What Happens When We Stop Creating Our Problems?
It is a very common theme in recovery that life does not stop or become perfect after addiction ends. There are often years of collateral damage with our loved ones that must be addressed. Life also comes with the attendant instances of grief, sickness, stress, and a host of other things that can cause unforeseen adversity that we must face. If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that life can throw challenges at us—ones that can be largely out of our control. None of us had any way of knowing that we would soon be dealing with a worldwide pandemic. What we could control was how, as individuals, we reacted to and handled the different challenges that the shutdowns and quarantines presented, given our own circumstances and how we protected ourselves from the virus. If we live in a way that gives us peace, we can come up with solutions to life’s problems and handle them as they arise.
Whether we are suffering from addiction or not, whether we are in recovery or in active addiction, we all have problems. How we handle those problems is where we differentiate from one another. Oftentimes people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, and that may seem like it’s working for a while. Unfortunately, when a person gets used to masking their problems through addiction, sometimes avoiding them altogether, problems begin to mount. Then comes dependence, because people become reliant on drugs to deal with life and their problems and feel helpless without the use of substances. This can then lead to avoidance altogether as life becomes seemingly too overwhelming, and the downward spiral has begun.
Once this happens, a person who is addicted to substances is often creating the majority of the problems in their lives. Damaged relationships are created by the lying, stealing, and manipulation that often go hand in hand with substance abuse. Financial hardships come from spending money on drugs, losing jobs, or simply not being responsible with money due to substance abuse and intoxication. Physical problems arise from abusing drugs and alcohol and the damage done to the body. A lack of personal hygiene can also cause other physical health issues and lower one’s self-esteem. All these problems listed are self-inflicted, and they began with a reliance on substances to avoid pain or conflict and the substances end up fueling more and more chaos.
This is a vicious cycle for many that suffer from addiction. Problems grow and mount, as the normal everyday problems we all deal with are exacerbated by those that are self-inflicted by substance abuse, causing us to run from them instead of facing them. Life can feel impossible, and as the weight of these problems push us further down the rabbit hole, our lives break from reality. We feel alone, torn away from the people we love. Getting through the day without a job or the funds necessary to live is the struggle some live with daily. Physical health? An afterthought, the least of our problems. These are problems that persist once substance abuse has taken hold, the chaos created by our choice of lifestyle.
So yes, we all have problems. Life is full of the unexpected, and this often creates adversity that we all must face throughout our lives as we learn better ways of doing things. Which brings me to my next point and what is so crucial to a successful recovery—learning the skills to handle our problems in life without the need to use drugs or alcohol to numb everything and cope. Learning these tools is a process and vital to people in recovery to prevent relapse.
What happens in life when we stop adding to our problems with the consequences of addiction and learn better ways of handling things? Solutions. There is often a solution to every problem in life, one way or another. It becomes impossible to find solutions to any problem when we are creating ten more before we can start. When we begin living in a way that does not create chaos in our lives, we can learn to tackle anything, because that is just life. That is the difference that I would hope anyone attempting to overcome addiction can come to realize. No one can promise anyone that life will always be easy and without problems. But we can assess the things in our lives that we can control and we can take control of those factors—and when we are not living in a way that creates unnecessary problems, life is easier.
It has been my experience since overcoming my own addiction that life can be largely positive and enjoyable. I love my life today, even though it is not without its challenges. I still get overwhelmed at times, I still get stressed out, I still experience sadness and emotions that are uncomfortable. But they don’t pile up and they don’t weigh me down. When they happen, I can handle them appropriately because I have learned to do that and that brings me peace. That has led me to live a largely happy life over the last few years, instead of the misery that accompanied my addiction and self-inflicted wounds.
I have had the privilege of seeing many more transformations in other peoples’ lives since my own. This perspective has helped tremendously when I talk with others in early recovery. Yes, life can still hit hard. Did you cause the problem? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it is no. If it is yes, what can you do better and how can you learn from it? If the answer is no, we simply look for solutions and this prevents problems from piling up. Look for the factors you can control. Problem-solving is so much easier when the problems are not exacerbated by the way we are living—which is what is made possible when addiction is no longer a part of our lives.