Those who change the world for the better have something very important in common. They ask questions ― bigger questions than have been asked before. They believe in something beyond what has been done already. They stretch some very important societal paradigm.

Today, we should be asking questions like:

Why are recovery statistics so dramatically weighted toward relapse?

What if the best way to heal from addiction is a very different model than traditionally used?

Could it be that the problem with lasting recovery is not as much about the addiction as it is about the attempt to heal it through a paradigm that actually produced the problem in the first place? This common standard based on shame and fixed, worn-out, self-defeating beliefs?

Dictionary definition of paradigm: “A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.” In the last decade it’s become a popularized word used to portray one huge change in society most noted as an expansion of awareness (bigger thinking) by western society. It’s often referred to as a paradigm shift, as if there’s only one and it’s happening to everyone.

We hear people discuss the “old paradigm,” often defined as the world of strict intellectual interpretation and belief in specific, predictable outcomes. In short, controlling. The “new paradigm,” is spoken of as an awareness of the broader, more limitless thought in which feelings, intuition and even divine intervention get equal attention. The shift is clearly more in the direction of spiritual and emotional awareness with less tendencies to accept a purely logical or historical answer to a problem.

Traditionally (call it old paradigm if you wish,) American society has focused on a triangle of dysfunction and defeat. The three points of the triangle are Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. We bounce around from one position to the next, playing the roles as if they are our only viable choices. Even strong, courageous people are often so steeped in the questions of “Who’s to blame?” “Who’s bad and who’s good?” and “Who should be punished?” Those are the questions that have formed the processes we use and shape the very results we get in the end.

If my query is about who’s bad, where does my focus lie? Surely not on any form of honoring and empowerment.

Instead, we can ask ourselves, “Is a cure, a healing, a true health revolution possible without empowerment of the individual?” and, “If not, then what is the point of systems set up to jettison personal integrity and power?”

It might be that the whole point of the shame-based paradigm is simply to ensure the survival of shame, punishment, finger-pointing and fighting. The inner fight is the hard one. So, to support a person with addiction issues, the most useful personal question is, “How can I support you to empower yourself to live the life you truly want for yourself?”

Ask yourself this question. Ask your loved ones this question. And if the answer is something other than truly supportive, see it for what it is. Shame and blame are the ultimate addiction. The pain they produce is the very pain that we attempt to drown out with our substance of choice. Alcohol, Ambien (sleeping pills,) Red Bull, pornography, you name it — it’s all about the internal race, running from the shaming, finger wagging condemnation that we’ve had too much of.

What would happen if your inner dialogue and your support group didn’t use language of put-down and defeat? What would happen if the assumption was that each person is fully capable of living free of addiction and that there is nothing flawed about the inherent beingness of a person with challenges?

What would happen if the entire focus was on, “How might we help this good person release shame and hurtful inner dialogue?”  “What are the strengths of this person?” “What is the true reason for this addiction and how might we help this dear, precious being to fulfill their true craving for a life well lived?”

Then and only then will empowering answers of a new paradigm in addiction treatment become our collective reality. The attitude is truly the path.

Copyright 2011 Joyce Marvel-Benoist


Joyce Marvel-Benoist

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