It took years of suffering, relapse, and daily surrender before the awakening of consciousness finally took hold and I lost all desire to use.
Looking back, I see with great clarity that my awakening began after reading the Deepak Chopra book, Overcoming Addiction, in 1999. There was this one paragraph that really caught my attention:
“I see the addict as a seeker, albeit a misguided one. An addict is a person in quest of pleasure, perhaps even a kind of transcendent experience—and I want to emphasize that this kind of seeking is extremely positive. The addict is looking in the wrong places, but he is going after something very important, and we cannot afford to ignore the meaning of his search. At least initially, the addict hopes to experience something wonderful, something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even an intolerable everyday reality. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in this impulse. On the contrary, it provided a foundation for true hope and real transformation.”
I could relate to this “misguided seeker” and it even allowed me to let go of some long-held shame that the 12-steps were not able to completely alleviate, for whatever reason. The 12-steps were great but they were not enough for me—I was forever relapsing. I needed to do more than just the 12-steps to save my life. I knew this “misguided seeker” idea would come full circle one day.
It was many years later that I discovered these two powerful quotes that fit perfectly with Deepak’s:
“It is never why the addiction, but why the pain.” ~ Gabor Mate
“Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.” ~ Eckhart Tolle.
Both men, whom I highly respect were saying that pain is the big player in addiction, not ourselves. Gabor Mate even went on to say that some type of trauma (pain) from early childhood is the main cause of addiction because it hinders early childhood brain development.
I wholeheartedly agreed, however, I felt like there was something missing. It was in the process of writing this book, that the answer finally surfaced, and it came from two deeper questions about the true cause of pain.
The first question was, “What does someone with an addiction believe about themselves when in pain?” You see, I always believed I was the pain—that if I was feeling any type of negative feeling I must be a bad person. Addiction and shame go hand in hand—shame causes someone to disconnect from knowing their true self.
And the second question was, “Who is the real person who is experiencing the pain?” In other words, I did not understand that there was a false me created to survive my pain and the real me was waiting to be discovered.
It was from these discoveries that the “Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction” was born.
It is my belief that the birth of all addictions is an identity crisis resulting from the pain of not knowing the reality of who we are. We have mistaken our identity with a false one and this is the cause of most of our pain and suffering.
The false identity was created to protect ourselves from some type of trauma or pain. We are escaping from the pain of not liking or even hating ourselves. We are seeking outside of ourselves to try to find something to soothe our identity crisis, and, eventually, we become completely unconscious of our dislike or hatred of ourselves.
The ego mind has high-jacked our brains and convinced us we are someone we should despise, while we cleverly hide it from everyone. This becomes our great denial and our core issues are the shame of rejection, the emotional pain of non-acceptance—not knowing who we are and feeling separate—leaving us feeling disconnected and alone in the world.
When I took an honest look back at own childhood, it became very clear how fear had high-jacked my brain and created this false self to protect my fragile emotional state. We must remember we were little children and so we did the best we could to deal with our fears. The false self was created for self-protection reasons and it is not our fault that was our defense response, however, we are now responsible for our recovery.
This mistaken identity is like a snowball rolling down a hill—it takes a life of its own. Our brains have been wired to believe we are someone we are not, and this someone we are most ashamed of. This is the chronic pain that I was running from. I was running from myself!
Recovery is truly about finding “something,” and that “something” is our true spiritual selves. It is a fearless search for “Who am I?” and it involves the letting go of our mistaken identity, which I call the “voice of addiction.” The voice saying, “I am not good enough” is the cause of most of our shame. The shame creates such an overwhelming feeling that one must seek outside themselves to soothe the constant discomfort of not accepting themselves. The substance or behaviour of choice is a temporary fix to an identity crisis.
The search for “who am I” is much like an elimination process. You discover that “I am not my pain, I am not my thoughts, I am not my feelings, I am not my beliefs, I am not my body” as a constant theme as we peel back the layers of ourselves, and we are then able to discover our connection to the Source, God, Creator, Being, or Universal Energy. When we eliminate, we then have an opportunity to become closer to the universal truth of who we are—and the more we eliminate, the more we experience the sacred “I am.”
I was willing to courageously seek the answers to the most powerful and fascinating question in the universe, “who am I?” throughout most of my recovery. It was, however, not until I was able to answer “who am I?” with heartfelt clarity that I lost all desire to use and have never looked back.
The mistaken identity model takes the focus off the parents, or anyone for the matter, and puts the responsibility for recovery where it should be—which is back on ourselves.
Deepak Chopra was correct, we are “misguided seekers,” and it’s because we do not know who we are when we seek outside ourselves for relief. Gabor Mate and Eckhart Tolle were also correct: Pain is the big player in all addictions. Then there are those who say recovery from addiction is all about bonding and connection, they too are correct.
On the wings of these great minds, the Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction would not have come forth. I thank all of them for their contribution and wisdom to such a devastating disorder. I do, however, believe mine is the most truthful reason for addiction, and the spiritual answer of “who am I?” is the solution to a deeply troubling disorder called addiction.
The following is from the introduction of my upcoming book, called Recovery is the New Cool.
Recovery is the new cool.
It’s cool to wake up clean and sober from whatever was our addiction.
It’s cool to discover that surrender is a place of great strength and power, not weakness.
It’s cool to start each day with meditation and prayer.
It’s cool to be of service for others who are still suffering like we used to suffer.
It’s cool to give away what we have been freely given.
It’s cool to discover who we really are.
It’s cool to have real friends who support challenge and grow with one another.
It’s cool to make our amends and know what are issues are.
It’s cool to be vulnerable and to connect/bond with other like-minded people with the same goal.
It’s cool to have a program of recovery that leads to a spiritual awakening.
It’s cool to not have to lie to ourselves or others or be a fake person anymore.
It’s cool to not have to run from our pain and suffering anymore.
It’s cool to surrender to a power greater than ourselves but also is part of ourselves.
It’s cool to discover that the light was in us all this time.
It’s cool to learn how to stop beating ourselves up and love ourselves unconditionally.
It’s cool to help others do the same, one person helping and serving another.
It’s cool to let go of self-centeredness and be at peace.
It’s cool to pass on what was freely given.
Author: Paul Noiles
Editor: Taia Butler
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson