Liberated living: The power of language

After averting a potentially catastrophic DXM relapse, I set out to build a brand new life. In Liberated Living, we’ll transform myths to truths, take down the stigmas associated with “addiction” and “mental illness,” and learn powerful tools for permanent, total recovery.

This is part four of an eight part series titled Liberated Living.

The following monologue represents my formerly-held beliefs about addiction.

My name is Andrew Hicks, and I am an addict.

Yep, that’s me. The addict.

Cursed by addiction. Totally powerless, out of control.

But my powerlessness is not my fault, you see. Addicts make mistakes.

That’s just how we roll.

Addiction is hereditary, after all. Must be my parents’ fault, right?


What else do us addicts do?

We relapse.

Because, “relapse is a part of recovery,” some who sound pretty in-the-know tell us.

So, I relapse. Often.

Must mean I am recovering. All’s well.

One step back, two steps ahead, yeah?

So, recovery. What is it, anyway?

Recovery from what?

The lifelong disease of addiction.

Wow. Sounds serious.

Is that like cancer?

Diseased until death.

Bum deal, man.

Guess all I can do is concede to it. Cope with it.

Only way I know how to cope, though, is with the same pills that sucked me into this mess.

Meanwhile, I am stigmatized. Separated from non-addicts.

Those non-addicts just don’t relate to me.

Most of my family and several friends? Perpetually pissed at me.

I feel judged. Ostracized.

They tell me it’s because they care.

But if they cared, they would hear me out, just listen. Make an effort to understand.

Then, some people pretend addiction doesn’t exist at all. Won’t talk about it. Selectively deaf.

The only ones who get me are down in this putrid mire by my side.

We console each other, provide one another with a culture of understanding. More like counter-culture.

We also relapse together, cling to each other, seduce one another.

We are the unclean.

The clean people are out there. Far away.

But us?

Quarantined. We’re lepers. Pariahs.

Support groups applaud after thirty days without using. Makes me feel good.

Thirty days is forever.

And relapse yet looms. Progress could be wiped out at any time.

Back to day one.

They’ll clap when I get to thirty again, though, so that’s good.

No matter how many times I fall, will keep peeling myself off the ground.

Fall nine times, get up ten, I like to say. Read that somewhere once.

The only way we addicts can function in society and earn a degree of acceptance is by abstaining from that which taints us.

Cut the booze and pills, smoking and snorting. No shooting up, even when it’s all we want.

Then, even though this lifelong disease hangs over our heads, our dirtiness finds remission.

Not drinking anymore, so the clean can pretend we’re with them.

But if (when) we relapse, it all goes down the drain.

Cast out again by the clean.

Pfft, the “clean.”

They’re all just addicts, anyway. Addicted to soda and junk food and Facebook. To relationships and TV and looking good to others.

Damn hypocrites.

We stigmatized addicts are scapegoats.

We hate the shame of being who we are. We assume everyone hates us.

The people we most desperately want to understand us are often the first ones to make us feel small. Microscopic, insignificant.

That’s how we feel, anyway.

Our loved ones cannot stand to see us like this.

We cannot stand to see them seeing us like this.

Deep in our hearts, we know we have valid reasons for what we do. There must be, for all this craziness.

To others, our efforts to find reasons are just empty excuses.

And it hurts, so deeply. Cannot stand it anymore.

Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am damned.

Tried before, to find solace in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous.

Works for some, but for me just awkward.

They want me to submit to a “Higher Power.”

Don’t even know what that means anymore.

After what I’ve been through, how could I possibly believe in anything greater than my addiction?

Wish I could stretch my mind into that realm of thought.

Don’t know how. Which has somehow, unfathomably, alienated me even from other addicts.

Too many factions, divisions. Aren’t we all, at heart, just people?

Fuck this.

I need more drugs.

Once an addict, always an addict.

May as well live up to it.

Live with it. Die with it

The following monologue represents my present beliefs about self-limiting dependencies.

My name is Andrew Hicks and I am an empowered human being.

Yep, that’s me. Recovered and whole.

Liberated from stigma. Totally powerful, captain of my life.

Sustaining power is my responsibility. A good captain builds on his laurels.

That’s just how we roll!

