Thursday, July 30, 2009


Recovery is a head and a heart thing. It begins when both open up and start working together. The struggle happens when there is too much of one and not enough of the other. It continues to remain stalled while the battle of the head and heart push and pull, twist and turn, open and close.... like the clash of the intellectual/emotional titans! Sometimes they gang up on behaviour, forcing it to act in ways it never expected to.

The head wakes up one day and says....."HOLY Shit! I'm a mess! I know what I'm doing is abusive to my body, to my self, to my soul....I've got to learn more about how to conquer the demons. Let me find a book ..... do some reading ..... find a guru ..... attend a lecture .... go to a workshop. I can do this on my OWN." And before you know it, the head begins to learn. It begins to sober up and it takes control of its own destiny. It thinks......and thinks and thinks...... until the thinking starts to stink!

All of a sudden the clouds roll in and the head begins to stumble. It starts doubting itself. It begins to gobble itself up with that human syndrome called "rumination." Somewhere along the line in a brief moment of "reality sobriety" the heart begins to stir sending lightening bolts of shame and guilt down in a thunderous roar of "Look what you've DONE! LOOK at all the people in your life you've hurt! Who do you think you ARE?? You are a rotten person! For shame!!"

The head retreats quickly, returning to the cave of indemnity to numb itself from anymore emotional wave damage. However, the cave isn't a safe secure place. Full of ruminative echos, the air hums constantly. Old memories reveal themselves like a grizzly's fangs dripping in saliva, like the shivering screeching bats whose wings shimmer when the light from the cracks hit them with instant awareness.

The heart is winning..... in some ways, its stronger than the head, so angry and hurt from life tumbling, stemming from the unhealthy addiction choices made in the heat of the moment, all brought on by the head's ability to rationalize through coping mechanisms designed to fool the human. For a long time, it allays the negative emotions of the heart by choosing quick hit relief tablets...... pills, booze, sex, gambling. When the heart realizes its been duped by false ecstasies, it turns the head on its side.

It throws all it has at the brain....wads of tissue soaked tears, angry accusations, manipulative pleas...... black guilty rain splashes down with unrelenting fury. The head cowers in a saturated mess sending pleas to stop the incessant emotional ammunition.

At a point of surrender, the head has a new thought. "Enough...I've had enough. I'm sick of this internal emotional manipulation. I'm sick of feeling this way! I can see it for what it is! This heart is a selfish crybaby who is just as wounded as I am. It just knows how to push my to make me second guess my actions and needs. But there has to be a common ground. There has to be a place where we can begin to work together rather than this unrelenting barb throwing. hmmmmm...... how can I learn to cope better?"

From somewhere outside of the battered body is a voice....a message.... "Listen differently," it says. "The words that accuse are the same words that express worry and support. They are just wounded and don't know how to reach out. You know how to do that. You know how to reach out."

So many stops and starts ensue. Recovery is never an overnight process. It took years of accumulative actions, of using damaging coping skills, or listening to false self talk until one day, when all seems the most hopeless.....when misery reeks in fermenting mildew..... there is no place to hide except within the weeping bubble of a whispered "help me..."

"help me..." says the head to the heart.

"help me...." replies the heart to the head.

Those are the first two words which have the capacity to open up that road to recovery. Sometimes we have to hit the pavement hard with our whole selves........ a faceplant of the soul .... before we can croak it out. Then we hope and pray that we have the stamina to retrain our thinking and feelings so that one day they work together directing the behavioural choices so darn dependent on them.

No one outside of ourselves can truly heal us of an addiction. They can listen, support, guide, and do all those things that caring people do. But when the rubber meets the road, it's up to us to pull together the internal tools we were born with to come to our aid.


Rajesh said...


Gilly said...

You put into brilliant words what so many of us have felt, I am sure. But only when we realise the battle within can we do anything about it. And even then it is so hard.

For a long time we can struggle without knowing the enemies within us, we are trying to fight the enemies outside, but unless we are clear within ourselves, then we cannot stand against the enemy outside.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Dana as per the norm with your insights.


Awareness said...


Gilly...thank you. These words and this description really came from my many counseling conversations with people at different stages of recovery from addiction. There is a turning point in their struggles when they begin to give up the victim perspective and take ownership. This is what I listen for..... because once there is an intrinsic level of motivation, they may have fighting chance of overcoming their addiction.

Mavis.... our neighbourhoods are filled with folks who are struggling through their own recovery arent they? Its good to know they are touched by smiling people who reach OUT to recognize them as human beings in need of a friend and someone to guide them to help.... ;)

Andrea said...

I will return with my comment

Mark said...

Very true thoughts. Recovery is a process that is fraught with pushes and pulls. There may be a very huge gap of physical time between when we moved from our true self to our false self. Often times we may not be able to even recognize our true self anymore. As you said, recovery is an inside job, however for most we need the support of others to find our way in.

Anonymous said...

Step one: we admitted that we were powerless....

I never knew that I was a control freak until I was asked to surrender. I have to go back to that vulnerable girl who was more trusting. I have to remember that she is ME. I am her. I can trust. I can let go. One day, hour, minute at a time.

It feels so free.

Awareness said...

Andrea...look forward to reading it.

Mark....I agree. Actually, i think I oversimplified this piece. there is a huge need for outside support in any form of recovery, whether its overcoming an addiction, or overcoming grief.....

Jen...the 12 steps is a powerful process and that first one is a doozy... to learn to surrender is to open yourself up to feeling very vulnerable doesn't it. But, its the only way to move forward step by step....