Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Midlife Crisis

One thing about recovery, we will live to experience the emotional crisis that comes in our forties and fifties. This phase of recovery’s journey can destroy addicts’ lives and affect anyone that is close to them. If we stop working our program, it stops working for us. Respect for age keeps some people from challenging, commenting or correcting us if we are lucky enough to be 'older.' While we might appreciate this courtesy, don't 'nice' us to death. This is not just a problem that is linked to one specific gender. It affects male and female as well as married and single relationships. Our fellowship age range has expanded from young people years ago to many people in their late forties and fifties today. With the age of this generation, many new issues that have never been approached in writing have arisen to affect our members today. This area is identified as 'midlife crisis.' It affects both genders in varied ways. Sometimes the results are staggering. We feel that the importance of this chapter is needed to help fellow members get a grip in a area we all will probably be involved in directly or indirectly.

'Midlife crisis' gives us a reality check on being clean and working the program. We can share from our own personal experience what has worked for us. It is nothing to be ashamed of. But there is an urgent need to address these problems before it destroys us or the people we love. We will discuss crises that will affect our members during this age range. We desire our fellow addicts to come through this phase of life with victory not defeat. Typically, midlife crisis refers to a man or woman seeking to recapture youth. It is more important to realize ourselves 'at our true age.' There are advantages to being older. Some of the demands of child rearing and making a living are lessened. Some of us have accumulated money so we don't have to work. Others have made working a comfortable part of their lives. We know our bodies better and are better able to eat the proper foods, get our rest and take care of ourselves. One of the greatest joys is being there for our young.

Self-centeredness and fear will be the first two characteristics that reveal themselves. As with addicts in active addiction, we did not want to hear that we had a problem. By the time we were ready to admit to a problem and to decide to get help, the damage was done and frequently irreversible. During this period, communication is crucial. We may not want to hear what is being said or may not be able to understand what is happening. But to communicate will give us a way to vent and express our feelings even though we are confused. Many times, we tend to listen to friends that have not gone through what we are going through. We base our decisions at that point on their advice. Example: a man telling a woman what it is like to have a baby. Do not listen to opinion the same way you listen to experience. Like most people, we attempt to deal with these issues ourselves. It is like self_medicating our pain. At this point, an addict making decisions without additional input is dangerous and requires extended thought and time with their sponsor. It is important to explore all options and to seek all resources to either resolve the dilemma.

Emotions in recovery are sometimes as deceptive as they were in active addiction. Making a major decision when confused or upset may lead to poor decisions. Making decisions based on emotions may result in the same problems we had while using. Not making a decision is best at this point in time. We still adhere to our decision knowing that the consequences and outcomes will be negative. This is like walking off the edge of a cliff, knowing what will happen, yet still doing it. Because we have made that insane decision and insist on following through with the insanity.

During this crisis in one's life, confusion runs rampant. Even simple rational decisions are sometimes clouded. We know that we are confused and staying in this mindset is the first step to either using or suicide .We are not capable at this stage of making rational decisions. All our relationships are confused, even with ourselves! We expect rejection, not support, from either a spouse or lover - and in some cases close friends. Even though this is not true in most cases, we tend to believe our own deception and follow through with this insane thinking. Taking time out for a weekend vacation may give us time to clear our minds by getting away from the daily routine. Many people associate the pain they are going through with those they are close to even if they did not do anything to cause the problem.

Many times our responses to these situations come from learned behavior. An example would be in most cases our family setting as we grew up. If our parents were divorced or separated during our early or teenage years, we would probably try to resolve the situation the way our role models addressed the situation. In most cases, it would either be by divorce or separation and even unfaithfulness in the relationship or marriage. Kids pick up and learn many characteristics that parents operate in during their growing years. We may not realize the coping skills that we operate under are usually the skills we learned from our parents. That is why it is important to communicate these feelings or frustrations. Our parents were taught to either grin and bear it or just give up and leave. As addicts, we tend to say 'screw everything and run.' This reflects addiction and is a poor way of handling a major problem. Many times, we look for a short term fix to a long-term problem: it keeps coming back. Since the issues that produced the problem are still in place, they keep generating the problem. Again, this is the addictive behavior at its strongest, most destructive stage. In recovery we are taught to be willing to change everything and it is of utmost importance to get other perspectives during a time when one major decision could totally ruin our life. We need to use all tools at our disposal to either clear the situation up or come up with some alternative plan of action to help us make it through this troubled time in our life and recovery.

Issues of this type have sometimes been labeled outside issues because they were seen as separate from our addiction. Sharing about certain problems was considered not working our program. When some members were struggling just to stay clean, others were unable to help because they lacked the personal experience. Today, we have that experience. Life does not always deal each addict a straight and smooth road of recovery. We recognize the importance of looking at all aspects of our addiction. As we grow from one level to the next, we realize that life is a journey that goes on throughout all our lives. We share whatever may help or be at use at some point, even if our younger members haven't reached the stage of life where they need to know more about these things.

During this period, trust becomes an issue of major magnitude. Legal entanglements combine with emotions and fears to stress long standing love affairs and committed relationships. Trust is essential in repairing and healing the devastation done during this stage or phase of mistrust. Mistrust during this time is a seed that will be planted and if not dealt with, will grow and reap a crop of pain and misery. In some cases, it may become virtually impossible to trust the other party. Lying and deception during this phase is common and when a spouse finds out about this deception, trust is no longer a bond to keep the relationship together. Especially when a spouse has concrete evidence of deception and constantly seems to catch the spouse in lies. As addicts, we all know that lying was a integral part of our using and usually our only problem was we could not remember the exact way we told the first lie, so therefore we usually got caught in the lie. The deceptive spouse operating in this active addiction mode feels comfortable that all tracks have been covered. Yet, the other spouse is only becoming more hostile because of the deception, and the lies that are being fed to them. This disease will blind us to the point that we actually believe our own lies. Again, this is the disease of addiction at its strongest point.

Children are usually affected the most during this insanity. Adults like to deny that children see the devastation. Children pick up on the insanity. Major emotional scars are created that our children may not be able to resolve. Children as young as three years old are capable of reading between the lines and sensing the uncertain and insecure atmosphere that we create during this phase. How we respond as adults will affect these children for life. Our faith and recovery will be reflected in their lives During this insanity, we have become selfish people who are only concerned about our own needs and care about no one else's well being. Again, this is another attribute of our addictive thinking and why addiction progresses to isolation. Children during this phase will act out in many ways. We can send them to their room but they will take their pain, confusion and unanswered questions with them. Disobedience, attention-seeking acts, times of crying and in some cases blaming themselves for the problems the family is going through. Even though it is our own insanity causing this turmoil, we will not admit to our problems and seek professional help. We are selfish, inconsiderate, cold people and think of no one but ourselves. We create our world by the way we respond to today's problems. Children are our future and the way we respond to today's problems will mold these adults in the making.

Many times in meetings, we are told that our drug of choice is only one symptom of our disease. Therefore, we must look at all aspects of our life and seek out these addictive characteristics and ways that will destroy us and our families. Many times these problems begin with not having balance in our lives. Balance is when we maintain a well_rounded program of recovery and a well rounded program of being a family.


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Reprinted from the 
Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life, 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace,
The Spirit of NA 
or NA Twenty Plus

being edited on this site.

Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.

NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA


All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.