Getting sober, or breaking any addiction for that matter, is the most challenging thing a person will ever have to do. The overwhelming compulsion to numb out by using substances is among the most powerful thoughts we will ever face. Most addicts, including myself, end up feeling hopeless and trapped with no way out. If you would have asked me seven years ago if my life would have rocketed into the amazing life that it is today, I would have said that it was ‘impossible’ or told you t‘you’re crazy’. Nonetheless, here are some belief systems I adopted early in my own recovery (7 years ago) that helped me to get started on the right foot!
If I keep existing (not living) the way I have been- I will continue to ruin my life.
I have worked with nearly 1,000 individuals on their addiction issues and a common thread is that their life has been getting worse while they act in these addictive behaviors. Some have gone further down the scale than others; and this means little. You hit your bottom and hopefully you stop digging the hole. Hitting bottom can look different for different people; losing things of monetary value by various means including: getting robbed, misplacing possessions in some altered state of mind, pawning your (and other peoples) possessions and lending things to the wrong person that will never return it (not everyone is kind like you are). Gradually the addict starts losing the things that can’t be replaced (i.e. day after day spent running and time wasted making no progress towards any meaningful goals, losing the respect of their loved ones, respect for themselves and the feeling of uselessness, craving community and happiness.)
I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
Willingness…where does it come from? In my experience, it comes from two places. One scenario is the fear of continuing to live life the way you have been living. The waking up sick, the lying to yourself and your loved ones, the in and out of jail and the all-around miserable existence your life has probably turned into after years of active addiction. When you finally have your “ah-hah!” moment of clarity, like some of us do, you see the error in these ways and are granted what we call “the gift of desperation”. Through this ‘gift’, you become willing to do whatever it takes to change and develop an honest belief that your life must and will continue to get better if you stay steadfast on the road to recovery. As with most things in life, the beginning of recovery is the hardest; I equate it to jumping off of a cliff without knowing that you will have a safe landing. It is the stuff that faith is made of…
I’m willing to receive and follow the directions and suggestions of a mentor.
Once you decide that you really want to change your life (this goes for people with time in sobriety as well), you must be honest with yourself. This stark self-evaluation is one of the hardest thing to do. Yet there are several simple questions to ask yourself to help gauge where you really are: ‘what I am doing with my life that is working for me? Am I happy? Am I pursuing my dreams? Do I feel excited about what my future holds?’ If you cannot answer yes to these questions, chances are you are off the path of what you’re meant to be doing. I have never, in my entire career, met an addict that can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions. Therefore it stands to reason that the way of the addict doesn’t work. Addiction is the worst trick in the world; it starts off as a fun, beautiful experience and turns into the darkest monster one could imagine. Choosing a mentor is about finding someone who is living the life you want live, someone who not only knows what you want first hand, but someone who ‘has been there and done that’. A mentor’s practical experience is invaluable, this goes with anything in life- but especially when trying to overcome addiction. When choosing a mentor, the trust factor is critical. You need to be willing to be open and honest with them. You could know everything in the world, but without the action behind the knowledge you’re like a rocket that has failed to launch, a ship without a rudder. Action is the fuel and rudder to achieving your goals.
I CAN do this, recovery is a real possibility for me.
Most addicts believe we will fail and mask this belief with an outward attitude of “I don’t even care” but deep down they know they are wasting their potential to do great things with their lives for themselves, their loved ones and want better. We isolate and are prone to negative judgment from ourselves and the world, so it’s our first inclination to believe society is right that we are trash, burnouts, failures or all around scumbags. Here is the catch though, MANY others have changed and lit the path for me and others suffering. If millions of other people can do it…so can you. There is a plethora of options for those who suffer: support groups, literature, meetings, therapy modalities, and so much more. Please feel free to call me anytime to talk about them (see contact information below).
We have everything to gain by working our WAY OUT of the addicted life and everything to lose by staying stuck in the addiction!
I lost a lot throughout my addiction, monetarily yes, but the things that hurt the most were the things money couldn’t buy. Some examples of the lengths we are willing to go to during an active addiction is: breaking the law, selling our possessions, stealing from anyone including those who love us. We lose our self-love, self-respect and self-acceptance as well as the respect of our communities and loved ones. Getting and staying sober gives us the opportunity to not only get these things back, but to own them on a much deeper and real level than we have ever experienced before. Today I own a home, have a career, a son, a beautiful partner and own my own small business. The best feeling in the world is helping another addict achieve their goals and looking myself in the eyes and loving that man in the mirror. I used to be a slave to a substance and today, I am freer than I’ve ever been spiritually and mentally…no matter how hopeless you feel these things are possible for any of us! Keep the hope and put one foot in front of the other!
*This blog post was authored by Lawrence Briggs, Director of Operations at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Ph: 480.320.0752