Captives of Childhood

The realm of human experience can be divided between the internal world and the interpersonal. The internal world develops early on when we begin to experience ourselves as we learn and do things; for example, a 3-yr old builds a little lego tower and expands her sense of self, “I can do that.” The interpersonal realm involves the others and our reactions to them, often w/out really understanding what happened, essentially beyond control.
Within a good childhood environment we develop our abilities w/in both these realms, progressing toward balance and a sense of mastery and comfort. If the child lacks safety and guidance, her attention will be mostly on the outside, craving to be held and loved. While expecting threats or dangers and bracing herself against life, she may become hypervigilant and defensive, possibly hyperactive and inattentive, or she may withdraw and isolate. When these strategies are practiced for a while they become habitual.
Most addicts have survived extensive ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences). We began to experience ourselves as victims, passive recipients on the receiving end, uncertain and powerless, resentful and defensive. Forever looking outside of self, we remained anxious and the lens of perception got stuck on the outside, where we saw the others, but couldn’t really see ourselves. We grew up without developing self-awareness or a solid sense of self, feeling empty inside, in need of pleasures and distractions form the outside. We were lagging abilities and interests, in need of soothing and exciting delights as the inner voice poked fears and resentments. Unaware of our own part in creating problems, we expected certain behaviors from the others and we got deeply dejected and indignant when they fell short, when they didn’t provide reliability, safety, and whatever else we desire. We placed the blame on them, always on the others. While we were busy holding on to victimhood we remained captives of childhood. It’s not a recipe for happiness and so we tried to numb out and forget reality with the help of drugs, sex, and other behaviors, too. It took all we got, and eventually we were left empty-handed and defeated.
In recovery we undergo a metamorphosis*. In AA we are taught steps to look at ourselves – and we begin to see who we are. We develop the narrative of our lives, we change our own behavior patterns, and cease to experience ourselves as powerless victims. Identification with the wounded child we once were, fades and the mood improves. It changes everything. The more we look at our part, the less we have the need to stay resentful. This is the psychic change that relieves suffering and makes it possible to stay sober. Otherwise people continue to create their own chaos by translating negative thoughts into sadness, fear, and anger, while blaming others forever and a day.
Recovery is about taking my spirit back from finding fault and claiming my own freedom for today. The alchemy of gratitude turns shit to gold. By altering my thought pattern, I transform and adjust skewed perceptions, and consequently my emotional climate – my inner world turns from despondency to hope, from fear to faith, from wrath to hope. It’s a metamorphosis, like the tadpole turns into a frog. Magic. Finding recovery from suffering is a grace. Most alcoholics never find the way out.
“Resentment means that I sacrifice today’s freedom to someone for something that happened in the past” – quote, unknown
* metamorphosis – profound transformation into a new type of animal, e.g. tadpole to frog