Addiction and Nonconformity
Normal to Rebel
Most people will have examples of things they did in their life that could be considered rebellious. It may be even good to break the rules now and again so long as nobody suffers as a result. Teenagers and young adults are the ones who are most likely to embrace nonconformity, but there really is no age restriction to this type of behavior. Sometimes such rebellious can be a sign that the individual is suffering or has lost their way in life. This certainly seems to be the case when it comes to addicts.
Nonconformity can be defined as a refusal or failure to conform to accepted standards, rules, or laws. Those individuals who do not conform to these expectations are usually considered deviant or even mentally ill. Some people are frightened by nonconformity because they view it as threatening. There are other individuals who see rebellion against societal norms as a means to express individuality and autonomy.
Reasons for Nonconformity
There are a number of reasons for why people may decide to break the rules of society such as:
* It is common for teenagers in the west to go through a period of rebelliousness. This is because they are trying to exert their independence.
* There may be expectations or beliefs in a society that the individual views as unjust or wrong. The person may believe it is their duty to not conform to the status quo.
* Those who feel alienated from the rest of society will often feel the need to rebel against the rules of that society. This is a common way for addicts to feel and behave.
* Mental illness will often mean that the individual is unable to conform to the expectations of society.
* Those people who value their independence highly may sometimes rebel against societal expectations in order to demonstrate their individuality.
* Criminals break the rules of society because of their desire for financial gain.
* Psychopaths will suffer no guilt when the break the rules of society. This means that they will have no scruples about doing so if they believe it will benefit them in some way.
* Those with low self esteem may behave in a nonconformist way in order to get attention. They believe that any type of attention is better than being ignored.
* Some individuals may be acting out. They are in emotional pain and rebelling is the only way they know to deal with this discomfort – addiction is often a sign that the individual is acting out.
Nonconformity and the Addictive Personality
Nonconformity is a common personality trait found among addicts. These tend to be people who respect those who break the normal rules of society, and they will usually view themselves as rebels. The character attribute of nonconformity is just one of a number of traits that are said to make up the addictive personality. Not every addict will have all of these characteristics, but there does tend to be an association between addiction and certain personality traits including along with nonconformity:
* A high tolerance for activity that would be considered deviant by most people in a society.
* Impulsive behavior.
* Difficulty delaying gratification – the individual finds it intolerable when they have to wait for pleasure.
* Self obsession.
* Attention seeking behavior.
* Low self esteem
* The individual will often feel alienated from other people in society – the normal people.
* Rebelliousness is often glamorized in the media. People may engage in this type of behavior because they too wish to be considered glamorous and interesting.
* Such people tend to be highly insecure in their relationships. This may mean that they are easily provoked into jealousy and came be extremely needy and demanding.
* These people are more prone to suffering the symptoms of depression or anxiety.
* They will often act in ways that could be considered antisocial.
Dangers of Nonconformity in Recovery
When people give up an addiction they can continue to be plagued by many of the character traits that led them into addiction – the addictive personality. This is why one of the main tasks for people in recovery is to chip away at these character flaws. Those who fail to do so can continue to struggle with life even though they are no longer using alcohol or drugs. The dangers of continued nonconformity in recovery include:
* Sometimes there can be valid reasons for not conforming to the status quo, but rebelling just for the sake of it is unhealthy behavior that can lead to suffering. Just because the individual conforms more to the rules of society does not mean that they are selling out.
* It can lead to terminal uniqueness. This can easily take an individual right back to their addiction.
* It can be difficult for nonconformists to develop meaningful relationships in recovery. Their behavior can have the effect of pushing other people away.
* It can mean that the individual refuses to make use of the available resources. The danger with everyone trying to reinvent the wheel is that some of these people will end up with something that is nowhere near as effective as it should be.
* Fellowship can be a wonderful aspect of recovery. Those who insist on always going their own way in life can miss out on this.
* The continued nonconformity can cause suffering for family and friends.
* It can lead to dry drunk syndrome. The individual is physically sober, but their behavior remains appalling much of the time.
Nonconformity and Terminal Uniqueness
Terminal uniqueness means that the individual is convinced that what they are experiencing is unlike anything other people experience. They are a special case and this means that the normal rules do not apply to them. This is a common way for people to think in the midst of their addiction, but it can be highly destructive for people to believe this in recovery. It is referred to as terminal uniqueness because this type of thinking can get people killed. The danger of terminal uniqueness includes:
* It turns the world into me against them.
* It means that the individual is unwilling to make use of the experience and knowledge that other people have gained further along the path. This means that the individual’s journey in sobriety will be much harder than it needs to be – many will give up in frustration.
* These nonconformists can still cling onto the idea that maybe they will be able to drink or use drugs safely again. They justify this by thinking that just because other people have failed does not mean that they will fail – they are a special case.
* It can lead to loneliness and desperation – these feelings are common relapse triggers.
* The individual becomes unwilling to seek help for their problems because they feel sure that nobody can help them. This means that they continue to suffer needlessly.
* It may give the individual a false sense of security. This may mean that they then take their recovery for granted.
* Terminal uniqueness means that the individual always believes they are either better or worse than everyone else.
* It makes it easier for the individual to stay trapped in denial about their problems and the solution to their problems.
Nonconformity and Dry Drunk Syndrome
Those individuals who refuse to conform in recovery can end up developing dry drunk syndrome. In Alcoholics Anonymous they talk about those who haven’t had a drink in years but have still not managed to get sober. The life of the dry drunk in recovery is not a pleasant one for them or their loved ones because it involves:
* These individuals tend to be full of a great deal of anger and resentment.
* They will tend to view life in recovery as being similar to serving a prison sentence with not release date.
* Such people may still be willing to engage in deviant and unethical behavior. In AA they describe this as the sober horse thief.
* The fact that they find life in recovery such a misery means that they are highly likely to relapse.
* They will tend to have a cynical attitude about anything new or different. There life is full of monotony but they are too afraid to change.
* They may try to take their frustrations out on other people. This may mean physical or mental abuse.
* They are likely to engage in unhealthy and maladaptive behaviors such as gambling or exercise addiction. The individual is still looking for a way to hide from life, and they continue to suffer because of this inclination.
* Such individuals will be full of self pity. They will always have somebody or something to blame for their troubles, but they may never consider that they are the real problem.
* These individuals can be poisonous to newcomers in recovery. Their negativity about life away from substance abuse can be contagious.
* Their behavior fails to improve over time – they just become stuck.