The first stage probably started occurring early in life during our development in early childhood. When a young person receives love, nurturance, tenderness, and understanding during their early years of development, they will most certainly tend to have a more positive inner dialogue about themselves. However, when someone is treated poorly or even abusively during childhood, we can readily discern what the consequences will be. The developmental path that leads an individual to possessing a positive, confident, self-reliant, and empathetic outlook in life will certainly be linked to having a loving and nurturing outward environment. Conversely, another person may be raised in an environment that does not contain love and understanding. The result is obvious – such a child will end up inheriting what is commonly referred to as an inferiority complex. The domino effects resulting from this ‘acquired’ sense of inferiority is multi-faceted -- often with dire consequences.
Simply put, an inferiority complex is feeling a lack of self-worth and this can become intense and inscribed into a person’s mind. What are some of the kinds of thoughts that end up composing the inner dialogue of a person coping with this sense of inferiority? Here is a small sampling – "I am worthless; how can I possibly do that? I hate myself; I have never accomplished anything; I am a failure and always have been; what’s the use, this is just who I am; I am ugly; I am fat; I am poor; I am stupid; I am awkward; I cannot stand looking at myself in a mirror; I am so tired; I hate life," etc.
Remember, this is just the short list but unquestionably, most of us will easily be able to concur with these types of thoughts. Moreover, we are still discussing only Stage 1. The cumulative result of a person pounding himself or herself with such hidden conversation is highly destructive. To think a person is living this way is quite sad. Nevertheless, we can in the meantime try to understand identifiable origins of a person having a negative and worthless sense of self and then acquiring specific coping behaviors such as drinking and/or using.
Many wonderful, sensitive people I have met in groups over the last few years have opened up and discussed these feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. Now, we can transition to Stage 2. There is not a direct line between the two stages. There is more of a blending of the stages and both can continue to occur simultaneously. Stage 2 is when a person is absolutely on the road to alcoholism and/or addiction. Their use has gone past the stage of habit and abuse and is now in that perilous phase of addiction. Listening to and identifying one’s inner thoughts during this heightened turmoil of a person’s early addiction is very revealing, but not surprising.
If Stage 1 of a person’s life comprises these inner, negative thoughts inherent to an inferiority complex, then Stage 2 will be even worse. Drinking and using go hand in hand with negative thoughts. And, eventually, they devolve into that pernicious cycle that sometimes seems inescapable. Even with the temporary ‘relief’ that comes from a drink, pill or needle, the residual effects spin one endlessly into that malicious cycle, repeating over and over again.
The first important and healthy step one can make when beginning their recovery is to stop and listen to their inner self. These inward thoughts are often complex and rapid moving and sometimes not fully discernible. However, through various practices from meditation, deep-breathing, mindfulness, one-on-one therapy and group therapy, a person can come to know the contents of their inner workings. A thought is after all a thought. A negative thought, even accepted for a lifetime is still just a thought that you have accepted over a long period of time. So while examining our own addiction to a substance we also need to turn our direction to our own thinking patterns and our recovery is dependent upon unraveling both structures of addiction – internal and external.
There are definite practices a person can utilize to begin to replace the old, abusive thoughts and my next blog posting will address some of these methods in detail. For starters, just begin to listen to yourself. Try simply inserting a loving or nurturing phrase to yourself and repeat it a few times. For instance, the following phrases may begin to transform the negative 'chatter' inside: "I am worthy of more in life. I am capable of being a good person. I deserve more than allowing myself to remain an alcoholic. I now decide to care for myself, my health, my body, my mind, my soul. I have made mistakes and have harmed myself and others and I am sorry for these transgressions, but, there may have been reasons why I have never fully accepted who I am. I will begin to speak with love to my inner being and not ridicule who I think I was. I am a creation of God and God has unlimited love for me. It is never too late to change my life. Life begins now and I accept that I am ready for a mental, spiritual, and physical transformation. I can do this and I want to do this. I have others in recovery who can assist me and care for me. I am open to being loved by others and to loving and caring for myself."
Stay positive - - it takes practice. Until next time....