The life of a recovering addict is one that requires strategy, healthy patterns and a great deal of understanding. I’ve been sober for three years now, and though I am not quite prepared to let the blogosphere know what my addiction issue is/was, I do want to shed some light on the life of a recovering addict.
First of all, I do not believe in the whole “Once an addict, always an addict” frame of my mind. I think it’s defeatist and pointless. If that is what you confess over yourself than you are setting yourself up for failure. From the exterior is seems like a fallback for acting out in your addiction. “Well, once an addict, always an addict, so I should expect to mess up.” I’m not saying that you wont stumble or deal with some serious temptation, but I know what it’s like to be bogged down with the mentality that I will never be free from my addiction, or that everyday wont be an all out war, where I am barely holding onto my sobriety for dear life; and that is the wrong way to think of things. So, I am a recovering addict. My former addiction will always be there. It will always be an option, but I do not have to be a slave to it, even in recovery.
What finally broke the power of the addiction for me? Educating myself. First, understanding that addiction is real and not something you can just “get over”. It’s a process, like healing from an illness. I needed to understand why I was doing what I was doing and what was going on in my brain. For example, the behavior of your addiction always has a point of origin and/or a reason. Once you figure those out and deal with them, it gives you strength in your recovery. You decide that you aren’t gonna let that one event and the accompanying emotions dictate the rest of your life. In this situation, knowledge is power. When you’re no longer in ignorance you begin to understand yourself to a greater degree and your chances of overcoming increase. Also, did you know that your brain creates little pathways in your brain (short-cuts) to certain behaviors? It’s like when you’re going to the store and you accidentally get off at the exit to your job. You weren’t thinking, it was just automatic. Like you’re on autopilot, that’s what happens with your addiction. Your brain creates a pathway to your addiction when certain triggers go off. Triggers like: anger, fatigue, hunger, loneliness, etc… Those tend to be the universal ones, but there are many more. Once you discover this, the next step is to create new pathways to healthy behaviors for those specific triggers. For example, when I am lonely I will read a book and get lost in the story or knit and watch a movie. When I am angry I will play an instrument to get out the negative energy or breath and count to ten.
Some things that you have to watch out for as a recovering addict is forming new addictions in the process of recovery. We all usually have secondary addictions and those tend to flare up when we stop acting out in our primary addiction. The key is to not be discouraged. Understand that most people deal with this and move on. Tackle one beast at a time. If your secondary addiction isn’t self-destructive and/or harmful to others, than take it on slowly, while still keeping focus on your existing recovery. For me it was financial. When I was recovering I noticed that I would buy things to make myself feel better when I wasn’t acting out. Seemingly harmful and it never got out of control to where I couldn’t pay my bills, but it still wasn’t good. Not to mention, it could have easily gotten to a dangerous level if I let it; but I nipped it in the butt by creating a budget for myself and getting some accountability with it.
Hardships that I have to face on a daily basis are numerous. I have to refrain from certain things that other people don’t think twice about. Than there is the inevitable and uncomfortable conversation that comes from explaining why. You have to be cautious and to those who don’t understand it’s irritating and unnecessary. Screw them, they aren’t you and they don’t have to clean up the mess when you do act out. If you do this, it means excluding yourself from things and people; but it also means a healthier life.
Accountability was always difficult for me. I didn’t have a sponsor when I was going through the 12-step program. Not by choice, my group didn’t have anyone available and by the time we realized there were other resources I was more than half way through it. I did have an accountability partner, but that was tricky as well. I was always sober longer and holding them up most of the time. I had to find an additional person, one who didn’t struggle with my same addiction to balance things out. This other person didn’t always understand, but they certainly held the line for me and I was appreciative of that. The important thing is that I didn’t give up, because when it’s two a.m. and your former addiction flares up to a raging wildfire, you need someone you can call on the spot to talk you off the ledge.
Lastly, encouragement. Not everyone knows your business or understands the huge struggle you face on a daily basis, so you have to be your biggest cheerleader and motivator. You really have to do this for yourself, it wont last otherwise. Your the only person you’re with all the time; so if you do it for you there will never be a moment of absence that can give way to weakness. The biggest thing to remember is that you CAN DO IT!!!! It happens everyday. There is light, not just at the end of the tunnel, but through it. You will have more good days than bad; and one day it will just be something that sits distantly in the back of your mind, that you’re always aware of but doesn’t rule your entire life. Some food for thought, Bon Appetit My Little Darlings.