The Masks We Wear- Addiction

As Teri mentioned earlier this week,  for Halloween we are writing about the masks we wear as adults in our everyday lives.  Some masks are made to look scary, some beautiful, and some sad, some sexy or confident.  All of the masks cover the authentic self of the person who wears them.  Yesterday Tamera did a great job when she wrote about the mask of shame.  Shame is a trickster, just like our topic today: Addictions. What is Addiction?

Addiction is simply defined as the uncontrollable compulsive need of an individual to engage in a certain activity or use a substance even in the face of negative consequences. Alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, compulsive overeating, workaholism, and compulsive over exercise are all examples of addiction.  Over or misuse of drugs, alcohol, work, or sex can lead to the brain disease addiction when combined with a family history and continued abuse.  In the end, addiction is a barrier, or wall we put up to cope with, cover, or quiet, defend, or protect our authentic self.  Over the course of addiction, one becomes distant from his or her authentic self without knowing it.   The addict identity has been cemented to the individual’s self concept with shame and reinforced by regret.

How Do We Wear a Mask of Addiction?

"Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes.

We wear masks for two main reasons.  The first is to protect ourselves, and the second is to protect others.  In the first case, we wear masks to hide our true identity, our wishes, our dreams, our desires, or lack thereof from others.  We feel that we are not “ok” the way we truly are.  We use these masks to pretend we are someone we are not to avoid pain or rejection from others.  Addicts use drinking or drug of choice to help keep people away from their true selves.  No one can ever truly get to know you if you only show them your altered self.  Your spouse cannot love the real you, or reject the authentic you when you wear your mask of addiction.  Addictions of a sexual nature like pornography and internet relationships are masks or distractions to keep ourselves from becoming truly intimate with another human being.

Mostly the mask of addiction keeps us from discovering and being with our authentic selves.  We do not like the way we feel in crowds, so put on that mask and have a drink.  We do not like that we cannot control our thoughts, so smoke a joint.  We cannot stand to look in the mirror at our imperfect bodies, so mask it with compulsive exercise.  We do not accept the fact that with true intimacy comes vulnerability, so mask it with shallow encounters with multiple sex partners.

When we wear the mask of addiction to protect others, it is usually tied in with Codependency.  Based on flawed thinking, we want to be who others want us to be, so we use alcohol or drugs to become that person, or to wear that mask.  This mask is worn in pubic, to work, to parties, on dates, to please and cope with people you have to be with.  This mask helps alter you to meet the perceptions of others.  Unfortunately,  your coworkers, friends, spouse, peers do not see the authentic you, but who you believe they want to see.  Since addicts use "stinking thinking" to make decisions, the perceptions of what others want is likely flawed.  With this mask, you cheat yourself, and others out the experience of knowing you.

If you are struggling with addictions, please reach out for help.  Addiction is a medical condition that should be treated with professional help.  You may have an addiction, but your true authentic self is not an addict.  You are not your addiction.  You are not your mask.

Please stay tuned while Natalie and Joleen reveal more masks this Halloween week!

Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT  is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapyfamily counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield