Living Beyond: You Are Not Alone

A Monthly Column By Dr. Asa Don Brown

Domestic violence

“It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

As a clinician, I have heard my patients express countless times feelings of hopelessness, desperation, and isolation. Those who struggle with addiction frequently express feelings of isolation, emptiness, and abandonment. The feelings, emotions and expressions of isolation are not rare, but they are an indication of how controlled the person is by his or her addictive habit. It is rare for someone to develop addictive habits without having a psychological trigger, issue, or diagnosis.

THE PERCEPTION OF AN ADDICTION

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism.”~ Carl Gustav Jung

While someone may have a psychological condition ranging from an acute issue to a chronic one; this is not an indication that they will develop an addictive habit. However, for those who are struggling with a psychological issue, or are predisposed to addictions; the pathway to an addiction is made readily clear. For a vast number of individuals, the chosen addictive habit is a way of finding freedom from the outside world. It provides a perceived shelter from life’s hardships and struggles, but the truth is it only compounds them. All-too-often, the addiction itself creates a barrier between the person and those who genuinely care for them.

It is important for the family and friends of the individual struggling with an addiction to show genuine empathy, compassion and care. All-too-often, those who are struggling feel isolated from the outside world; this perception may be false or authentically true. The person struggling with an addiction may be abandoned by their families, friends, religious affiliations, work colleagues, and/or other social networks. It is of the utmost importance that those who are struggling with an addiction be provided authentic support and unconditional love. As a society, we often abandon those who need us the most.

Always remember that the person struggling with an addiction is not an addict, rather he or she is struggling with an addictive issue. As a society we have become so accustomed to labeling an individual with a psychological condition rather than treating it as we would any other medical or physiological condition. The addiction is no different from any other acute or chronic physiological condition (e.g. broken arm, a cancer, bruxism, myopia). It is critically important that we never label the person struggling with psychological/psychiatric conditions, rather treat the individual’s diagnosis as we would any other physiological condition.

THE GOOD NEWS

“The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself.” ~ Douglas Coupland

Those who are struggling with an addiction are not alone. While it may be unpopular to say, a majority of our society struggles with some form of an addiction. The addiction itself is no more than a control. Whether the control is based on my perceptions, or they are undoubtedly real; it is a way of controlling one’s life and/or the life’s of others. Addictions come in an array of habit forming issues, rationales and reasons. For someone struggling with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD is nothing more than an addictive issue out of control. As someone who has struggled with features of OCD; I have found that I tend to become more compulsive when my perceptions are that I have lost control of my world. While I have had features and characteristics of OCD in the past, I have honestly found that the more that I have learned to unconditionally accept, approve, and love my person; the less I have struggled with the features and characteristics of OCD.

The good news is we are not alone. Everyone on this planet struggles with something, but the struggle is no more than an obstacle begging you to go around it. The habits we form can be for our benefit or they can weaken us. Even the good habits can become negative; but if we keep our personhood in check, then they too will remain healthy.

DEVELOPING POSITIVE HABITS

“Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Developing positive habits begins by living an unconditional lifestyle. What is an unconditional lifestyle? If you have an unconditional love for your own person, or another, then there are no limits, conditions, or stipulations whereby the love ceases. Again, if you have an unconditional love for another, the love will never cease. While we may dislike something that we have done or considered doing; we should never cease loving, accepting, and approving the worth of our person. We will not always like our own person, but we should always love our own person.

If I place a condition on another, then I am saying that I will only love you, approve of you, and/or accept you as long as you meet these conditions. Whereas, if I have an unconditional lifestyle, then I am saying no matter what, I will continue loving you, approving of you and accepting you as a person. Please note, we do not always have to approve of a person’s deeds, character, or habits, but if we have an unconditional spirit, what we are approving, accepting, and loving is the person themselves. Sometimes it is hard to like a person that we love. Moreover, it is sometimes very hard to like our own person when we are acting egregiously. Most importantly, we should never cease loving, accepting, or approving the essence of our personhood.

Personally, I have found that the moment that I eliminated the conditions, was the moment that I began living life. I no longer worried or fretted about the perceptions of others. I began not only placing less conditions upon my own person, but lifting the conditions that I had placed upon others. Likewise, my feelings of hopelessness, desperation, isolation, emptiness, and abandonment began to dissipate. When we learn to love, accept, and approve our own person unconditionally, then we will know how to share these unconditional features with others.

Always remember, if I place conditions upon myself, then I will only love my person up to the intended condition. Living an unconditional lifestyle is living a life of no worries (Hakuna Matata!). If I fall, then I should get up and dust myself off. If I fail, then I should try again. If I stumble, watch for the next obstacle. Life should be lived in an unconditional spirit. Always remember that you are not alone.

May you begin living beyond.

Dr. Asa Don Brown

Author: Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S. Website: www.asadonbrown.com