Chapter 2

Breaking the Delusional Thinking that Keeps us Insane

Ever wonder why addiction is treated in a mental institution by mental health professionals? Are people suffering from addiction really crazy? (we have already established that addiction is not about choice in chapter one) Rather than debate this and hang a label on addicts, let’s just leave it at “something is wrong because it just ain’t right.” To continue to engage in a behavior that is self-destructive, but is being seen as a source of fulfillment, certainly speaks of some disconnect somewhere. To begin with, let us define our terms. Let us define insanity. Most often is recovery circles; insanity is defined as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” This will be our working definition of insanity or crazy, if you choose. On the surface, this seems a fairly benign and friendly definition. Here is an example of the intensity and accuracy of this definition.

Suppose you are walking past my house and you see me on the roof. I yell over to you, “Hey Bubba, watch this, I can fly!” Then I jump off the roof. I come crashing down to the ground and you come over to me to see if I’m alright. Then I say to you, “Did you see that brother, I almost made it, I can fly!” You gently attempt to persuade me that I can’t achieve this feat. I reply to you angrily, “Bull____! You just watch, I can fly!” Then I storm off and climb back onto the roof. I yell down to you again, “Are you watching Bubba, I’ll prove you wrong, I’ll can fly!” Then I jump off the roof and crash back down into the yard. Now you come over to me and you say, “Jon, that’s twice you’ve tried to fly and come crashing down.” However, I reply, “Dude, I almost made it, I got just a little higher that time, you wait and see Bubba, I will fly.” Despite all your philanthropic exhortations for me to abandon my flying exploits, I simply will not listen and climb back on the roof. I completely disregard all of your emotional besieging that my life may be potentially in danger. I simply don’t believe you. At this point, absolutely no dialogue will prevent me from taking another plunge off the roof. All that you can do is walk away, shake your head, and say, “Man, that is one crazy _____!” You pick up your phone and call the authorities who will come take me to a MENTAL INSTITUTION!! Yep, you guessed it, I’m crazier than those outhouse rats, or whatever phraseology you might use to describe someone whose “lost their marbles.” After the authorities arrest me and take me in, I vow to “get that rat who snitched on me. Are you getting it yet?

The problem here is that my perception of reality is not reality and that makes me delusional. The really horrible thing about being delusional is that you don’t know that you are delusional because you are delusional! To you, the delusion makes perfect sense but the rest of the universe thinks you are crazy! So how does this relate to addiction? Simple. If we still believe that we can engage in the same addictive patterns successfully ie: “use drugs successfully”, then we are just as crazy as the poor guy jumping off the roof. Only to us, the idea of continuing to use successfully makes perfect sense. In fact, to us it is the only viable option for a fulfilled life. To the remainder of the human race, the idea of us having the ability to use successfully doesn’t exist. To them, we are crazy if we use again, to us, they are crazy for not using. Both sides of this equation cannot be right. The person that ends a course of treatment or rehab, or outpatient, or inpatient and makes the statement that they can use successfully is just as crazy as the “I think I can fly guy.” They simply have different delusions but both are equally delusional.

In the 2nd step of the twelve step program it states, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Well, if we, as addicts, have to be restored to sanity than where did we start from? Obviously, from a position of insanity because we continue to try to use successfully even though we have already proven that we cannot fly. In order for the delusion to be lifted it must come from revelation. It is my prayer that the delusion is being lifted right now!!! It is for many of you right now. See, once you have heard that you might be delusional about drugs, you must defeat this logic in order to continue to use drugs. However, if you are trying to defeat this logic so you can use drugs again, you proof that your delusional and attempting to “use drugs successfully” which, you will recall, is the goal of all addicts. We must reach a place where, “The pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of change.” (1) Then we can begin to recognize that we can’t continue in this lifestyle and that we can’t use successfully. Additionally, the second step says that, “A power greater than us could restore us to sanity.” A greater power than the influence of the addiction must break the power of the addiction in our lives. Something must “open our eyes” to the fact that we are engaging in self destructive lifestyle patterns. This can range from smoking, to over eating, to working too much, to anything that one can be addicted too. Oftentimes, this is of divine revelation. We just simply “Get it.” The scriptures state, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” (Proverbs 29:18) Something outside of us must convince us that we can’t use successfully. Furthermore, this something has the power to take the place of the substance in our lives. We are the issue.

