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Fantasy, Reality, and the Stigma of Addiction

Most of us are well aware that fantasy and reality are not one in the same.  Fantasy, the proverbial expression of wishful thinking, is not the most grounded approach to life. And while reality is founded in truth, embracing it can be quite trying at times. After all, facing reality may prompt feelings that are difficult to emotionally metabolize.  This in turn can make fantasy quite an alluring alternative.

Somewhere Between One’s Authentic and Addictive Self…

In recovery one’s origin of thought is separated into two possibilities. One is known as the authentic self, while the other is termed the addictive self. This provides a way to distinguish if someone’s thinking is clear or muddled. In certain scenarios people may be asked to investigate whether it is them talking or their addiction talking. The reason for this is that it gives people a new perspective, one where reality is front and center. One where fantasy is not leading them back into an abysmal life.

To put this into context we can use the simple sentence of “It is not that big of a deal if I just have one drink.”  If this is coming from the lips of someone who cannot stop after one drink, it is the addictive self talking. It is based in fantasy. Reality would say, “I know I cannot stop after one drink, and so I cannot start.  The outcome is just not worth it.”  By being able to see where the thoughts are coming from, one has the chance to choose what will ultimately serve the highest good.

The ability to distinguish the addictive self from the authentic self paves the way for a brighter future so long as it is utilized properly. The shadow side of this process is that people can get stuck self-identifying as someone with faulty wiring. There is a huge difference between being aware of our tendencies and using them to lower our self-esteem.

Eroding the Stigma of Addiction

I believe we are overdue for an upgrade in how we speak about addiction. People who suffer from addiction are often stereotyped, and the most damaging is when it comes from within themselves.  This is precisely why I chose to write about fantasy thinking versus reality thinking. This choice in language can be applied to all human beings, not just people who suffer from addiction. I choose not to call anyone an addict, but instead acknowledge that people have addictive tendencies and may have lost themselves completely to them. Of course this is my personal preference, which doesn’t make it right. However, I feel it is something worth considering to see how it feels for you.

The reality is that we all have thought processes that try to keep us from facing reality at times in our lives. And the more we can see the common ground that we all share, the closer to reality we will all be.  For example, if someone who has no addiction issues is going through a hard time in a relationship, he or she may find themselves vacillating between reality and fantasy as well. There may be a difficult time accepting their partner’s behavior.  The inclination to romanticize the small gestures and omit the red flags is a common practice. This is just another way that people can unconsciously choose fantasy over reality, and it is no different than that of an addict.  We all have these tendencies, they just show up differently from one person to another.

I invite us all to look for how we are alike rather than different. I invite us to consider the language we are using and whether or not it helps people or hurts people. The truth is there is not one right way and every person has the right to choose what feels more liberating. I realize there is a power in identifying as an addict. It gives people the chance to be honest and to be crystal clear about their tendencies. If this is working for you, great. But if it is not, consider what it would be like to stop labeling yourself. What I would be mindful of however, is that this is not an opportunity to go back to fantasy thinking. Simply by choosing to say that you have addiction issues, is not an excuse to pretend that it is not serious or that the rules of staying sober no longer apply to you.

Deep Dive Into Our Real and Imagined Selves

Fantasy tells us many things in life and it can be our ally or it can serve us by showing where we are not in touch with the truth. Reality is powerful, it is honest, and it is raw. Reality is not easy at times, but it is fiercely liberating. This is because without it we can stay in cycles of illusion that keep us from making changes. Changes that could bring us into deeper resonance with ourselves and others.

If you are interested in diving deeper into where your thoughts are coming from, I invited you to consider whether or not you are trying to cover up something, justify, or run away from reality. A great place to start is by answering the question, “If I knew this would not be a problem and I would not suffer as a result of admitting it, what is true here?” One thing I have asked a lot of my clients over the years is, “What do you know is true?” The reason I ask this is because they felt confused a lot due to conflicting feelings. By starting to identify the things they were able to see as true, clarity would slowly start to arise. And through clarity of thought, we are truly able to move in a new direction.

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