Circling back around to what I said at the beginning of the first blog: men and women consume alcohol and drugs because they like the effect produced. They also exercise, eat, shop, have sexual experiences, color their hair, and paint their house too, as we in the addiction world say, change the way they feel. Based on the enneagram, we all have a natural bent toward life and a way of coping with hard situations. Through the lens of the enneagram, we have the framework and vocabulary to better know ourselves and how, in times of excess and stress, we behave in ways of self-preservation.
First, let’s talk some more about addiction. Addiction is so complicated and yet so simplistic. I cannot tell you the number of phone calls and meetings I have had where loved ones say, “I just don’t know why he relapsed.” And the short answer is: because he’s alcoholic and that’s what untreated alcoholism produces. What do I mean by “untreated?” Let’s take Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. A person goes to the doctor, is diagnosed, undergoes treatment, it moves into remission, but the patient has to take a daily medication. Say said person decides, “I feel better. I haven’t had any complications. I think I’m going to stop taking this medicine. It’s expensive; I have to fight with the insurance company every couple of months to cover it. I feel well now.” What happens to the leukemia? It comes back. Why does it come back? Because that’s what leukemia does when it goes untreated. If the daily discipline of taking medication ceases, the long-term health benefit goes away. That, in a nutshell, is addiction. Successful treatment for addictive behavior requires an ongoing work of daily disciplines, contact with a Higher Power, and relationships with people who know you well enough to confront you when they see you starting to waver.
I’m going to go back through the numbers a little more in depth this time. I’ve taken some of this information from The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile. We’ll go number by number talking about personality (predictable patterns in which we behave), how being in excess in our number leads to dysfunctional and problematic behaviors, and the passion (or vice) of each number. When our passion is driving us, we are definitely in excess.
Ones. Ones are perfectionists, but they don’t like being called that. They have very high standards for themselves and others, and they don’t really understand why you don’t have the same. They have a hard time believing they are good, so they settle for being right or correct. They are black and white thinkers. They see the flaws in every situation and think it is their job to correct it. In sobriety, that need to improve and perfect can be used as a catalyst during the most difficult parts of their recovery. The other side of that coin is that everything (including himself/herself) is not perfect right now. Ones move to Four in stress. In this space they are depressed, controlling, lose self-confidence, and live in “if only” thinking. Ones’ passion is anger. Keenly aware that neither they, nor others, will ever reach perfection, anger takes the form of resentment. Ones have the tendency to over function and when other people finally join them in helping, they become resentful. The number one offender of those with substance use disorder is resentment. It is a luxury they cannot afford to have.
Twos inherently struggle to ask for help; their needs always come second when in average to unhealthy space. They spend their lives building relationships with others and focusing on those around them. In sobriety, people have to show up for themselves and ask for what they need. Boundaries, especially in early recovery, are paramount. Addicts and alcoholics intrinsically struggle with boundaries. They are all in or all out; there is very little middle ground. For twos, having boundaries with themselves and those that they love is difficult. They are always willing to sacrifice their own needs for those of another, be it missing a meeting, their schedule getting out whack due to helping others, or downright ignorance to knowing what they themselves need. Twos in stress move to Eight territory where they are blaming, demanding, aggressive, and move into martyrdom. Pride is the passion of Twos. You might ask yourself how can a person that is so giving can be prone to pridefulness? Twos pride themselves on meeting the needs of everyone around them and find their worth there. They pride themselves on knowing what everybody around them needs and view themselves as indispensable. The problem with going around doing what is not theirs to do is that they forget themselves and their needs. In sobriety, acute awareness of self and well-trotted paths of deceitful behaviors is critical.
Threes carry their need for approval and image consciousness into sobriety with them. While they are motivated, optimistic and hard-working, they can also rely on their accomplishments in sobriety to propel them instead of authenticity and vulnerability. Threes in stress move into unhealthy Nine space. There they are busy but not productive, can be apathetic, neglect self care, and are easily frustrated. Threes strive to always control the narrative and by the very admission of “powerlessness over drugs and alcohol”, they have to start giving up control. They have to rely on others to hold them accountable and present (and often learn who is) their genuine self instead of who people want them to be. Threes struggle to have to uphold a constant sense of self across all situations. They value appearance over substance. Most importantly they buy into their own false sense of self. They use their ability to read the room quickly and efficiently to decide which piece of the character they have created to pull up to please those in the vicinity. In sobriety, truth is paramount. As a friend of mine likes to say, “you don’t get to be a big fat liar and stay sober.” Threes ability to shape shift in every environment allows them to buy into their own BS and keeps them from authentic relationships.
