In the beginning of my journey to sobriety, I felt like I needed some answers. What was it that triggered my addiction in the first place? Maybe I felt like I’d be more at peace with the train wreck I called my life if I had answers to why I made such devastating and destructive choices – over and over again. I have struggled most of my adult life with various forms of addiction. My addictions were not always in the form of an illegal or chemical substance. Sometimes they came disguised as things society would label “normal”. My addictions came in the forms of people, material possessions, and sex. I was looking for an extinguisher to put out that pain-filled, gnawing ache inside. I had a void that was akin to a burning ulcer set on fire by the flames of hell. Little did I know, in my endeavors to fill that void, I would make my bed in hell. At the time, I didn’t realize I needed a Power greater than any drug or drink to fill my void. Through much prayer and meditation, I was able to answer my questions. My struggle with addiction stemmed from a need for acceptance and a fear of rejection.
Some of things I want to share with you are not necessarily a reflection on what I deem as bad parenting. Children do not come with instructions. My parents gave me much love. I didn’t grow up in a divorced home or with addict/alcoholic parents. My parents did the best they could with raising me. But you see, I believe it was difficult for my parents to give something me that they themselves did not have in their own childhoods.
I grew up in a perfectionist, critical environment with very little positive affirmation. As hard as I tried, I always felt like I somehow missed the mark. Somehow, I had fallen short of my mom and dad’s expectations. If I brought home a B on my report card, it should’ve been an A. I allowed these things to distort my view of God, believing He was the same way – a critical perfectionist.
Throughout my childhood and teenager years, I struggled many times to find my “place”. My family moved many times up and down the East Coast of the US. I changed schools nine times before graduating high school. I developed a huge fear of rejection very early in my childhood. What if my classmates at my new school did not like me? What if I had a problem catching up with the rest of the class after changing schools in the middle of the year? What if the kids at my new school made fun of my accent? I excelled in school, in spite of these obstacles. I tried out for the cheerleading squad and was later promoted to Co-Captain. However, my academic and extra-curricular activities were frequently driven by fear. I was driven by a fear of failure as well as a fear of rejection. I built walls without realizing it. In my late teens, drugs and alcohol assisted me in turning my walls into a prison.
I was raised in a preacher’s home, always in the spotlight. My sister and I often refer to our lives as a fishbowl or glass house. Whether I wanted it or not, I often found myself as the center of attention. Most of the time, I just really wanted to be like any other kid and blend in the crowd. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be accepted by my friends, my peers, and my parents. I figured out quickly I could not please all of the people all of the time. My parents were strict, and with their rules, I found it impossible to blend in the crowd. (I now understand many of their rules were in place to protect my sister and I from things that could potentially ruin our lives.) Much of my teenager years felt like I was an actor preforming on the stage of a theater. After I graduated high school, I wanted nothing more than to escape that pressure.
Hence began my trip down the path that leads me straight into the welcoming arms of addiction. Addiction doesn’t care who you are or which private schools you attended. Addiction doesn’t care about who your parents are or where they went to college. Addiction doesn’t care about what kind of neighborhood you grew up in or what kind of car you drive. Why? Because addiction doesn’t care. Addiction created an illusion of freedom, acceptance, and a life without rules. In reality, I was in more bondage than I had ever been in my life.
I knew my parents loved me. After all, they came and picked me up from the trap house I was staying in and took me home with them until a bed came open for me in rehab. My dad called around to various facilities, searching for a place that would take me. (I had a difficult time finding a place. I actually had a nurse at a local treatment center tell me methamphetamine did not pose as a risk to my health!) My mom scrambled to get the basic necessities (shampoo, soap, hairdryer, etc.) that I would need upon arrival of my first day. My parents were the ones that were footing the bill for this entire operation. I never had a doubt in my mind that my parents loved me, but did they accept me?
If ever I thought I had a problem with acceptance, you can be sure I had an even bigger problem with it after I got into treatment. I felt vulnerable and fearful without any substance to hide behind. I was a disaster emotionally, mentally, and physically. I was alone, fifty miles away from home. Now, it was time for me to do some accepting of my own. I found myself forced to accept my situation, my life was the aftermath of a category five hurricane. I had to accept no one was going to be able to do this for me. I also had to accept the help being offered to me. In the midst of my circumstance, I accepted that I needed to surrender my will and my life over to the care of God. Yes, the same God I viewed as a critical perfectionist. Tough stuff, but what did I have to lose?
Rehab didn’t “fix” everything, but it certainly gave me the tools I needed to grow and thrive in recovery. Do I still struggle with wanting acceptance? Absolutely! I still look for positive affirmation from my parents and peers, and I still don’t like rejection. Going back to college has once again forced me to confront my acceptance and rejection issues. With the first day of fall semester classes approaching, I still have some of the same questions rolling through my mind as I did as fourth grader at a new school. Perhaps my struggle with acceptance and rejection is what I need to keep me humble and serve as a reminder to keep my recovery first.
I can now say, I have finally found acceptance. I found it in the recovery community. My Higher Power, Jesus, also accepts me for who I am and loves me anyway. My past is just a story now and realizing this has been life changing. I am no longer defined by my addiction, although addiction helped transform me into the person I am today. I am grateful for all of my experiences and what they have taught me.
I would also like to add that my father has since made amends with me about many things related to my childhood environment. We have both accepted our part and moved on. It brought both of us much healing. He is my biggest cheerleader!
My name is Candace I am a recovered addict since 6-17-14.
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