To unlearn our core false beliefs, to look inward at what is keeping us locked in unhealthy patterns, we need to create safe spaces for ourselves, correct? But this can be problematic for many of us who are struggling with addiction, in part because of the way we perceive ourselves and reality. We might habitually view ourselves in terms of “right” and “wrong;” perhaps we think recovery is about fixing ourselves. But this judging approach does little to help us create safety. People don’t often feel safe when they are judged; they feel safe when they are loved and accepted. Deep inner change comes not from identifying what needs to be fixed, but from identifying what’s in the way of our natural experience of the love we are. The Sufi poet Rumi states it this way: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Many of us believe our addiction is the problem. We don’t like how addiction makes us feel or behave, so we think that once we let go of the addiction, the problem will be solved. We break the addictive habit because we think the addiction is wrong. When we start looking around, we can see that much of the way the world has been structured is based on this approach: identifying the problem and solving it. We can see this approach in the work place. We see it in the educational system and in government, we see it in the western medical model, which asks, “What’s the symptom? How do we get rid of it?” And of course, we see it in recovery models that, in effect, identify the addiction as the problem, and the addict as “wrong.”
This perspective—that the addiction is the problem—has broader implications as well. When we treat addiction as the problem, what we’re ultimately doing is supporting a worldview that says the way to grow and improve is to say, “What’s wrong here?” and then fix it. This means that if we want to recover, then we need to be self-critical. “If we can just identify what’s wrong, if we can just fix certain things about ourselves, then we can change.” Again, this defines the person who has an addiction as broken in some way. Does this perspective work in the long run? It may work for a while, and of course at certain points in our recovery we do need to identify things we want to change. However, if we maintain this perspective long-term, we will quite possibly continue to unconsciously create more brokenness in our lives.
Often when we remove the addictive behavior, what is left is the pain and disconnection that brought about the behavior in the first place. And eventually, looking at addiction as something wrong or looking at the person who is in an addiction as broken in some way will only concretize the core false beliefs that underlie the addiction. Self-criticism is limited. It can deteriorate our self-worth and efficacy. If we're looking primarily through the lens of self-criticism rather than the lens of self-love, we can get stuck in a repetitive cycle of addiction. Habitual self-judgment reinforces one’s belief in a broken self.