Fours on the enneagram are the most complicated and the ones that long to be understood most. A strength in sobriety for Fours is their deep need to connect and build authentic relationships with others. They long to understand themselves and what makes them tick. In sobriety, this can lead to self-revelation and momentum for improvement. A downfall for Fours is their unconscious relationship with the melancholy part of life. Fours believe it is never okay to be too happy or too functional. Hopefully, sobriety brings functionality and happiness—a Four could struggle to embrace those things. In their stress move they land in Two space. They are excessively dependent on others, irrational, and jealous. Fours’ passion is envy. Again, what does that even mean? I think that a lot when talking about Fours. There is a huge difference between envy and jealousy. Jealousy says I want what you have. Envy says I don’t deserve what you have. Fours spend their whole life thinking they have missed their invitation to the party. Everyone else seems to be having a grand ol’ time in life and because they believe something is inherently missing in them, they will never be part of the group. In addiction of any kind, Fours believe if they just have “this” or “that,” they will finally feel like they fit. Fours love to feel big feelings, and if they don’t come naturally, they will create them. There is no better way to create a big feeling than being high on one thing or another.
Fives. Fear is the cornerstone of addiction: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of connection, fear of abandonment, all of it. Fives manage their fear by gathering information. Because they are educated on many subjects, they can think they can “think” their way into a solution. Fives struggle to put thoughts into action and sobriety is all about action. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says self-knowledge does not keep people sober. It doesn’t do any good to have all the answers if you do nothing with them. Fives move to unhealthy Seven area in stress. They are frivolous, easily distracted, do not think about consequences, connect even less, and fritter away energy. Avarice or greediness is the passion of Fives. As we have talked about before, Fives are in constant worry of not having enough. In times of stress Fives become hoarders in an effort to be independent. Emotions and high intensity encounters are draining to them, so it is second nature to retreat inward. Fives are also the most emotionally distant number on the enneagram. It takes a lot for Fives to buy into something and allow others to come into their world. In recovery, Fives have to show up and be seen. They have to let at least a few people into their inner world. They have to weigh the risk and reward of authentic relationships in sobriety—and if they don’t risk it, they don’t stay sober. But according to my Five husband, who is has been in recovery for many years, the rewards are pretty great.
Sixes struggle to trust themselves and others. Their loyal hearts are vital to any organization, but they view almost everyone, especially those in authority, with suspicion. Trusting relationships are an imperative part of 12-step recovery. Creating a relationship with a sponsor and being fully known is required for long-term success. A trusting relationship with a Higher Power is also non-negotiable. Sixes in stress move to unhealthy Three: workaholic, over committed, misrepresent themselves to others, and won’t try new things they can’t be successful at. The passion of Sixes is fear. Worst-case scenario planning takes up a majority of their energy. Because they find security in systems and authority figures instead of God, they are in constant fear of being let down. In recovery, fear generally creates what we are afraid of in the first place. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Making decisions rooted in fear never ends well. For Sixes in recovery, they have to find a group of people they can trust, but must also trust themselves. The consistency 12-step work provides for Sixes takes them on a step-by-step journey of finding a god of their understanding, seeing how they actually show up in life (as opposed to how they imagine they show up), and then relying on something bigger than themselves to help solve the world’s problems.
Sevens have the uncanny ability to find beauty in the simplest things in life. The downside of that is, by the time you see what they are pointing to they have moved onto the next thing. Sevens love choices and options. They have a very hard time when they feel as though their life has a predestined order and outcome. For this group, sobriety and its daily upkeep can begin to feel dull and overwhelming. Another huge roadblock for Sevens is their negative feelings--and all kinds of negative feelings come up in sobriety. They have spent their lives trying to outrun their negative feelings, and now we are asking them to not just feel them but talk about them. What a drag! In unhealthy One space, where they move in stress, Sevens are hyper-critical and judgmental, take themselves too seriously, and become black and white thinkers. Sevens love a good time, and oftentimes a good time is synonymous with escape for them. These Enthusiasts are very hard to satisfy, so they quickly fall right into the trap of gluttony. Sevens will avoid painful feelings at every cost and without practice they hate repetition. They ignore fear innately, and they struggle to feel a full range emotion instead of just the top half of the range. If the Enthusiast feels good, he wants to feel great, and if he feels bad, well, he wants to feel great then, too. Nothing is ever enough for Sevens, and that includes anything and everything that changes the way you feel.
