Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ask Parvati 27: Addiction - Part 4: Getting Help


(Continued from Hitting Bottom)

In the case of people who have not yet hit bottom, such as Amy Winehouse, it is very hard to help them at all. An example of resistance to admitting you have a problem are her famous lyrics, “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no’”. Sadly, she did not hit her personal bottom before she died.

This is tragically the case with many addicts. The disease that is about consumption, insatiable wanting, consumes its host. It does not have to be that way. Step one in an addiction recovery program is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. It takes humility to get to step one, because the addict must come to see that the choices her or she is making are in fact not working. No one wants to admit that their life is a mess. Whether you are an addict or not, you need to admit things are not working as they are if you are going to make changes.

For some, bottom can be very ugly. It can involve losing absolutely everything, loved ones, friends, family, possessions, career, and reputation. For some, it involves even losing your life. But if you come close to the edge and wake up to see that you do not want to go any further, you are lucky. You have hit your bottom. For some, that bottom is a near-death experience. For others, it is the reality of losing what they love.

Only when the addict has hit their personal bottom, which is different for everyone, will that person be willing to get the professional help they need for a serious, potentially life-threatening illness. Addicts need professional help.

Deep wounds, fear, rage and shame are at the root of addiction. These shadow emotions when unmet become the feeding ground for addiction. There needs to be a willingness to embrace the darker side of ourselves so that our shadow does not run wild in addiction. Everyone has painful emotions. Everyone can experience fear, rage and shame. The addict must find the courage and humility to open to these painful parts within their shadow so that those places no longer fuel their addict behavior. Looking into these painful places usually requires the support of professionals who are used to supporting addiction recovery.

If you are an addict, the 12 step programs are very powerful and effective. I have seen many, many people benefit from them. But they only work if you are willing to go and do the work to heal and change. There is a saying in the program, “It works if you work it. So work it! You’re worth it!”

You may feel tremendous resistance to going to getting help and to going to your first meeting. That is normal. But just like with any growth edge, we must face our fear and walk through it. If you know someone in the program, call him or her up and ask if you can go together. If you have a friend who would be willing to go, ask him or her to join you. Or simply go. This would be the best thing you would have done for yourself so far.

When there, you may have thoughts like, “I don’t belong here. This is not me. Look at all these losers!” Tell yourself that this is your addict speaking. There is a part of you that has fed on your shadow for likely years. It wants to still feed. But your sober self knows better. You want to make different choices. You want to empower a different part of you now.

You must find the inner strength to no longer feed that part of your psyche. You know that allowing your addict to rule your life does not work. You can hear the voice that doubts and ridicules your healthy choices, but you must give it no energy. Keep going, move towards sobriety and health. There will be ups and downs. But this will be the most important journey you have ever made in your life. At the 12 step programs, you will meet some of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. Those people are a reflection of you.

If you are the child of an addict, I would suggest you to go to an Al-Anon meeting or a support group to help you find the freedom from the pain you likely experienced growing up. You need the support just as much as the addict does. Being around an addict, especially as a child, we tend to internalize the pain they feel and take it on. This also needs professional support. Get the help you need.


1) Ask yourself, do you need to do any therapy? Could you use more emotional support to help you transition through different aspects of your life?

2) Do you need to go to Al-Anon? If you are a child of an addict, the answer is, yes!

3) Do you need to go to a 12-step meeting? If your life has become unmanageable due to addiction, the answer is, yes!

REMINDER:Don’t forget that tomorrow (Thursday) is the last day for submissions for this week’s Ask Parvati blog. Send your questions to

(Continued tomorrow with Helping Versus Enabling)


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