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The 12 Steps: Toxic Relationships vs. Addiction Recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous)

One of the most interesting parallels between AA and recovery from a toxic relationship is "sobriety chips" / "no contact time".

  1. Peace
    Through family struggles, I've grown familiar with the 12-step program, and I think one of the most interesting parallels between AA and recovery from a toxic relationship is "sobriety chips" / "no contact time".

    Obviously in the beginning, No Contact makes a huge difference in regaining our sanity and letting our body chemistry settle back down to normal (similar to an addict going through withdrawal). But in AA, a lot of groups stress the importance of doing more than counting the months of sobriety, not just surviving and spending each day missing the high, hoping that things will just get better in time.

    In steps 2 and 3, alcoholics are encouraged to explore spirituality and embrace a power greater than themselves. Many alcoholics say that surrendering control to a higher power actually removes the underlying feelings that drive the addiction. It replaces old desires and resentments with genuine, pure love. Once that's in place, the desire to drink or use is gone.

    There's been very little research on how best to recover from narcissistic abuse, but I do think there are some similarities. Looking back on my relationship, I see it as a very ego-based love. There was a lot of flattery - looks, accomplishments, humor, etc. Without it, I felt worthless and bad. With time, I came to wonder... Why did I need a person validating these things to feel good about myself? And who would love me if I didn't have any of those things?

    For me, it all circled back to that same answer in AA, of accepting and embracing love from something beyond myself. This love had nothing to do with the ego, and everything to do with being a human who has flaws and fears and failures. This love felt so much stronger and infinite, something that soothed me instead of making me want/need more of it.

    In this way, I think AA makes a lot of sense. The desire to ever feel like that again, to recreate the ego love-bombing, is completely gone. I like the calm, soothing love. It slowly eases old inadequacies and insecurities. I feel loved even if it doesn't come from a romantic partner. With or without someone else, I know that I belong.

    While I don't think "higher power" is for everyone, I do think there are a lot of ways to find this love for ourselves. To fully accept the parts we have trouble liking. And in this process, I think the recovery path is greatly improved.

    Right after the devalue & discard, the ego's first inclination is going to be to keep itself alive. By lashing out, comparing ourselves to the new partner, hoping they'll break up, trying to prove we're good, putting someone else down to avoid feeling the overwhelming inadequacy of being replaced, cheated on, unloved, rejected, and not wanted.

    We can let the ego keep dancing this dance for a long time, but it never brings inner peace. Because it's still missing that love piece. And so the inadequacy gets buried deeper and deeper, manifesting in weird ways (perfectionism, isolation, depression, insomnia, anxiety, over-accomplishing, black & white thinking, irritability, substance abuse, etc) long after the person is consciously gone from our thoughts.

    In AA, alcoholics are essentially surrendering the ego to something greater: love. It's letting go of resentment, of betrayal, of being right or wrong. Letting it all wash away so that you can let in the truth that you belong. That you are good. That you are fully deserving of love.

    In this way, it's less about "No Contact for X months" but instead finding true love & acceptance for our whole selves in the process. Being welcomed back home to our hearts with open arms, flaws and inadequacies and all.

    I think these are universal themes to the human experience, and maybe relevant to the recovery process that we're all working through!

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Article Author: Peace