Positive psychology tells us that focusing on the positives, on your strengths is a more powerful way to affect change.
There is no field of study that is more controversial than addiction. Moreover, there is no field of study that is less understood. You can spend the rest of your life exploring what it means to be an addict. Even if you don’t plan on becoming a counsellor or therapist, consider that your exploration is helping you answer the age old questions, “who am I?” and “what is my purpose here on earth?”
While most people think it might be a good idea to make changes in their lives, you know that for you it’s a matter of life and death. You know that living a “normal” life is probably not enough for you if you want to stay clean and sober. In other words, you need to grow or rot. This is true for all of us but for you the consequences of not living a life of personal growth are much greater. Change is not an option if you want to stay clean and sober.
We know that addiction is a Biopsychosocial-spiritual condition that requires that we address our social, physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectually, and financially.
We all need to have a sense of belonging. We have our families, we have work, we have our neighbourhood, now you have another “tribe:” the addiction community. Go to a meeting. It doesn’t cost anything. Be part of a group that is here looking inside of themselves. While there are many groups that can help you feel a sense of belonging (aerobic classes, church, Toastmasters, etc.) few provide the opportunity to connect with each other at a personal level.
A common technique that people in recovery will use is to “play the tape to the end” as they visualize the negative consequences of their drinking or drug-use. This technique is helpful against euphoric recall which is the tendency individuals in recovery may have to remember the rare times they had fun during addiction. If people “play the tape to the end”, then cannot minimize the overall impact of their addiction and convince themselves that social drinking or drug-use is acceptable for themselves. The technique of “playing the tape to the end” is a powerful relapse prevention strategy.
During longer term sobriety, however, people may also want to reflect on the positive impacts of their addiction. At first individuals may cringe at the thought their addictions had any positive aspects since they likely caused others a great deal of pain before starting the road to sobriety. The reality, however, is that finding gratitude for recovery is also a powerful exercise. When people examine the gift of addiction, they are able to reflect on their own positive emotional growth while also examining the progress they have made in recovery. It is often because of addiction that individuals in recovery feel that they are like the phoenix emerging from the ashes as they transform into who they really are meant to become as people. In essence, people are not the same once they experience recovery and their newly-improved lives are representative of this fact.
Many individuals use their recovery in order to become better people. Cathy Patterson-Sterling in her book “Rebuilding Relationships In Recovery” states:
“In all of us there is a gift. Sometimes it is in our
darkest hours that we can finally see the light
that shines from within.” (Patterson-Sterling, 2004)
Therefore during people’s “darkest hours” of experiencing the addiction, they will often sink to the depths of their personalities by engaging in activities that cross their value systems such as lying, cheating, or stealing as ways to support their addictions. Other individuals during these “darkest hours” may feel like they are crawling in their own skins and are completely detached from who they really are as people. Many individuals in addiction describe a feeling of being an empty shell on the inside with no awareness of their real identities. Then there are also individuals in addiction who feel like they are going insane because the grip of their drug is so strong that the addiction overshadows all aspects of their lives.
Recovery then becomes the light of hope in addicted people’s lives. Once individuals start recovery they realize that there is “a light” or beauty within themselves. Such people can find the happiness they deserve as they discover their real identities. This light for some individuals may be overwhelming because they have long forgotten who they are outside of their addictions.
Another gift of addiction is that people in recovery have a chance to live with gratitude
because in recovery each new day becomes a blessing. Richard Nixon once said:
“The greatness comes not when things always go good
for you. But the greatness comes when you’re really
tested, when you take some knocks, some
disappointments, when sadness comes. Because only
if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever
know how magnificent it is to be on the highest
With recovery, people can begin to appreciate the simple things in life because they are no longer consumed in the chaos of active using/drinking. The sun shines brighter and each day is filled with opportunity rather than being overshadowed by the insatiable demands of the monster called addiction. This does not mean that individuals are forever “living on a pink cloud” reality, but they do instead often take the time to appreciate the blessings of life. Generally, people can have a better perspective if they have trudged through the valleys of life and then can enjoy the heights as well as vantage points of the mountain peaks. Also in recovery, people learn how to “live life on life’s terms” as they accept the small problems and stumbling blocks of daily life. Once individuals have experienced the darkest valleys of life, they can learn not to “sweat the small stuff” by feeling overwhelmed by daily events. Each day without being in active addiction is a good day!
In summary, addiction is a gift because individuals who have felt lost at a soul level as they are consumed in the addiction can liberate themselves as they emerge like the phoenix into a world filled with potential and abundance. People in recovery now have a rudder and direction rather than being like a boat aimlessly floating through the storms of life. With direction, a new found identity, and a connection to their personal power people in recovery are unstoppable as they pursue their goals and create the lives they are meant to enjoy!