If you have accepted you have an addiction, which is the most fundamental step of all in recovery and the first step on the road back to real living, you might be tempted to ask this age-old question, why me?
Many addicts are obsessed with this question. Why did I fall victim to addiction when others did not? Drinkers who have no problem with having a few drinks then calling it a night, people who can shop up to a budget and then see no need to buy extra clothes or treat for themselves, or someone who can place one bet a year and pay no more attention to gambling, these people perplex us.
As a drinking alcoholic the worst kind of company I could probably have had the drinker who simply wanted one quick beer, once I had a drink a powerful craving bigger inside and I wanted more, I could not understand anyone who was content to go home after one.
Obviously though, most people are like this, most ordinary men and women live lives where they are not dominated by a substance or behavior that governs their lives. We look at these people often with a strange mixture of envy and attempted, addicted thinking is rarely coherent.
So how did they get lucky and avoid this? Well the answer is that no one really knows. Some evidence points towards the fact that addiction is inherited, some evidence suggests it is related to childhood experiences, the most recent research claims it might be a product of a higher than average intelligence (I obviously found myself essentially endorsing that one).
My guess is this: it is a way of avoiding fundamental truths that the ego, our inner spoiled child would rather we do not face. I think addiction has several component parts, the first being physical addiction (which, with some discomfort, is usually easiest to break).
Because physical addiction, the constant desperate craving for the drug or behavior, which manifests itself in heart palpitations, sweats, anxiety and other forms, is so immediately relevant to the addict, the assumption is that there are no other component parts of the addiction.
This is a big mistake, it is one that sees addicts stuck in a cycle of temporary recovery and relapse. The addict assumes that 'if I stop taking this drug long enough, my body will stop wanting it, and I will not crave it any more, case solved.' Addiction is never defeated this way because there is a second part of the illness that also plays a part, mental obsession.
Addicts can not stop thinking about their drug or their behavior, they obsess about getting out of work early so they can get stuck into drinking, drug taking or gambling. Their best intentions (will power) actually collapses under the weight of this obsession, which is far more deadly than a physical craving.
This obsession is allied to a third part of the illness, an internal malaise that I will call the spiritual illness. Indeed, this spiritual illness is the behavior of the ego. The ego will fight to the end to stop you from getting well, it has become part of the illness and is dedicated to defending the addiction.
Have you ever said these words 'it's ok, I'm alright now?' Egypt 'actually, compared to others, I can hold my drinking together pretty well.' These are the justifications of the ego that keep you drinking and utterly deluded about the real nature of your illness.
When you start to get well you will instinctively want to know where all these aspects of your illness come from, and want to know how this has happened, but be wary of these questions. There are few, if any, concrete answers.
The action that will guide you to recovery far more effectively is simple acceptance. Saying: "I do not know why I am an addict, but I know that I am," is one of the most important steps you will ever take. Giving up you ego's 'right to know', and accepting that there are some things we may never know, allows us to have humility.
It also stops us from chasing our tails when there are far bigger matters to address. I am not suggesting that we should not exam the past, that is an essential part of recovery, but there is a way to do this that will heal and help us, not drive us half mad with impossible questions.
I will address this in my next article