Where Does My Addiction Stem From?
Many of us don’t understand where our alcohol addiction or drug addiction came from. Maybe you were raised in a great family – everyone cared for one another and there was rarely conflict.
Let’s look at an example of that kind of family. Nate’s parents believed that they knew what was best for their children. So as their oldest child, Nate, became older and started making more of his own decisions, his parents were forced to give up some of the guidance and protection they offered.
Nate’s mom and dad start parenting out of a place of fear – fear that their son was going to make the wrong decision and get hurt. Unconsciously, they started to drive this fear into their son. If Nate ever tried to have an idea of his own, his parents would immediately imagine would could go wrong. Because of this, they’d subtly put doubt into their child’s head about his decision – until Nate eventually agreed to do what his parents wanted in the first place.
A child from this kind of home never has the opportunity to learn how to be confident in what he thinks and believes. Nate was taught to constantly measure what other people think before giving an opinion or making a decision.
Understandably, Nate always feels a level of unease inside himself. He often feels angry but doesn’t know why (or what to do about it.) Oftentimes, he finds that being argumentative is the only way he knows how to communicate.
When he’s arguing against something, Nate doesn’t need to reveal his own thoughts – he can simply be against whatever is being discussed. This can be particularly frustrating for the other person in the conversation, because Nate will sometimes argue against something he agreed with a few moments ago.
This unending internal discomfort is often incredibly hard to deal with. Since Nate doesn’t realize why he behaves this way, he may explore unhealthy ways to calm this unease – with alcohol or drugs.
Nate's Life as an Adult
Thirty years later, Nate works at an accounting firm. He likes the fact that most of his work is very straightforward (there isn’t much gray area when it comes to crunching numbers.) As he’s walking by the break room, one of his coworkers calls him in.
“Nate! Come in here for a sec.”
With a sigh, Nate turns around and heads into the room. His coworkers Victor and Linda are sitting around the table.
“What is it?” Nate asks quickly.
“We’re trying to decide where to put the new hire, Carla. We’re thinking of the office next to yours – what do you think?” Victor asks.
The ever-present unease in Nate’s chest starts to intensify. “Oh, um, I thought they were saving that for the new manager?” Nate counters.
“They were, but we don’t know when they’re going to hire someone for that,” Linda replies.
“Well, it is kind of loud on that side of the office, being close to reception. I have to close my door a lot to be able to concentrate,” Nate responds.
Linda nods and scratches her cheek. “What about that desk over by Josh? It’s more open, but it’s quite a bit quieter over there.”
“It is pretty quiet. And Josh would be able to answer any questions she has,” Nate begins.
“And that puts her right by me too if we have to work on something together,” Victor adds.
Nate’s heart starts to quicken. He suddenly feels the need to add, “But have you been in Josh’s office lately? It’s a sauna in there. Something’s up with the A/C. She’s gonna think we’re working her in inhumane conditions,” Nate comments.
“Are they planning on fixing it?” Victor asks. Nate shrugs. “Typical,” Victor huffs under his breath.
“I mean we’ve kind of running out of desks…” Linda says, looking up at Nate. Victor also looks over at him.
Nate can feel his skin heat up. He doesn’t need to be a part of this conversation any more. “Well, good luck figuring it out.” Then he quickly backpedals out of the room.
As he’s briskly walking away, he can just make out Linda say, “Well THAT was helpful,” followed soon by Victor’s deep laugh.
The Internal Shaming Ritual
Closing the door to his office, Nate leans against the wood and closes his eyes and listens to his racing Monkey Mind.
Would the desk in Josh’s office be better than the office next door? Is hot better than loud? I mean I’m sure they’ll eventually fix the A/C. It’d just be a temporary inconvenience. But what if it takes so long that she quits? Would someone really quit over that? But what if they put her in the next door office, and she starts bugging you with questions all the time? Probably better to go with Josh… but will JOSH, of all people, really be able to answer her questions? Is she going to end up coming to you all the time anyway? Then she’s wasting that time walking all the way over here…
Nate shakes his head and locks the door. He pulls out his bottom drawer and pulls out the small bag he’s taped to the back of the drawer. Taking a moment to listen that no one is walking by, he quickly pours some of the white powder out, snorts a line, and tucks the bag back in its resting place.
He leans back, waiting for that energetic feeling to wash over him. Even if it’s only a few minutes, he longs for the escape.
Nate's Want For Change
Nate doesn’t realize that after so many years of his parents’ second guessing, he has now adopted that mindset. He’s actively replaying the same behavior that they used to do with him – when he’s speaking with someone, he questions if a decision (no matter what it is) is indeed the right decision.
After he excuses himself from said conversation, Nate’s Monkey Mind turns the tables on him – questioning if what he did and said was the proper way to respond.
This endless cycle of questioning others’ decisions, and then questioning how he responded to them, causes an enormous amount of anxiety within Nate. When his stress reaches its tipping point, he thinks the only way to continue functioning is to use drugs.
Yet, others in Nate’s life can see that he’s not actually “functioning” all that well after all. His youngest sister, Eva, often angrily calls Nate out for his flip-flopping. She calls him “the permanent Devil’s advocate” and pushes him to say what he really thinks when they’re having a discussion.
Although she shows it through anger, Eva is worried for Nate. He’s never had a long-term significant other, and she just wants him to find someone who loves him for him. But how can anyone love him when they don’t get to ever know the real Nate?
Deep down, Nate does want to make a decision. He longs to be able to simply state his opinion and stand by it. He knows it’s not normal that he pushes against everything everyone says. But every time he comes close to sticking to his guns, his Monkey Mind comes back on board and reminds him that this probably isn’t the right way to be thinking. Then, almost unwillingly, he slides back into his familiar self-sabotaging pattern (only to consequently beat himself up afterwards.)
Many of us are like Nate. When we allow ourselves to move away from that familiar self-judging, contradictory facade, we’ll be able to start pulling away at the conditioning we’ve been trapped in for so long.