Type Seven in Addiction—Life at Level 6 & 7
When the Type Seven is caught in addiction, mired in the prison of Level 6 and 7 of the Levels, he is like an adrenaline-drugged humming bird, darting from experience to experience, trying to fill up his horrific emptiness and despair with pleasure, or any intense over-the-frigging-top- stimulation-experience that can destroy his sensation of suffering, anxiety, or despair. He is vibrating and moving at such a fast rate that he barely touches down, and every sensation-experience he attempts to land needs to be bigger, stronger, more intense than the sensation before, so as to blast him out of his numbing anxiety and bone-cracking loneliness. Because the truth of the matter is, his body, heart and mind have become so shut down and hardened that nothing can touch him, nothing can reach through the anxiety-driven, chaotic intensity of his mind. It’s like he’s got to put a torch under himself to feel anything. And believe me he’s willing to go to any length to feel something, an excitement, a pleasure, stimulation. Either stimulate himself or die of despair, those are the options. And he, unlike the Four, is not one to sit around for very long in despair. He will stimulate himself until he drops from exhaustion.
His natural optimism and enthusiasm has turned to cynical, screw-you-get-out-of-my-way, coldness. He is utterly on empty and running as fast as he can to find something, anything that can break through the hummingbird cage of ceaseless anxiety that has entirely captured his attention and his will. He cannot slow down unless he drives the leaden force of heroin or alcohol into his being. Or for some, cocaine becomes the tranquilizer, not hyping him up as it does many, but slowing him down. Truth is, he will collapse from all of this and temporarily become a heavy stone that is no longer flying helter-shelter in the prison cage of his agonized mind and soul, and he a trapped hummingbird. And so a cycle ensues: manic activity followed by burn out. Back and forth. Until he gets recovery or dies in a flame of exhausting suffering. Prison might be his saving grace.
He attempts to feed whatever desire arises on the screen of his consciousness quickly, adamantly, mainlining whatever possibility of pleasure and escape within his grasp, as if thrusting the experience like a needle into his veins, be it promiscuity, overeating, participating in dangerous activities, thieving, indulging in any sensual activity that might create a blip on the screen of his suffering until grace delivers a slam dunk, dragging him down from the high wire of his excitement-driven impulses, forcing him to detox, be it in jail (which saves many) or a rehab center. His ultimate fear: if I slow down and sense what is trailing me, I’ll be eaten by sorrow and disappointment. I must run until I drop. And with grace, drop they do, into the arms of recovery.
The First Twelve Weeks for the Type Seven in Recovery
Scotty entered our residential treatment facility several years ago. Here was a young man who on the spot, could contrive, create, and channel a one-man improvisational celebration of pure, unadulterated, wide-eyed, you’ll-never-believe-this-coming-at-you, humor. Out of nowhere he could create a story, one that had rhythm, energy, intensity, and wild-eyed turns. This is the funniest human being I have ever met, I thought, funny like the sweetheart of them all, Robin Williams (also a wonderful Type Seven). In fact, after he’d only slightly opened the door on humor, perhaps with a funny off-hand remark, within an instant it was as if the whole door to universal humor had been blown open and was now blasting through this young man, he a vessel for lightning-fast, side-splitting wit. And always, it was invention, unedited invention and spontaneity that would fly through, he a master improviser of words and thoughts, they arriving in immediate, never-seen-before fashion. There were never repeat performances! And the men loved him. Unanimously. In a flash he could lift everyone’s spirit from the darkest trenches. This was his gift. In these moments, fleeting like fast wind, he felt good. You could see his heart lighten, his blue eyes becoming bluer than blue, a brimming smile that said “I’m okay. I’m really okay. I’m loved here.” And the other men, in their own way, were deeply thankful for moments of respite from their suffering. In the many dark hours at Serenity House, Scottie was a beacon of hope. In those precious moments he was the pure force of spontaneous humor, as if all of his life was conduit for boundless humor and joy. There was nothing he cast his attention upon that didn’t hold a nugget of outlandish, can-you-believe-it, gut-busting humor. I have never laughed so much. And in the midst of these pure reveries a real light of total joy and happiness flickered in this sweet soul’s dancing eyes—flashing ocean-blue orbs, glowing transparencies of magic and gratitude. It’s as if the light of his soul, for a few moments, shift-shaped and moved through the darkness he was mired in. We all were bathed in this happiness when he was ‘on,’ when he was feeling good about himself. But later, outside of the radiance of his one-man-improvisational-performance, came a dark and insidious cloud. His soul was weeping, but rarely could he let you see it. In my office he would sit, head in his hands, weeping, heart-broken, a trail of devastation in his wake, outlandish pleasure hunts that turned into self-destructive forays into dangerous sex, dangerous relationships, thievery, self-prostitution, drug addiction, and the inability to quiet himself, slow himself down, to realize and contribute his gifts. He was a starving hound, forever hungry, never satisfied, desperately licking his lips on anything…anything…looking for the fix of happiness. Agitated, impatient, insatiable, cold-hearted, a stimulation junkie.
