The Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction
Excerpt from; “Recovery: the New Cool – an awakening of consciousness.”
Author: Paul Noiles
Normally we have a policy of publishing pieces exclusively highlighting local authors and artists, however, given the universal context of Pauls’ work, and the talent with which he presents his story, I wanted to share his thoughts on this most important issue that affects so many in our area of the country as well. His writing style is refreshing, and his words non-judgmental, as he tackles a very complicated, emotional subject with the understanding of someone who has “been there” . This book has been a labor of love for Paul, as he strives to help as many people as possible who struggle with addiction.
It took years of suffering, relapse, daily surrender and a near death experience before the awakening of consciousness finally took hold and I lost all desire to use.
Looking back, I see with great clarity that it all began after reading Deepak Chopra’s book, Overcoming Addiction, in 1999. The paragraph below really caught my attention:
I see the addict as a seeker, albeit a misguided one. The addict is a person in quest of pleasure, perhaps even a kind of transcendent experience – and I want to emphasize that this kind of seeking is extremely positive. The addict is looking in the wrong places, but he is going after something very important, and we cannot afford to ignore the meaning of his search. At least initially, the addict hopes to experience something wonderful, something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even an intolerable everyday reality. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in this impulse. On the contrary, it provided a foundation for true hope and real transformation.
I could relate to the impulses of this “misguided seeker” within me in my own history, while the language allowed me to let go of some long-held shame that I had never been able to alleviate using the 12 steps. My 12 - step work had been significant, but I continued to relapse, so I knew I needed more. At the time, I knew instinctively that this “misguided seeker” idea was important to my recovery, yet did not know why.
It was many years later that I discovered two additional, powerful quotes that fit perfectly with Deepak’s. The first one came from Gabor Maté’s, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, “Ask not why the addiction, but why the pain.” Secondly, in The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle stated, “Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.” These highly respected men were both making PAIN the big player in addiction and not the person with an addiction. Gabor Maté even went on to say that trauma (pain) from early childhood environment was the leading cause of addiction, because it hinders childhood brain development.
Truth was beginning to amalgamate for me in this emerging common theme; however, from my own experience in recovery, I felt like something crucial was still missing. It was a short time after the near - death surgery that the missing piece began to emerge. It surfaced in the form of two questions about the true nature of addiction after a session of self-inquiry, a practice I had been practicing since 2010.
Self-inquiry is the opposite of meditation. Meditation is about stillness, silence and a state of BEING, while self- inquiry is about the bold, fearless questioning of our BEING, discerning the answers. The whole idea is to slowly and deliberately question and investigate everything, leaving no stone unturned. My practice entailed, and still entails, a period of self-inquiry right after meditation.
This particular session of self-inquiry kept pointing me to go beyond the pain, to its true source and, as I did, the first question arrived.
The first question: “What does someone with an addiction believe about themselves when in pain?” In the self-inquiry, I realized that I had always believed I, myself, was the PAIN. In my mind, this meant if I were feeling any negative feeling, I must therefore be a bad person. This belief had been running mostly at an unconscious level because I had established that truth as a little boy. And so, in my case, the answer to the first question was the belief that I must be a terrible person. The avoidance of the deep shame due to this belief was preventing me from knowing the truth of who I really was.
Already really excited by this discovery, I heard my higher consciousness say, “Someone must be experiencing the pain and who is that person?”
The second question then became: “Who is really experiencing the pain?” Up to this point, I had not understood that there was a fake me, created to survive the physiological, physical or emotional pain, and the real me lay beyond all the pain.
It was from these powerful questions that the Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction was born. It is my belief that the birthplace of all addictions is an identity crisis from the stressful environment in which we were raised, along with our genetic predisposition at birth i.e. our personality. For instance, I was born a highly sensitive little boy (HSP) which caused even more stress. Finally, if there are genetic patterns of addiction, depression and mental illness in one or both of family trees, this could increase our chances of developing an addiction.
Stress impacts who we are as little children, and we react by creating the Mistaken Identity, known in psychological terms as the false self. Eventually it creates a chronic pain condition that hijacks the mind, body and spirit. It’s a coping reaction to deal with the environment of pain, anxiety and fear. It literally can stop the important final brain wiring that
we need to feel connected to others and life itself. We then learn to go outside ourselves in search of relief and eventually we find the substance(s) or behavior(s) that work. The constant hits we derive from addiction function to provide us with the perception of the sense of wholeness and false sense of connection for the first time in our lives.
It's important to understand that addiction is not our fault as we were wired for addiction through the mistaken identity long before we ever picked up our substance of behavior of choice.
Life becomes a relentless search to escape from the pain of not liking – even hating – ourselves. We are perpetually seeking outside ourselves to soothe the constant anxiety of the mistaken identity. Trapped in the race to maintain the false sense of wholeness, we eventually become oblivious to our self-hatred. Ego development takes over to hide it from everyone, including ourselves. The famous statement, “never underestimate the power of denial,” fits us perfectly.
