Addiction is not Unique
On the path to recovery, women are often faced with paradoxes. One such paradox is the fact of “unique universality” – that we are both unique and universal at the same time.
On the one hand, a woman’s addiction, as personal as it feels, is not at all unique. All addictions are essentially the same, in the sense that they create terrible heartache and follow a predictable course.
This fact of underlying similarity across all addictions is what makes connecting with a community of other recovering people so helpful, through shared experience that reduces our isolation drastically.
Because of the essential similarity of the addiction experience, we can also share tools, wisdom and experience with each other. How wonderful is that?
We Are Not Alone, Even in Our Aloneness
It’s not just our addiction. Human suffering is also universal. No matter which flavor of human struggle we experience, we are not alone with it! Our depression will be similar to another person’s depression, sharing key qualities that make depression what it is.
We are all navigating a combination of existential givens, factors, gifts and burdens, and whatever our particular troubles are, we are not alone in them.
Even if we do not know anyone in our immediate circle who has the same problem, there will be someone, somewhere, who understands from their own experience a little bit about what it is like to be us.
Even our isolation is universal, a built-in feature of every human being’s consciousness structure.
And Yet We Are Irreplaceable Individuals
In spite of all this sameness, it’s important also to understand and validate our own unique journey, whether or not it matches the experiences of another.
So we can add on to the above statements the extra context that no one in this world will have the exact same experiences that we do, because no one is identical (even identical twins are unique consciousnesses).
There will be times in our recovery lives when we feel lonely, and we perceive ourselves as apart from others, even in our home meetings and outpatient therapy groups. We may need to hold a certain point of view alone, with no one near us saying, “Oh yes, that makes sense, I agree”.
Because the truth is, we are also irreplaceable individuals, and sometimes we will be experiencing exactly what it is that makes us utterly different than any other.
Tolerating Being An Outlier
Can we tolerate what it’s like to feel alone with a particular burden or perspective? What do we do in the moment of feeling that our experience is not, in this particular moment, understood, shared or empathized with by others?
Do we self-marginalize, saying we shouldn’t feel how we feel, shouldn’t want what we want? Do we believe we shouldn’t perceive what we perceive, because no one else is? Or do we stay with our truths, even though we are alone in that point of view for now? Are we able to stay authentic or do we put on a mask to fit in?
The Pressure to Give Ourselves Up
People who see, feel, or do something different than the norm are constantly pressured to self-betray, and say that their own experiences are somehow wrong. We are urged to confess we are pathological, out of line, inappropriate. This self-rejection is a core spiritual self-harm practice and creates many wounds.
When people spurn, criticize, or distance themselves from us, it hurts. But far more painful than being pushed away by another is what happens inside us, in the secret self-talk chamber in which we give or withhold love from ourselves. If we also push ourselves away, we hurt ourselves immeasurably.
Self-Validate with a Both/And Perspective
The trick to embracing and holding ourselves while being different from the others, while still within a greater shared experience, is to take a Both/And Perspective (rather than the old Either/Or).
Next time you feel alone with something, practice saying something along these lines to yourself:
“I see what I’m experiencing and it is a real experience and it is valid. It is not a mistake, a terrible accident, or a sign of doing or being something wrong. It is here on my path for a good reason, for a higher purpose, even if no one else but me can value it right now. Even if I also don’t know how to value it, I value me, and I will not reject my experiences. I love myself and all of my experiences have worth to me.
AND…I know that just like me, all around the world, women are questioning their experiences, doubting themselves, feeling lonely in their own skins, wondering if their uniqueness is a bad thing, struggling to be authentic….may we all be freed from our burdens and feel loved as we are.”