James D. Huysman Psy.D., LCSW

Life in the Recovery Room

Beware the Masks of Addiction

Do you hide your truth behind a mask you show to the outside world?

Posted Oct 30, 2017

To celebrate Halloween, we can dress up, put on masks and pretend to be anything we want. Afterward, we return our costumes or pack them away for next year—and resume our daily lives. 

The thing is, at any given time, anyone can unknowingly put on and wear a mask. These masks appear for a variety of reasons, usually in response to something out of our control. They can be a buffer to a stressful event or take on a much more permanent face: denial. Sometimes our masks give us identities that we have been coerced to embrace or that we were forced to wear at some point in our lives. 

Historically, the lead characters in Greek tragedies were represented by masks—and the stories unfolded through the persona of the mask the actor wore. When our masks serve to disguise our true feelings; they become a trap, and we become the mask we’ve put on. Sometimes even the mask wears a mask! Medical doctors are familiar with the concept of one condition masking another. Psychologists and recovering codependents are too.

The masks of addiction are not pretty, and they are numerous. Many come into recovery wearing masks of the dreaded Four Horsemen: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair or that of first cousins anger and self-pity.

The emotional lives of addicts and alcoholics are like carnival rides spinning, twisting, and turning upside down, even getting stuck at the top. At times, they may need to “act as if,” to “suit up and show up.” They may put on a mask of perfection, of resentment, martyrdom, or control to protect themselves. When they do, they cease to live authentically. If they are not careful to address the reasons for masking, soon their minds, bodies, and spirits cannot keep up the illusion of the mask—and their medical and mental health deteriorates.

Whenever we become willing to shed our masks, we can begin to live freely. But when a mask becomes the assumed reality for us, it creates problems. 

It follows that confusing a mask with our true selves can cause those around us to become confused too.

Spirit Science
Source: Spirit Science

Do you know the nature of the masks you wear? Being mindful and acknowledging those you may wear for what they are, will allow you to see yourself more clearly. You can use this awareness to grow in consciousness and offer your loved ones and the world around you an irresistible treat—you!

I hope you enjoy the festivities during October. It’s a wonderful thing to pretend sometimes because that’s how we learn to play! Halloween allows us to wear masks we can take off with ease. But after October 31, I hope you begin taking off all your masks in a way that genuinely honors your mind, body, and soul.

Celebrate your unmasking! That is a sweeter reward than candy. The world will become closer to you as you become closer to yourself. There is no trick to that—just a spiritual treat, to be sure.