We're All Human
A major part of recovery is honesty. The people who always had the biggest impacts on me were those who were transparent and honest about their human experiences, even the difficult ones. Last week, I learned a difficult lesson. The person who I have a codependency problem to is my cousin, who suffers from substance use disorder and possibly a personality disorder. For the past 8 months, I have been really good about staying away from anything to do with him (e.g. his social media accounts, his family's and girlfriend's social media accounts, where he and the people he is associated with live, etc.) and focusing on my own healing and spiritual growth. A little over a week ago, I received intel that he was not living with his mother, who lives an hour away from me. That stirred up questions in my mind. I figured that if he is not living with his mother he must be either living in a sober living home (unlikely possibility because I found out 8 months ago he was either using again or had the same behaviors of a using addict) or with his unhealthy girlfriend who lives in my town (the more likely possibility). Against my better judgment, I typed his name into White Pages, and sure enough, he was living with his unhealthy girlfriend in my town just under 10 minutes away from me. I was angry and a number of scenarios were racing through my head such as running into him in the grocery store. That led to me looking into some more intel that I was not supposed to and was not healthy for me. Thankfully, I used the tools I learned in counseling (eg. writing an anger letter to him in my negative notebook and writing what I can learn from my lapse in my positive notebook )and saw my therapist that week and she helped get back on track. The compulsion was tough to resist for the first few days, but I have dealt with it through exercise, music, and working. It has been five days since I put an end to my lapse, and the compulsion is almost gone. The Universe helped me over the weekend by having two good quotes pop up on my Facebook Page (see photos above). Even though I am a blogger and writer on codependency, adult children of alcoholic issues, and recovery; attend self-help meetings fervently; and will be co-starting my own Codependents' Anonymous Meeting next week, I am still human and a codependent/adult child of an alcoholic who struggles just like you. Some days are harder to stay straight than others. The key is learning tools to deal with it.
Lapse Vs. Relapse
I was first introduced to the concept "Lapse vs. Relapse" in a SMART Recovery meeting, which is a 12-Step-Alternative that is based on evidence-based science. I learned that a lapse is straying off the path a little bit (e.g. breaking abstinence from a substance once or twice), as opposed to a relapse where you complete go off the path by going back to your old way of living. I experienced a lapse because I did not completely go back to my old way of living; I simply gave into some of my old codependent behaviors for a few days. If I had completely relapsed, I would completely engaged in all of my old codependent behaviors and at the same frequency, made a series of unhealthy decisions (e.g. dropping out of therapy, not putting effort into my schoolwork, etc.) , and would not have stopped until I hit another really bad bottom (e.g. deep depression, not doing well in school, etc.) A friend of my who is in codependency recovery and my therapist assured me that I did not lose my "sober time." My therapist told me that it was more about the tools I have learned and the progress I have made over time of perfect abstinence. The reality is that a behavioral addiction such as codependency has a harder to define line because it not a matter of whether or not you are using a substance. From my experience, codependency recovery is about not associating with your problem person (s) as much as possible, handling all of your other relationships better by not trying to fix or control other people, and working on your self. My friend told me he tough that codependency recovery was about not giving into unhealthy people and demands, working on yourself, and -most importantly- not letting others drag you down.
Learning and Growing from It
The Truth About Spirituality-What Is Spirituality?
Rest assured this blog is not about religion. When many people hear the word "spirituality," they cringe. I know I did when my counselor first introduced the idea to me. The reason "spirituality" is a scary word for many people is because spirituality has often been misconstrued to people (as it was to me) to be interchangeable with religion. Spirituality was never supposed to be about any type of religion, including religions or churches that claim to be "not religious," "a relationship," "non-denominational (fill in the blank with one of the world religions," etc. The word "Spiritual" originates from Latin and Greek words that mean "to have an awakening to self." Spirituality means to get in touch with your own personal spirit. In simple terms, spirituality is to know who are as a person. Spirituality is actually interchangeable with the terms "self-esteem" and "sense of self." You do not need to be a member of a specific religion to be spiritual. Having a strong sense of who you are and being willing to walk to the journey of life to learn more abut yourself along the way is all you need to be spiritual.
