As human beings, we suffer from the disease of comfortability. Perhaps it is due to being pulled from the warm liquid beds of our mother’s wombs and thrust into the cold world. Only then to know the comforts of our parents arms and then be forced to go without them all day at school. Either way, humans are attached to comfort. Physical comfort, mental comfort, emotional comfort- we are apt to avoid discomfort. In fact, some take that quite far. People are known to stay in situations that would not be considered comfortable by another; situations that might be abusive, traumatic, violent, and unhealthy. Yet because that situation is familiar, because it has become comfortable, people stay. This can also apply to the subtle and not so subtle nuances of life. The patterns which have developed in life dictate what is comfortable. Some clothes are more comfortable than others, so that dictates a “style”. Some music is easier on the ears, so that dictates musical taste. Such patterns are perpetuated and developed over an entire lifetime, creating a habituation to what is familiar. Thus, when the unfamiliar suddenly pops up, it is shocking and unsettling. For example, when you look at your face in a selfie. Hidden within this example is a great metaphor of life and recovery.
The Exposure Effect is (). Exposure refers to what becomes normalized in your perception. Looking at the mirror everyday creates a library of images that comes to define how you perceive you look- similar to the “selfie” album on your camera roll. However, those selfies are usually a flipped version of what you are used to. Rather than rely on the basic knowledge that the camera automatically flips the image, the brain reacts in crisis. Something isn’t right, something isn’t familiar, and your idea of who you are, ensured by your idea of how you look, is no longer comfortable. Due to the programming you’ve received your whole life you label this as ugliness and imperfection.
It is not far fetched to say that there is a comfort which develops in active addiction. If we were not comfortable with drinking and using drugs all day every day it is unlikely we would do it. In fact, it is the uncomfortableness of early recovery that prevents many people from achieving long term sobriety. The chaos, pain, euphoria, and isolation of addiction becomes comfortable. One day, however, we see that flipped image of our lives. Suddenly, the world is not as we knew it and everything we thought we knew about ourselves becomes absent. Even in the comforting arms of our drugs of choice, we become uncomfortable. We wonder if everyone around us has seen this all along. Most often, the answer is yes. Beneath the guise of addiction or alcoholism was a true and authentic self begging to be seen again. What has become unfamiliar to us has always been familiar to them. With selfies, the flipped version we see which disturbs us is actually what everyone else sees from their perspective. The same is said for addiction. Though a seemingly sudden and profound realization to us is ordinary to everyone else. Addiction turns things upside down. Recovery turns them right side up.