Four Concepts Inconceivable in Addiction

In college, I often tutored classmates struggling in Political Science courses. I’ve found teaching others to be a far more effective way for me to retain information than simply studying on my own. Generally this made for a mutually beneficial arrangement where both parties were able to better understand the materials, but that wasn’t always the case.

In one such instance, I was tutoring a classmate, let’s call her Christine, for a Latin American Political Systems course. The bewildered look on her face told me all I needed to know. My explanation of the differences between a representative and direct democracy might as well have been in a different language. Christine just didn’t get it.

Have there ever been times in your life where you’ve tried explaining a concept or idea to someone and for whatever reason, it just wouldn’t click? Conversely, can you think of a time when someone attempted to describe an idea to you that seemed too obscure to comprehend? These are experiences everyone’s had at one time or another.  This article goes over four concepts that were incomprehensible during active addiction but have become cornerstones for me to become well.

Rationalization

Rationalization is the cognitive distortion of “the facts” to make an event or an impulse less threatening. – Sigmund Freud

When I was younger, In my unparalleled ignorance and self-righteousness, I thought to rationalize was a desirable trait to have. I remember being told on multiple occasions that I rationalized too much. I’d always argue that this was good, it demonstrated how logical my mind was. At its root, rationalization was being rational, which meant taking an approach that was based on reason or logic right? Not exactly, in reality, rationalization is a defense mechanism where you either justify an unacceptable behavior or create an explanation to occurrences that seems logical but avoids the truth. In other words, all you’re doing when you rationalize is making excuses.

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

This concept seemed so simple during and prior to my trainwreck years that I never paid it much thought. After all, being mindful pretty much just means being conscious or aware. I assumed anyone as rational and intelligent as myself must be mindful. Boy, was I wrong because the fact is mindfulness is far more complicated and must be practiced intentionally in order for you to truly understand it. What made this so difficult for me is the fact that you cannot be mindful if you allow your actions to be dictated by your emotions. One of the core aspects of mindfulness is the ability to live in the present moment, which I couldn’t do because I was so worried about the past and future. It also involves acceptance, the ability to recognize our thoughts and feelings without concluding that they’re “right” or “wrong” and accepting that they simply are. Basically, mindfulness is an external form of self-awareness.

Self-Awareness

“(Self-awareness is) knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions.” – Daniel Goleman

I remember distinctly someone telling me at some point earlier in life that I wasn’t very self-aware. My response to the claim is the reason I recall the memory so vividly, “What an idiotic assertion.” I thought, “Obviously I’m self-aware, what kind of dumbass wouldn’t be aware of himself.” Turns out I was that dumbass. In my experience, while struggling with active addiction I lost sight of self-awareness because it causes pain. What I found was that poor self-awareness contributed to the paradox of relapse and served as the fuel for the insanity that was addiction! I’d feel bad about what happened and would use to escape from the pain. In my opinion, self-awareness is taking an objective look your actions and learning to understand the genuine reasons behind why you do what you do.

Gratitude

Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation. – Randy A. Sansone & Lori A. Sansone

Oh gratitude, it’s another concept that I thought was too simplistic for me not to understand during the trainwreck years. I think most people would shoot you mildly offended glare and respond with a resounding yes when asked if they consider themselves grateful or not. Yet, out of all the concepts discussed in this article gratitude is the one most commonly misunderstood in my opinion and here’s why. We live in a consumer based, consumption-driven society where our self-worth and perceived value to society is determined by our ability to obtain materialistic goods. It’s as though gratitude is counterintuitive to society. It’s frequently said that addiction isn’t about drugs, that they are merely a symptom of the disease and this is true. My addiction wasn’t to drugs it was an unquenchable obsession to more. Gratitude, appreciating what you have instead of obsessing over what you don’t, is the cure to this obsession.

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