When I think of symptoms, naturally what comes to mind is a cough for a cold, a fever for an infection, or a rash for an irritation. Plainly, a symptom is any subjective evidence of disease. A disease is a particular abnormal condition that affects part or all of an organism. Addiction is insidious in nature, as many do not attribute the addiction as a visible manifestation of an underlying problem. Many of us have addictions. Some present themselves in the nature of over-exercising, shopping, promiscuity, or even excessive food consumption.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that when one is outwardly participating in addictive behavior, it appears to be in an effort to remedy a deeper issue.
The important fact to note, however, is that these addictions are just the way our sickness presents itself; addicts suffer from a three- fold illness that affects the sufferer spiritually, mentally, and physically. This often goes undetected among many of us because these maladies become our daily disposition, and thus we are often unaware that this is problematic or abnormal.
For me, my addiction has manifested itself in every unhealthy way possible. There have been times that I have purchased clothing in an effort to be liked by those who looked ‘the part’, I sought attention from men to satisfy the absence of self- esteem, binged and purged to be the idyllic ‘beautiful’, exercised rigorously to remedy a loathing of my body and drank and took drugs to escape my emotions and achieve oblivion.
These behaviors, though incredibly unhealthy, were not the root of my problem.
My problem was that I had an opinion of myself based on lies and false perceptions, and until I saw the truth about myself and the reality around me, I could not make a beginning on a path of true self-discovery.
The truth is that many people appear the part but hate themselves much the same, if not more, than I did. No man can complete me or fill the gaping hole in my heart. That there is no ‘idyllic beautiful’, as we are all uniquely precious in our own ways. That my body was fashioned in a particular way and thus should be appreciated and valued. And lastly, that my emotions are just that, emotions, and I do not need to be ruled by them.
What was most surprising to me was that God was able to make all the areas of my life found wanting, complete again. I cannot explain how this transpired other than I was willing to relinquish a plethora of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and adopt the idea that God could and would, if He were sought. Additionally, I had become convinced (enough) that the way I was living was causing me extreme anguish, and further, that I could make subtle changes with the help of others like me.
My experience led me to the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as my addictions were rapidly deteriorating my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. When I entered AA, I was told that all I needed was to be open minded, honest, and willing enough to try some new things. Which were honestly not overly difficult concepts to swallow.
But I also learned that my mind is not my friend.
Frequently, my mind misconstrues information, and that I process said information through a very dirty, skewed filter. Addiction was only the symptom. My thinking was truly the problem. To truly change my thinking, I had to throw away many lifelong misconceptions, and adopt a completely new attitude.
I did not do this of my own power, but through the 12 Steps of A.A. and with the guidance of a sponsor. I was told from the very beginning that my sponsor’s sole purpose was to put my hands in God’s hands. And that is exactly what she did.