Eights are strong! They come into the world ready for a fight. When their intensity can be channeled to regain themselves through getting sober, there is nothing that can stand in their way. On the flipside of all that drive, is a major lack of awareness and an unwillingness to tap into their emotional side. If Eights are not willing to get vulnerable with at least a couple of people in sobriety, they are going to have a very hard time staying out of their own way. This can further reinforce their walls of protection. Eights can make denial their best friend in an effort to avoid showing weakness. When overwhelmed and pushed into Five space, they are bossy, don’t make room for other’s thoughts, overcommitted and overtired, in constant fear of betrayal, and isolating. For Eights, lust is their passion. It is not lust relating to sexuality, but rather for intensity overall. They long for intense encounters with everyone and everything they meet. Eights use their intensity to mask vulnerability and can run roughshod over people quickly when unaware. Sobriety is about allowing change. When unhealthy, Eights intensity in life pushes everything. To allow transformation is a process and processes take time. Eights are very solution focused; sobriety requires patience as the solution (12-step work and conscious contact with a Higher Power) transforms who they are.
Nines see the world from every angle. They can see the pros and cons for just about every situation, but without self-awareness and waking up to their feelings, they merge with whoever is closest to them in an effort to avoid conflict. Change takes a lot of energy and inherently, Nines have the least amount of energy of any number of the enneagram. Nines love the status quo. They would rather do just about anything than stand up for themselves and their needs for fear of cutting off relationships with others. For this reason, Nines may shy away from getting sober because a major change in them would change their whole system. Can you imagine all the conflict that would create?! When Nines move to Six in stress they are overwhelmed with unspoken anxiety, more indecisive and rigid, more reactive, and worse-case scenario planning. For Nines’ passion, slothfulness does not apply so much to physical laziness as it does spiritual laziness. Nines are completely asleep to their emotions. Because they live in constant fear and attempting to preserve inner peace, they move through life on autopilot when unhealthy. Nines use their ability to merge with others to avoid potential conflict. With all that merging and being asleep to their anger, they avoid doing much of anything. They do not want to be bothered by life, and so life ends up passing them by. They are asleep to their own wants and desires and disconnected from the necessary energy to make those things happen. For Nines, life on autopilot is wrote behavior. In sobriety, Nines have to show up for themselves and do the things that make them uncomfortable.
So there you have it: enneagram wisdom based around problematic and dysfunctional behaviors. Addiction of any kind is hard. It’s hard on the people living through it and hard on those that love them. In March, I started my own journey working through my eating disorder, and it has changed my life. It’s been one of the hardest things I have ever done, but with the help of my therapist, who is steeped in the enneagram, I have been better able to understand when I’m moving toward the danger zone. It often takes people realizing what harm their dysfunctional behavior is causing in their lives and relationships to seek help. When I realized the toll my behaviors were taking on my marriage I thought, “Okay, this will no longer do. I gotta get some help.” It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I have noticed though, the healthier I get the more I have to acknowledge my passion and how it drives me. Sometimes this can feel overwhelming but with my support team of family, friends, and therapists,, I’m able to better articulate my struggle and through understanding how I behave in my One-ness, I can usually rein myself back in before things go too poorly.
I hope you have enjoyed following along with these as much as I have enjoyed writing them. The enneagram has changed my life in a way that few other things have. It has given me more compassion for myself (on good days) and so much more grace and compassion for others. “We are who we are” is a lazy way of living and the Golden Rule is a cop out in relationships. We can’t do anything about the way we see the world, but we can do something about the way we respond. We can do better than treating people the way we want to be treated and instead get to know them well enough to treat them the way they want to be treated. I will leave you with a beautiful prayer found in The Road Back to You:
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.