by Kevie Simon on Thursday, March 31st, 2016
I must admit, I am an avid Downton Abbey fan. Ok, maybe fanatic. When the show first came out, I was hesitant about watching even one episode. But once I did, I was hooked until it ended. The relationships, the shocks, the plot twists, and the glorious British accents all kept me intently involved from the moment I pressed play. What I especially loved about this show was the portrayal of each character. Each persona was truly human with their own strengths, weakness, quirks, and issues. The characters weren’t stale, but people that anyone could relate to out of their humanity. How does Downton Abbey relate to addiction, you ask? Although Downton Abbey isn’t a reality television drama that reveals the truth about addiction, but there are some key ideas that we can take from this show into each of our daily battles.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate – Downton Abbey taught us all that no matter where you are in the socio-economic food chain, you have issues and concerns just like everyone else. The servants that lived below the Crawley house had just as many struggles as the family up above. Addiction is no different. No matter your race, economic status, gender, religion, or orientation, addiction can plague your life. Addiction is rooted in trauma and loneliness that cause a chasm within each person that longs to be filled. Addiction speaks gently into this chasm that you don’t have to be alone, and yet, you also don’t have to be truly close to anyone. In the moment, addiction appears to make the pain go away, just to wake up the next morning to the reality that the pain is still there, and has actually worsened. No matter where you are in life, you are not immune to the sweet whisperings of addiction.
Integrity is key – How many times throughout Downton Abbey did we watch Lady Edith try to manipulate a circumstance by lying, and then later it blows up right in her face? For example, she lied so often about Marigold being her daughter just to watch each relationship in her life be hurt over and over again when they found out the truth. When you are in the throws of addiction, honesty and integrity are the last thing on your mind. You want to make sure that the truth about your addiction remains secret, and you will do whatever it takes to make sure the truth is never revealed, especially to those closest to you. Learning to be honest and vulnerable is not an easy task, especially when you have spent a lifetime behind the secrets of addiction. Beginning to tell the truth is a massive step in healing from addiction.
Community matters – If there’s anything that Downton Abbey has taught me, it’s that life takes community. The Crawley family and the servants down below greatly affect each other throughout the show without ever really knowing the aftershocks. When the family was having a hard time, the servants’ daily lives were directly affected and vice versa. Addiction recovery takes a community that is dedicated to walk beside you. You often never know how your life is affecting other lives around you, even those you with whom you don’t directly interact. There is going to come a time when you realize the affects your addiction has had on others that you never imagined, and when this time comes, it will be time to grieve. But when you are able to truly open up and let others behind your well-built walls, you will find that addiction does not carry the allure it once did. As the members of the Downton Abbey household learned over and over again, you are not alone in this journey.
Know thyself – There’s nothing better than watching Lady Mary step into her own skin, so-to-speak, throughout the 6 seasons of the Downton Abbey. She transforms from episode to episode, and the viewer never quite knows what decision she will make next. She is complex and intriguing, and it seems as if she surprises herself at points in the show. Watching her become comfortable in her own skin is a beautiful metaphor for watching someone plagued with an addiction coming into themselves through recovery. When you are struggling through addiction, your sense of self becomes skewed to say the least. You no longer make decisions for yourself, but for what the addiction needs to feed itself to survive. Recovery is a key word when describing freedom from addiction because you are recovering yourself above all else. In a sense, you begin to take baby steps into your own sense of self – into who you truly are without the crutch of an addiction. There is nothing more precious than learning, and eventually, being able to be comfortable walking in your own skin, with your flaws, strengths, and everything in between.
Whether you watch Downton Abbey or not, the underlying ideas listed above are foundational for addiction recovery. Recovery is not just about a quick fix or eliminating behaviors disrupting your life, it’s a journey of personal wholeness, finding your true self and connecting with others at a deeper level than you ever thought possible. The examples of Downton Abbey show us that life is a continual journey, and we have hope that we can move forward even in the face of addiction. They show us how to walk down this path of recovery with our eyes wide open, understanding that every step we take affects those around us. Being alone is a choice for most of us, and we can instead choose to link arms with others as we walk forward along our recovery road.