Recovery Messages & News

Dropping the Rope

Dropping The Rope

By Paige Abbott
Registered Psychologist
Addiction can feel like there is a tug of war happening in the brain. On one side you have rationalizations, justifications, distorted thinking, and bizarre ideas that may seem appealing, rational and true. This is the disease. On the other side you have the ability to connect with self and reality; experience gratitude, peace, happiness, as well as sadness, humility, disappointment, and all other feelings with openness. The side of self is desirable, especially as people start to engage in recovery and get a glimpse of how this side of the rope feels. This can lead to wanting to tug harder, fight more, yell at the other side in the hopes that it will be quiet, give up, and, ultimately, just go away.

As you tug more and fight harder, no matter how much strength you have on your side (the self side), the disease strength will increase. Addiction is not a disease that just gives up or walks away. It is a chronic disease and it is rooted in the reward circuitry of the brain, which is very core and primal. It cannot be extracted or removed. The more you fight, the more the disease will fight back. Many describe the recovery process as a “battle.” If you view it this way, you will never “win” because as soon as you engage in the “battle”, you are engaging with the disease. You are playing a perpetual game of tug of war and, eventually, your muscles will fatigue. Others come to recognize that recovery is a journey, a process, and embark on it with a peaceful approach. They walk their path, accepting and acknowledging that the disease is around making noise, but recognize they do not need to engage in fighting the disease in any way.

Here are a few questions for your reflection and journaling:

How are you still engaged in a “tug of war” with your disease? Where are you still fighting and not willing to give up control of?

How can you acknowledge and surrender to your Addiction?

How has hanging onto control and fighting served you in recovery? How has it hurt you?

What would happen if you just let go of the rope?