Tie Me To The Mast: Recovery + Sirens

by Joshua Hoe

Breathing and Sirens.

I wish I could take credit for these two metaphors/stories but I heard them at a meeting and I had to share them.

Addiction As “Breathing Funny”

Breathe
One fellow suggested that, for addicts, acting out is as natural and automated a process as breathing.

I think this is fairly apt.

This is certainly how addiction works for me.

Neurologists who write about addiction suggest that a neural pathway is established between an addicted person’s triggers and his or her acting out behaviors. Over time, this process becomes increasingly automatic.

In the past, I have compared this to driving a car while thinking about everything but driving but still ending up in the same place.

Many times, even against their own best wishes, addicts still end up in that same bad place no matter what they are actually thinking about.

The reason is the process has become automated.

In this sense, recovery is about learning to break into automatic processes and learning how to create new and more pro-social pathways in response to triggers.

When you call someone when triggered, for example, you are helping to establish a new neural pathway.

I have also referred to this as “positive substitution.”

The Sirens

Sirens

But, that raises the question of how you break into old patterns and create new ones.

Sometimes it is actually about asking for help as much as about taking control.

In ancient Greek mythology, Odysseus has all of his sailors fill their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast in order that he could hear the Sirens song but not be driven to destruction by it.

Recovery works in much the same way for me. I call on my friends to metaphorically return me to my mast when I hear the sirens call (when I am triggered).

In this way, I am offering up my problems and weaknesses to my friends and letting them help me find a better way to cope with my triggers.

My friends, my family, and my recovery community are all helping me find better pathways when I encounter triggers in my everyday life.

What did you think about Odysseus and the Sirens as a metaphor for addiction, let me know what you think, leave a comment!

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