A Model for Applying the Steps and Traditions to Guerrilla Recovery
This article is for people who are addicted to conflict and its focus is on emotional sobriety. The following statement from Conflict Anonymous describes a recovery program for someone who is emotionally intoxicated:
"Our program is for people who have been conditioned in life to need and seek conflict and who have learned to give and receive insult and injury. Following Bill W’s concept of emotional sobriety, this conditioning leads to an emotional intoxication, with dramatic shifts in a person's biochemical make-up."
In 1958, Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote an article called "The Next Frontier - Emotional Sobriety" (AA Grapevine) in which he noted that although many AA old-timers had successfully stopped drinking, they "still find they often lack emotional sobriety."
The biochemical underpinnings of addiction were not as well understood at that time as they are today, so Bill W's intuitive sense of the problem of emotional intoxication could not be expressed in terms of post-traumatic stress and dissociative denial.
In the 1980's, it became apparent to a number of researchers that people raised in alcoholic homes or similarly dysfunctional families suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One characteristic of people with difficult family histories is an addiction to negative excitement. "The Problem" (Adult Children of Alcoholics) states: "[W]e became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships."
This addiction can be seen as an internal or endogenous addiction to conflict, a continuously repeating cycle of alarm and collapse, or fight, flight and exhaustion. Children learn that they can pull themselves up out of depression and despair by focusing on the conflicts going on around them which they then internalize in symbolic form. Their world is filled with the sights and sounds of conflict that drive them until they collapse in exhaustion only to get back up and do the same thing all over again. Children are forced to stay in this pattern of addiction in order to remain above the ever-increasing sense of demoralization they feel at being trapped in a cycle of despair and the cycle becomes self-sustaining.
In guerrilla recovery we can use the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, to successfully resolve our conflicts and withdraw from our addiction to negative excitement and emotional intoxication. We start by admitting we are "powerless over our need for conflict and our lives have become unmanageable." The conflict dependency we learned as children can be unlearned and our physical reactions brought back to normal only after we first admit we are in the grip of conflict addiction.
If your life experience has left you isolated, in pain, and feeling hopeless, and you think you may be conflict-dependent, we invite you to join us in recovery .
Adapted from "Conflict Anonymous: A New Program," CNA Unofficial, Vol II, No. 2, © 2000, 2006