The non-addict does not understand why an addict continues to hurt himself. A “normal” person sees an alcoholic woman racked by smokers’ cough; her teeth are yellow, her fingers stained with nicotine, she stinks of booze, sounds like death warmed over, and is under medical supervision for a range of potentially fatal illnesses.
The “normal” person scratches her head, puzzled — why the hell is this woman doing this to herself? Why can’t she just stop this nonsense right now? Why indeed! The bitter truth is that the urge to self-destruct is built into addiction, and only the fellow addict discerns this — which is why the Twelve Step Program — designed by addicts and alcoholics to help addicts and alcoholics stay sober — has such an astounding track record.
Built into this dis-ease of self-destruction is shame — a sickening emotion that continues to fuel the addiction. The genius of the Twelve Step tradition lies in defusing this shame by encouraging addicts to speak openly about their demons. “We are only as sick as we are secret,” is one 12-step motto, and in the cozy anonymity of thousands of church basements and other meeting spaces all over the globe, addicts and alcoholics are encouraged to spill their deepest darkest secrets, knowing full well that they are not alone, and that they have the support of millions who famously “love them until they can learn to love themselves.” Continue reading