If the title of this post gave you pause, you’re not alone. The idea that there is a positive purpose to any part of your addiction likely flies in the face of what you’ve been taught about recovery.
You’ve probably heard a lot of shaming messages about your addiction, so the idea that there may be something positive may feel strangely subversive. But we invite you to consider the possibility...
What is An Addiction Aspect?
To start off, let's get some language straight. We'd like to introduce a term you may not have heard before: addiction (or addict) aspect.
What does this mean?
Basically, it's the part of you that drove you to use alcohol, drugs, or your substance of choice. We all know about the negative attributes of the addict aspect. It can destroy lives, families, financies, friendships ... the list goes on.
But is that all there is to it? Read on to learn more about the most common misperceptions of the addict aspect in your life.
Misconception #1: You Must Define Yourself by Your Addiction
Contrary to popular 12-Step philosophy, you don’t have to define yourself by your addiction in order to heal.
You don’t need to stand up and say, “Hi, my name is So-and-So, and I’m an addict.”
Because identifying yourself solely by your substance use is counterproductive. If all you are is your addiction, what happens to your sense of self when you recover?
You are a diverse being. You're more than your habit, your job, or your relationship status. You’re not all “one thing.”
To paraphrase poet Walt Whitman, you are vast; you contain multitudes.
So you're certainly NOT just the addiction aspect.
Misconception #2: You Need to Eliminate Your Addict Aspect Entirely
Radical thought: You don’t need to eliminate your addict aspect in order to heal.
You may have heard this well-meaning advice from friends and loved ones: “Oh, you just need to let go of that part of you that wants to use.”
Yet this idea is problematic, because when you cut off a part of yourself, you actually move farther away from health and healing!
You are a holistic being, and you gain strength by integrating every part of yourself.
Your task isn’t to eliminate the addict part of your psyche.
Instead, your job is to get to know it, to love it, and to accept it as a valuable part of you.
With that in mind, you can work with your addict aspect to uncover its underlying positive purpose and discern a new role for it in your life going forward.
The Strengths of the Addict Aspect
In our Program, we help people take a new look at their addict aspects. We examine the strengths of these parts that we’ve judged and condemned for so long.
While every person’s addict aspect is different and unique to them, some common themes do arise when we discuss this topic. Addict aspects are:
- Powerful, determined and persistent; able to work hard and accomplish
- Spiritual; seeking to be in touch with wonder, awe, and the Divine
- Protective; helping to avoid negative people and situations
- Intuitive; guiding toward people and situations that feel right
As you can see, those addict aspects can have some truly admirable qualities!
Healing is not about banishing those aspects; rather, it’s about discerning their deeper positive purpose.
How to Discover the Aspect’s Original Positive Purpose
If you want to learn about your addict aspect and uncover its positive purpose in your life, you can do so by going straight to the source.
Set aside some time and go to a place where you can be alone and won’t be disturbed.
Get quiet, and center yourself in the energy of love and compassion.
Then grab an empty chair and invite your addict aspect to come sit in the chair and talk with you.
[This exercise might sound strange on the surface, but it’s rooted in a very powerful therapeutic modality called Gestalt psychology. So, give it a try - you just might hear something profound.]
Converse with your addict aspect out loud. Tell it what you want it to know, and ask it any questions you may have. Let it answer as it will.
Then, take time to uncover the strengths of your addict aspect.
Notice its powerful characteristics, how it succeeds at what it sets out to do.
We encourage our Participants to befriend their addict aspects. One good way to start the befriending process is to praise your addict aspect for its efforts to make you happy. It’s done a lot for you over the years, so acknowledge its efforts.
Once you’ve discerned the aspect’s strengths and made a friendly connection, you can ask it about its original positive purpose … that is, the reason it came into being in the first place.
Ask your addict aspect how it is trying to help you, and listen closely to what it says.
Often we find that our Participants are stunned by the responses they get to the question, “What is your original positive purpose?” They may find that their addict aspects came into being in order to protect, challenge, or guide them.
Giving Your Addict Aspect to a New Job
Next, start discussing the possibility of reassigning your addict aspect.
Together, converse about the ways in which this aspect of your personality can help you get where you want to go in life.
Note that a give-and-take energy is important here. Reassignment is not about having your rational mind simply come in and start barking orders at your addict aspect: “Hey! This is your new job, so get with the program!”
Instead, it’s about working together with your addict aspect and mutually discerning a role for it to play in your life going forward.
Be humble, receptive, and open; you just might be surprised by what you learn!
At the end of your dialogue, make sure to thank your addict aspect for coming forward to talk with you. Be gracious and kind, and leave the door open for ongoing communication in the future.
A Path Forward in Addiction Recovery
Many of us have been struggling against our addict aspects for years … but the good news is, we don’t have to keep fighting a war within.
Going forward, we can integrate the addict part of ourselves and accept it as a part of our being that deserves love.