Neither alcoholics Anonymous nor Narcotics Anonymous has ever really been for me. The gossip between members and continuous dialogue about giving yourself over to a higher power never buttered my bread. I was looking for a Socratic-style discussion group rather than the single file confessionals that I kept finding.
I am not bashing AA or NA, so many people work the steps and believe in them wholeheartedly and have gotten completely clean and sober as a result. Maybe I just never found the right group. I went to a meeting a few months ago where a French man said, “Every day is hard, I think death would be easier.” Nobody said a word. Not a fucking word.
This has always been the nature of AA or NA. After he said his piece he ended with, “thanks for letting me share.” And our Pavlovian conditioning kicked in and we sounded off with a hollow “Thank you, Jacque.” His name, of course, wasn’t Jacque.
I wanted to scream. This man just inferred that he was suicidal and no one is going to say ANYTHING?! We all had our own time to speak on the end of the diving board before jumping into the river Styx and afterward the river’s chorus sang back with: “Thank you Wolfe.” It felt like a fucked up circle jerk.
Of course after meetings is when people come up to you to talk more and get to know you and see if everything is okay. I just want that dialogue to be happening all the time, not after the fact. I wanted discussion. When I finished speaking I wanted people to say, “oh I’ve been there” or “You’ll get through this, I remember when I went through that.” Speaking isn’t enough for me; I need to know people are hearing me.
Of course, I understand WHY meetings are organized the way they are. Everyone gets a turn to speak if they choose to and no one has the chance to interrupt anyone. But, I couldn’t help to feel like it was all so…unfeeling.
BUT, there is an aspect of AA and NA that has been truly wonderful. Even though I didn’t find the community that I was seeking, hearing the stories from other addicts is an incredible source of inspiration. And I am able to learn from their experiences to give my sobriety the best chance at survival. Because some days that is what it comes down to…just getting through the day…survival.
When I am experiencing temptation that may lead me away from sobriety, I call my friends who know addiction. When I am dealing with depression, I call my friends who know depression. When I am struggling with anxiety, I call my friends who know anxiety. Onwards and always until infinity.
But recently, I’ve been experiencing something that has tempted me to use more strongly than any negative emotion. That is the feeling of invincibility.
This is a completely foreign feeling for me. When you experience anxiety, a constant feeling of “I am going to die” becomes the norm, so it is safe to say that I never felt untouchable…until recently.
It started out as a fleeting emotion, a quick flash of imperviousness. A feeling of such confidence and euphoria that it led to a dangerous thought:
How high could this feeling go?
What would a drink do? What if I had just one bump and saw how it made me feel.
I found this thought pattern to be so interesting. Sometimes I do experience cravings while I am depressed or anxious, but I can dismiss them relatively easily. But, with this feeling of invincibility, I found myself licking my lips with the potential for more. When I was in a shit mental state, I used drugs to elevate myself. Of course, it was volatile and I always ended up crashing. But now…now that I’m happy…what would that be like? What would it be like to use when I’m already so high? The thought is tantalizing and sometimes dances in my mind like a handful of pop rocks in my mouth.
Which is scary…
A fellow addict told me that this trait is emotion is called grandiosity.
I’m sure you have heard the term “addictive personality” thrown around. But, what does that actually mean? Can some personality traits really make someone predisposed to addictive behavior?
Having an “addictive personality” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are currently addicted to substances, ever have been or ever will. Only that it is much easier for you to become dependent on something, or you alter your behavior in order to fulfill some sort of need. Common non-substance addictions are things like: pornography, work, gambling, shopping, and even codependency.
As it turns out, even if you have the hereditary markers of addiction, that alone usually isn’t enough to develop substance abuse habits. Sometimes it is, but it is usually in conjunction with intense mental stress, or childhood trauma.
There are several contributing factors to the “addictive personality” but the one that has been troubling me most as of late is another word for grandiosity and is known as terminal uniqueness. Which sounds like an incredibly morbid category of a child pageant.
“Here comes little miss Susan! Oh isn’t she just terminally unique?!”
“Fuck, it’s not contagious is it?”
I stumbled on the term while reading this article on feelings of grandiosity. Everyone has some degree of uniqueness that makes them who they are. For some individuals, however, this inflated feeling of grandiosity can create an incredibly strong form of denial. This “I’m different” mentality can be incredibly dangerous because when a person feels immune to disaster is most often when it finds them.
“Terminal uniqueness is the belief that the situation the individual is facing is unlike anything faced by other people.”
Which is something that I have been guilty of for a long time, but it only came to light when treading the unknown territory of invincibility. I have been guilty of this in the aspect of feeling that no one could possibly know my struggle. My anxiety and depression are unlike anyone else’s experience, how could anyone understand what it is like to live with this every day. I know, I’m expecting the call from the academy any day, because that shit was a dramatic and isolating thought pattern.
But, having such an inflated sense of uniqueness that it actually could create discord in your life? That is something totally new to me. And although I am worried that as my mental health continues to improve, this temptation may continue to grow along with it. Sobriety is the best thing I have ever done and is the accomplishment that I am the proudest of. And that outweighs any potential immediate high.
I am going to be seeking out some alternative forms of addiction groups and therapy. Because although AA and NA don’t have the constant source of dialogue that I am looking for, the different backgrounds and stories you encounter through these types of groups greater diversify your tools to protect yourself from temptation.
If you’re struggling with substance abuse I suggest you try every option and find what works best for you. Be adaptive and open, sobriety is difficult and messy a lot of the time.
If you are sober or are struggling with sobriety I would love to get in touch. Feel free to send me an email from the contact section of the blog.
Much love and many adventures,