The word “addict” or “addiction” conjures up images for almost everyone. A person would have to search far to find someone that had lived life unaffected by addiction either directly or indirectly. Most people know an addict. Many of us are, or have been, addicts. Those of us that have been there never thought we would be. Most of us are still bewildered over how it happened and enormously frustrated in our attempts to remedy our situations. No one ever sets out to be an addict. Some happen upon it accidentally, others mistakenly through immature or poor decisions early on. However it happened, it is certain that the havoc wrought by addiction was not and is not the intent of the person ensnared by this deadly malady.
Some believe addiction is a disease, while some argue vehemently against the disease model. Either way, it is clear that most of society persists in believing that addiction is a matter of moral choice or some other personal weakness. Whatever the case, it is pretty safe to say that addiction itself is, and addicts themselves are, enshrouded in bondage, shame, guilt, secrecy, shadows, and darkness. Society’s response has been to just get rid of addicts and those associated with them. We put them in cages through repeated incarceration and marginalize them so they are as far away as possible from the rest of us who have been spared addiction and who can’t understand why they don’t just stop.
In the cacophony of voices shouting the best responses and solutions to the problem, it’s hard to know what is best. Statistics mean little because none of us are statistics; all of us are individuals with unique characteristics. Every single one of us agreed to come to earth to accomplish different missions. We all agreed that we would take on a mortal existence, knowing that it would be difficult. Each of us made an individual choice to accept a plan proposed by the Author of all Light, the Father of us all. In doing so, we kept our first estate and became Beings of Light.
As Beings of Light, we are spiritually inclined toward light even though we are in a mortal sphere that often feels ominous and very dark. No doubt there are sinister forces here that would dissuade us from remembering the truth of who we really are; who we authentically already became. Yet, there is a very real attraction to sources of light that seems to be innate in virtually all of us. It comes through in nearly every realm of our existence. It is all around us!
Think of it this way: since you were very, very young—probably before you could walk or talk—you knew that when you entered a dark room and wanted to find your way or see into the room, there was a particularly effective response. You knew that it would do no good to grope around in the dark and examine all the nuances of the dark or bemoan the causes of the dark. You knew that the appropriate and most practical response to the dark was to turn on the light! Conversely, when it was time to sleep, or you wanted to watch TV, or something that required less light, you didn’t turn on the dark. That’s preposterous and absurd! Yet think of the implications of this everyday, mundane reality. It’s so simple, yet so very profound!
In the most basic terms, here it is: Light makes dark go away; light rules dark; light governs dark; light has the power to eliminate and illuminate dark. Dark cannot make light go away! Dark, it turns out, is the absence of light, after all.
Now, let’s allow that we can equate addictions of all kinds—drugs, alcohol, sexual, behavioral, process addictions—with darkness, and that’s certainly not a stretch for anyone’s imagination who is familiar with addiction. Let’s include the behaviors that are associated with addictions. That would mean the lying, deception, stealing, abandonment, and so very much more. Addiction is dark. Addiction is painful. Addiction is terrifying. Addiction is deadly. The dark is palpable; you can feel it. It can be gut wrenching and soul rending. It is tempting to think there is no light. But, there is. It’s there. St. Francis of Assisi noted, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” I’ve frequently experienced individuals that seemed so irretrievably lost in the dark, veritably dis-cover, or take the covers off of their light, and then shine that light for others to do the same.
Part of what is often so painful for family members and loved ones of addicts and, indeed, part of what is so painful for the addicts themselves is to look back at what used to be good. So often loved ones are heard saying they just want the particular family member or friend back; they want what used to be. They may even refer to missing the light that used to be in their eyes.
Albert Schweitzer said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Those who are in position to help may be members of an extended family. They may be professionals in a residential or outpatient treatment center. But whoever has the privilege of helping another in need will be most effective by being light to the other and helping the other find their light. When they discover their light, and amplify that light, they are then able to illuminate and eliminate their darkness. Desiderius Erasmus, a Christian theologian born in the 15th century, knew this when he said, “Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.”
I watch this happen every day as I am allowed to learn and walk with addicts. I feel my light grow as they dis-cover their own. I honor the courage and the heart of addicts as they do what we all do: try to find the light and live in it!
Davee Chandler, LCSW
Mountain Peak Recovery