Today is Black Friday. People are known to line up hours before a store opens to be the first to crush the aisles with warp speed in in pursuit of door buster deals. This year to promote the Black, retailers have needed to cultivate online creativity in an attempt to compensate for the COVID pandemic. It promises to be a mind-bending experience for shoppers who otherwise would fight the crowd to catch a red-hot deal.
In recovery, reactivity can be triggered with warp speed. Star Trek popularized the term in the 1970s, referring to a faster-than-light speed attained by a spaceship traveling in a space warp.
That’s what seems to happen with addiction recovery. You can be cruising with confidence, experiencing a good day when suddenly the rug is pulled out from beneath you, triggered by your thought about someone’s statement or action. Instability and uncertainty can be sparked with warp-speed reaction. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose it. Someone says something to you in a tone of voice that you register as abrasive. Maybe someone doesn’t respond to a text or email promptly and you conclude that they don’t like you enough to follow through with a timely response. You build a case about how they are insensitive and are treating you with disrespect. Even though most times their lack of response has nothing to do with their opinion of you, you build the narrative that they are being a jerk.
People who try to do conflict resolution through e-mail or via texting participate in a shortcut to reactivity. You build a case on the interpretation of one word or a word that is missing and make conclusions about a matter that most often is accelerated with reactivity. Relationships can move from the black to the red with warp-speed backlash triggered by misunderstandings that become personalized.
I think of these experiences in recovery as worm holes that, if left unaddressed, can become black holes. In astronomy, worm holes are tunnels in space time that allow travel anywhere in space and time and possess extraordinarily strong gravitational pull. The main difference from a worm hole and a black hole is that theoretically an object that is pulled into a black hole cannot come out whereas with a worm hole it could potentially reverse its course. In recovery, a worm hole is the negative spiraling thought life that addicts get sucked into that if left uncontested will become the black hole of no return from relapse.
How can you manage warp-speed reactivity and back out of worm hole responses and avoid the black hole of chronic relapse? Here are a few considerations:
When you don’t get what you immediately want you experience discomfort and you want it resolved. You can become at the mercy of your mind wondering why this disappointment or this difficulty. You think these are things that keep you from being happy in this world. Yet, usually your professional and relational life will constantly provide a challenge that can pull you into the worm hole of dissatisfaction and discomfort. So, it becomes important to make friends with your mind in addictive thought. When there is a stream of negative thought about your addiction and yourself you will begin to alienate yourself from who you are. You will derive your sense of self from the detrimental narrative in your head that tells you to reject who you are. This creates a worm hole of thought that become a force which can pull you into a vortex of destructive behavior.
Being friendly with yourself and your addiction is a way of practicing radical love. It requires when you are at your very worse and feeling self-disgust that you stay open to whatever arises within you. The pull into the worm hole of negative belief about yourself can only be reversed by sitting with the discomfort that comes when you want to judge and beat yourself up for chronic unwanted behaviors. Learning to make friends with whatever arises is the way out from the negative artillery that goes on inside your head.
This is hard to do when another’s response is curt and cutting. Yet, it is most often true. I remember when I was in 8th grade and Mrs. Podesta served as my home room teacher. I purposely agitated her with talking and making all sorts of stuff from art supplies that were stored next to my desk while she tried to teach. I refused to listen to her and would talk with my friends. She became exasperated and so angry that she broke a plastic meter stick by whacking me with it over my shoulders. She thought my behavior was about her. No one explored what was going on at home which was a time I was being molested by the pastor at my church. My inappropriate behavior was not about her. Seldom is it about you. When you personalize things, anxiety grows and you respond with a closed heart. When you lose it and you realize that you have lost it, you blow your response into a bigger soap bubble and complicate matters with more guilt and self-blame. You tend to add layer upon layer of reactivity on top of reactivity and limit your capacity of self-acceptance which is the way out of the worm-hole thinking. You can build the story that you are being slighted and from that cultivate the viewpoint that you are the victim in a situation. Ultimately this pattern leads to the black hole of relapse. Condition and train yourself to simply get better at not personalizing what other people do in relationship to you.
With stillness you condition yourself to merely observe and witness what is going on around you. This is the mind’s position that fosters acceptance and surrender. Rather than becoming defensive or aggressive when people bark at you while driving or attack you for your opinion or position on an issue, you just practice noticing their response. If you lose it with internal stillness, you accept that you lost it and that you are human. To the degree that you can accept your own humanness you will be able to accept others. In stillness you keep coming back to make friends with yourself. This position will help you to avoid the worm hole of negative beliefs about self and world view. When someone makes a slurping noise when drinking a cup of coffee or soup, a room is too cold or hot or you are otherwise distracted and pulled away from your focus, practice surrender. Work to let go of the reaction to the distraction so that there is just disturbance. The key is to surrender to whatever engages your life in the moment–loneliness, family chaos or financial stress and then choose to just sit and work with it. Meditation becomes a way of doing life on life’s terms and practice letting less than perfect experiences just be.
You will have to train your nervous system to get used to uncomfortable feelings. Always seeking pleasure will sabotage this training. When you basically don’t like yourself it becomes untenable to touch that part of you. You believe that there is something that is broken in who you are. You will need to practice embracing being kind to yourself with forgiveness regardless of whatever destructive behavior you have committed. It will begin with cradling kindness for a few seconds, then minutes, then hours and then as a lifestyle. This will take long-term conditioning in order to reverse the worm hole of negative beliefs that have been strongly reinforced through addictive thinking.
You will become more free from the slavery of worm-hole negative thoughts when you condition your own spiritual awareness. It is common for addicts to believe that they never were spiritual or that spirituality will only be there when they can give up their negative thoughts and desires. Yet, spirituality will grow from inner stillness and will be less of something you possess and more of something you are. The addict looking for spirituality is like the fish looking for water as it exists in the water. It is all around and within. The reality of spirituality for an addict is the result of sharpened focus in being present with inner stillness. Practicing inner stillness is the pathway to anchoring spiritual focus and avoiding worm holes that can develop into black holes in addictive behavior.
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