Side Note: Being with the Seven. Here’s the deal: Sevens can be so funny, and can so invigorate you with their humor and off-the-wall wit and storytelling capacity, that they can magnetically pull you away from even considering looking at their darker side, the sorrow, grief, and shame in them. As a friend, sponsor or counselor, you must begin to notice the compelling trance they can weave and put you in, and become willing to look beneath the “I’m happy, I’m healed now” persona. I have witnessed this numerous times: a Seven client acting happier than ever, then leaving treatment the moment I’m not watching. So caught in their joy-making routines, their sorrow overwhelms them and takes them out the back door.
Over weeks in treatment, his entertainment reveries would dissipate. Undigested suffering would reach up into his heart chamber and close him down. Trunk loads of sorrow, grief, fear, and disappointment held him hostage. This delightful, open-hearted, so-funny-God-laughs, young man struggled mightily with addiction, such that he would again end up in dark alleys smoking crack, or in sodden bars looking to trade sex for drugs or food, his humor turned cynical and provocative, his every breath a degradation of his pure and essential soul. Only when he landed long enough to feel his grief, to feel his broken heart, did his journey finally home begin. And return he did.
In recovery groups his singular difficulty, and the difficulty that all Sevens struggle with, whether in their first year sober, or twentieth year sober, is allowing themselves to feel and inhabit their broken heart (not that other types don’t struggle with this, but they are often at the top of the list). It’s as if they have signed a pact with themselves: “Excuse me, I don’t do sadness. I do fun. I do funny. I do instigations-of-improbable-moments. I make you laugh. I say outlandish things you would never say. I do things that would embarrass you. I keep you and myself avoiding the heart.”
In groups they are capable of moments of crystalline clarity, truth-telling, instant wisdom that is quick and inspiring, that pours through them at light-speed, grasping many streams of understanding and articulating them into one flash of palpable wisdom. But their faster-than-lightening personality habits can streak back through the stratosphere of their psyche, and seconds after beginning to open their heart, will transform them into the funniest human being alive. Able to slip-slide past any wave of grief, or sadness, the genuine depth they were stepping into…gone, swoosh, disappeared. Helping the Seven to begin to detach from their mechanism of avoidance through too much humor, helping them to stay ‘in the rooms of recovery’ long enough to outwit their enormous restlessness and crazy-fast mind, is the ultimate challenge.
And really, really, noticing, that beneath the immense joy/joke-making machinery of their personality sits a soul who is lonely, whose heart is broken, who is afraid that if he is anything other than funny, he will fall into a pit of such misery he will never escape. Your job is to invite him to drop his persona from time to time (not give it up) so that another side of him starts to see the light of day.
Protective Mechanism of the Seven in Early Recovery—You Will Not See My Sorrow
The Seven’s protective mechanism is to focus his/her attention away from pain, suffering, or feelings of lack or deprivation. If the Seven lands too long in one place, takes a deep breath and relaxes, he often has the sense that a tidal wave of anxiety is erupting from his depths or beginning to crest over him like a huge wave—oh-my-god-impending-suffering—so it’s time to rev things up, shift the focus quickly, tell a joke, chase the latest impulse, buy, eat, get something, go somewhere, think about something positive, quickly materialize an alternative to suffering. Action, Jackson. Don’t look back because something could be trailing you, said Satchel Paige, the gangly fireball pitcher, a possible Seven.
