The masks of addiction and recovery

To be addicted is to be an imposter; to wear so many masks for so long that any semblance of a true self exists only as a faint memory. The masks become thickly layered and more elaborately constructed over time, each seeking to convey sanity and self-control as these very qualities crumble to ashes. The masks often become prisons of one’ own creation.

Escaping the state of imprisoned imposterhood requires facing the terror of nothingness — the terror that nothing, or at least nothing of value, exists behind the masks. This dread is so great it can rarely be faced alone. There is no landscape more terrifying to an addicted person than the secret-strewn wreckage of his or her own soul. Confronting that landscape without the aid of fellow travelers can provoke breakthroughs of the self-perception and self-repugnance so overwhelming that few can traverse and survive this territory alone.

The good news today is that no one need make this journey alone, no one need die from staring into a mirror and seeing only pain, numbness or nothingness staring back. Communities of recovery are spreading around the globe and can be quickly accessed by a phone call or computer click. The journey shared is not an easy one, but it is one that can be filled with joy and great meaning and purpose. Put simply, a future day is possible when you can be comfortable within your own skin and when your lost self will be recovered or, more likely, a new self will be forged. Recovery is a process of rebuilding the self, one piece at a time, one moment at a time.

There is something deeply human about recovering from one’s deepest wounds. Recovery is simultaneously a retrieval of lost part of the self, discovery of previously-hidden resources within and beyond the self, and a conscious reconstruction of character and identity. To become a person in recovery requires first becoming a person; a real person. There is much to be learned from this process of rebirth and self-acceptance — this spirituality of imperfection.

Mark Jacobson

Peer Support Specialist

Winona, Minn.

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