Mental Obsession

     Mental Obsession: Recurring thoughts or ideas that do not respond to ration or reason.

     Besides the physical allergy and the underlying spiritual illness, the other component of addiction is the presence of a mental obsession – a very unique form of insanity, and one that can manifest quite randomly and for no apparent reason. It is also otherwise non-existent except when it rears its demonic head.

     According to the Big Book, the mental obsession can manifest itself in two ways: randomly or deliberately. When we deliberately succumb to the obsession to drink or get high, we are justifying it. We suddenly believe that we have the right to get plastered because nobody feels the way we do, because our job is stressful or our boss is an asshole, because we feel anxiety or because our best friend backstabbed us, because we lost a parent prematurely or because the town we live in sucks. Whatever the case, we are convinced that we have the right to stick a needle in our arm because our lives are so much tougher than everybody else’s. We believe this even if we have a long history of using abnormally, and worse yet, even if it comes at the expense of hurting others.

     When the mental obsession hits us randomly, that is the very crux of our problem. Spontaneously going insane for no reason at all is why addicts and alcoholics cannot stay sober. This is also why you meet so many addicts and alcoholics who say they are “recovering” as opposed to “recovered.” Trust me, there is most certainly a difference. To be recovering implies that we are still struggling and are therefore subject to relapse. To be recovered implies that we no longer suffer from the mental obsession, and therefore we are sane again, and therefore we are not subject to relapse. If an addict is sane, he or she is not “in recovery.” Hell, we could go work in a bar or a meth lab, because alcohol and meth have no power over us. There are no triggers for a recovered person. They are free. Yes, it is possible to be free and to go anywhere in the world safely.

     So the random obsession occurs, yup, you got it, randomly. We are going along, it’s a perfectly beautiful day, there is nothing wrong, feelin’ fine, perhaps we’re even happy (imagine that). Then…. suddenly the thought pops into our heads that it would be a great day to crush up an OxyContin and sniff it in the bathroom. I mean why not? What’s wrong with that? These random thoughts can occur weeks, months, or even years after achieving physical sobriety. And when they do, a switch goes off. From that point on, there is no way we will NOT use. A decision has been made. Once the thought enters our head, we obsess about it and continue to obsess until we finally drink or use. And there is no getting rid of the thought. This is the insanity of it.

     The insanity is also characterized by another strange occurrence. When these random thoughts hit us, we seem to suddenly forget everything we know about our history with addiction – the fact that we cannot use normally, all the people we will hurt or lose, all the trouble we will get into, and so on. All of it just disappears. Irrational thoughts suddenly seem rational. Even though we’ve been a chronic drug addict for 15 years, arrested, committed, totalled cars, burned bridges, lost money, respect, friends and family… it suddenly seems normal and of little concern to go get high. We suddenly believe we can handle it this time. Hunh?

     So yes, the addict is nuts.

God, please remove my obsession to drink alcohol and use drugs…

2 thoughts on “Mental Obsession

  1. This is really great stuff…but how does one get through the mental obsession? Is it best to just 'watch' the thoughts and recognize the addictive voice and let it pass? I would love to ehar any solutions you ahve tried or know of…thanks.

  2. Ideally you want to have it lifted from you and rid yourself of it completely. We do this by having some sort of spiritual experience. When I began to engage in the Steps, I was engaging in a spiritual experience, and this can indeed lift the mental obsession from you. Personally, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the Step process. I tried to be as thorough and fearless as I could be. I knew there was something spiritually wrong with me and I truly wanted to change and be okay. After writing the most thorough and honest inventory I could, I read it aloud to another, meditated for an hour, and then got down on my knees and recited the 7th Step prayer. The moment I finished, something inexplicable happened. I remember laughing and crying simultaneously and saying to myself, \”Holy shit, it worked.\” I was touched by something so powerful and loving – God. I felt a this rush, this force of energy or power flow through me and from that point on, the obsession just disappeared. I sort of instantly stopped caring about drugs and alcohol and in fact began to repel anything that kept me from growing spiritually, anything that pushed me away from Him. I believe that if we really want to change and heal and be free, if we really want to be okay and we are willing to work hard for it and do anything it takes, God will lift the obsession from you. So by giving myself to the Step process and by earnestly giving myself and my will over to God, by letting Him direct me, the obsession was removed in return. Do the Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book and do them as thoroughly and fearlessly as humanly possible. That said, life and the world are tough. We will suffer and be challenged. And when we neglect the ongoing work, or perhaps when we begin to sink emotionally and choose to fight and resist those painful feelings, the obsession can perhaps creep back in. If that kind of thing happens, I used to pray…\”God, please remove the obsession to drink and use drugs.\”\”God, please keep me close to you.\”\”God, please help me turn my will over to you.\”\”God, please teach me how to love you.\”\”God, please help me to want to put You and my spiritual growth first.\”\”God, please bring me the opportunity to help others.\” That sort of thing. But don't let your feelings stop you. Painful feelings are simply part of life. Don't fight them or resist them. Instead embrace them. Sit down next to them and put your arm around them, as they are part of you. Love them as you love God. In addition to praying (pray hard), one fail safe is working with others. Go and take someone through the Big Book, or go speak somewhere, or find someone to help in some way. Service. When you engage with someone, it takes you out of your selfishness. Since you are actively giving and focusing on someone else and on God, you cannot stew and focus on yourself. Service takes us out of ourselves, and since self-focus is the process by which the obsession occurs, doing anything to take you out of yourself will usually do the trick. We get in trouble when we focus on ourselves too much, so go serve and give to others and you will be free. Don't isolate. Thanks for writing and God bless you.

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