This week we are talking about masks since it is Halloween. However, we are not talking about the masks we put on to dress up for trick-or-treating; we are talking about masks we wear on a daily basis. All of these masks protect us so that others can’t see us for who we really are. Today we are talking about the mask of Addiction.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is the uncontrollable compulsive need to engage in a certain activity or use a substance even when there are negative consequences. Alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, compulsive overeating, compulsive working, and compulsive exercise are all examples of addiction. Misuse or abuse of drugs, alcohol, work, or sex can lead to the addiction, especially with a family history.
Addiction is a “mask” or a fence we put up around us to cope, cover, quiet, or defend our true self. In doing this, we separate ourselves from who we really are. With continual use, the addict will withdraw from everything--family, friends, work, things they used to enjoy. The addiction takes over and is constantly reinforced by feelings such as shame and regret.
Why Do We Wear the Mask of Addiction?
There are two reasons we wear masks: to protect ourselves and to protect others. In order to protect ourselves, we wear a mask to hide our true self, our wishes, desires, and vulnerabilities from others. We just don’t feel ok being the person we really are inside. We wear these masks to pretend we are someone else to avoid rejection from others and pain. With addiction, we use drugs or alcohol to build a wall and present a front. No one will ever know who we truly are inside unless we let them in. This can cause huge problems in marriages or intimate relationships when your significant other cannot or does not know the real you. Addictions like pornography or sex addiction are very protective masks because they keep us from being intimate with another person. Your need can be met with very little vulnerability or exposure of your true self.
The mask of addiction helps us to feel ok and to keep us from being in touch with our true self. We may not feel comfortable in a crowd of people, so put on a mask and have a drink. We can’t control feelings of shame, guilt, and pain, so we mask the hurt by getting high to escape reality for a while. We don’t like the way our bodies look, so we compulsively exercise to mask it. We don’t like being intimate with others because it makes us feel vulnerable, so we have multiple one-night stands to keep anyone from getting too close.
The mask of addiction is often related to codependency. We want to be who others want us to be, so we wear that mask. If we are successful, others will like us and want to be around us—often because we fit perfectly into the mold they have created for us. We define ourselves through others’ approval. The trouble with this is that our spouse, family, friends, coworkers, etc. never see the true person. They only get to see the person we want them to see. All relationships with others are only on the surface, and we are never completely vulnerable to any one. With this mask, we cheat ourselves and others out of the experience of knowing the real person, without the mask.
If you find yourself reading this, and are struggling with any addiction, please get professional help. You are not your addiction. You are not your mask.
Check back tomorrow to read more about the masks we wear!
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.
Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.