Addiction is a disease of perception. It occurs in the mind, although there are physical signs and symptoms. An active alcoholic or addict, on some mental level, begins each day with the supposition that getting high will be a part of it. Then, over the course of the day, a twisted logic pattern brings him or her to the only logical conclusion to drink or drug again. Self talk would be, “if you had a spouse like mine, you’d drink, too” or “there’s so much stress in my life that I have to do this to stay sane.” The getaway, the escape, and instant relief called, “blue sky” beckons. I am entitled.
On a personal level, I was stealing drugs from a locked cabinet in the same building as my dental practice. I had bought a big sport fishing boat in the 80’s and on a whim, tried the key that opened the boat interior on the drug cabinet lock. That key opened the drug locker, too, with a little jiggling. I considered that as a sign from God that I was entitled to continue stealing drugs in this fashion. My DEA registration was also a ticket, which entitled me to access drugs. Migraine headaches, kidney stones, these were other notches in my belt of entitlement.
My narcotic use escalated for over a decade. I began using at work, to prevent withdrawal symptoms. I hid it well. My staff, my friends, even my wife and family had no clue that I was stealing drugs and using them all the time. My tirades of anger, moping around the house with a long face and passive aggressive manipulations probably taught those around me to back off and leave me alone when I wanted, so I could escape with drugs. I taught them to enable me, though I didn’t even know it at the time.
But enabled? Me? No way. I would tell you I could quit any time I wanted to. I just didn’t want to….until I got arrested. The NCCDP stepped in and got me the help I needed, and I found that I also wanted the help. What a gift it was to actually want to get clean and sober! Those of you in the program know what a life-saving surrender that can be.
But enabled? Me? YES! I was enabling myself by practicing entitlement. I enabled myself by remaining in denial, through the practices of rationalization, justification, minimizing, blaming and by remaining in self-pity and the victim role.
They say recovery brings on an entire psychic change, a sudden rearrangement of ideals and motives which amounts to a spiritual experience or awakening. With the eyes of recovery, I can now see the traps I used to fall into (or was it jump into?) much more clearly. Life is not perfect, but when I have stresses, I use the program instead of running away.
I think Enabling and Entitlement are two sides of the same coin. They both allow us to remain in denial about our addiction.
A Grateful Recovering Dentist