Listening to the Disease of Addiction

Folks in recovery from addiction sometimes personify their disease. We make reference to what it tells us and describe how it wants us to see things or act upon them. It’s useful to conceptualize addiction this way because while the disease remains within us, it is not a part of the person we are becoming.

The disease is always seeking an angle. It wants to regain control of us and is happy to take it inch by inch. We are therefore vigilant not only against it’s seductive invitations to relapse, but to anything it suggests.

The closest comparison I can make for those who haven’t experienced addiction is that it’s like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The struggle for most of us is that the devil is loud and the angel seems to only whisper. The truth is it’s more a matter of familiarity and enticement than volume.

If the disease had an actual voice, it would sound like either Marilyn Monroe or Morgan Freeman. Beautiful voices breathing false promises into our ears. I’m hoping the more I listen to my Higher Power and remain surrounded by people in recovery, that eventually the devil on my shoulder will sound more like Gilbert Gottfried.

The more time we spend alone, the more readily we believe the lies. Our disease preys on our insecurities and isolation. We must remain amongst those who both build us up and speak their truth without concern for whether or not we’ll be comfortable hearing it. (Praise and recognition are rarely comfortable for us).

We must not be passive when the disease seeks to fuel our struggles. Instead of trying to ignore the voice, answer it. Speak the lies aloud (even if only to yourself). Then refute that shit with the truth. “Sure, you’ll make me feel good for a few hours… and I’ll regret it for much longer. Not today, asshole.”

Pull up Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In the Name Of on YouTube. Zach de la Rocha singing/screaming “f@ck you I won’t do what you tell me” embodies it perfectly.

Most of the losing battles we fight exist only within our minds. Things that almost make sense in our heads magically transform to crazy shit when we speak them out loud. The more we bring our struggles out into the open and let people help us, the more amenable they (and we) are to change.

Our disease wants nothing good for us, only suffering and death. It is not enough that we survive addiction. We must also thrive. We do this most readily by connecting to kindred spirits. They not only understand us, they identify and relate to us. There’s very little “I” in recovery. The good stuff is always “We.”

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.