Unlovable and Unworthy of It

Addicts feel emotionally abandoned, fundamentally uncared-for. Ultimate egocentrics, they interpret this as their fault. They come to believe they’re unworthy of the love and care they long for but can never obtain. They conclude they’re unloved because they’re unlovable. Addicts describe this feeling as a “hole in their soul.”

Much of the time, the feeling of abandonment is objectively warranted. Many of my AA friends were neglected or abused physically and/or psychologically, and a surprising number were sexually molested.

For some, feeling emotionally abandoned is not objectively true. For example, I came from a loving, supportive family. I wasn’t neglected or abused. I was loved and well-cared for. Still, perhaps because I was a twin, I felt from adolescence that I was on my own, that I couldn’t rely on other people’s care. It wasn’t true, but I believed it genuinely, much like the sincere delusion of denial.

Regardless of where one lies on a reality-based scale of emotional need, the torment of feeling uncared-for is just as real for everyone and so is the need for relief. Pain is pain and the craving for solace is primal. When it’s your pain and you have no tools for dealing with it, you grab whatever’s handy to dull it.

Thus, addicts shared a common trait. We take drugs to feel adequate. For us, drugs weren’t for fun. They might have been once, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but we were well past that. We took drugs as medicine, convinced it was our only chance at normality.

Conversely, high on drugs, addicts are momentarily convinced they’re hot shit. Their suffering makes them special, something they covet badly. The lies and manipulations they get away with convince them they’re more clever than others. They take out-sized satisfaction in their ability to “get away with it.”

AA describes this duality in the addict mind as “egomania with an inferiority complex.” The self-hating default setting can only be interrupted by drug-induced wishful thinking. If only we weren’t weak. If only we could control ourselves, be satisfied with a modest buzz, and leave it at that. But addicts can’t because normies don’t use drugs as medicine and addicts do. No amount of medicine, however, can quench the longing for care — for love — addicts believe they can never secure.

There’s no exit from egomania coupled with inferiority, these alternating mutually exclusive realities. Eventually, psychological exhaustion sets in. All addicts can hope for is temporary relief while waiting for some fantasy future solution or for an end to overtake them. You have no idea how low you can go until waking up in the morning is a bad break.

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cover of A Whole Lot of Medicine

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