I believe the addict inherits two unconscious codependent roles, the “controller” and the “dependent.” I also believe the two unconscious roles have plagued and destroyed our humanity for thousands of years. Most of the general population inherits one of the roles, either the dependent or controller role, and gravitates (unconsciously attracts) the opposite role to create a codependent relationship and a destructive pattern I’ve named The Addict’s Loop. I have discovered most addicts inherit both codependent roles and rotate them. One of the addict’s codependent roles will usually dominate the addict’s personality, while the other takes a back seat position. The backseat codependent role can rotate at any time and become the addict’s dominant personality, especially in a relationship with another addict. I have nicknamed addicts “rotators” because of this unconscious process.
An analogy that could describe the addict’s loss of control, depression and addiction is the undertow at the beach. Imagine standing in the ocean and you do not realize there is an undertow beneath you. You are twenty feet from the shore watching the waves break, and when you look back at the shore, you are now thirty feet. You watch the waves, turn around, and now you are forty feet. Every time you turn and look at the shore, you are magically further and deeper in the ocean until you are over your head and swimming for your life. If you try to control the undertow and swim directly toward shore you will be carried even further away, become exhausted, and possibly drown. The swimmer learns to navigate out of the undertow, just as I believe the addict must learn to navigate out of unconscious addiction.
Critics who do not suffer from addiction stand on the sandy beach and constantly say, “If you know there’s an undertow, don’t go in the water”. Makes perfect sense, but the difference is there is no sandy beach on which the addict can anchor their willpower. The addict lives and struggles in the water and undertow and must learn to exist and survive there. The great illusion is the addict’s controller role believes it can control the undertow. Each time, the addict begins with choice and control and then is swept away into the addiction pathway and undertow of the addict’s loop. When I mention the controller role and dependent role, it’s important to remember these two codependent roles are unconscious, no awareness and completely below conscious radar. We are dependent and must control many things in our life. This kind of dependency and control is normal and negotiable. Unconscious codependence is fixed, non-negotiable, and destructive.
I now want to describe how the addict’s emotional life acts as a pain magnet and how the addict creates and recreates his depression and emotional pain without using any substance or behavior “fixes,” basically being sober and just existing.
Before I describe the addict’s terminal low self-esteem, I want to first identify what a healthy self-esteem might look like, again using the ocean as an analogy. A person with a healthy self-esteem treads water wearing an emotional life preserver. The person with a healthy self-esteem gets pulled under the water and experiences life’s pain and trauma, but his core identity and emotional life lifts him back up to the surface. The person with a healthy self-esteem experiences and feels pain but doesn’t believe he owns the pain. This is a big difference between an addict and a non-addict. The person with a healthy self-esteem processes his pain, separates himself from it and moves on in his life with a new understanding, learned lessons, awareness and growth. The addict is unconsciously programmed by his dependent role and believes he deserves the pain and must carry it.
Now, let’s visualize the addict in the ocean. While the person with the healthy self-esteem treads water on the surface in his life preserver, the addict idles twenty feet below completely under water. Instead of wearing a life preserver, the addict has several weights pulling him down toward the ocean floor. This is where the addict’s inherited and damaged self-esteem idles 24/7. To understand the addict’s damaged and destructive emotional life, it is important to understand that a large percentage of the addict’s pain and depression is inherited and I’ll explain why.
The addict’s two codependent roles create an unconscious dictatorship where a false self (the dependent role) is programmed to be rescued by a false god (the controller role,) to feel connected, above his pain and safe. The controller role needs the dependent role to feel powerful, praised and in control. Both roles are enslaved by each other in the addict’s unconscious and are programmed to fulfill their multi-generational, inherited programming and behavior. I will now explain what happens in the addict’s unconscious without any childhood abuse, trauma, co-occurring disorders or the use of substance and behavioral “fixes.”
The two codependent roles are permanently separated and idle in the addict’s unconscious. The embedded programming from the dependent role continually sends a series of destructive messages: “I am broken, helpless, incapable and need the controller to rescue me. I deserve the pain I’m handed, and I must carry it and live with it. I’m lost and afraid and cannot survive alone. I need to be rescued by the controller to feel safe, connected, loved and whole.” The addict may not realize these messages are baiting the controller to rescue him. All the addict experiences are the negative and defeating messages that keep emanating from deep inside. These are only a few of the dependent’s messages and destructive programming.