In order to seek a solution to the present dilemma, we must change gods, change the power that is responsible for managing the status of life within our own skin. To begin with, there are more “powers” that exist than just God. A good coping skill for stress is exercise. Exercise is a power, it moves me from one spiritual plane into another. Exercise has the power to give me one of the desired effects of substances. When I have anxiety/stress, rather than smoke a blunt, I exercise and I feel calm and peaceful. Thus, by using this power instead of the drug, I obtained the desired effect of the substance. Additionally, neuroscience agrees that exercise has the ability to give me what the substance was giving me. “Running, (or other vigorous exercise) enhances the release of several neurotransmitters with the MDS, including endorphins as well as Dopamine and serotonin.”(2) Thus, the same chemicals that drugs released in my brain have now been released by a healthier coping skill. I received the same effects of the substance, without the substance. This is the essence of recovery from addiction and the more “powers” I can throw at my issues; the less likely I will “need” the drugs. The more powers we can throw at the real problem (Column B) the effects (Column A) we will get. No one is advocating that we can’t feel as good as we did on substances; we are only advocating a different answer for the same effects. If we can experience this, then the need for the drug is eliminated and replaced with a non-destructive, perhaps even healthy, lifestyle change.

To demonstrate, let us draw some of the desire effects into our previous diagram.

Column A Higher Powers Column B

1. High —————-worship/spiritual exercises——————–Depression

2. Escape reality—–aa/na, service work, church fellowship——Trapped in reality and problems

3. Calming Effects——–exercise/prayer————————-Stress, anxiety, and fear

4. Entertainment———–hobby/sports/—————————Boredom

5. Increase Self-esteem–service work, inner healing, counseling-Low self-esteem

In this model, we are throwing many different powers at column B, because it is the root of the issue. As many powers as we can throw at it the better results we are going to get. This is a simple program but it isn’t easy. It’s much easier to smoke, drink, snort, eat, shoot, gamble, etc…and get all the effects at one time. The effects can still be obtained, it just takes a little more effort and “they will materialize if we work for them.” (3) Substances and addictive behaviors are the “easier softer way.” (4) However, the same promises that addiction has been making for us are the same promises that recovery is making us. It will happen. This is how we stay clean! It is not “rocket surgery”, it is simple, but it does take effort.

Before we discuss step two further, there is something of utmost importance that I feel is worth reiterating. No one is saying that you have to live an unfulfilled and boring life where you can never have any fun. This is a fear that kept me in using circles for years. What we lack is simply an experience with something other than alcohol and drugs that can yield the same effects, Experience is the key. We have experienced the effects of substances and these effects are what largely got us hooked. We can still have the effects. We simply need to experience a power greater than ourselves that can deliver these effects. This is what we outlined above. Furthermore, we need to define “believe” in this step.

It is my opinion that a biblical definition of the word “know” is the most appropriate here. It means, “That you may really come to know, practically, through experience for yourself.” (5) Again, experience is vital. Any belief that is not rooted in experience is useless to us who are trying to recover. A real power is one that must be experienced, and not, just a “good idea.” It’s the difference between theology/religion and spirituality. The former studies God and the latter experiences God. Let me explain it this way. If I owned a Ferrari and wanted you to know about my car which would be the best way to share it with you. To either tell you about it and describe it to you or to give you the keys and let you take it for a drive. Theology is about the studying and the describing while spirituality drives the sports car. The experience of the driving further solidifies the belief. The experience provides a belief that simply can’t be obtained by the description. It is the same with God. A lack of experience with God doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. Here is another example. Do we belief that there is a Montana? Many belief that this place exist without having been there. They trust that the folks who produced the map wouldn’t just make it up. The put faith in the integrity of the witness who have been to Montana. Two points to be made here. First, we can belief in something by the testimony of other people. If we decide that their witness is credible, then we can belief that such a thing/place exist. Secondly, the person who has been to Montana has a more solidly placed belief because it is rooted in experience. If someone were to come to this individual and say, “There is no Montana.” The person with the experience would say, “Whatever, cuz!” because of their experience. The person without the experience who just believed on the credible testimony would even look at this individual with skepticism because it counters the witness that they have already received about Montana. It is the same with God. There are literally, millions of people who have had experiences with God. Our lack of experience doesn’t make God disappear and doesn’t prove His non-existent. (Atheism and agnosticism are rooted in a lack of experience)

