How a Change in Perception and Approach Can Make All the Difference
If you look in a dictionary, the definition of an addict is straight forward. It is defined as “a person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug.” There is a widespread belief in the addiction community that once an addict, always an addict, whether you are in active addiction or in recovery. I know plenty of people for which this mindset has worked and have gone on to live healthy lives identifying themselves as addicts in recovery. Unfortunately, I have also known a lot of people for which this approach did not resonate and ultimately created a barrier for them to get clean because they felt as though there was no other way out. For the same reasons, I did not want others to tell me I would be an addict for the rest of my life, I do not wish to tell people in which that approach works that they are wrong. I simply wish to give some insight on what worked for me, and why seeking a means to handle and overcome my addiction for good while leaving it behind ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.
One of the main issues I had with seeing myself as an addict for the rest of my life is the idea that I would never truly get better. That no matter how hard I worked, the commitments I made to change, how much I bettered myself, and my lifestyle, that I would always carry around a label. That never resonated with me, thinking that I would forever be sick and just learn to live with it. It was not until I found a belief in myself that I could and would get better, that I did not have to carry the burden of addiction around with me forever, where I found a commitment to make the necessary changes to my life. I chose not to believe that I was powerless and instead found empowerment in what I could do with my life once I was no longer an addict.
I used to think getting clean was the hardest, most challenging thing a person could do. For years this created a hesitancy for me to confront my addiction and do what was necessary to turn my life around. What I failed to realize as an addict was that getting clean, comparatively speaking, was the easy part. Living as an addict was the terrible part. Compromising myself as a person, destroying relationships, feeling shame for who I had become, failing to succeed in life. That was the hardest, most challenging time of my life. Getting clean and becoming the man I knew I was supposed to be has been filled with joy and pride, improved relationships, self-esteem, and peace. I had this idea that being clean was a bare-knuckle battle within that would last my entire life, a white-knuckle affair in which I would constantly be fighting off a raging internal struggle with addiction and being clean. That was because I had been told, over and over, that I would be a sickly addict for the rest of my life and that it would always be a part of who I am. That did not end up being true for me, but without a change in perspective, I would have gone on believing that to be truth and quite possibly never have gotten the help that I needed for me to succeed.
None of this is to say that it did not take hard work and a strong commitment to myself for me to get better. It did, and it was a journey. The journey was difficult at times, but as I saw myself continue to get better each day it also began to be filled with hope, and with each day my determinism and belief in myself grew. Eventually, the internal struggle dissipated, and I realized I was just a guy living my life the way I wanted to, without the weights and burden of being an addict, and that filled me with joy. This change of perspective ended up being everything I needed to put in the work, make the commitment to continue to better myself, and overcome my addiction for good. Today I consider addiction a part of my past and something that helped shape me into the person I have become, but I do not consider myself an addict. There is no more fear inside of me, it has been replaced by peace.