The controller’s deep unconscious programming also sends several destructive messages: “I’m abandoned and powerless unless I rescue the dependent. I need the dependent to feel powerful, connected, praised, in control and loved. The dependent will not survive unless I manage his existence. I am nothing unless I save the dependent from his broken self.” Again, the addict may not realize his internal messages are from his controller role to rescue the dependent role. All the addict experiences is fear, anxiety, a sense of powerlessness and loss of control. The over whelming fear of losing control, makes the addict desperately attempt to control the uncontrollable. The internal message being, “If I lose control, I will fall into the abyss of nothingness.”
When the two codependent roles idle in the addict’s unconscious, they create the addict’s terminal low self-esteem, disconnection, pain and depression. The tragedy is most addicts are not aware that they have the two unconscious codependent roles and believe all the negative, destructive messages and feelings are from their core identity and authentic self. This is the insidious and destructive lie of multi-generational codependence and addiction.
At the core of the addict’s shame and depression is a process I have named “Echo Shaming.” During child-teen years, echo shaming is the unconscious learned behavior of a dependent and controller receiving critical and shaming abuse and making it his own pain, inner voice and experience. Echo shaming gravitates the child into the inherited and programmed codependent roles.
Each time the codependent splits from his core identity, it creates the cruel illusion that the child is leaving something bad (his authentic self) and arriving into something where he will be received and loved (his codependent roles.) The dependent child’s unconscious transformation into the dependent role becomes, “I will abandon myself, people please and become what you want, so I am visible and loved.” The controller child’s transformation becomes, “I will abandon myself and rescue and enable you, so I am visible and loved.” The echo shaming from the codependent and addict’s authentic self is a painful, traumatic and lonely journey. Every codependent and addict has his own story and journey of echo shaming out of his root honesty and authentic self. During a workshop a man named David shared his story…
I remember being a dependent to my mother’s controller role. I was echo shamed out of my root honesty by my mother. Her harsh words would spin in my head and criticize my thinking, feelings and behavior. I would not repeat my mother’s shaming words when they were spoken, but later, if I were building a small model airplane and accidentally broke the plastic landing wheel, I would echo shame my mother’s words “you can’t do anything right.” My echo shaming pattern repeated itself whenever I “screwed up” or thought I screwed up and I soon learned to become negative, critical and judgmental toward myself and my world. My mother passed her shaming, critical voice to me, and it became my new inner voice condemning my thoughts and feelings.
During my conditioning, the process of echo shaming became self-fulfilling. If my mother wasn’t around to criticize and shame me, I would sabotage myself and unconsciously create the circumstances to fail and condemn myself. My unconscious programming created a bizarre “failure fix,” whenever life was good and going my way. I would project my “failure fix” onto my life and become forgetful or clumsy and accidentally break something or be neglectful. My mother would then criticize and lecture me for screwing up and I would stand trance-like and believed I deserved the verbal or physical abuse. Later in life, when I confronted my mother about her extremely controlling, dominating and critical behavior, she seemed confused and didn’t remember a lot of the circumstances.
In David’s story above he describes the inherited programming of the dependent role. The dependent role receives critical shame from the controller role, makes it his own pain and creates a “less than” default setting and then sets himself up to fail so he will be once again, criticized and rescued by the controller role.
An example of echo shaming for a child-controller would be a “dependent” family member unconsciously baiting, leaning on, and manipulating the child-controller to rescue and save him. Again, the controller is also driven by fear of abandonment, his internal message being, “If I don’t rescue and save the dependent, I will be rejected, abandoned, and alone.” The child-controller is conditioned and learns to become enabling, critical, angry and a victim of the family dependent(s).
The addict’s two unconscious codependent roles begin to rotate after both roles have been conditioned or “charged” during child-teen years. Think of the addict’s two unconscious codependent roles as batteries that are “charged” by the child-teen’s surrounding codependent relationships. The child’s dependent role might be charged first by a controller parent, and then later the child’s controller role might be “charged” by a dependent family member or role model. Before leaving home, both of the addict’s codependent roles begin rotating and creating the destructive addict’s loop in his unconscious and all his surrounding relationships.
I believe that relationship addiction is the addict’s first addiction. It is the first addiction and it is unconscious. The addict’s surrounding codependent relationships are also unconscious and continually build a reservoir of repressed emotional pain, depression and abuse inside the addict’s loop, which at some point trumps the euphoric high/fix or any connection “high.” The addict’s destructive relationship dynamics continue into adulthood and become the addict’s collective pain that he unknowingly creates, represses and reproduces.
The addict can also come from a loving home where he experienced no abuse, and the addict can be sober from his substance and behavioral “fixes” and still create enough unconscious pain and depression from his two inherited and rotating codependent roles to completely destroy his emotional life and seek a fatal solution.