“Addiction is like a vortex, especially in the first month of recovery. It keeps pulling you right back”. These are the words of a guest I was interviewing on Kuda With Kuda. What I want to encourage people to understand is that the road to addiction is a long journey. To arrive at the destination we call ‘addiction’, we must understand the journey would’ve come through many intersections, many intersections propelled the trip, other intersections, we missed the opportunity to derail, or to make a turn away from addiction and head towards healing.
The issue faced by people in recovery is that the journey was so long, they have to go back and find a road to ‘healing’, but at most they’ve never traveled that actual road. So they often get lost, and thus, take the only route they’ve ever known; back to addiction. There are two challenges we face when dealing with people in addiction; i) it’s a destination and therefore they feel like they’ve arrived. To ask someone, “pack your bags and let’s go”, when they’ve just arrived at a destination can be a monumental task. But, better that time before they actually do get comfortable. This leads us to challenge number ii) some people arrived at this destination a long time ago, they call this place home. They’ve bought real estate, they are married, and they have children at this destination. Now the tasks to ask them to leave becomes monumental by definition. Hence why “addiction is like a vortex”. If you ask them to leave, and you go in front of them, by the time you look back, they’ve relapsed and gone back ‘home’.This is why in this vortex, they must take the lead, while you are behind to take the pressure from the vortex, and lessen the impact on the individual.
As we guide an individual out of addiction, it is imperative that they take the lead, and you simply support. This is an example of the individual taking the lead, and you being supportive; encourage them to share their story so they can heal. This I call “unloading, off-loading”. Support the individual to be comfortable with understanding that they were in a dark place, and therefore should stay strong in their road to a ‘safer’ place. Off-loading alone is not good, they just use this to support other people thinking of going to recovery, but they should also seek counselling. This part of recovery is incredibly important. Think of this as a moment when you’re asking someone to now pack up their belongings, sell their properties, and leave their friends behind; for there is a promised land where they can live happily ever after. The fact of it all is that, they know you are right. They want to be in this promised land, matter of fact, they have every proof that this place exists; but in their mind, it’s a place far far away. It’s a place across the ocean. The place they’re trying to leave is like a vortex, the comfort keeps pulling them back. What’s even worse about all this, is that, they see “people in the promised land”, labeling them and calling them all kinda bad names. So their desire to be with these people actually weakens, despite them wanting to leave the land of addiction.
I’m going to speak as of someone of African descent. There are numerous people in Africa who want to leave that continent to come and live in the Western world, because of the opportunities that are within the West. First of all, as much as Africans want to leave for the opportunities, they also understand that leaving behind all they’ve ever known is difficult. As much as it is enticing to have an abundance of opportunities in the western world, they are comfortable in Africa. They don’t face discrimination as much in Africa as they would in the West. So it’s not that an African doesn’t understand the opportunities they are in England or America, but rather; they know they are leaving behind a life of friends, family, joy, and peace (despite troubles they may face, there’s a certain level of peace you appreciate amongst your people). The other challenge Africans face is the journey to the west; passport, visas, immigration troubles; all this is the same headache that a recovering addict faces when they have to do the 12 steps, treatment center, counseling, and detoxing. Let’s take this African who’s now in the promised land of the West. The stigma he may face for not speaking proper English, being called the N-word, lacking connections, education not being transferrable, and just simply having to adjust to social norms. These are the same challenges that a person in recovery in the community may now face. Having to adjust to keeping appointments, having a boss at work, learning to save money, having to pay rent, being responsible for groceries, etc; all these new adjustments, to a person who’s been an addict for 10 years, and homeless for the majority of the addiction period can be monumental.
But this is why someone, you and me, must be compassionate and supportive of these people. Having the luxury of not going through those struggles, should give us the ability to be patient, compassionate, and to be supportive. Welcome to England, Canada, America; we are all one. Despite your language barrier, keep up with your efforts and you can settle. We understand that you miss your family, but we are here for you if you need to talk. Same as we understand addiction is hard to recover from, but continue with counseling. You’ve suffered a lot of abuse in the past, but we are here for you. You are struggling to find a job because of a lack of skills, but this vocational program is amazing. “The pain you went through I will never understand, but self-harm and suicide is not the way; we are here for you”. “To relapse is not to fail, it is a discovery of your further weakness that we will overcome”.
It is common that immigrants in a new country tend to find each other and lean on each other. This is not a bad thing, people find comfort in other people who ‘understand’ them. As an African, the way we mourn our loved ones at a funeral is different from the way Western cultures mourn. So it’s common that Africans seek each other for comfort in their most vulnerable moments; however, people in the Western world can learn how other immigrants deal with certain cultural struggles, so that in the future, they can all better support each other. With that understanding, it should be promoted that person who recovered fully from addiction works to support one who’s seeking recovery methods. A person with lived experience will know how he or she would have wanted to hear during the toughest times in recovery, to avoid relapse. When people with lived experience continue to get involved and educate other community members, we will all eventually reach a point where we can support each other with proper care, love, and compassion.