Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Even after my surrender it kept trying to manipulate my mind to make me slip and destroy my recovery.
I am alive today only because of the miracle I experienced one day in treatment. As I entered my room and walked by a mirror, I glimpsed something I had never seen before. I jumped back to take a second look. It was gone. Gone but not forgotten.
It was like the movie The Fly, where the man disappears within a monster. For a split second, I saw that monster. In that moment, I realized that I was possessed by a demon: addiction.
That was 28 years ago. I now know that long before I fell into substance addiction, I was already afflicted with a way of thinking that provided the perfect hotbed for addiction. I call that way of thinking Perception Disorder.
Perception Disorder starts as mild discomfort or anxiety and can progress to a total inability to cope or function.
What is Perception Disorder?
Perception Disorder is a condition that causes us to view ourselves as the center of the universe. We see our world from a self-centered perspective and we evaluate everything based on whether we feel it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us.
For example, we may enter a room just as people burst out laughing. If we suffer from Perception Disorder, we might immediately fear that they are laughing at us.
Or our partner may be troubled and wanting to talk to a friend, and instead of feeling empathy, we become afraid that they don’t value our opinion, or we think they just want to get away from us. These suspicions can cause strife and mistrust.
Without open dialogue, we cannot process the negative feelings we experience through our Perception Disorder. And over time, this can severely erode our quality of life.
How do I know if I have Perception Disorder?
Here’s a short questionnaire to detect the presence of Perception Disorder:
• Do you think of yourself (or have others described you) as self-centered, close-minded, oversensitive, negative, fearful, or childish?
• Do you worry excessively, lack empathy, feel shame, say that life is unfair, have several enemies, hold grudges, or fail to take good care of yourself? (i.e. smoking, poor dietary habits or sleep patterns)
If you said ‘yes’ to either question, or if you often feel ungrateful or unhappy, then you probably suffer from Perception Disorder to some degree.
Perception Disorder develops during early life when a child doesn’t receive adequate attention and time for intimate talks that help her integrate into society with proper grounding. Such a child will be unable to share her feelings openly. And this may lead her to develop distorted perceptions about herself and her world.
In extreme cases, these children become acutely insecure and vulnerable as they grow into young adults.
How does perception help cause addiction?
Addiction is a disease of perception.
Severe, progressive Perception Disorder can lead to addiction and substance dependence.
The first time a person experiences the numbing effects of any sort of drug or potentially addictive behavior, they may feel incredible relief and a sense of belonging. This emotional relief can initiate their dependence on a substance or behavior.
Over time, and through repetition of such behaviors, perception becomes increasingly distorted and the person is more and more isolated from society until the pain is so great that substance use and/or compulsive behavior becomes a repeated distraction, an anticipated relief, and ultimately, a physical and psychological necessity.
So in its advanced stages, Perception Disorder can lead to substance abuse and/or behavioral disorders such as compulsive gambling, work, sex, love, or eating, and codependency.
7 Things to Know about Addiction and Perception Disorder
1. Perception Disorder is a progressive disease that compromises our quality of life. We all have it to varying degrees.
2. Severe, progressive Perception Disorder can lead to severe mental illness, such as addiction.
3. Addiction is a disease that wants to kill you. For this reason, abstinence is not recovery; it is only a prerequisite to recovery.
4. The underlying Perception Disorder was present before, and is exacerbated by, the abuse. Therefore, treating the Perception Disorder is imperative.
5. If you suffer from an advanced stage of Perception Disorder, such as addiction, then getting outside help to arrest the disease must be your sole priority.
6. Even if you find yourself completely down and out – perhaps hospitalized or incarcerated – don’t be discouraged. This may be your greatest opportunity to grow in a more meaningful way than would otherwise have been possible.
7. We can markedly improve our quality of life through simple techniques that arrest the damaging effects of our Perception Disorder.
This article has been reprinted in the following publications:
Huffington Post – October 2016
The Awesome Muse – September 2016
Pittsburgh Better Times – September 2016
Pevonia.com – September 2016