This protective mechanism, avoiding suffering at all costs, is a back-breaker for those in addiction recovery. Phil, a Type Seven, said it clearly when asked why he’d never done an inventory of his life, and really looked at the cost of his addiction (In Alcoholics Anonymous this is called the 4th Step, taking a personal inventory, and is critical to helping individuals in becoming conscious of what addiction does to them and those they love.). He’d been in and out of treatment facilities for the past ten years, and although instructed dozens of times that he must look at his life and how his addiction is affecting him, without fail he would forget to do it. It would vanish in the wake of his current impulses. When asked why he failed to do the inventory, he replied: “Well, that would make me feel bad. What good would that do me? I’m convinced it wouldn’t help. I choose to focus on the positive. It makes no sense to me to focus on sadness as a way of healing. That seems utterly ridiculous. ” As if he could choose! How tricky and sly the personality can be. Yes, I’m choosing the positive over the negative. Never mind the serpent of sadness that is coursing its way through my heart, through my bowels, up my spine, scaring the beloved daylights of me, feeding my addiction. Never mind about that? I think myself, you choose to be positive? Really? Really? And how the heck is that working for you? Wouldn’t it be fairer to say that you run-like-hell-death-at-your-door-despair-choking-your-heart, away from the negative, while it sits inside your soul like an immovable monolith, laughing at your attempt to morph it into ‘the positive.’
Why does the Seven do this? Because his ego-ideal, which he tries like a son-of-gun to believe in and portray (like all the Types) is ‘I’m a happy, positive person’ (the mantra of the Type Seven). Never mind that everything inside him is programmed to rigorously avoid suffering at all costs…which disallows him from healing his suffering. While he thinks to himself, “I choose to look at the positive,” the rock-bottom truth prevails: He is driven to look at the positive. It’s his only option. Particularly in early recovery. And notice this Inner Critic message, designed to keep you drunk and addicted: If you’re honest and tell the truth of your suffering, you will be stuck in grief, the tar of sadness leaking into every cell of your body, for the rest of your life! Doesn’t take much to understand his strategy for surviving life sober: focus on the positive, be upbeat, don’t complain about the past, don’t dwell on the negative, be funny and entertain others, don’t ask for help—keep moving, shucking and jiving.
I sit with Mara, eight years sober. She is sobbing as I describe how the Seven seems to have an anti-sadness clause, and she responds:
“I tried for so long to always be happy. That was my job. That’s what got good reviews from others. Until I realized how much I stuffed my sorrow. When I finally let go, let the tears come, I thought I’d cry forever. People around me where disarmed. They actually tried to get me to stop crying. They want me to be the funny gal, to bring them up. I had to avoid people for a while and give myself time to heal. Today I don’t use my humor to avoid the truth of my suffering.”
Core Wound Relapse Pattern: I Will Never Be Satisfied
The core fear of the Seven is the fear of being deprived of happiness, or of being held captive in emotional pain and suffering, of being cut off from the happiness the Seven yearns for. It’s like the Seven carries in their deep memory a sense of being cut off from a deep connection with mom way too soon, when they had all of their needs met, and left to fend for oneself, and fend they do. They’ve made a deep instinctual vow to never be cut off from what pleases them or brings them joy. This vow translates into a terror of feeling any kind of emotional suffering (because they associate emotional suffering with being trapped with no way out—remember, this wound is deep). When the Seven senses emotional pain or any hint of deprivation, a red light explodes inside them: Avoid this. Get too close to this and guess what, you’ll stay hooked to this emotional pain and unhappiness for the rest of your life. It will stick to you like Velcro. Once you touched by it, it will infect you permanently. So get your ass out of here, now. Don’t linger. Get moving. Stay in motion. The sadness can’t catch you if you are on the move. Think of the next happy adventure or experience you could have and go for it. Bring in the positive energy, get the party started, turn the lights up bright and energize yourself. This is an emergency. Their growth edge is in discovering that the door to happiness must be entered through their engagement with their suffering.
Deep Wound/Relapse Pattern of the Type Seven—not having enough, feeling empty and unfulfilled or deprived. Key Commandment—You must keep searching for happiness out in the world or you will never find it. If you don’t seek it, you will be miserable. If you slow down, you will be stuck in unhappiness. Deep Wish—to feel happy, to fulfill one’s vision, to be content. Sees himself—as enthusiastic, joyful, spontaneous, happy, funny, visionary. At Level 4 and below—he falls prey to the Emotional Habit of Gluttony in which nothing is enough, nothing fully satisfies him, be it food, experience, people, things…because he’s moving at the speed of light, unable to take in the moment. Add to this his Mental Habit of Anticipation, in which he tries to fill himself up with ‘excitement’ by constantly thinking of his next possible activities, experiences with people, or acquisitions of things that will makes him feel better, while leaving the moment where he could actually feel content. His Inner Critic tells him that if he isn’t happy, he won’t be loved. If he’s sad no one will love him. It also criticizes him for not being happy enough, telling him there is always something better than what he is experiencing. It wants him always looking for something outside himself. Over there!
