In active addiction, the only priority becomes the substance of choice. Family, friends, jobs, beloved pets and even children get bumped down or off the list. And, of course, the self and any thoughts of recovery get left behind too.
As such, abandonment becomes a reigning theme in active addiction. For children and adult children of addicts, it manifests as an acute presenting symptom; abandonment issues, resulting from emotional and physical neglect and desertion. Moreover, both populations—adult children of addicts and active addicts—abandon themselves, their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs prior to treatment.
This theme also plays out with significant others, siblings, parents and friends with feelings that fluctuate between panic and concern over the sudden absence or disappearance to anger and heartbreak over being left, used and/or discarded. All too often, these individuals become codependent and unwittingly enabling through their reactions to this experience and desperate efforts to stop it from continuing or repeating.
For these reasons, abandonment becomes a huge hurdle for everyone involved. Family members, friends, and significant others of recovering individuals battle codependency and the resulting resentment. Those who are recovering Adult Children of Addicts who were abandoned by addicted parents and recovering addicts who abandoned themselves and others or who felt abandoned by friends and family as an act of "tough love” struggle to overcome the grief and fear, as well as the subconscious efforts to recreate and replay these painful experiences.
But, in recovery, it doesn’t matter which category or reasoning applies. It is necessary for everyone to begin the search and rescue efforts to go back and retrieve themselves.
Back to the Beginning
Everyone, including the recovering individual, the children (adult or otherwise), family members, friends and significant others enmeshed in the situation, must begin a search and recovery process in an effort to regain a connection with themselves and return to who they truly were prior to their pain – their authentic selves – and the person they have potential to be.
The search and recovery process begins with inner child work. Why? Because the literal child or the within is the one who experiences and is most negatively impacted by the abandonment. Ideally, this process will be aided by a professional counselor, therapist, spiritual guide or life coach, who can determine your individual needs and guide you, accordingly.
Regardless of which category of helping professional you choose, the first step to determine how disconnected you’ve become from you is to return, in your mind, to a time before the first heartbreak, trauma or painful event occurred in your life. To do so, simply think back to your first painful memory and note your chronological age. Then, conjure an image in your head of yourself anywhere from a day to a year prior to that moment.
Note: Being unable to recall a time prior to the first traumatic experience is not uncommon, especially with regard to early onset traumas and blocked memories. As such, if you are unable to do so, simply return to a safe or happy moment in your childhood, even if it is just a flash or fleeting.
Once you have returned to that moment in time, begin to observe yourself as that child – the one who has yet to experience pain. Become inquisitive about your inner child. Ask him or her a few important questions: What are your dreams? What brings you the most joy? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of person are you now?
Write down the responses. Then, begin to ask the same questions to your adult self – the person you are today. Note any differences.
The more variation that exists between the responses of the inner child versus the adult self, the more work that is needed to search for and rescue your authentic self. Once that process has begun, you are on a path of spiritual and emotional recovery – the healing, grief and forgiveness processes necessary to prevent relapse, self-sabotage and codependency.