I was just reading about this and it’s amazing. The growth cycle of an addict is a little different from a healthy adult. A healthy adult goes from being an infant, to a toddler, to a tween, to a teen, to a young adult and finally an adult. He or she makes it healthily through all those stages of growth. But an addict, or someone who may have been traumatized in childhood has been unable to make it through all the stages successfully. An addict, for example, may go from infant to toddler to preteen to adult, if he or she has been thrown into a position of caring for or taking responsibility for a parent. By the time that teen turns into an adult though, a reversal occurs and the addict acts out in irresponsible, immature ways. Examples of this are when we continue to casually date through our twenties, thirties, forties and onward, without the possibility of intimacy. Or, when we depend on our partner to take care of us– as if they were a parent figure. Or, when we act out in inappropriate ways–lying, cheating on a marital partner, using people, talking and worrying incessantly about our own problems, escapism, etc.
In fact, many addicts, tend to exhibit narcissistic tendencies–overly selfish behavior that is supposed to serve the self only, but rarely does.
So, when we get into recovery, it seems to call for even more narcissism. I tell people all the time, “Focus on yourself,” or “It’s all about YOU.” Those bits of advice are hugely self-centered. So, what differentiates recovery from narcissism or egocentricity?
Well, recovery has a purpose. It is designed to give back what was lost. It is part of the process of growing up–something we never did. Many of us, in fact (and others who stay in unhealthy relationships), were denied or simply missed out on our childhood or our teen years, and so our growth was impaired to the point of needing to act out childishly in our adult lives. Recovery, therefore, allows us to selfishly live through whatever stage of growing up that we missed, so that we are able to move on to the next stage. But this “selfish stage of recovery” is just that–a temporary stage, not meant to be the end result of recovery. Childhood doesn’t last for ever, nor should you expect to keep the focus on you, you, you for the rest of your life. And yet, we’ve all heard that we need to love ourselves first before we can love anyone else. And we’ve all heard that we need to become strong within ourselves first, before we can truly help others. True recovery (as is symbolic of the 12-Steps) makes us strong, teaches us to love ourselves and ultimately leads to mature, responsible adulthood. it is the teacher that teaches us who we are, so that we no longer need to be the student.
I could go on and on about this. If you want to learn more about the Stages of Development, read Erik Erikson‘s theory. If you take a look at his actual chart of growth, you can probably see at what stage you fell apart. Inferiority! Hello role confusion! Hello isolation!
Unsolicited advice? Get your growth on. Find out where you fell apart, what stage you may have started to take on the “unfavorable outcome” and allow yourself to linger at that stage for awhile so as to grow through it. But remember, lingering at any one stage becomes an act of narcissism, not recovery. The ultimate goal of recovery is Selflessness (NOT having no identity), which means becoming a mature adult who is able to give back to the world. And of course, you can only give back to the world when you have something to give.