By: Nicole Hammer
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The Other Side of the Looking Glass: Understanding Addiction from a Different Perspective
Have you ever tried to look through a telescope that was out of focus and all you could see was blurry morphed shapes? You try to refocus by blinking your eyes profusely thinking it will somehow make the object magically more clear. But it won’t, because there is nothing our eyes can do to fix the image if we do not understand how to use a telescope. Understanding addiction is much like learning how to see clearly through a telescope. If we want to get a clear picture of what is on the other side of the looking glass, we have to first put away our know-it-all assumptions by learning what a telescope is, and how it functions. Once we obtain this knowledge we then learn that it is the lens that needs to be adjusted properly in order for us to see the object in its clear state.
As humans, it is in our nature to assume that we know more than we want to let on, and we judge thinking we know what something is or how it functions before we take the time to learn about it. Let’s put it this way, most often we view the addict as being on the other side of the looking glass, while seeing ourselves on the supposed correct side. By not having proper knowledge about addiction we are not able to understand it fully, therefore we view it as unfamiliar territory, and we judge the addict as being the opposite of what we presume as having a normal functioning mentality. This lack of understanding addiction causes us to view our loved one through a distorted lens, which causes us much heartache and frustration as we fail in our attempts in thinking we alone could understand and fix them. This is where we get aggravated and continuously blink our eyes in trying to make sense of what is on the other side of that telescope lense, or in this case, trying to make sense of the addiction.
Understanding addiction is like finally realizing that you absolutely can’t figure out all the technicalities involved in the functioning of a telescope until you give in on your stubbornness, and whip out those directions! You can not even come close to helping your loved one until you put away your preconceived judgments and realize that you are powerless to their addiction. Addiction is heartache, confusion, and pain. Addiction is suffering and loss, for all parties involved. Addiction isn’t just a self disease, addiction is a family disease, and once your life has been impacted by addiction, it will not be the same again. Is it frustrating? Yes it is! Are you angry? Of course you are! Are you confused and hurt? How could you not be?
It is no wonder, with all the confusion and strong emotions wrestling together inside, mixed with what we think we know about addiction, that our first reaction is to put up our defenses, judge, and blindly try to fix it. Please, do not do this to yourself, do not blame, do not take blame, and do not try to fix the addict. We are powerless to their addiction! The only thing that you can have control over is how you respond. The only thing you can fix, and the only way to see what is truly on the other side of that looking glass, is gaining a true understanding of addiction.
So how can we begin to see our loved one clearly from the other side of the looking glass? Let’s start with the word fear. We tend to fear what we do not understand, and when we are afraid and hurting we more often than not, put up defenses. Our defenses can be spouts of anger, pointing a finger of blame at the addict or at ourselves, or it can even be in the form of judgment. We also find that “why” becomes a new, common, and overused word in our vocabulary. We naturally want to do anything and everything we can to make the hurt, sadness, and anger stop. We feel hopeless and forsaken wishing for all of it to just disappear. At first, we might not even want to face the hurt or try to make out what is on the other side of the lense. We want to stay, in a sense, blind to the truth and not face the depths and reality of addiction. None of these defenses will work. You may want to believe that they are helping, but they are not. By doing this you are only continuing to look through that distorted lense.
The only way to understanding addiction is to put away the anger. You have to put away the blame of yourself or your loved one. Put away the fear and judgments, and admit that you are powerless, and you need those darn directions! Once you are able to put self to the side, you will be more willing and open minded to begin understanding what your love one is going through. This is a very hard thing to do, especially when you are extremely emotional and feeling betrayed. Channel that anger and frustration, it can be done, and turn it into strength and courage to help assist you in understanding addiction.
The shocker is when you finally read the directions on how to clearly see the other side of the looking glass. Are you ready to know what it is? Here it is…In order to understand your loved ones addiction you have to simply flip the telescope around. Yes! Now the telescope is facing you! Not saying you’re to blame for their addiction, because you are not! The beginning of understanding addiction is pretty much the same as understanding the relation of your own reactions and actions when you are afraid, hurt, sad, and feel hopeless. The difference is that usually the addict has not developed appropriate coping skills when it comes to dealing with deep difficult emotions, and they seek the drug or alcohol as a way to temporarily escape the pain.
An addict has a disease in which they have a difficult time stopping or controlling their use despite harmful consequences. Although, for the most part, the initial decision to take drugs is a voluntary one, repeated use leads to brain changes, which challenges the addicts ability to control and resist the urges to keep using. We need to remember that addiction is NOT a choice. Who in their right mind, if there is even such a thing, would ever choose to be an addict? Would you willingly choose to eat an entire double layer sheet cake if you are borderline diabetic? No I’m sure you wouldn’t, but a person with food addiction wouldn’t be able to control the urge. They wouldn’t be able to have just one bite of the cake, they won’t be able to stop until the entire cake is finished, despite the health risk.
Honestly, most of us are addicted to something, and do not even realize it. Anywhere from drugs to porn, sex, alcohol, gambling, eating, exercising, social media, calorie counting, cleaning, and the list goes on. Perhaps, by first flipping the lense the other way around and seeing the other side of the looking glass more clearly, we might already have a deeper understanding of what addiction is afterall. Maybe even more than we realized we did? That’s good news! Now that there is the understanding of addiction, we begin to start seeing the object on the opposite of the lens more clearly.