Finding Your Tribe Happens as You Reach Out for Help

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

“Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed — faith, decency, courage — is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…” Judith Lewis Herman

Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis–alcoholism and depression. Yet 50% of those in the rooms have both–addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?

The source of addiction is pain.

“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience,” Maté wrote in his 2010 bestseller, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. “A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden — but it’s there.” Dr. Gabor Mate

Addiction is not the cure for the pain.

“Addiction is merely external behavior that is the “fruit” in a person’s “tree” of life. If the fruit is cut off but the root left intact, the addict will be “changed” for the moment, but that seed will eventually regenerate the “plant” of addiction and produce similar fruit. Removing the fruit alone won’t change the production cycle! This is one reason people often switch addictions. Recovery is about dealing with the seed and the roots. An addict will require an entirely new system change. In fact, all those “bad seeds” (lies) will need to be uprooted, and new seed sown in order to establish the production of God’s fruit — fruit that leads to abundant life in Him.” Robert and Stephanie Tucker

Addiction has many layers.

We must move in our recovery from one addiction to another for two major reasons: first, we have not recognized and treated the underlying addictive process, and second, we have not accurately isolated and focused upon the specific addictions. Anne Wilson Schaef

I call codependency recovery the second recovery.

My 33rd year of recovery from alcohol addiction began Nov. 24, 2009. Needless to say to anyone living a spiritual quest, many emotions are stirred up during an anniversary.

In taking another 5th step, I realized that I had recreated the home of my childhood. I had the good mommy role and my husband was the bad daddy. As I have written before, he acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.

This experience led me on the path of healing my childhood wounds. I was the oldest child–or rather–I was the youngest parent in that home. I took my duties so seriously that I taught myself to deny myself anything that would challenge my mother. In return, the power connected to this role of being the boss was my first addiction. One that I am only now, after 70+ years, giving up.

That is why I call codependency the addiction of power. And I believe all addicts must go through this 2nd recovery–the recovery of codependency. I will always be codependent. It is about loving too much. But I know my pattern now and know when I need to redefine my boundaries.

Codependency begins when as a child we are taught to be the “parent”.

“Wounded parents often unintentionally inflict pain and suffering on their children and these childhood wounds causes a laundry list of maladaptive behaviors commonly called codependency. These habits restrict people to love-limiting relationships causing much unhappiness and distress.” David W. Earle

“At its heart, Codependency is a set of behaviors developed to manage the anxiety that comes when our primary attachments are formed with people who are inconsistent or unavailable in their response to us. Our anxiety-based responses to life can include over-reactivity, image management, unrealistic beliefs about our limits, and attempts to control the reality of others to the point where we lose our boundaries, self-esteem, and even our own reality. Ultimately, Codependency is a chronic stress disease, which can devastate our immune system and lead to systemic and even life-threatening illness.” Mary Crocker Cook

The cure for our pain is community.

“Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.” Judith Lewis Herman

Addiction is complex and recovery and/or treatment needs to be complex. Each person needs help with social, mental, physical, emotional, employment, legal, relationship, and spiritual issues. Just going to a 12 step program doesn’t help a recovering person with all these issues. Having a 12 step home group as a foundation for recovery provides peer support, framework for positive life change, and disciplined accountability needed to stop addiction. But additional help is needed.

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Kathy Berman

Kathy Berman

Addiction recovery date:11/24/1976. kathyberman.com. Addiction recovery; eating clean; self-discovery. Kathy Berman’s Publications lists my Medium publications.