The way out of an addiction is to first find out what pain is being medicated by the substance or experience of choice, and then to use the tools of Radical Forgiveness to release the pain.
It really is that simple.
During dinner with a few people one evening, I happened to overhear a conversation in which a guy was saying he had been 14 years sober, once he realized he was using alcohol to medicate the pain of having been sexually abused as a baby by his mother.
But then I heard him say, “But you know, I will never be free of my addiction until I know why she did it.”
So I piped up and said, “Then you are screwed, aren’t you?”
“How so?” he asked quizzically.
“You’re screwed because you are making your healing contingent upon getting an answer to an unanswerable question. No one knows why. And, ‘Why?’ is a victim’s question, anyway.”
“Oh. So what do you suggest?” he asked in a sarcastic tone.
“Hang out in a different question,” I replied. “Like, ‘I wonder what the gift might have been in having had my mother do that to me?’
“It’s an equally unanswerable question, but a much better question to hang out in than the other one. This one will free you from your addiction, whereas the other dis-empowers you and keeps you tied to your addiction.”
He didn’t like it, but the next day I got a phone call from him. “I have been up all night thinking about what you said, and I get it. You have saved my life. Thank you.
I truly believe the 12 step approach is the best we have at this time and remains a divinely inspired program. However, as this story shows, Radical Forgiveness takes it one giant leap further and offers a less shame-based way out of the addiction.
All addictions are created out of a need to medicate emotional pain so as not to feel it. The guy in the story got further than most. The majority of addicts get stuck at Step 4, which is where they are asked to take a moral inventory of all their defects. (The very term ‘defects’ is shaming.)
For most it is just too painful to bring all that deeply repressed shame to the surface. So they duck the process and become addicted to meetings instead and often remain dry drunks.
If, at stage 4, they would use both Radical Forgiveness and Radical Self-Forgiveness to process the events, it would make a huge difference to their healing.
They could then look back at their lives and come to terms with what has happened to them by recognizing there was a spiritual purpose in everything that happened.
They would then be able to free themselves from shame and blame and be able to continue with the remaining steps.
It would also be of great assistance to those who get to Step 9. This step requires they make amends to people they have harmed.
Doing some Radical Self-Forgiveness and Self-Acceptance beforehand would give it greater meaning and more authenticity.
That’s because they would be doing it, not out of a sense of obligation, but with a different consciousness – more from their heart, with a great deal of love and gratitude for the person they are apologizing to.
They would also be doing it with a different mind-set. While accepting full responsibility for what happened, they would come from a place of knowing that some higher purpose was being served.
That said, I am actually quite skeptical about the advisability of doing an amends for long-ago hurts, and the bigger the harm done, the more skeptical I am. It can re-traumatize the victim and open old wounds. All too often it comes over as dumping, benefiting only the person doing the amends.
If one does the Radical Self-Forgiveness process on oneself first, and then, in solitude, goes into the heart and asks for forgiveness from the other person and from oneself, that is much more effective than doing the amends as “a process.”
It leaves the other person out of it completely, has no potential to re-injure the victim, and will have a much more profound effect for both of you. Moreover, it can be done many times over as a meditation until such time as it feels complete.
What I have seen, ironically, is that the person to whom the amends would otherwise have been directed will feel the shift in energy. Often the person offers their forgiveness quite spontaneously and without prompting.
It is amazing how this happens, and is far more healing for the victim (and for you) if they come to a place of forgiveness on their own.
If you are in a 12 Step Recovery program, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the process of Radical Forgiveness and Radical Self-Forgiveness. Many of these tools are available in Colin’s Cafe.
Discuss it with your sponsor so he or she knows what you are doing and is in alignment with it.
Click the arrow above to hear Colin read the first two minutes of the Chapter “Overcome Your Addiction with RF as the Next Step” from his audio book, 25 Practical Uses for Radical Forgiveness.