In active addiction, we were NOT self-aware. In fact, we were the opposite of self-aware. Any time we had an introspective thought or feeling, we squashed it with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and anything else that would get us out of our heads. The whole purpose of addiction was to prevent self-awareness. We did not want to know that we were lonely, that we were depressed, that we were ashamed of who we were.
Unfortunately, when we avoid thinking about these things, we don’t do anything to fix them. We fail to learn, we fail to grow, we give up our power, and we become increasingly unhappy. And this continues until our lives unravel and we become so miserable that we’re forced to open our eyes, see reality, and make changes. This, of course, is known as hitting bottom.
Hitting bottom is a miserable experience. Utterly awful. It’s the lowest we ever want to go. It’s also a moment that we should forever celebrate because it’s the moment we become self-aware and start the process of consciously living a better life. It’s the moment when we are no longer stagnant and drowning in the cesspool of our addiction. It’s the moment when we start our transformation into the person we truly want to be.
Self-awareness (hopefully) does not mean we spend so much time looking inward that we find ourselves in a state of paralysis by analysis. Instead, we focus on our reality – the reality that we have an addiction and it’s destroying our self-esteem, relationships, and every other important aspect of our life – and we begin to think and behave based on our awareness of that reality.
To this end, we find that it’s generally helpful to pause a few times each day, especially in moments when we feel triggered toward relapse or challenged in some other way, and ask ourselves a few questions.
- What are my thoughts right now?
- What are my feelings right now?
- Why am I having these thoughts and feelings?
- What am I doing with these thoughts and feelings?
When we pause in our difficult moments and assess what’s going on, we become self-aware. Eventually, we start to see patterns in our thinking, and then we can recognize how those thinking patterns lead to the actions that make us unhappy and create problems in our lives (like engaging in active addiction). For example, we might realize: “I think my co-worker doesn’t like me. Because of that, I’m feeling as if defective, not good enough, and unlovable. I’m thinking this and feeling this because this is the message that I learned about myself when I was young. And this has triggered me to think about reengaging with my addiction as a way to numb out.”
Once we develop this type of self-awareness as part of our process of recovery and healing, we can switch from turning to our addiction as a coping mechanism to taking healthier actions, like reaching out for support from empathetic others, exercising, journaling, going to a 12-step meeting, etc. Over time, as we become self-aware and turn to healthy rather than addictive coping mechanisms, we start to see that life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% what we choose to do with that.