The Seven’s fear of being trapped in pain and deprivation translates into a more conscious fear of being trapped by anything (person, place or thing) that could put him in any kind of rut or stricture, limiting his freedom. It’s as if he thinks, “If I get trapped in any circumstance without a back door out—if I commit myself to anything—I will become an easy target for suffering to nail me. I will be mired in darkness.” Commitment to anything other than being ‘committed to being uncommitted’ evokes the fear that he will lose the ability to be spontaneous, stripped of his choices and options, and locked into suffering. His lack of commitment creates the very suffering, the very emptiness and unhappiness he wishes to avoid. Unconsciously he thinks, “If I commit myself to anything, I will be locked in a prison of pain and boredom. I will no longer be searching for my happiness and I will be stuck in the moment, and devoured by boredom, anxiety and sorrow. Commitment equals suffering! I will find happiness by chasing after it!” The ‘chase’ becomes his delusionary ‘stimulation’ source of happiness and the true source of his unhappiness. The avoidance of boredom and stagnation creates the illusion that he’s moving in the right direction.
Of course his Inner Critic whispers: “You better keep moving, you better keep all your options open, you better have back up plans for your back up plans, you better continue anticipating all the possibilities available to you. This is where happiness is found, in looking for it. Not in actually experiencing it here and now. Keep searching elsewhere, any place but here, because at any moment pain or limitation could arise and stop you in your tracks…forever. Can you imagine how horrible this would be?” To the Seven, hell is losing his freedom to be spontaneous, of not having enough choices or resources, of getting caught in situations in which he is experiences boredom, his life becoming repetitious or too predictable and known. These are the swamplands he is vigilant to avoid.
Transformation in Recovery—Seeing My Addiction to Anticipation
The Seven arrives in recovery filled with adrenalized, fidgeting, high-strung anxiety. He’s ready to burst out of his skin, brain on fire with non-stop chatter, flitting like an adrenaline-crazed monkey from exciting thought to thought. He sits fidgeting at the AA meeting, barely able to sit still, eyes darting, even after being pulverized by his drug of choice, be it crack cocaine, the fierce and deadly illusion artist, inspiring tastes of false, delusionary freedom and spontaneity in the Seven, while caging and owning, soul and all, the very life of the Seven. Or be it by the magician jailer—alcohol—w herein the playful Seven is given moments of fake-happiness-experiences—the distorted comedienne and prankster unleashed—and then is hammered by the dark and heavy chains of addiction grief. The flying bird now lay crushed and soul-spilled on the floor, and yet…the Seven brain is tireless and frenetic. Make no mistake, the tired body of the beaten Seven has a mind-current that burns like a fire-storm. As soon as they are able to muster energy to speak, here comes a flash flood of wit, stories cross-referencing and making sense when they shouldn’t, the panorama of a kaleidoscopic mind unleashed like David’s multi-color dream coat. Not to mention, hidden in the folds of his colorful humor, a biting, cynical, cut-you-to-the-core, rage masked as humor.
Either way, the Seven is only moments away from energizing from his tomb, from trying to resurrect the best of his ability to slip into that familiar crazy-funny personality that can soar out of the room, flee the damaged carcass they inhabit, escape the razor-sharp memories of soul dissolution, and escape the sadness breaking like a huge wave in the center of his chest. A booming voice looms in the head of the Seven, his Inner Critic melded to his thoughts, shouting, “Just get the fuck out of this room of recovering addicts. These boring pain-freaks! These limited uninteresting sods. I’ll bet they’ve never had the fun you’ve had. They have nothing to offer you, only bondage. Get the hell out of here and back to freedom.”
