This is the first post in our series about how the 12 steps of recovery (most commonly associated with addiction) apply to healing from abuse. Please see the first post for a more in depth explanation.
The heart of Step 1 is recognizing that our life has become unmanageable. In assessing the abuse taking place in our lives, we recognize that despite trying to meet our abuser’s demands they continue to abuse us. Things may improve for a little while but eventually the abuse returns. We have tried so many things so many times. Nothing has worked, we have exhausted our resources and energy, we feel our sanity hanging by a thread. This has been called hitting rock bottom and it can be scary. It is the place of utter humility, where our pride has been forced out by circumstances and consequences.
This step is usually accompanied by realizing we’ve lost hope. This is when we are ready to hear that there is still reason to hope, and it isn’t because we can do more. But I’m getting ahead of myself, more about that in Step 2.
Many of us have found that our day revolved around our addicted loved ones and our focus was on their problem and what we could do to solve it. Trying to control the addiction of another person will create a climate of tension, anger and despair. We begin to realize that when we try to control the behaviors of others, our relationships become unmanageable. When we obsessively focus on the problems of our addicted loved ones, we lose the ability to concentrate on our own responsibilities and our behaviors become unmanageable. When we try to imagine what our loved ones are thinking or what they are doing, we make ourselves sick with worry and our thoughts and emotions become unmanageable.
While other addicts are addicted to drugs, alcohol or porn, your spouse is addicted to abusive behavior (Our spouse may also be addicted to these things, or we may have become addicted in an effort to cope with the trauma of abuse.). This realization, that the circumstances of your life are serious enough to need this kind of help, will cause some grieving. It takes courage to admit that things have reached such a critical point that you need help. This is also the first step towards actually getting that help.
You may encounter other emotions as you ponder this Step:
Experiencing negative emotions is not something we need to feel guilty or shameful about. These emotions are a normal part of our human experience and are always present when we are faced with trauma and severe challenges. We learn to have the courage to feel our painful emotions and allow them to open our eyes to our situation. HTC
Feelings you may have are shock, confusion, denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and eventually resolution and acceptance. You may recognize these feelings as those felt when grieving something serious, such as a death. This is real grief, admitting to yourself that the relationship you have been working so hard for, sacrificing and devoting yourself to, is not within your power to save. It may feel as if this step is about giving up, but it is not, it is the beginning of healing.
A popular phrase from this step is “I didn’t cause it, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it.” This is the humility that is necessary to work the other steps, to move forward. Realizing that this applies to the abuse that has been inflicted on you is to admit that you do not deserve to be abused.
Which leads to the hurt of realizing that you trusted a person who betrayed your trust.
These are deeply emotional issues, be careful with yourself, respect the emotions you feel, and don’t force yourself through them.
If something you’ve read here has connected with you, read through Step 1 in the HTC manual and/or ARP manual. You can find support to help through the difficult emotions you may encounter by attending a support group or seeking professional counseling.
HTC STEP 1: Come to understand and accept that we are powerless over the addiction (behaviors) of a loved one and recognize that our lives have become unmanageable.
ARP STEP 1: Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.
The Second Healing Step will be posted soon…