The Addict’s Experience: From Broken To Beautiful
Addiction is a crippling, life-altering disease. It can wreak havoc on loved ones and destroy one’s sense of self. But what exactly does an addict experience? And is recovery really possible? According to Addiction Center, “In 2011, an estimated 3 million people received treatment for their addiction.” The problem is undeniably astounding and widespread.
Cat, an APSATS coach for BTR, explains, “I actually became addicted to drugs very young–so from the age of 16 to 26 I experienced a full-on addiction to heroine. During this time both of my children were born and so I have been dealing with not only my own recovery but also the fallout of this addiction. For the last 10 years–I am now 36–I have been working my way through recovery.”
Becoming Addicted And It’s Impact On Everything
Cat describes her situation as an addict by saying, “My first daughter was born when I was 21, just a few years into my addiction. My second daughter followed a couple of years later. They were massively impacted by not just my addiction, but the lifestyle that goes with addiction–the chaotic nature of living life addicted. Over time, both of my children ended up being placed in foster care.”
Cat goes on to describe her experience, by adding, “I was heavily addicted. I had so much emotional dysfunction. Even in the midst of that, I was feeling the terrible sense of pain and loss. We use substances and behaviors addictively as an anesthetic. And so even from the depths of this pain, I recognized that I wasn’t probably having a fully appropriate response to what was happening because I wasn’t really capable of feeling those feelings.”
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, states,”I see all the awful things an addict that was once close to me has had to go through because of his addiction, and all that he has put us through, but I don’t think he can register the pain or fully comprehend what is happening because he is still active in his addiction.”
Holding Addicts To A High Standard For Recovery
Cat tells how her own experience impacts her work at BTR, “It impacts the work I do with women and their addictive partners. I think it does that from both ends of the spectrum. On one side of that, I really feel like I have a deep level of empathy for an addicted person. I know the pain of not wanting to take the drug but now knowing how not to do that. I know the pain of feeling the consequences for the choices that I’ve made and I know the pain of cleaning up the mess left behind. But it also leads me to hold a high standard of recovery. I’ve worked really hard over the last decade. I continue to work hard when my addiction presents me with on-going consequences and the opportunity to clear up the mess.”
Cat states, “I think we rob addicts of recovery when we don’t invite them to step into the shame and consequences of their addiction.”
Anne adds, “Trying to shield them from that shame and those consequences of their actions is not helping them at all. You have to step into it, lean into it like you said, in order to be able to recover.”
Choosing To Face The Hurt From Addiction
What Are The Consequences of Addiction?
Cat: It’s easy, 10 years in, to think, “I never think about drugs anymore.” I genuinely haven’t been near a relapse for years and years. Consistently I’m getting to a point where I’m asking myself what does it mean to be in recovery after 5, 6, 7 years…10 years is a milestone, right? There is still a piece of me that says now that I am 10 years sober, it’s done. And yet, here I am, still having these conversations with my children and cleaning up some of the mess.
In terms of the challenges of recovery, I would say it is just about continuing to learn and grow, to face those parts of me that still can fall back into self-centeredness, that still can fall back into wanting to avoid bad stuff. The propensity in me is still something that can happen so it’s about staying on top of it, I think. But in terms of the consequences of the addiction, they are much less. It’s easy to think I am 10 years in and they are done, but it is an on-going relationship. For me, it’s with my children particularly because I met my husband in recovery so it’s less of an issue with us. But with my kids it’s about remembering to take the opportunities to build their emotional health. There was damage to our attachment. They were really little when they were taken away from mom. They have some feelings about that. They don’t want to be the kids from care; it’s not fair? Why is it them? Digging into these conversations and being brave is the thing I have been reflecting on recently. What is also interesting is how is crosses over with my trauma.
