Lindsay Lohan is back to jail, back to rehab, back to square one. I imagine that having one’s sobriety as a focus of national concern would complicate the already complex problem of kicking substances. Especially at age 24. I hope the best for Miss Lohan (and Paris Hilton, for that matter) and believe that the best for both of these ladies will include abstinence from drugs and alcohol. I don’t know how they will get there, that is not my job. Recovery is a deeply personal process and there are many paths to sobriety. These highly public figures who struggle serve the function of bringing these issues into the public conversation. We all have an opinion….
I look at most issues through the lens of relationship. Addiction is no exception. For the moment, I will leave the genetic aspects of alcoholism/addiction aside and focus instead on the relational ones.
Addiction is a disease of isolation from self and others. It also relates to having a problem regulating emotions. People turn to drugs and alcohol because experiences with others have proven to be unreliable, disappointing, and unpredictable. The drugs and booze are at least predictable. Furthermore, addicts/alcoholics don’t really trust themselves to handle life without the substance. They are alienated from themselves.
A big part of recovery is learning how to relate to people effectively, how to find balance between negotiating healthy intimacy and being reasonably autonomous. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Moderation is so delicate, isn’t it?
So why is it so hard? Not to beat up on Lindsay and Paris again, but girls, enough already! Aren’t you sufficiently motivated? Aren’t the consequences of your actions evidence that you have a problem? Just do it…. It is so easy to lose patience with the addicts in our lives.
Building a meaningful recovery means coming to terms with very unruly parts of the self. It is a sobering process. No pun intended.
Giving up the drugs and booze means giving up one’s self-centeredness and becoming willing to turn to other people and humbly ask for help. It means risking rejection. It means being disappointed when people are just human, when they have their own needs. Recovery means feeling vulnerable. It means longing and needing and wanting. It means giving up grandiosity and the belief that one is above the rules. It means getting honest. And it means learning how to rely on others in healthy ways. It means building healthy, nourishing, wholesome relationships.
I have a little cartoon that has a doctor talking to his patient saying “take two friends and call me in the morning.” Cute, yes, but profound. Our interpersonal relationships give our lives meaning and purpose. They help us to regulate our emotions. They heal us. And yes, effective relationships are part of recovery. Whatever your drug of choice.
There is a reason for optimism, however. Recovery is hip. Some of the hottest spots in town are AA meetings. “Cool” people are hanging out there. If you think it’s embarrassing to go to a 12-step meeting, remember the old joke about the whorehouse. Everyone is there for the same reason.