You’re Only as Sick as Your Secrets
By Z Zoccolante
There’s that saying that a chain can only be as strong as its weakest link. The saying reminds me of the game Red Rover that I played at summer fun when I was a kid.
You’d stand in a line all holding hands and sing, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jonathan over.” Little kid Jonathan would run at your hand linked people fence and if he was able to break through then he won. What he won I have no idea, but I remember the whole point of the game was to find the weakest spot, the smallest person, the two people whose hands you were sure you could break with your body weight.
Addiction is like this hand linked people fence where the weak points cause us to feel broken. When we keep our secret of addiction hidden it festers in silence. Addiction is addiction is addiction. It operates similar in our brain whether it’s an eating disorder, drugs, alcohol, porn, etc. Dopamine is affected in every single case making us want more of the reward.
I had someone tell me recently that the addict wants the reward without having to give back anything. We seek the kick of dopamine without having to contribute to society, to use our gifts, to connect to our community. This can be one reason why addiction is isolating, I thought?
Although I don’t disagree with what that person told me, it feels more complicated. I’ve been on the inside of addiction and it’s a dark place of self-torture. In this darkness, there’s shame, guilt, isolation, and fear. There’s suppressed and repressed emotions that eat away at us unless we have a way to work them them through us. Sadly most of us, in addiction, have only one way to work anything through our body and that is the one strong neural pathway that the addiction has built.
For me, it was binge and purge. For other’s it’s cocaine, weed, alcohol, heroin, various pills . . .
Once we find our particular poison and begin to use it as a coping mechanism for life, it deepens the groove of the neural pathway. One day, it becomes the only thing we reach for in every emotion when we’re celebrating, when we’re sad, lonely, bored, or anything in-between. It becomes like the drive home from work where you pull in your driveway and don’t remember how you even got home. It becomes like autopilot.
This autopilot of addiction is the disconnection from ourselves, from relationships, from everything around us. It’s the itch that we scratch with our particular poison.
In recovery, we work on becoming conscious of this “automatic drive home.” We work on identifying triggers that cause the itch. We work on connecting again to ourselves and others.
Shame keeps us separate and isolated because it’s when we think that at our core, “we are bad.” The truth is that we are doing the best that we can with what we have to control our life situations so that we can feel safe. We just do this is destructive ways that no longer serve our highest good.
The antidote to this shame or addiction is to share our secrets. Shame cannot live in the light just as shadow cannot exist when we turn on the light. Long term recovery is done in community. That’s why there are inpatient facilities, many various support groups, and somatic and cognitive therapy. That’s why so many people who recover take up yoga or some other body practice – for connection to their own bodies and a community of other people. One way to connect to ourselves is through journaling.
Addiction breeds isolation, but recovery is all about connection – to ourselves and with other safe people. We are designed for connection and when we don’t have that need filled a part of us starves.
If you’re facing an addiction seek out a therapist or Google a support group in your area. There are supports groups everyone for the particular issue you may be facing. Connection can be scary, trust me, but being honest with safe people in your life will help you move through the darkness to the other side and it will help you on your recovery road.
We’re only as sick as our secrets and so when we share them, with safe people, we begin and continue, to heal.
Resources for you:
Or Google “Find a (AA, NA, OA, CoDa, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon) near me”
For more support around eating disorder recovery visit the blog and podcast at throwinguprainbows.com