When we are hurt or damaged, it’s common for us to be on guard. Animals follow this rule of “once bitten, twice shy” when they do something that results in wounding themselves. This survival mechanism is what keeps us from danger, whether it be in dangerous situations such as a fires or riots, but it also happens on smaller scales, such as when you’re confronted by people due to your opinion.
Our body doesn’t like being vulnerable. Doing so means we’re susceptible to damage both physically or mentally. However, there are cases where damage must be done first, to bring about goodness and even recover. One such example is a syringe containing medicine. It has to pierce your skin to administer medication. Another example is surgery, where you’re literally cut up, so they can fix what’s wrong inside you.
These are all physical, but what about mental? Mental vulnerability amounts to weakness and in nature, the weak are prey and the most adaptable survives. In the case of drug addiction, the brain seeks reprieve from weakness by taking the substance. With the substance, they feel that all is well in the world, that they aren’t helpless. Yet when it comes to recovery, the absence of the substance brings about pain, anxiety, and helplessness. This is what the 12-Step Programs aim to utilize to bring about recovery.
Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous and Vulnerability
One of the most common impressions people have over AAs and NAs is how you have to “surrender yourself to a higher power.” For religious people, the idea is not foreign, but for others, it can be alienating, giving the impression that they will inject a certain dogma that you have to follow.
In reality, it was less about the “higher power.” It was more of the act of surrendering. Addiction is a disease that takes the control away from you, so one of the first things to do is take that control away from the drugs, away from you and onto something higher, something that figuratively won’t let you down or fail you, something “better” than you. In order to surrender that control, you need to be vulnerable.
Why is it Difficult to be Vulnerable?
Nobody can convince you to surrender your will apart from yourself. At least, in proper AAs and NAs, you have the absolute freedom to do so. You can stay there and wait until you’re ready, nobody will force you. On the other hand, you can leave and come back when you’re ready. There are, however, a few factors that make it hard for people to make themselves vulnerable.
A common defensive mechanism. This is the reason why the first step to solving behavioral problems is admitting that you have a problem. Some people may admit they have a problem, but deny the severity of it. All it takes is patience, and a list of all the effects your addiction has caused you.
Fear of being judged, fear of the shame and guilt of admitting that you’re an addict. Society sees addicts as dysfunctional, often worse than disabled people and close to being criminals, which is why there’s fear. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘anonymous’. You can keep your identity, or choose to disclose it. Everyone in these groups is the same as you or encountered similar things. If there was a shame to be felt here, it’s the shame of not going to one sooner.
Addicts often feel aggression, especially to anyone getting in the way of their habit. They are angry at themselves for being like this, angry at not being able to change it, and angry at people who don’t understand what they go through. Anger keeps you from feeling vulnerable because it makes you want to fight. Fortunately, you’re not alone there and everyone will understand you. The only way to get over this is to express it. Stand up and say what you’ve done to yourself, stomp and the floor, growl, and scream, whatever it takes, (short of hurting someone and breaking something.) When the anger is gone, hopefully, what follows is the afterglow of clarity.