It may be an understatement to say that an addiction can leave a void in someone’s life. When going sober, one of the greatest challenges is figuring out what to do next – and not being paralyzed by the sheer choice of it all.
In many cases, people do one of two things: get stuck, procrastinating all the things they know or feel they should be doing, or dive headfirst into something with reckless abandon, making great progress only to burn out and crash with no reliable safety net in place.
It may be wise to take a more cautious approach to figuring life out after addiction, beginning with the obvious: what does one need?
We all need to work to support ourselves, for one – but we also need friends who support us along the way, and interests we can indulge in to relax, grow, and enjoy life.
In a way, each of these things give us purpose. And in that sense, it’s important to note that a person can (and should) have more than one purpose.
You can be a parent and a professional. You can be an expert in one thing and a novice in another. The roles we embrace in life are what help give our lives meaning, shaping who we are in our own minds and giving us a better and healthier sense of self. These roles help us fill that void in a way drugs never would have, and never will.
Why Purpose is Important
One of the ways in which an addiction can take a life is by completely unraveling it, and often ripping away everything the average person holds dear: family, friends, home, hobbies, and – in the darkest moments – the will to live.
When an addiction is treated, part of that treatment involves helping a person separate themselves from the thoughts they held while addicted, including thoughts of self-deprecation and self-harm.
They learn to associate new things with themselves, by building up the courage to try new things, indulge in old hobbies, and rediscover themselves.
That discovery and rediscovery of the self must go on for much longer than just the first few months of recovery, as it is critical for long-term recovery.
By giving yourself the chance to redefine who you are and take another stab at life – knowing that mistakes will be made and the road ahead will be challenging – you learn to make the critical decision to live on and grow despite the hell that an addiction can put you through.
By working to learn more about your roles in life – your purpose – you embrace sobriety as another chance at living and set aside addiction. That doesn’t make it go away, of course – the urge to use again lives inside every recovering addict, and a person doesn’t just forget what it felt like to be high.
Addiction settles itself in the brain, and it doesn’t take much to be reminded of how good it feels to use. Which is why it takes a lot to set that aside for sobriety.
Do What Interests You
The gist of finding new purposes in sobriety is to do what interests you. Seek out a job in a field you enjoy or are passionate about. Or continue to work to support yourself but take every chance to make a living out of what truly interests you.
Set aside a little time here and there for your own welfare, to take care of your mental needs. Go to therapy. Listen to music or make your own. Play some games. Hang out with friends. Keep in touch with those who matter to you and cut ties with those who hurt you. Use sobriety as the chance to explore what it means to you to be happy.
Striking a Balance
The most challenging part of finding things you love to do in addiction is learning to strike a balance between them and your daily responsibilities. Just as it isn’t mentally or physically healthy to be addicted to a drug, it isn’t mentally or physically healthy to be completely obsessed with any one aspect of your life.
There’s a difference between having a hobby and spending every available second devoted to your own interests. There’s a difference between having a healthy social life and doing nothing of interest outside of work and social engagements. And there’s a difference between having a healthy relationship with your work and being completely married to it.
We all need balance, but there’s a special benefit to seeking out a balanced way of life when recovering from addiction: it helps you better manage your cravings and eliminates a lot of the stress and frustration sourced from focusing too intensely on just one aspect of your life.
While it’s good to be gung-ho about something other than drug use when coming out of an addiction, there’s much to be gained from employing sensible moderation.
For people with a great interest in physical pursuits, it pays to remember that a lack of recovery does not only lead to diminishing gains but can cause injury.
For those entirely enamored in their life’s work and their new careers, it’s also important to note that when the high of an accomplishment wears off, what’s left is the company we keep. Loneliness is a terrible thing, and there’s more to fostering a genuine friendship with another human being than nurturing a workplace relationship.
It’s important to note that we do not advocate for social lives led simply under the pretense that it’s normal, and thus good, to lead rich and colorful social lives with plenty of friends.
How many friends we have and how we interact with them is entirely up to individual preference, yet it’s important to have friends you can be sober with. Go out as often as you’re comfortable, or not at all – invite your friends over, instead. Plan exotic getaways or a cozy night at home with some games and food. Do more than ever, or as little as possible. Just find people that mesh with you, share your interests, and accept your faults.
For every person more likely to take a passion to the extreme, there are a series of issues that might come back to haunt them later, fueling a potential relapse. To avoid falling back into old habits, it’s important to remember that passion and obsession are separate things. Pursue your purpose, but don’t forget to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and socially.