Many of the recovering alcoholics and drug addicts that I've known have remarked, in retrospect, that drugs and/or alcohol were convenient ways to mask their unwillingness to confront certain important and painful issues in their lives. By focusing their lives around drinking or "scoring" and using certain drugs, other real life personal and professional problems were pushed back so far in the subconscious they were forgotten. And "forgotten" problems do not vanish. They simply fester in the background and get worse, either on an apparent physical level or on a less visible, repressed, emotional level.
However, substance abuse is not the only device that some people substitute for handling difficult problems. Yes, we've all heard stories about alcoholics who drink to hide the pain of an abusive childhood or the loss of a spouse. But there are more subtle ways we avoid dealing with the truth. For example, not growing older graciously and instead going to foolish lengths to look and act like a teenager, even though we might have teenage kids ourselves. Or concentrating on trivialities, such as gossip, video games or show biz personalities at the expense of living our own lives. Or obsessing about other peoples' needs instead of focusing on our own growth. A healthy balance between our individuality and concern for others is always best; too much focus on pleasing others at the cost of self can cause frustration, burnout or clouding of identity. Excessive worry about your own emotions and needs dims your perspective on life and blocks you from fully seeing and enjoying the world around you.
Women who continually choose verbally or physically abusive partners do so because, on a concealed level, they are afraid to develop their own strength. Instead of taking a chance and making it on their own or standing up to another person's ego strength, their unfounded fear impinges on their growth. If their lives revolve around someone else, they don't have to deal with their own complex issues.
To illustrate this point, let me share something that happened to me. I came to a sudden and chilling realization, a few years ago, not surprisingly on my 40th birthday (the big 4-0 will do that to you.) During an otherwise innocuous phone conversation with my best friend, I suddenly blurted out, "Why is my life the exact opposite of what I wanted it to be?" I had always wanted to live in a quiet house in the suburbs; instead I lived in the noisy heart of a city for eight years, with no success, in and out of a codependent relationship with a man who took my money and verbally abused me, and in and out of thankless jobs with egotistical bosses; the harder I tried to make things work, the worse things got. And I had a cat when I'd always wanted a dog!
The key seemed to be, "To thine own self be true." No matter how hard you try to make something work, if it's not karmically right for you, it ain't gonna happen. The only hope for me was to wipe the slate clean and try to live in a way that was right for me. By trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, I had lost sight of my true identity and came dangerously close to losing my sanity.
When we face the truth about ourselves, our needs and not just our wants, a magic elixir does not suddenly appear we aren't gifted on the spot with the perfect job, husband or house. But, even though we still have a long way to go, we are on the road to recovery.
© 2003, All Rights Reserved
Marianne Moro is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in Manifest Way.com, Aquarius/Sign of the Times, Aribella.com and in many other publications and websites. She works part-time for a film trade magazine, and considers New Orleans her "home away from home."
Regina can be reached at: Vkjade@aol.com