Spirituality is all about questions that concern you and your life's journey. Some of many spiritual questions are :
Spirituality Is Beneficial to Recovery
Addiction stems from a lack of sense of self, low self-esteem, or being spiritually dead (whichever term you prefer to use). The two main root causes of addiction are low self-esteem (the spiritual component) and childhood trauma. Since people who struggle with any type of addiction lack a sense of self, developing spirituality by getting to know one's self and learning to answer some of the spiritual questions, will help the recovery process. Spirituality can also help you heal from childhood trauma. For example, if you experienced childhood trauma, seeking to answer the spiritual question "What was the reason for my suffering?" and "What is my purpose in life?" and to find that the reason for your suffering was for you to break the chains of abuse/dysfunction in your family through learning better tools and raising your children better can help you heal from that.
I have experienced this effect in my codependency recovery. Eight months ago, I had no idea who I was. When my counselor would ask me basic questions such as "How would you describe yourself?" and "What do you like to do?," I would maybe say one or two cliché things and not be able to answer any more. Today, I can answer those questions a lot more specific, in-depth, and honestly. I feel like I know myself better know, and I am surprised to say I actually like and accept who that person is, something that I did not think would be possible months ago. One spiritual thing that I learned in recovery is that I love the Universal Truths that can be found in literature, art, science, nature, philosophy, great world leaders such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, all the different 4,200 world religions, etc. The Higher Power of My Understanding is the Universe. This past month, I actually started going to a spiritual center (definitely not a church) that hosts non-denominational celebration services on Sundays where we sing all different types of songs that celebrate individual spirituality and have motivational talks that use Universal Truths from The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes and other sources to get in touch with the Divine Power within us. From knowing and loving myself, I have less of a need to escape in my addiction. I know now that I can only find happiness within myself and being at peace with myself.
Addiction professionals agree that addiction is a multi-faceted disease that is physiological, psychological, psychosocial (concerning relationships with others), and spiritual. Addressing the spiritual component is winning 1/3 of the battle. Addiction often stems from wanting to run and escape from one's self. When a person becomes spiritual by embracing one's self, they feel less of a need to run and escape. The reality is you can run, but you cannot hide. The wonderful minister at my spiritual center said today that "The common denominator of al your life events is you. You were there. You could not go anywhere" therefore we must see every experience "as an opportunity to grow.
Why are Spirituality and Religion Often Connected?
By now, you may be wondering "If spirituality is all about knowing and finding myself and nothing to do with religion," why are the two terms "spirituality" and "religion" so connected and even used interchangeably at times? Spirituality and religion are connected because they answer some of the same spiritual questions and include the same Universal Truths about our interconnectedness as humans; therefore, it is a part of some people's spiritual journey. For example, a Christian may believe that the reason for being abused by their parent was for them to want to turn to Jesus as the father/parent they never had, and his or her moral compass may be in line with the Christian Church's moral compass. Another example is a Catholic may find peace in the quiet environment of the Catholic Church and feel connected with the Higher Power when receiving communion. Buddhists phrase the Universal Truth of the Golden Rule as "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself," and Christians phrase it as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It both means "Treat others the way you would like to be treated." "My counselor said during his lecture about Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, "Personal spirit comes first. Religion is just how some express it." A friend of mine said, "Some people can get in touch with their personal spirituality within a religion." For some people, the concept of the Higher Power that stems from a particular religion may be what truly resonates with them as the Higher Power of their Understanding.
What is the Actual Difference Between "Spirituality" and "Religion"?
Spirituality has to do with your personal self and the journey you are on in this life. Religion has to do with belief in an outside deity and a practice of a set of rules and traditions set by an organizational body such as a church or synagogue. Here is a chart that includes the generally agreed on differences between the two:
Many Paths to Spirituality
There are many paths to spirituality. Some people were fortunate enough to always have a strong sense of self; some people find it through simply living life; some people find it in a religion; some people find it through healing in counseling; some people may find it through practicing a talent of theirs such as art or music; and some people may find it through sitting in nature. But the bottom line is it is all about having a sense of self. Part of that is finding the path that works for you. Even though we humans have many differences such as different appearances, cultural backgrounds, religions, etc., we are all interconnected when it comes down to it. An article I read on the Huffington Post says, true spiritual people are kind. I think the reason for that is they have enough unconditional love, acceptance, and respect for themselves that they can give that to others, including those who are different from them. Just be kind to those who have a different path than yours. Though it may look different, the journey is all the same.
Bria Riley is a published author, recovering codependent and adult child of an alcoholic, who is active in several recovery programs. She knows the turmoil and heartbreak of growing up in an addiction-stricken family and wants to help others who have also been affected by addiction through her writing.