Drug recovery has evolved with time. It’s fair to say that our understanding of addiction and how it functions has genuinely changed within just a few decades – and in that time, we’re coming to learn more and more about the connections between addiction, emotions, the brain, and the factors that influence first-time addiction and eventual relapse rates.
For the longest time, drug recovery has meant to recover from an addiction and regain a normal life. But that’s not really a fit definition anymore. To overcome addiction, you must do more than recover your old life and lay claim to what you once had. You must overcome not just the addiction, but the person you used to be.
This isn’t because addiction sweeps weaker people off their feet – it’s because addiction creates an opportunity by which we can improve ourselves and thoroughly isolate any chance of relapse. Everyone has the potential to get addicted, and most fall under an addiction not by their own virtue but because of circumstance. But to say no to the temptation of addiction requires you to overcome, and not just recover.
Recovery as a Journey
Typically, a classic journey to sobriety involves:
- Admitting the addiction.
- Seeking help through residential treatment.
- Coping with life’s challenges out of rehab.
- Building a solid foundation for living without addiction, staying clean.
- Achieving long-term sobriety, of over a year and onwards.
- Continuously denying a relapse.
In between the initial rehab and that first major milestone of a year, most people with substance abuse issues relapse once or more. And that is the average journey through recovery. Everyone achieves this path through their own motivation and conviction, and they cope with post-rehab challenges in one of many ways.
Yet long-term sobriety is more than just staying clean. You must not just stop and deny your addiction, but you must work to eliminate a reason for its existence. Once you’ve created that powerful emotional bond to such a destructive habit, filling the void it leaves behind is more effective than pretending it doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean choosing another addiction or an obsession – but it does mean embracing passion, and being motivated by something truly fundamental to you, like the bond you share with the person you love the most.
A Sober Look at Life
Sobriety as a clarity of inner and outer vision – being able to look towards the past, the present and future without rose-tinted glasses, feelings of regret or stigma, and having a healthy relationship with yourself – is a powerful antidote to the temptation of a relapse. While there’s the potential in each of us to become addicted to a substance or a behavior, there’s a heightened danger and temptation in those that have recovered from an addiction and remember its effects for the rest of their life.
Steering away from those feelings requires being adamant about staying clean – and that requires having a good reason for staying clean. No one fights an addiction just for the sake of fighting an addiction. We all have our reasons. Some do it for family. Some do it for their own personal freedom. Some do it out of pride, to prove a point to themselves, as a statement to shake themselves out of a depression. Some must do it, out of accountability, because others depend on them.
Whatever your reason is, to discover it and stick by it you must be sober. That means being clear about what you want, who you are, and your inner issues. Confront your anxieties and your worries, come to terms with your shortcomings and forgive yourself. Drop the shame and the grief and with regret, and replace it with the determination to wake up every day and do better.
When you make recovery about more than just drugs, but about you, about those around you, about transforming who you are and what you can do to make an impact in the lives of others and be remembered for your best moments rather than your worst, then you’ll never fear your addiction again. Even in the cold, dark moments, you’ll feel comfort in knowing what you’re worth, and who you are to yourself and others. Your actions and your conviction towards both staying sober and achieving your goals in life with keep you company, and keep you warm.
Creating the Best Version of Yourself
The best version of yourself is solely your own creation. This mirrors the idea that recovery is, ultimately, a highly unique journey. However, that doesn’t mean you must do it alone – or that the best version of yourself isn’t intricately linked to others. It’s one thing to do something for yourself, to achieve a goal, or to strive to an ideal that you set out for yourself purely to prove a point that you could – but it’s another to do something for others, to give, to work hard so you can be an example or provide a better life, or give safety and security to those who need it the most.
We’re all intricately linked to each other in this gigantic globe of a world. Our family, our friends, our community and society itself – these rings of social existence make up our world, and belonging to them, finding a place to be within them, extinguishing the sense of loneliness created by addiction is crucial to your journey of recovery. It’s not just about the individualism – the best version of yourself is the you that can achieve the most for others, the you that see in a mirror and are content with.
It’s up to you to figure out what all that means to you. Take the time you have in early recovery to rediscover yourself, spread out and get a feel for new things in life, and establish once again who you believe yourself to be deep within. What matters to you? What makes you go and grasp life with more enthusiasm than anything else? What drives you? What gets you so riled up that you can’t even think about your addiction anymore because you’re just too busy living your life?
It’s never too late to find these things out, and it’s never too late to be a better you. And in addiction recovery, the time to change is right now.