Addiction is a challenge. It can be a scourge, a disease, a wound – but to the individual struggling with it, it is also an opportunity for immense personal growth. If you can beat a drug addiction, then you’ve come a long way, experienced a great deal of emotions and troubles, and most likely forged a connection with yourself that tells you about who you are, what you can do, and how far you’ll go to change.
You can’t really overcome the challenges of recovery without confronting yourself. Addiction itself is a lie. It’s mirrored subterfuge, playing tricks on yourself to avoid the real issues, to mask the pain and the shame and push away the harshness of life. Even in the cases where an addiction develops completely without emotional vulnerability, due to other environmental factors, a fully-fledged addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s life and leave them struggling with a dire outcome, broken relationships, a busted career and a life in tatters.
Where addiction isn’t born from sadness, it brings it along for the ride. And in doing so, it creates a need for it – the uglier reality gets, the more comforting the lie.
But every addict reaches a point where they either defeat and destroy their addiction, or die. There is no alternative. You either spend the rest of your life enthralled, or your grasp freedom. And of course, neither option is easy. But only one involves being entirely honest with yourself, and opening yourself up to the opportunity of exploring the full potential of your life and what you can achieve with it.
When you’ve decided it’s time to cast aside the lie and confront yourself honestly – and in turn, confront life – the road to recovery begins, and never ends.
The Time to Find Yourself
You don’t have to go on a spiritual journey to find yourself. You don’t need religion, or a sudden epiphany, or a series of travels around the world to exotic locations. All you need is to take the time to spend on yourself and with yourself. Addiction can feel like an endless cycle of running between states of hopelessness and fake, crystalline bliss, chasing high after high. To break that cycle, you have to undoubtedly create a reason to avoid that chase. That doesn’t just involve replacing the high. It also involves removing the hopelessness, and replacing that with another kind of life.
We all aspire to a “life worth living”, but we each have our own definitions for what that might be. Your idea of a good life will be different from that of your friends, your family, or the guy across the street from you. But early recovery is a good time to consider what you want, and where you went wrong.
It’s easy to start off your road to recovery feeling guilty and judgmental of yourself. You might think back and remember what went wrong, and start building up a cache of regret and self-loathing. You might feel resentment, and think twice about your decision to improve yourself. You might ask yourself if you’re worth it.
You are. There’s limitless potential within you – every opportunity exists out there, at every moment. Countless potential new connections with other people, countless opportunities to find new ideas and explore new places, countless moments to be thankful for the fact that you stopped early enough to still enjoy a sober life, rather than suffer the fatal consequences of an untimely overdose.
At any given moment, you are part of an unknown future, a future where anything could happen. Opening yourself up to the idea that things can always get better no matter how bad they get starts with realizing that you yourself can get better, especially now that you’ve reached your rock bottom. It only goes up from here – and the way up is through honesty.
Reflection Not Distraction
Beating addiction in the long-term isn’t done by distracting yourself with new hobbies and obsessions, or vapid timewasters. It’s by digging deep within yourself and unleashing your repressed thoughts and emotions, confronting them, and moving past them. You don’t beat a depression by forcing yourself to be happy. You beat it by working through it, by finding a reason not to be depressed, and by clinging onto that reason, getting a little better day by day.
Much the same with addiction, your path towards recovery means reflecting on how you feel without your addiction, and what you still need to do to feel better. Now that you’re free from the shackles of addiction, use the time to explore new passions. Devote yourself to your new accountability. Find an interesting line of work. Spend your free time going out to local sports clubs or hobby groups. Discover the painter within yourself, or the writer, or the dancer, or the musician. Find a new form of beauty through which to appreciate living again, so much so that you would never want that newfound beauty to be muddled and lost by an addiction.
A great way to do this if you’re struggling on your own is through a sober living community. If you can’t stick to your goals early on, then living among others struggling with sobriety can give you the perspective and the motivation to keep going, and to keep improving.
No One to Compare To
Even in a group, your addiction and your path to recovery is your own. From the early moments of detoxification and withdrawal to the first total year of sobriety to the moment you’ve decided that your addiction is a done and closed chapter in your life, every step is your own, built by you circumstances before and after the addiction, and by every little bit of chance and coincidence along the way. Perhaps your reflection led you to God, or to your own form of Zen, or simply to a peace of mind and a love for art. So long as you find a way to live in the moment, in honesty, and on the run from your past.