In my opinion, the purpose of all this stuff about recovery from addiction is about loving your life again. Let’s face it, if addictive behavior continued to be enjoyable, few of us would look to end it. But the reality is that what seemed like fun at first become the bane of our existence, driving us deeper and deeper into a black hole that, due to so many of the things I’ve talked about on this site, is seemingly impossible to escape.
Regaining your life after addiction
So you get help, and it makes things a little better, and you seek social support, and things improve even more, and then you hit a wall. Your life becomes an endless cycle of trying to control that part of you that gets you in trouble and destroys everything you’ve ever loved and worked for. But is that all there is?
I don’t think so – I believe there’s a way to actually love your life again. Not only because it’s no longer the mess it used to be, but simply because, well, it’s amazing!
My recommendations for getting your life back
- Find a purpose – It sounds simple, but if you’ve ever tried it, it’s anything but. For me, education was the general purpose, but within a few years it became clear that education that leads to improvement in knowledge about, and treatment of, addiction was to be my calling. But you need to find your own. It should make you happy to work even when the work itself sucks and it should make you feel like what you’re doing matters. Aside from that, it can be anything: Cooking, drawing, gardening, a law career, and on and on. Find your calling.
- Get rid of the stigma you yourself hold – I’ve talked before about how much I dislike the fact that others still view addiction as a moral failing. But you know what? Even though I now know for a fact that they’re simply wrong, I find myself doubting my own ability to be a great person. Fortunately I have a wife that reminds me that these doubts are in my head, but they can be hard to shake. Lose your doubt in your own ability. Just because you tend to be impulsive, a little rash, or well, even a little hard-headed and stupid sometimes, doesn’t mean you aren’t great. In fact, research with animals has shown that the exact same characteristics that make animals leaders also lead them to take risks that shorten their life expectancy. The take home? Recognize who you are but don’t discount your strengths.
- Have fun – Once again, like the rest of these pearls, this one sounds easier than it is. In the middle of all our daily storms, with our own self-doubt, life’s challenges, and well, simple hardships, it can be hard to remember what’s important. Some self-support groups have you draw up a “gratitude list” and those can be helpful, but I’m talking about simpler things: Put the top down on your car (if you can, this works even without a convertible) and blast some music you love, go to a park and throw a ball around (or kick one), play with your dog like you’re 8 years old, or go to the beach and jump in the water no matter how cold it is. Life is to be enjoyed, and in the process of bettering ourselves, many of us seem to forget that. But at the end, why live if you’re not enjoying it? My father’s been holed up in a hospital room for months and is understandably depressed. Last week, on a visit to NYC, where my parents live, I put music in his room and played some of his old favorites. It didn’t make his cancer go away, but it made him tap his feet and fingers and remember what living is about. Do that for yourself.
That’s it for this one. Nothing I said in this post is too difficult, but psychological research supports that little things that elevate mood can do wonders for people’s overall well being. So remember, improve your life, make yourself a better person, but at the end, remember that the reason you decided to get your act together was that life stopped being enjoyable and you wanted to be happy everyday when you woke up. Follow the three simple steps above and you’ll be a lot closer!