So my husband and I and the kids went to the dentist. One of the lasting consequences of my addiction is that I have damaged teeth. Because I didn’t take care of them for 10 years and I was on a methadone prescription for many years, which is very surgery, I had lots of cavities and have lost quite a few of my back teeth. So 10 years later our entire family went to the dentist and everyone is being examined. I’m the last one. I sit in the chair and the dentist makes a comment about how she would like to have me back to do a deep clean of my teeth. In that moment, I immediately experienced a trauma trigger. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like I must be so unattractive to my husband because my teeth are bad. I experienced a full-on trigger which I don’t get very often any more. I wondered what was going on. I started making up this story about how my husband must find me so unattractive and how the dentist must be more attractive than me…all of this unhealthful thought process that we heap on top. I was really struck as I came home and reflected that more that 10 years later, this is a consequence of my addiction that I have to live with on a daily basis and that it has become entwined with my experience of betrayal. It has now become a trigger for me. It gave me some empathy for some of the addicts who are trying and struggling to deal with the consequences of their addiction, because 10 years later, I’m still experiencing that.
What came from this was a decision that, as an act of self-care, I was going to go to the dentist alone and that it is ok because this is an area where I am vulnerable. I recognize it and it’s ok to go without my husband because those thoughts that I piled into that trigger are not true. They are a reflection of some of the insecurities left inside of me. I was really struck by how these parts of my life can cross over.
Anne: You did mention that the consequences have reduced over the 10 years. I would venture to say the reason they have reduced is because you have made an active and proactive effort to make amends and clean up your mess; you are continuing to clean it up. If you just let those 10 years pass by with no acknowledgment, with no humility, with no honesty, with no recovery, the consequences would still be dire.
What Does Person In True Addiction Recovery Sound Like?
Women who are married to an addict face an immeasurable amount of pain in relation to the toll that addiction takes on the relationship. One woman states the importance of reaching out to others who know, by explaining, “I don’t have to go through that confusing time by myself, holding as tightly as I can to what is left of reality.”
Anne goes on to describe what a person in recovery will sounds like,”They are able to talk about consequences; they are able to talk about what happened; they are able to be honest. This is the tone and the feeling to talk with someone who has good recovery. If this is not what you are experiencing in your own home with your sex addict husband, you need to set some boundaries.”
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group talks about what it looks and feels like; if you are not experiencing it, how to have safety.
How To Make Amends When In Addiction Recovery
Cat shares her insight into making amends after addiction, “One of the most important principles about amends is that it is more than just sorry. It is about mending whatever is broken. This can involve working out why and how the relationship was broken. Specifically looking at: How did I take from it; then I was going to go fix it and I was going to give back.”
Cat goes on to describe her process of making amends,”When I worked through my amend step, if I had taken money from someone, I took it back, with interest. If I had taken time from a relationship, I gave it back, with interest. With my children, particularly, it’s about time, it’s about love, it’s about digging into those emotions. With my parents, it’s about staying in contact. It looked like different things in different situations but it always looked like a thoughtful attempt to work out what was broken and how I could fix that. Even now, this is an ongoing process. It’s about working out what is broken and working hard for as long as you need to fix that damage.”
It Is Essential To Reach Out For Help And Support
Cat talks about the importance of reaching out in support groups, “This is one of the places I can come and get grounded into my reality. The other thing that a support group does, which is a beautiful and important, is that it fills me with the love and the strength and the confidence that I’m unable to muster up myself. When I have been abused and gas lighted over many years, I can find it difficult sometimes to believe that I can really do this. I get to come to a group and the women who come to BTR Group really experience this strength and the ability to draw on the resources of the collective.”
All of our coaches at Betrayal Trauma Recovery facilitate one or more of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group sessions. We add new sessions as more women join. We just added a new session!
Many women don’t know where to start. Coach Cat specializes in how heal stages of betrayal trauma recovery. She also supports women as they are planning a therapeutic disclosure or therapeutic polygraph. She helps women manage and understand the triggers happening to them, similar to the trigger she talked about with the dentist visit. I encourage you to schedule and individual session with Coach Cat.
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Until next week, stay safe out there.