The mistaken identity monster becomes two-headed: one head rising from the belief we are less than others, and the second, built out of necessity, fashioned to be better than others. Embedded in its puffed - up chest are the core issues of shame, rejection, fear, no trust, non-acceptance, beating ourselves up, self-pity, and feeling separate, alone and disconnected from ourselves and others. So the double-headed adversary grows, and the mistaken identity must reactively gain a snowball momentum over time, ever compelled to pick up the pace. This miserable journey makes us the blockers of our own light.
Recovery is the simple, but not easy, quest to find something, and that something is our true spiritual selves. It is really a fearless search for “Who am I?” and it involves the letting go of the voice of addiction.
It’s an inside job, a paradigm shift in who we believe we are, face to face with all the blocks. The work is painstaking and almost impossible, because waking up is so painful. It took years of consistent recovery work before the miracle happened for me. Patience with yourself is essential.
We peel the onion, layer by layer, so we can have a better understanding of who we are through an awakening of consciousness. Once we remove all the blocks, we will retrieve and reclaim our true nature (infinite spirit) and oneness with the source, and the addiction will slowly melt away.
Much of the effectiveness of the mistaken identity model comes from removing the focus from the parents or any other “perpetrators,” and places the responsibility for recovery where it should be: on ourselves.
The next step in the evolution of recovery
Recovery has become the new cool. Addiction is no longer about being an alcoholic or person with addiction, relegated to the darkness of church basements, or only visible as a patient who might become addicted to opioids. And the planet is undergoing a massive shift in consciousness.
In this new day, we get to be our own unique version of it all. Because we are all of it: Deepak Chopra’s “misguided seekers,” doggedly searching outside ourselves, in a quest for relief from the pain of not knowing who we are; entangled in the root cause of unresolved pain (trauma) identified by Gabor Maté and Eckhart Tolle; dragged down by the complications of Maté’s identification that addiction has a lot to do with the environment of early childhood; confounded by the contributions of the likes of Bruce Alexander and Johann Hari, who advocate that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but human connection and bonding.
The recovery community worldwide is endlessly blessed by the innovative, respected contributions of these trailblazers to such a devastating condition. All of their deeply considered wisdom gifted me the cumulative basis from which, with divine guidance, synthesis of the Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction became possible. My intention in sharing it, is to extend direction to the misguided seeker, the same lost one burdened by pain (trauma), wearied by environmental influences and numb with disconnection.
Addiction is about PAIN,
the pain of not knowing who you are; the solution is about AWAKENING,
awakening to the truth of who you are
~ Paul Noiles
Evolving from stigma to cool – Recovery is the “New Cool”
We need to shift our focus from a fear-based philosophy onto the beauty and diversity of the millions of people in long-term recovery, not only to further de-stigmatize and legitimize recovery, but to recognize, catalyze and celebrate it as the powerful force it is, in changing the world. Having personally experienced the transformation of addiction/recovery from the curse I thought it was to a blessing available to anyone, I am committed to reaching as many people as possible to experience the new cool.
• It’s cool to discover who we really are.
• It’s cool to wake up clean and sober from whatever was our addiction.
• It's cool to discover that surrender is a place of great strength and power, not weakness.
• It’s cool to start each day with meditation and prayer.
• It’s cool to be of service for others who are still suffering like we used to suffer.
• It’s cool to give away what we have been freely given.
• It’s cool to have real friends who support, challenge and grow with one another.
• It’s cool to know what our issues are and make our amends.
• It’s cool to be vulnerable and to connect/bond with other like-minded people with the same goal.
• It’s cool to have a program of holistic recovery that leads to a spiritual awakening.
• It’s cool to not have to lie to ourselves or others or be a fake person anymore.
• It’s cool to not have to run from our PAIN and suffering anymore.
• It’s cool to surrender to a Power greater than ourselves but also is part of ourselves.
• It’s cool to discover that the LIGHT was in us all this time.
• It’s cool to learn how to stop beating ourselves up and love ourselves unconditionally.
• It’s cool to help others do the same, one person helping and serving another.
• It’s cool to let go of self-centeredness and be at peace.
From Paul Noiles upcoming book on addiction/recovery called
“Recovery: the New Cool – an awakening of consciousness.”
About the Author – Paul Noiles
Paul Noiles has a deep passion to serve people who suffer but especially people in recovery like himself.
Paul has worked at two treatment centres teaching meditation, consciousness, fitness/health. He has facilitated family groups and aftercare programs.
He has a deep passion for many different modalities of recovery because the research shows that we have a better chance to rewire the addictive mind and have lasting recovery.
He is currently editing his first book called “Recovery: the New Cool – an awakening of consciousness” differs from other addiction/recovery books on the market because it addresses addiction not merely as a disease of the brain but as a chronic brain condition that hijacks the mind, body and spirit.
This hijacking results from what Paul terms the “Mistaken Identity Model of Addiction”, which is the foundation for the book.