In the next several blogs we’ll discuss connections between the Stations of the Cross and the stages of addiction. The first Station is about Jesus’ condemnation to death; just like many addicts, He felt a sense of abandonment and rejection.
Many people have life experiences which cause them to feel abandoned or rejected. These feelings are deep and penetrating, and can be so extreme that they cause a condition known as reactive attachment disorder; when a person learns to feel unwanted and unloved. Millions of children grow up with this condition due to neglect and/or abuse from their parents. This emotional emptiness can manifest as an underlying factor that causes a person to seek comfort and consolation for their pain by using drugs or drinking alcohol. Without some sort of psychological or spiritual intervention to heal these early wounds, the comfort they find in alcohol or drugs may turn into an addiction.
Other people experience abandonment and rejection during later periods of life. Some people are tormented because of a learning disability, speech impediment, lack of coordination, physical impairment, inferior socioeconomic status, etc. Others face challenges such as betrayal by a friend, breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, divorce, failure in work or school, and most commonly, the death of a loved one. The list goes on and on. Nearly every person suffering from addiction has a story rejection or abandonment.
Here’s a quick story about a resident who recently came to St. Joseph Institute. Names have been changed but all other details are true:
Brad was a guy who had everything going for him up until a year before he entered addiction treatment. At admission he was confused about how he’d gotten into such a devastating downward spiral. Most of his life had been happy and fulfilling; he had a good job, owned his own home and was engaged to be married. He had all the elements of a successful life, and yet, he had developed an opiate addiction that he couldn’t stop.
His story was quite mysterious until he had his first bodywork session when we began to discuss the recent death of his best friend, Dave. Brad had discussed this loss previously and thought it had been resolved. But what we discovered while unwinding the deep, restricted patterns in his core was that the grief he felt from his friend’s loss was far more intense and complicated than he had understood.
During childhood Dave and Brad had been so close that he described their relationship as being more like brothers than friends. They did everything together, and remained close during elementary school, high school and college. Then Dave entered military service and went overseas on a tour of duty. When Dave returned he was distinctly changed. He was distant and they no longer talked or had fun together. Brad was confused and hurt, and felt rejected by his best friend. He simply could not reach Dave.
Tragically, Dave took his own life. Brad felt an immense sense of mental anguish and torment.
As we continued his therapy and bodywork sessions, we discussed the traumatic effects of war and how it can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brad was slowly able to make sense of Dave’s odd behavior after returning from active duty and his eventual suicide. In addition, he was able to see how Dave’s war trauma had created trauma in his own life – like a domino effect. Brad’s grief had started with Dave’s return from military service, then continued to increase while he watched his friend suffer from PTSD – a condition that neither one of them recognized nor understood. After Dave’s suicide, Brad’s depression was exacerbated further when he was struck by the reality that his lifelong companion would not be standing next to him as the best man at his wedding. Brad closed down in his relationship with his fiancé, just like Dave had closed down in his relationship with Brad.
Discussing these issues revealed a whole new perspective to Brad and allowed him to release the trauma from his core. Brad realized his fiancé was experiencing losing him emotionally, just as he had experienced losing Dave. He left treatment sober, with the goal of honoring Dave by remaining open with his new bride and beginning their marriage with happiness and honesty. It has now been 9 months, 14 days and Brad remains sober… and happily married.