We all have at least a little bit of the addict archetype in us. Sometimes it features more prominently than we’d like. We all have cravings, we all go overboard, and we all struggle to learn discipline. The shadow of the addict archetype shows up to help us numb depression, self-loathing, overwhelm, shame and other unfavorable emotions. When we feel an intense desire for control we do exactly the opposite, lose it.
The most obvious addictions are to mind altering substances – alcohol, weed, pain killers, etc. We can also be addicted to another person, an abusive situation, or a compulsive behavior.
Whether you are deciding if the addict archetype is a major player in your life or if you’re simply confronting addictive behaviors, it is always a good idea to know your inner addict better. To start out – what are your cravings? Please go way beyond surface cravings like chocolate and potato chips.
What cravings habitually decimate the balance in your life? What secret desires are you ashamed to admit? How are your relationships, sanity, income, and security negatively impacted by your addictive behavior?
Voice of the Addict Archetype
The quickest way to identify the voice of the addict archetype in your head, look for the word “deserve”. Deserve shows up in two different ways. First, as the influence of the shadow addict starts to amp up in you, you will talk more often to yourself about what you deserve. You will also start asking “what about me?”
Then, just as you are about to go wild with whatever substance, person or action that gives you a buzz, you’ll tell yourself how much you deserve it. Reasons such as you’re working too hard, people expect too much from you, or you are due for a break are a few among many rationales.
The addict archetype in the shadow is telling you that somewhere you are lacking. She tries to fill the void artificially for you.
Control and Chaos
The addict archetype has a special relationship with the cosmic forces of order and chaos. Typically we fear chaos and value order. We like the world and other people to be predictable and consistent. We also prefer to be in control. When we feel in control, we believe we have the power to mitigate the threat of chaos that may blow through and destroy our lives.
The addict seems to work contrary to this logic. Just when life gets back to normal and things are going predictably along, the addict jumps in and stirs up a mess of chaotic consequences with her behavior. The shadow addict apparently does not like order, and will go to great lengths to disrupt it.
The interesting thing is that from the perspective of the shadow addict archetype, she is exerting control by taking over. For the woman who feels drained by the constant demands of work, family and home, the addict takes back control. For her, the addiction is a form of empowerment. It is a way to exert order in her world.
The Addict’s Power
This woman will likely lie to her loved ones, but the true deception is to herself. She tricks herself into believing that by indulging the craving that she is putting herself first and taking the power back in her life. Unfortunately, the power goes to the addiction. Or, in archetypal language, the shadow addict archetype is in control. The first of the 12-steps is to admit that “we are powerless over our addiction.” The 12-step program developed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith works because it is a careful study of the patterns of the addict archetype.
So, even if you don’t consider yourself an alcoholic or narcotics addict, a careful study of the Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous 12-steps program is advised. It may be hard for some of you to get past the reference to a seemingly patriarchal God, but learning to read the steps symbolically and see the deeper meaning behind them can help bring great insight.
To evolve out of the shadow of the addict archetype, some form of spirituality or belief in a greater purpose, offers a valuable wellspring of faith. Faith is needed to get out of the deep pit of the shadow addict.
Gifts of the Addict Archetype
The addict archetype is almost entirely identified through the shadow. In fact, most people have a hard time believing that there is such a thing as a light side to this obviously destructive, malicious force. However, all archetypes have both a light and a shadow side, even this one.
The gifts of the addict archetype include a strong inner ability to break free of destructive habits. Any time you say “no” to a seductive dark craving, you are employing the power of the addict. Saying “no” can bring a deep sense of empowerment that reinforces the truth that you are stronger and bigger than the addiction. Self-discipline is the main benefit of the addict in the light aspect.
The addict in the light aspect is humble. Her humility cultivates a living sobriety that makes every day brighter and more awe-inspiring. The humility of the addict helps her be less judgmental and more compassionate towards the imperfections of others.
She knows her position in the world and lives in alignment with Divine will. The addict in the light understands that she has faults. She keep an eye on her dark self. She is fearless in taking inventory of her wrongdoings and making amends when she errs. The light side of the addict holds the grace of absolution. The grace of absolution is the power to release both herself, those who’ve harmed her, and those she has harmed from their shortcomings.
Rather than reinforcing a sense of lack, the light side of the addict helps nurture feelings of satisfaction with the life you’ve been given. The light aspect of the addict can help you find the wonders of your life that fill and light you up naturally.
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NOTE: My work and writing here is to help you understand the archetypal forces symbolically and spiritually. This article is not meant to help you diagnose or treat a serious mental health condition or addiction. When in doubt, please contact your medical professional.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.