Never mind that the freedom he seeks ‘out there’ is actually a fast-moving prison-cage of repetitious high-pitched anticipations—his suffering disguised by “freedom and opportunity” delusions. He thinks he’s “going somewhere” when in fact he’s simply whirling around the walls of a psychic prison watching an imagination video that tells him he is ‘going somewhere.’ Yet in those vivid moments of being stopped in his tracks, he experiences the shock of awakening, and sees with crystalline perception: he’s only ‘pacing the cage’ of his mind, as singer Bruce Cockburn writes. He’s hypnotized and watching a movie about freedom, of imagining freedom, of thinking that freedom is just-around- the-damn-corner, all of which inhabits the brain of the Seven, newly clean and sober. The present moment isn’t real; it’s the possibilities “over there” that are real. It’s the pleasure-visioning, anticipating mind of the Seven in action, doing its thing, fueled by an anxiety-driven-impulsivity that wants him at all costs to impetuously chase the fantasy-hope-of-the-moment where instant freedom from pain appears to exist. Hurry and get over ‘there.’ The Seven thinks, “It could happen…if I just follow this impulse I might feel satisfied. What have I got to lose—let’s gamble! There is no way in hell I am going to be able to stand the slow pace of this recovery process. It’s too depressing.”
So away they go, frequently, quickly, hastily, rushing out the door, out-running the anxiety that is tracking them by drinking in the addictive energy of “anticipation.” The Seven is locked into a psychic pattern that “imitates” or “fills in” for their true boundlessness and spaciousness, for their innate spontaneity and boundless curiosity, and has turned to the very opposite: Impatience, impulsivity, a lightning-quick mind thinking too many things at once; a log jam of conflicting thought-streams confusing the hell out of the Seven; fast synaptic impulses to go here or there, say this or that—which impulse should he follow and act on?
The paradox, like a Zen Koan, is heart-breaking: it is his fever-pitch-pursuing that makes it impossible for him to be touched by this moment, to be filled with gratitude and satisfaction in this moment. It is only by surrendering to his sorrow, stopping his full-out sprint, bearing his impulsivity with warrior-like discipline that real happiness emerges. He sits in a recovery meeting, or in an addiction group, or a counselor’s office, his attention going every which way but ‘here.’ ‘Here’ is a trap door to suffering, to imaginary limitation, and so his defense mechanisms take him away, possessing him like a flickering disco ball, splattering his attention every which way. To bear this inner activity, and to navigate it successfully, is no easy matter. More than anything he needs to talk, needs to say out loud what is coursing through him so needs to put a name to the continuing flood of impulses that beckon to him to go, to leave this moment. “Chase me” they call, or “You will die.” And…he needs to stay put.
You must name these internal dynamics for the Seven because the Seven’s internal psychodynamics ride so close to his perception, slither into his thought-stream like a vast moving, shape-shifting ghost that one only gets glimpses of, making it difficult for him to perceive the trance he is addicted to. Encourage him to sit with all of this, spill it, talk it through, report it, until by reporting it, the anticipating-what’s-next mechanism begins to be less captivating, less hypnotizing, and he more able to digest and observe what is pulling his attention away. And more particularly, he will get a glimpse of what lies underneath this mechanism of his fast changing attention—fear—a heart that is starved for love—he like a hungry dog looking for a bone. He is not someone who needs to follow the dictates of a curmudgeon alcoholics anonymous, or narcotics anonymous, super-hero sponsor who declares, “Take the cotton from your ears and put it in your mouth.” Ah yes, that’s compassion in action, is it not? No, that’s some fixated recovering alcoholic who’s not landed in their essence, and is unable to savor joy, their value, their preciousness, or their well-being, who plays one-note-sobriety.
This is not to say that a word-feast is what helps the Seven. Truth is, many Sevens have a difficult time with silence, and express their raging anxiety by talking impulsively. In the beginning they need compassionate observers able to bear with their need to talk. The Seven will not arrive at inner quiet in early recovery by being told to shut up and put the cotton in his mouth (in fact, this can be the worst advice to give a newcomer!). Give him space to talk and he will quiet down naturally. Give him room to say what is occurring, and slowly he will begin to sort out what is important. Listen with full attention to his hummingbird mind, help him hold a focus in his conversation, listen with compassion and kindness, and he will sense his safety and begin to shift his conversational flow to feelings of the heart. As Russ Hudson and Don Riso say, “Listen with all three centers.” That is, be a field of receptivity and listening, be a witness for his current of mad-hatter-thinking, give him space to begin to sense his precious heart. Your presence will be infectious and supportive. And this is for certain, listening without judgment will call forth his sincere heart and his real wish to be sober and clean. Judging him will drive him away. Practice immaculate patience for his process and the Zen Door to his Soul will creak open.
Editor’s Note: Part 3 will be posted next week. Stay tuned!