Recovery as a Second Language
Most of you grew up speaking
English as your first language. The people who raised you talked and listened in
English and you first heard and later talked English. English imprinted on your
brain. You think in English, perceive in English, remember in English, and so
forth. Had you been born speaking another language, you would speak, think,
perceive, and remember in that language.
If you suddenly found yourself in China or Nigeria, and no one was there to
translate for you, you would feel lost. You might get depressed and want to give
up because your language brain would not match the language brains of the people
around you. But if you decided to survive, you would begin learning the local
language. At first it would be very difficult and you would talk like a baby or
a language trained chimpanzee. "Me cookie please". Your vocabulary would be very
small and you would make plenty of mistakes about the rules of grammar, idioms,
and the meanings and orders of words. Language is a complicated business.
In a year you might be able to speak the new language as well as a child. You
would spend a good bit of time actively thinking about just how to say what you
wanted to say. "I want to have eated but some money have I didn't keep with me."
But you would be able to get along in every day conversation. In five years you
might be nearly as fluent as native speakers of the language, but you would
still make funny little slips, have a smaller vocabulary, and you would almost
certainly speak with an accent. If you worked diligently for a long time you
might come to speak the new language without a trace of accent, but probably
not. If the new language contained sounds that English does not use, you might
never be able to make those sounds just right. A child's brain could do that but
your brain is too old. The very most likely thing is that you would always speak
the new language with an accent.
English would always hang out in your brain. At times of great emotion you
might find yourself again thinking and speaking the rusty old English. At those
times you would always have to be mindful and you might again slip into English.
The reason is simple. English got stamped into your brain when you were a kid.
It can't be unstamped. Your sex addiction is also stamped into your brain. As
addicts grow in their understanding of their addiction, they usually come to
realize that elements of their addiction began very early - dissociation into
fantasy to escape crappy, toxic, family junk - acting out impulsively - feeling
worthless - urgently seeking ways to soothe self - and so forth. Those parts are
often in place before young addicts-to-be discover the power of sexual
sensations to medicate their pain. Those parts are like fundamentals of grammar
that you understood before you understood what lots of words meant or before you
could explain the difference between a subject and a verb.
When you discovered that your sexual sensations could take you out of your
pain, another part got stamped into your brain - like the vocabulary you have
learned is stamped into your brain. The grammar and vocabulary of sexual
addiction combined and became associated and elaborated over the entire period
you were actively addicted. And as you know, your addiction is present in your
thinking much of the time.
Getting into recovery is like learning a second language. It takes
concentration and work. But in time - over time - it comes to be second nature,
like a well-learned second language. You learn a new language of choice rather
than compulsion. You learn a new language of feelings and empathy for self and
others rather than arrogance and disregard. You learn a new language of
boundaries and responsibility rather than wild wide-openness and impulsiveness.
You can become quite proficient and even eloquent in your new, second language
of recovery. But it will never be your first language. The choice is simple. You
can speak the language of addiction flawlessly or speak the language of recovery
with an accent.