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Letter to Recovering Addicts and those who love or loved one: Notes on “Atonement” – “Process” – “Closure” and why they may seem elusive


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Atonementsatisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.

Atonement AA (Step 8): Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Atonement in a Religious context: The reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ.

Closure is the end of something. After being caught sending naked pictures to minors or someone other than your spouse (for those of you who are married or cheating), expect the closure of your political career and a boycott of your business for example. The cookie cutter definition of psychological closure (which is the topic of this post) is “… an individual’s desire for a firm solution as opposed to enduring ambiguity.”

Closure comes from the Latin claus (“shut”), and has numerous synonyms and linguistic or contextual applications. A road closure blocks that road from traffic. If you find closure after an emotional hardship, you’re ready to move on. An obstruction in a small passage, like a pipe, is also a closure, as is the button on your sweater. In debate, closure (usually cloture), stops debate and starts the vote.

Closure is a principle from Gestalt psychology and Grief counseling as well.

  • I did not lose a battle with addiction and did not struggle with chemical dependency.
  • I did not get lost in pop science trying to stabilize my perception of why I could not stop using drugs of any kind.
  • Make a note, that I have just listed TWO reasons why I am blessed and I will return to this at the end of this post.

Process Philosophy:

My first exposure to the drug scene was straight out of a movie and far less glamorous. I was six years old and my father was arrested in the early 1980’s for what the DEA and RCMP said was his role in a 12 million dollar drug sting. He was arrested in Buffalo New York and his face was plastered all over the evening news on all three major news networks. My mother had just graduated from college with two degrees and was denied any opportunity to use her education degree in our community. She was presumed to be too emotionally unstable due to the public nature of my father’s arrest and of course, she was guilty before she was innocent in the eyes of many. Privately, neither of my parents used any kind of drug other than alcohol though they were both children of alcoholics. Of my grandparents, my father’s mother was the only one who did not drink at all.  I saw addiction and abuse from other angles than one would expect.

What do I know about drugs and addiction personally?

  • I am a sexual abuse survivor: I was a drug for a sick grandfather and neighbor who could not control himself and who would not and presumably ‘could not’ stop. His excuse I presume would have been PTSD had he been confronted.
  • My mother was anorexic and bulimic until my sister was born when I was 7 years old and used food as a drug. My parents raised me as a vegetarian which was promoted by their religious views at the time and abandoned the practice when she became pregnant with my sister.
  • I have a step sibling who thru a variety of personal challenges of her own, was placed into rehab with Bradford at the age of 13. She relapsed 20 years later and has now recovered but at a price. I have also dated a recovering addict in my youth and as recently as three years ago for a brief time.
  • Due to the fact that I live and breathe and survived childhood (Freud and Jung critics beware) I have had and still have ‘friends’ who used to various degrees. I also have done various drugs both legal and illegal.

What do I know about atonement and closure professionally?

  • I have a degree in Health and Wellness and have practiced Professional Massage Therapy since 1998.

Why am I writing this post?

I am writing this post for personal therapeutic reasons on several levels. When I began this post, I was thinking about the animosity I hold toward members of my family and how various facts of their lives and my own have been butchered in order to feed conspiracy thinking privately and publicly and how this fostered a burden of liability that cannot and has not been rectified or atoned for privately or publicly. This morning as I continue to draft this post, the topic of criticism of the AA model and religion has reminded me again of yet another angle on my need to compose this post.

When I hear addicts talk about their experiences I am reminded of why group therapy has value and why addiction is a prerequisite to participate. In no other setting are the actions of others and their value systems so exposed. My ex who twice went thru rehab was a white collar professional who used mathematical skills to assign value. Need it be said that group therapy is closed for a reason just as many circles and distribution channels are closed to outsiders, regardless of legality and industry? Secrets matter. And often we are as sick as the secrets we keep.

When friendships and family ties suffer for the sake of an addiction addicts often go thru various stages of grief and denial. In group settings, when they are informed of just how heinous the behaviour and actions of former associates turned out to be they are often humiliated to discover that their private choices and actions had results beyond their control. My step sister talked about a theft ring that that bartered for drugs and I know I have heard similar tales as most casual drug users have.

What addicts close the door on by speaking only in peer groups are the stories of bodily horror. They leave economic scandals about drug rings and cartels to political media commentators so they can justify their own narcissism while still using and waving the flag of their choice. Its the stories of rape, child molestation, aggravated assault, cannibalism, forced or cohersed prostitution that trips their PTSD triggers, driving them into treatment out of horror and shame. Even then, for some, the horror only becomes real when they lose their teeth thru addiction.

I do not forgive my step sister or her enabling family. All of them, including my father’s wife. As my ex reminded me thru accusation rather than reason, is that addiction paradigms are not without flaws. One of the excuses my step sister and her family used to justify a number of significant transgressions and abuses was a mind body paradigm which presupposed a biological basis for emotional processes which veered into hard core scientific reductionism and determinism. In the process of excusing various issues they abused far more and I fear that in their stupidity they allowed and facilitated the projection of larger societal issues into inappropriate contexts.

As an individual, I may one day accept my step mother again. I will always accept my step sisters children. For the time being, I despise her 13 years later. Infinity. Along with her brother and ALL the former friends and associates from two counties and MOST of my own home county in our State.

Biological paradigms that mimic horror stories of “the gulag” coming prior to and on the heels of 911 could not be trusted – then or now. That was the genius of Osama Bin Laden and the germ of conspiracy post 911. They lend themselves to the ideas of eugenics and yet more conspiracy. When you know what I do and whom I know and you sit and watch what falls away after the fact you realize how little we know and just how much.

But back to closure and why it is often elusive. Closure is not about acceptance of bullshit decisions, choices or actions. Closure is about reaching a point where free will returns to us.

For those dealing with these issues, remember that free will is not a logical fallacy. Information and paradigms may contain them. Finding peace requires a clear mind. Peace is not a endless journey. It is available. It does exist.

And actions have consequences.

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