The Power of Naming
What is your addiction of choice? It is very important to identify what it is, because if you can’t name your addiction, you can’t get well. This is foundational to the whole Twelve Step program. This really is Step One.
But this sort of “naming” is very hard. Who wants to admit to being controlled by food, sex, cocaine, or even jogging? We feel that to admit we’ve got a problem is to admit failure. We feel that it means losing face; it means giving up our illusions of control. It means opening up the floodgates of bad feelings (like shame, humiliation, worthlessness, etc.).
So we deny that we have a problem. Denial is the refusal to admit we are in trouble. Denial is a form of delusion, since one is literally out of touch with reality. Denial is saying everything is okay when clearly it is not. Denial is blocking out the negative consequences resulting from the addiction: relationships in disarray, career in trouble, financial stress, health problems. Denial prevents the addicted person from getting help.
Denial, as it turns out, is one of the characteristics of true addiction. This is why it is so hard to shake loose from addictive behavior. Inherent in the problem itself is the inability to accept that there is a problem! Furthermore, addicted persons really believe they are telling the truth when they deny that they have a problem.
How does a person identify whether an activity (or substance) has become addictive? Where does one get accurate insight into one’s situation?
Experience: our life is such a mess we no longer can deny our problem.
Intuition: in our quiet, reflective moments, we sense that life is getting out of control. As Ray Hoskins states: “The fact that you have ever felt a need to control a behavior in and of itself is the best indicator that you have an addiction going or developing.”
Friends and Family: they stop making excuses for us; instead, they intervene in our destructive behavior and drag us to a Twelve Step meeting.
Small Groups: our caring friends gently confront us with what we can’t see about ourselves.
Personal Stories: we hear recovering addicts tell their stories and discover that they are talking about us.
Therapy: we go because of one problem and discover that addiction is our root problem.
Scripture: it acts like a blazing light to us, revealing our true condition.
Grace: we are suddenly confronted with an overwhelming sense of who we are and what we have become, so we cry out for help.