In the Alcoholic Anonymous and all other self-help groups and group therapies for recovering addicts, they usually start with introductions. Each member of the group says his/her name and the nature of his addiction. My name is Sam and I am an alcoholic or my name is Jane and I am a shopaholic. Basically, the addict identifies him or herself with his/her addiction. ‘Hi, I am an addict’.
Most people might see this as humiliating, and maybe it is but there is a whole lot of benefit from this practice. First, it is the first step in recovery, acknowledging that you have a problem. For most people struggling with an addiction, they usually will not own up or agree that they have a problem. Some say that they are better than most, others get angry when they are confronted and another group give logical reasons why they indulge in it. Most will not acknowledge the problem and losses they have incurred from indulging in the addictive behavior and the first step in getting them to seek help is acknowledging that they have a problem. So when recovering addicts introduce themselves and acknowledge their addictions, they are affirming that they have a problem and are willing to seek help.
This acknowledgement is quite critical in the therapeutic process. A problem known is a problem half solved. The first step in the Alcoholic Anonymous twelve steps program is Honesty- acknowledging their powerlessness over alcohol. In other words, acknowledging their loss of control over its use and that they have a problem. That is the first step to recovery. The first in a series of determined painstaking steps on a journey of soul searching and surrender and ultimately recovery.
It is worthy of note that no matter how many years of sobriety achieved, the recovering addict still begins his introduction at such meetings with ‘’hi, I am an addict’’. This underscores a basic understanding of the fact that addiction is a chronic relapsing illness and no one can fully boast to be fully recovered. All it takes to start that spiral journey downwards is a single drink, a mis-step and years of sobriety can be blown to smithereens.
The second benefit is that it creates a self-awareness of one’s weakness and helps the individual to always take conscious steps to avoid giving in to the weakness. An alcoholic would take conscious steps to avoid places where he will be tempted to drink. It helps against presumptuous acts and overconfidence.
Thirdly, it is a humbling admission. And in order to win the fight against addictions, one needs a healthy dose of sobriety and humility. It helps the addict to always have a critical self-appraisal and never to think more highly of himself than he ought to.
Fourthly, it gives a sense of togetherness to the members of the group. There is a mutual feeling of understanding and a kinship among the group members and each can draw strength from the other’s experiences.
Let’s hear from victor
‘’Acknowledging that I was an addict was difficult. It was probably because there were mixed opinions about masturbation as to whether it was good or bad. Some schools of thought claimed it was healthy and some religious authorities also sanction it. That should have made me happy, it should have removed the guilt and the self-loath I was feeling but it didn’t. I knew I had a problem. If it wasn’t a problem, why then did it rule my life? Why couldn’t I decide to stop it? After much soul searching, I concluded that while masturbation might even be considered healthy and not bad, I had a problem with it and I needed help.
If bringing myself to accept that I had a problem with masturbation was hard, then seeking help was even harder. I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. I summoned up all the courage I could get and went to my pastor, but all I got was a frown and harsh words. I knew I was wrong already and I didn’t need more sermons and reprimand. By the time I was leaving the pastor’s office, I was worse off. I had more guilt and an advice to go and pray that sounded vague. I had so many troubles because not many people are bold to talk about such things in church and not many church leaders are experienced in dealing with them.
For the most parts I was all alone. I gathered snippets of information from books and on internet forums and yes I did turn to God in prayers. However, it took me years to realize that it took more than prayers to fight addiction. At those times, I knew I had a problem but couldn’t put a label to it.
When finally I saw my problem in the light of an addiction, things became easier. I understood why I was feeling the insatiable urge to masturbate. And yes, I can say the word now without cringing, well, almost. I couldn’t before, I was in denial. I also felt so dirty that I did not want to associate myself with the word, I felt so disgusted at myself. Saying it was abomination, a taboo. I was an abomination.
I had to do intense soul searching and finally come to accept that while I might have seen myself as an abomination, it wasn’t my fault. Yes, I had a problem but that did not make me a bad person. It was my choices that were bad and I could change all of that.
Then I began to feel better about myself and see myself in a whole new light and for people that are close to me, I could tell them, ‘Hi, I am an addict’. It is a humbling experience, making that confession but it helps. It makes me aware of how far I have come in this journey towards recovery and makes me aware of the things I need to do.
On days when I do fail to refrain from the act, I tell myself that I am in recovery and I do not become too hard on myself. I simply analyze what led me into the act and take care not to allow myself fall into the same trap the next time around.
Looking back now, I think the breakthrough moment came for me when I finally acknowledged that I was an addict, am an addict. It changed everything. So, whenever I talk about myself now, I start with ‘Hi, my name is Victor and I am an addict’’’