“I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop” says a bubbly twentysomething in my office. She goes on to say, “I know it’s not normal; but it is normal for me.” I get it. Some people consistently seek out drama because that is what they’re used to. Or, maybe that is what they grew up with. Constant drama, addiction, mental illness surrounded them growing up. Chaos therefore is something that is to be controlled. And control becomes a central theme in one’s life.
I believe the addiction is just the tip of the iceberg in a person’s life. The addiction pokes itself out of the water but underneath are many layers of interpersonal, unresolved conflict or trauma. Further, the addiction serves as a maladaptive tool to manage the anxiety from other layers of unresolved dysfunction. When an individual first becomes sober, two things can happen: the person struggling with addiction realizes how big their iceberg really is, and there is a pull to continuously surround themselves with the chaos and drama as a means of controlling the anxiety.
Maybe you grew up in a household with intergenerational addiction. Let’s take a close look at our fictional client, Rosie. Rosie grew up in a household where both parents were addicted to alcohol. It was not uncommon for her and her siblings to come home from school to an empty house. And, Rosie’s parents would sometimes not come home for days. She remembers taking her first drink at age 12 because the culture was there to support drinking as the norm. Continuous chaos came to become normalized over time as unpredictability became the norm. A person living in this environment begins to learn how to control the chaos so that it becomes manageable and functional in their everyday lives. They may even start to create their own chaos out of everyday situations because that is what is usual and customary in their lives.
For Rosie, alcohol became the central theme in her life. She knew that one drink was never enough and two was too many. She began to notice her drinking would start on a Tuesday or Wednesday and end on a Sunday only to start the cycle of abuse all over again. As the drinking progressed, a loss of relationships, friendships, and jobs would follow. The drinking, as she learned early on, was her only real coping strategy when anxiety or stress of everyday living became too much.
If you are newly sober and addiction to chaos remains the one thing left to tackle, there is hope. For someone who is new to the feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear that rear its ugly head once the alcohol or drugs are gone, it is normal to feel afraid. There is strength in being vulnerable. Ask for help. Talk to a licensed therapist, preferably someone who specializes in substance abuse counseling. Learning to sit with these uncomfortable feelings is critical to understanding the root cause of your addiction. Only then can you begin to let go of the chaos in your life.
Contact me now for your free 15 minute phone consultation. Traditional counseling sessions are offered in Richmond, VA. Virtual or online sessions are available worldwide.