STEP 2 YOU FEEL

This, my friend, is the hard part.  No, you still don’t have to stop using your substance or engaging in the additive behavior (whatever it is).  That will come eventually but for now it’s not time yet to focus on the actual changing of behavior.  I’m here to share a big secret with you.  Your addiction, substance abuse or behavior is really not the actual problem.  Sure, it’s causing a problem, but it’s not THE problem.  The problem is whatever the behavior or addiction is helping you cope with or avoid. Your addiction, substance abuse or behavior is a coping strategy that’s helping you deal with something or avoid something that is pretty awful in your own mind or body.  Without even thinking about it, as soon as certain feelings, thoughts, memories or believes are triggered we instantly turn to our addictive coping skill or maladaptive strategy.  That thing we are coping with through avoidance or numbing is unpleasant.  We don’t want to face it, think about it, feel it or even know what it is.  That’s what’s driving our addictive or maladaptive behavior.  So, again, step 2 is not about changing anything.  It’s about knowing what it is, looking it in the face and saying “I see you standing there, I feel you sitting in my heart, I hear you whispering in my ear and I know you are there”.  That’s it.  It’s that simple.  I said simple–not easy.  The good news is that whatever it is that’s driving our substance use or addictive use of “whatever” is from the past.  It’s over.  It’s gone.  Usually the remembrance of it, the triggered feelings and the lingering effects are not as bad as what we experienced when it was a reality.  If I am avoiding grief, I have already lived through the loss.  If I was abused, I already survived the abuse.  If I have experienced trauma, it didn’t kill me.  I made it through the real thing so the left over feelings, memories, fears and believes are not real and cannot harm me (although they do trick me into harming myself).  They feel real and they scare me but that’s just a deception.  That’s from the past.  The present is not like the past.  The past is over.  I really can handle it because I already did.  So, for step two pay attention to what it might be you are avoiding or what might be triggering your use of substances or your behavior.   Pay attention to your body, your thoughts, your feelings as soon as you realize you are doing it again.  It might be before, during or after.  Most of the time it’s one single feeling that is driving the whole process.  If it’s a memory then recognize it.  If it’s a feeling then recognize it.  Common triggers include grief, helplessness, abandonment, rejection, fear, guilt, shame, loneliness, bad memories and feeling worthless.  Again, I’m not telling you to stop using your coping skill.  I’m suggesting you pay attention and see what you are avoiding or coping with in this manner.  Take as long as you need.  Acknowledge it and look it in the face.  If I binge eat every time I think about a specific betrayal I experienced or the guilt associated with others suffering for my bad choices, and I know that’s where it is coming from, then I have successfully navigated step 2.  I can stay in step 2 as long as I want or I can go back to step one for a rest.  Once you’ve identified the possible underlying issue then test the theory.  Each time you crave or indulge in your addictive process ask yourself if that feeling, memory, thought, believe or situation is the driving force.  There are various techniques out there to help you find out what it is you are avoiding when you use substances or engage in addictive behaviors.  The answer though lies in your own mind and body.  With a decision to discover the truth and a willingness to know the truth, no matter how bad it is, you will reveal the answer to yourself. Step two is about really wanting to know the truth and being willing to know the truth–no matter what.  It’s about saying and believing “I want to know the truth even if it hurts”.  Seek professional help as needed.  October 2016

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