Scaling A Mountain

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I had a dream last night where I was riding in the backseat of a car eating a hamburger when I told my mom, who was driving, that I had an idea to help people struggling against drug and alcohol addiction. She patiently asked me to describe it and I did. My brother was sitting shotgun and was also kind enough to listen as I explained. I woke up and quickly jotted down some notes to make sure I didn’t lose any points of the conversation. So I would like to thank my mom, my brother, and my unconscious for this article.

A common thread that runs through all drug addiction recovery is the feeling of failure and worthlessness that comes from losing the battle at times. Ingrained in our culture is the certainty of individual power and the feeling that each of us should be in control of our own lives. Obviously drug addiction shatters this myth because people can lose everything, including their families, friends, jobs, self-esteem, money, and health yet they continue to feel ruled by their drug or drugs of choice.

But the drug provides something that nothing else ever has, and this is the temporary relief from existential anxiety. People who become addicted to drugs and alcohol are usually dealing with a different set of circumstances including hostile and abusive conditions in childhood, feelings of worthlessness, and a genetic predisposition. Many have felt empty since they were kids and the drug provides a sense of wholeness for the first time.

For these people the battle to get clean and stay clean is like scaling a mountain whereas for much of the population it’s like riding up an escalator. We are comparing apples and oranges. If you are struggling against an addiction you don’t have to listen to all the people who think it should be easy or that you’re a failure just because they can control their drug and alcohol use and you can’t. Your situations are completely different. You can be sure they have their own mountains they are scaling. These mountains just might not be as starkly obvious as yours is right now.

This is how we use attitudinal values to turn failure and hopelessness into ultimate triumph. Never give up on yourself, even if everyone else has, because no one knows the true difficulty and struggle of your situation except for you. Even with setbacks and relapses you can take pride in the progress you have made because you’re scaling a mountain, not riding an escalator. It takes work, toughness, courage, and tenacity to get to the top. You might feel like you have no will power, when in actuality your successes show tremendous will power. Recognizing and honoring just how difficult your personal journey is will fill you with pride instead of despair and with renewed determination to get to the top.

I saw a Japanese proverb that says “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.” This has got to be your rallying cry if you are supporting someone fighting addiction of if you are fighting it yourself. It’s a good rallying cry for all of us because like I said before we are all scaling a different mountain and the only one who knows your struggle is you. You are doing yourself a huge disservice by comparing your situation to the relative ease of others who have overcome a similar challenge. Your abilities, life experiences, families, support systems, educations, and genetics are completely different.