By: Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen is a recovery expert who incorporates yoga and holistic living into his recovery everyday. The above is an excerpt from his book, “Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life,” which will be release by Hay House on Oct. 21

Debunking the addiction story

(not rated)

Nov 20, 2014

There is an extraordinary force that helps perpetuate all addiction. I call it the Addiction Story. This is the story you tell yourself that builds the case for continuing your addictive behavior. Every addict has one, and it must be disproved if one is to move out of addiction.

Without knowing it, addicts repeat the Addiction Story to themselves internally, a negative mantra over and over again. Like a twisted shaman, they repeat the words and keep themselves locked into a certain way of being, suspended like a piece of metal equidistant between two identical magnets. This story gains momentum over time; such is the power of storytelling and myth.

To be stuck in our Addiction Story is no different than being possessed by a demon who has taken control of the system.

System override! The demon just wants to feed itself.

It uses all manner of tricks and tools to continue to force the system to support its agenda. It co-opts your mind and puts it to good use by creating the most vivid, splendid, and realistic story; one so intricately woven that you will die to uphold it.

Thus the machinery of denial is constructed. Denial— that’s the constant vigilance to not know what you know. It takes an unbelievable amount of energy to keep it up. What an astonishing dis-ease addiction is.

Once I found marijuana at 13 years old, I began to create my Addiction Story, gathering up evidence to convince myself (and everyone else) that my story was true.

My story’s basic premise was that marijuana was a necessary ingredient for me to succeed and enjoy my time in this world. With each enjoyable escapade or warm connection I made with a fellow pot smoker, or perhaps a girl I hooked up with who smoked pot, I added to the body of evidence. This is cool. This is for me.

I chose to live with this substance as a central part of my life. So, if that’s the choice I made for years and years, what was going on beneath that choice? What was actually there beneath the illusory tale known as the Addiction Story?

At the deepest level, the real story went something like this:

I am not getting what I need in my life and I do not know how to get it. I feel the world has let me down. No one seems to recognize or understand me. I feel confused, insecure, angry, and sad, like a victim of circumstances beyond my control. I do not trust that the earth and its inhabitants are ever going to provide what I need in this life.

Therefore, I am going to take what I need by whatever means necessary. I am building a world that makes sense to me. In this world, marijuana (substitute any drug or addictive behavior here) is king. It brings me a sense of ease, joy, and laughter. It makes me feel cool and different. It has given me a community of peers who get me, and the ability to attract girls. I have found something that genuinely makes me feel better and I don’t want it to be taken away ever.

I will do whatever I can to maintain my story that this is the correct path for me because if I don’t, the truth is that I have no idea how to get through life without it.

I am not enough.

I feel powerless in this world.

My heart is broken.

Behind every addiction is a story. And addicts are the best of storytellers. It is damn near impossible to disprove a story to someone who still wants or needs it to be true. That was certainly the case for me.

Without any knowledge of a better way, without the capacity for honest self-reflection to review my actions and their consequences for my life, having shut out all outside information (unless it directly supported my story), I started to get further and further away from myself and the things I cared most about.

My Addiction Story became at once more bolstered and more desperate. It was so critically important to my ego not to let go of the story.   

I transferred to Taft, a boarding school in Connecticut, in September of 1983 as a junior. The transition was difficult. My size continued to be a challenge. People thought I was a freshman, which brought a lot of social issues. The kids at school who smoked pot—and there were a good number of them—stood out to me in bold print. One day I was feeling particularly out of place, a bit lonely and insecure. I went to the phone to call my best friend back home and requested that he send me some pot. It came in a small well-constructed package a few days later.

Armed with new confidence, I approached two of the “bold print” guys and said, “You want to get stoned?”

Somewhat surprised, they said, “You smoke pot, Rosen? We had no idea, dude. Yeah, let’s do it.”

These guys had never paid me five seconds of attention. Now we would become friends because of this common interest. Instant community! Marijuana delivered once again. I had found an identity at Taft and I would wear it until I graduated (barely) two years later.

I made it all the way to the month of graduation, nearly two years. I was in a room with two of my friends pulling bong hits. Right before my friend Bill took a hit, I said out loud, “Even with all the close calls and stress, we really are not going to get caught doing this.” At that moment, a knock came on the door and a teacher entered, catching us red-handed.

“You know,” I said. “I could be wrong.”

We were all suspended for a week and then allowed to return to school and graduate. If we were caught again doing anything illegal, we’d be thrown out.

There were only three weeks left until graduation, but I smoked pot immediately upon my return to Taft after the suspension. Part of it was a ‘fuck you’ to The Man. Part of it was about playing the role of the undaunted and ridiculously daring (read: stupid) teenager.

And, of course, part of it was that I just didn’t want to let it go.

My tilted relationship with drugs would continue another six years.  It got very dark and I am lucky to have survived.  In the end, I cornered myself.  With no move left, the stark truth of my situation came into focus. My addiction story collapsed and the demon was exorcised.

In order for me to change, my story had to be smashed upon the rocks. This is the way it is for almost every person in recovery from acute addiction. And, I believe, this continues for the rest of our lives. We must constantly upgrade our story to reflect the unfolding revelations, which come as the result of paying attention to our lives one day at a time.  


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