one of the long-term damages of addiction. The denial system will look for any reason to relapse. It is the nature of addiction, whether the addiction be to alcohol or other substances.
Like it is the nature of a female sea turtle to return to the ocean after laying her eggs, it is the nature of addiction to want to continue using and return to the old ways. There is no cure for this. That is why a person is never fully recovered, but in a state of recovery.
Strength of Addiction
Whenever someone drinks an alcoholic beverage or ingests some kind of a drug, the purpose is to self-medicate. Self-medication may be on the unconscious level, since in many countries, social drinking, for instance, is acceptable and negative consequences are minimal or nonexistent.
However, even on the social plane, once the chemical is in the system it has its impact. When the chemical has run its course, a person returns to normal, internally, no negative repercussions.
The addiction begins, when, after the chemical has had its impact, the person does not return to normal – there remains emotional and mental pain. As the addiction strengthens, so does this internal pain. The user, to relieve the pain, takes the drug again, whether it be alcohol or some other substance. A punishing, circular pattern is set in motion.
To emphasize, the user does not return to normal. Instead, the internal pain increases. Relief is fleeting. Over time the internal pain increases to a level where the user is drinking or using just to carry on with life, but not really living. All through this process the denial system is strengthening and becoming rigid as well, not to mention the physical ramifications of the growing addiction.
Process of Addiction
For some substances like alcohol, in adults, this process can continue slowly for years. When the process happens slowly, the person will probably not be consciously aware that something is wrong, relative with the drinking or drugging. The denial system and addiction grows slowly and insidiously.
With the use of other substances, like cocaine, the process happens very quickly. Though denial is there, and strong, because the negative consequences are generally so immediate, the user is usually able to see the resulting dysfunction.
Of course, there are a wide range of scenarios, but these are examples.
Though the situation is different for every alcoholic/addict, there is an underlying truth, which is, someone has been hurt in this addiction process. Certainly, the identified addict has been hurt, but if the addict were to draw a circle and add to that circle all of the people associated with his/her life, they, too, have been hurt.
Working steps four and five may be exceedingly painful, but necessary. Truth must be realized, if the addict is to have a chance at achieving meaningful sobriety.