Dependencies on self-limiting behaviors may have genetic components, but to what degree no one yet knows for sure. Various qualified experts do not agree on the issue, so it is probably optimal for me not to devise a definitive conclusion about this at this time.

What I do know for certain is that, genetic component or no, I am thankful for the genes my parents have given me. Shall utilize them well.

Thank you, Mom and Dad!

It is a frequent ritual for those with self-limiting dependencies to fall into repeated habitual behaviors. Therefore, it is common and understandable to assume that reversion to those behaviors is an inevitable and necessary part of recovery.

This belief has particular limitations, and I don’t buy it.

The belief in impending inevitability of reversion dramatically increases the likelihood of such.

This idea is reinforced by well-intentioned professionals in the field of substance misuse treatment.

Well-intentioned, yes, but it may be time to consider more helpful treatment paradigms.

Consistent, unwavering power and control over our lives and mindsets can become the new inevitability.

Has a nice ring to it, yeah?

So, recovery. What is it, anyway?

Recovery from what?

The underlying traumas, beliefs, thought patterns, and emotional and/or physical discomfort that cause a deep need for relief. This relief is usually acquired by the most effective, efficient means available.

Well, that sounds manageable. Thank goodness I am not diseased, at least!

The most effective, efficient means available, from my frame of reference, used to be engaging in self-limiting behaviors. Overuse of drugs, food, whatever else scratched the itch.

By learning skills that heal underlying traumas, transform ineffective beliefs and their corresponding thought patterns, and relieving emotional and/or physical discomfort, there is no longer a need to cope in self-limiting ways.

What a breath of fresh air.

That rocks, man!

This means I am fully capable of living however I choose.

Life forecast is sunny with a chance of bad ass.

And now, I am a crucial part of society.

People are attracted to the charisma, compassion, and clarity that radiate from an authentic, empowered individual.

My family now relies on me for my warmth and composure.

I feel loved. Included.

They express heart-melting gratitude every day.

They demonstrate their love by listening, understanding. Doing their best.

Friends now engage with me in meaningful, exciting, ultra-powerful discourse about the nature of self-limitation. How to work through it, transcend it.


This cultivates a culture of understanding, extending to new horizons.

Now days, my imagination soars.

As human beings, we’re all capable of world-changingly amazing things.

We are all important.

Every single one of us.

All who exist possess the capacity for liberation. Unity.

Don’t need applause anymore to feel good. But I dig it when it is available.

Every day overflows with precious opportunities to connect, grow, and flourish.

Because of my choices, continual momentum is ensured.

Onward and upward!

At times, other people lift me up with their love and praise. When they do not, it is all good. I’ve got my own back.

No matter what life throws at me, this way of life sustains me through pain and rejection and agonizing tears.

Get up and soar, I like to say. Made that up, just now.

Now I can see I was never truly unclean.

Was just leaning on the most effective coping mechanisms available.

And that is OK. It is all I knew how to do.

Would not trade it for anything.

It all made me who I am today. Powerful and free.

Unified with my brothers and sisters across Planet Earth.

I love this place.

We all have our own ways of managing our lives. Some more empowering than others.

This life, full of unique choices.

Our choices collaborate to make the future.

Every single choice matters. Isn\’t that incredible?

Understanding and compassion for others is nearly effortless when we are at peace with ourselves. We’re kind of a big deal. Capable, dynamic, competent beings.

That is truth.

Our loved ones are proud to see us like this.

We are proud to see them seeing us like this.

Deep in our hearts, we know there is no turning back. This is the real deal.

Our rhetoric is proven by our lives. Our words are not empty, for our actions comply.

As we heal, so deeply, we cannot lay down anymore.

Alive, so alive!

And blessed.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous provide awe-inspiring resources to this world.

Have saved so many lives.

Helped people find their Higher Power.

Whether it be God, the Universe, service, community or in oneself.

After everything that’s happened, how could I ever judge again?

Every individual’s path, completely embraced.

All in due time, most of us make it out alive. Some don’t. But we’re all vital. Unfathomably connected to everything.

Goodness gracious, I love you all.

Go team!

I want more hugs.

Once a trial embracer, always a trial embracer.

May as well live up to it.

Live with it. Own it. Celebrate it!

Also published on Medium.