We don’t need theology or the lack of experience. We need actual encounters with higher powers including the highest of them all, God. The reader is here encouraged to pray and ask God for an experience. Even just a cursory glance at scripture tells us that God has no problem meeting with people. From the Moses’ burning bush experience to Paul on the Damascus road, God has never been shy about meeting folks where they were at. It will be no different with us. God promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) For example, “The young man was gaunt-blond, trembling slightly, his strained face and close-cropped hair saying pretty clearly that he had recently been to war and had picked up a communicable disease of that war–heroin addiction. Under his arm, he had a fatigue jacket and two army blankets. He stood only in the back of Bethel Tabernacle–the squat, white Pentecostal church in Redondo Beach, CA, where miracles are supposed to happen… then one young man slowly rose from where he had been kneeling and picked his way through the sprawled congregation to the ex-serviceman in the back of the church. ’Welcome, brother.’ A hand was extended, and tentatively, briefly accepted. ’Your welcome here.’ ’Jesus can help you…’ It was over in less than a minute. The young man’s sobbing gently eased, almost as if mesmerized he began to join those surrounding and supporting him in the simple prayers of thanksgiving. ’Oh, man! Oh, Jesus, thank you…’ Bethel Tabernacles famous 30-second heroin cure had worked again. The guarantee of no withdrawal agonies, no sweats, no pain if you accept what Jesus Christ had been fulfilled. One more thoroughly surprised but completely convinced member had been added to Bethel’s rapidly growing, spreading, dispersing congregation.” (6) Now that’s what I’m talking about! I want to reiterate this to the verge of redundancy, experience is crucial. Without it, we lack a God of power and adopt a God of theology. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen this way.

The stage of experience can be a process. I wish it were true that all who have knelt in prayer have risen with a new experience. I know it is possible, but for whatever reason, some don’t get it the first time. This simply means the individual should continue to seek it. Jesus tell us that, “Seek and you will find.” (Matthew and Luke both write it) In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word “seek” is written in the progressive active indicative. What that means is that the action can be a one time thing or it can denote a repeated action. Meaning, “seek and keep on seeking and you will find.” That may be the more accurate translation of the verse. Moving into supernatural experience with God can be a process. Don’t quit 5 minutes before the miracle happens. Keep storming the gates of heaven and calling on God to fulfill the promises that His Word have pledged to humanity. Mainly, that you will find Him.

A word of caution, the reader who has not had an experience is encouraged to use spiritual principles with other higher powers. Remember, we are powerless and we need power. We have discussed this earlier but, if we can have an experience with exercise that yields the same results as drugs, then this can become a power for us to tap into. Find powers that can help you and utilize them until a spiritual breakthrough occurs.

In conclusion, to know God by experience is an essential part of this step. It restores us to sanity by breaking the delusion that keeps us insane. Secondly, it gives us hope that we can live a life that is fun and fulfilling apart from drugs. This is the beginning and not the destination. The AA big book describes it like this, “As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn”(7) This opens the door to an entirely different lifestyle that we never knew existed. The realm of the Spirit. It is the realm where God reigns supreme. The Bible tells us that “God is Spirit”(John 4:24) and Jesus states, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) Additionally, Jesus tells us, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) This experience which the AA big book and the Bible are describing as being “born again” is absolutely necessary. It is an integral part of the psychic change that breaks the delusion and restores us to sanity. In also puts the entire kingdom of God at our disposal.

Once this experience becomes real, it necessitates a logical response. That response, is found in the third step and it will be the subject of the next chapter. That step being, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”

Endnotes

1. Narcotics Anonymous, “It Works, How and Why”, Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Chatsworth, CA, 1993, page 64.

2. Erickson, Carlton, “The Science of Addiction”, W.W. Norton and Company, New York and London, 2007, page 57.

3. AA big book, page 84.

4. Ibid, page 58.

5. As quoted from Ephesians 3:19 in “The Amplified Bible“, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987, page, 1783.

6. As quoted in, MacNutt, Francis, Healing, Ave Marie Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2006, page 76.

7. AA big book, page 63.

 

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