Addiction, Vices, and Healing Through Poetry

In-Q Addiction Poem Link:

Image Source: Snap from In-Q's video

“Make your heart the strongest muscle that you’ve got, then let it guide you in the dark until you reach the other side.”

Spoken word artist In-Q is a master at translating his inner world into words. This poem in the youtube link above so beautifully discusses the process of clinging to vices, then waking up to realize the vices won’t lead to true fulfillment and going through the growing pain that is recovery.

My early counseling career led me to taking clients in recovery to Twelve Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous several times per week. One speaker described his alcoholism as metaphorically “being born without skin”, leaving him feeling emotionally vulnerable without suitable protection. Vulnerability can be positively powerful, but it can become negatively all consuming. When we don’t have the support and tools to hold our vulnerability with gentleness and safety, we end up searching for something that can protect us in the moment. For this particular AA speaker, alcohol became his protection, and for so many of us we also have a vice to help shield our overbearing vulnerability. It could be drugs, “retail therapy”, gluing our eyes to the many screens in our lives, gambling, risky sex, taking too much risk to fulfill the need for an “adrenaline rush”, over or under-consuming food, workaholism, living in denial of reality, the list goes on. Addiction has been stigmatized in society for being “problematic”, but an addiction at face value isn’t the true problem. Yes, there are serious consequences that come from using whatever we are addicted to, but the true issue is what lies underneath our vices: anxiety, depression, trauma, anger, grief, sadness, insecurity, numbness, hopelessness, a list that also goes on.

The reality is that these vices would not be so powerful if they were not so effective in helping us feel that we can get through the day, even if that acknowledgement is subconscious. Sometimes the vice takes the edge off of life a little bit, and sometimes it helps us fully survive by helping us to disconnect from our pain for a while. Another AA speaker I had the privilege of listening to said “drugs and alcohol saved my life”, because without them she would have committed suicide. It was in that gray area she realized her addiction was both saving her and killing her at the same time. We know that our vices have consequences- further disconnection from loved ones, risk of criminal charges, risking illness or death, wasting resources. But it’s hard to focus on the consequences when we need to heal because we don’t want to believe that our “safety net” could actually be threatening us too. Like this other speaker, it’s important to acknowledge what your vice is doing to HELP you if you want to leave it behind. Because figuring out how your vice is helping you will give you the roadmap you need to collect and attract what you need in your life to heal. In order to move on from a vice, it must not be needed anymore. Either because you’ve outgrown or healed the old beliefs that led to you clinging to your vice, or because you have found a new way to meet your need of protecting your vulnerability in a healthier way.

Vulnerability can become dangerous when paired with other experiences like shame. Locking away or pushing down all of those emotions and experiences that hide beneath your vice is the perfect internal environment for your vice to thrive. To let your vice go, those emotions and experiences need to be released somehow. Your pain must be acknowledged, even if it takes one baby step at a time to do so. You could write and / or perform poetry like In-Q or channel that energy in other art forms, dance, serving the community, fitness and self care, connecting with others that have similar experiences, or telling someone that you trust about the hard things. This truly deserves its own blog and will probably get one soon, but in terms of vulnerability and shame, psychologist, researcher and author Brene Brown said “Shame cannot survive being spoken, and being met with empathy”. It’s okay to let your story out, however it wants to be expressed! Again, a whole different blog post, but our stories and our vices are part of what makes us beautifully human. Your story deserves to be heard, whether your story is written, spoken, painted, danced, sung, prayed or expressed in another way.

If you are struggling with a vice, you don’t have to deal with this alone. Sometimes that first step to releasing what is weighing you down is looking at someone else on their healing journey as an example! Is there someone you look up to that expresses their vulnerability in a way you admire?

If you liked this topic of expressing your vulnerability through spoken word poetry, check out more of In-Q’s work! You can find many of his poems on youtube, more content on his website, and on his instagram @inqlife ! On a personal note, I met In-Q in 2012 and have been following his poetry, attending his shows and workshops ever since. I am in such awe of all of his writing and performing, and highly recommend jumping on this bandwagon!