I recently heard somebody describing recovery from addiction as an “initiation into life”. I like this description, and it fits with my experience. Recovery has certainly been, and still is, an initiation for me. Recovery has required that I wake up and take ownership of my life again and again. I expect it will continue this way for as long as I am alive. Yes, recovery is an initiation that requires a deep and lasting commitment.
In my work as a therapist and coach I have found that, one of the main things stopping people committing to recovery is self-doubt. Self-doubt is sometimes referred to as the last obstacle in recovery. I’m not sure if it’s the last, but it’s certainly one of the most deeply ingrained obstacles in the addict’s psyche.
Self-doubt is the fear that we alone are not enough and that, without our addictions, we somehow won’t be able to cope with life. And yet self-doubt is a major part of the original problem. Self-doubt is one of the main reasons why people become addicted in the first place. Self-doubt is why we couldn’t cope with life, and so turned to substances and behaviours to compensate for a sense of lack within us.
From Victim To Owner*
Self-doubt is the voice of the victim within us. The victim resides at the bottom of the ladder of our consciousness. This is a place of helplessness, hopelessness, and bleak outlook. When we are at the bottom of the ladder in victim land, we experience life as something that is happening to us. Here we are certainly not flowing with life, and are likely to live in fearful reactivity to whatever shows up. As a result we often become more fearful and doubting of ourselves.
At the top of the ladder is the owner. When we are in ownership we live from self-empowerment and awareness. Here we have a much higher level of consciousness. When we are living from ownership, we are more in flow with life. Here we have more clarity, choice and natural confidence in ourselves. From ownership we are more likely to respond to the tests life gives us and, because we are awake to ourselves, we learn and grow in the process of navigating such tests.
Recovery As An Initiation
Traditionally, initiation is a right of passage. Initiation is used as a way to strip away the conditioning and roles that have been outgrown. This is done so that the person undergoing initiation can become clear and ready to take on new roles and responsibilities that are appropriate for the next stage of life.
In recovery it is a similar process. In recovery it is important to strip away the old operating system that has kept us stuck in addiction and create a new one that helps us align with a higher vision of a awake and sober life. Whilst the old patterns of victim thinking are operative, there can be no realistic chance of anything much being achieved in recovery. Therefore, initiation into ownership of our lives is required.
For me, recovery from addiction is the journey from Victim to Owner. This journey is an initiation into life. In this initiation we take a stand for a deeper knowing within ourselves, in which we face down our self-doubt. Whilst this stand begins with a gentle acknowledging of our victim, we also make a declaration that we will no longer be asleep to its workings.
Entering The Fire
This stand, should you choose to take it, will create friction, and this friction creates a fire that burns away the false addicted self along with its fears and doubts. The fire of initiation will also burn through our conditioned reactivity in the form of urges and cravings. In Sanskrit this burning is known as Tapas because it is experienced quite literally as a burning physical heat. This burning is a bonfire of the vanities that leaves us free to continue onwards with a lighter load.
I personally believe that we all need initiation in some form. If you struggle with addictions I want you to know right now, that you have the raw materials you need to begin your right of passage. For thousands of years initiation has played a key part in many cultures, because it is an essential part of our development from children into adults. Unfortunately, initiation has pretty much died out in western culture now and that crying child within, the addict, longs for guidance from someone older and wiser. That someone is you!
The good news is that you don’t have to do this on your own. Whilst the initiation of recovery is its own unique journey for each of us, it is wise to get support in the form of a therapist/coach, and a good strong community that shares your vision is a must!
If you are unsure about how to get started then give me a call, or email me. I know this terrain inside out and can certainly help you get you get started, and much more beyond that. I look forward to supporting you on your journey.
*Reinventing Yourself – by Steve Chandler, is a brilliant book of insights and invitations about waking up out of victim thinking and taking ownership in life.