What You Give is What You Get

Two friends talking
Photo by Finn Hafemann/iStockPhoto.com

Recently, I was speaking with someone I knew very well—my whole life, in fact. He had been rid of his addiction for over 10 years, and his life was going well. Good job, summer home, the whole nine yards. I looked up to him, as a model for what I could be. Unexpectedly, he shared he had recently fallen off the wagon.

I was astonished. This man, who I had spent many days with, who seemed like an unstoppable force of what the good of a clean lifestyle can bring, relapsed! At some level, I was devastated. It seemed like ill tidings for all who struggle; that there is no hope—reinforcing the idea that once an addict, always an addict. But he was not upset, not in the least bit. In fact, he was more reinforced in his sobriety than ever, and thankful to have new insight into who he is.

He explained that he had become complacent in his life. After all this time clean, his thoughts were that he could no longer become an addict again. He stopped checking his morals and allowed himself to revert to some of his past behaviors. Ultimately, he was confronted with his past through his recent decisions. He decided to try using again, since he was not an addict anymore. Then, one more time. Then, it was okay to use once a week so long as everything else was in order, and so on. This is a sadly familiar path many have walked.

Eventually, he realized his ways—no doubt his experience helped him stop sooner than those newer in recovery, but nonetheless, he was back at square one. At first, he was ashamed to admit his error, but that type of thinking would keep him from getting back on track, keep him from getting healthy again. So, after ten years clean, he sought help again. Luckily, he saved himself before all was lost before in full-blown addiction again. Now, he can shed even more light on long-term sobriety than ever before. The lesson, he says, is:


This story reinforces that sobriety is not just about not doing drugs, it is about changing your life. Regardless of the circumstances which initially led to addiction, recovery consists of the same fundamentals—your moral compass must be aligned correctly. Many assume that time clean can allow for deviations from sober decisions. A former alcoholic with four years clean chooses to go to trivia night at the local pub. The long-clean gambler, who after nearly losing everything many years past, decides that the Powerball winning amount is too high to not take a chance. They know that they will never revert to their old ways—they have enough clean time, right?

Time is such a misleading factor in sobriety. Oftentimes I have heard people speak of it as a merit of authority, or as status within the recovery community. While there is no doubt that a long period of time suggests that one is doing things the right way, it is important to remember that we are all the same amount of time away from a relapse. Do not begin to lapse on your commitments or morals just because of time since last use, even if it has been twenty years—these lapses in judgment can bring you right back to addiction.

The same principle of having a pre-existing desire to be clean for any rehab to work applies forever! You must actually want to live the new life you have constructed or have begun constructing for yourself. Or else, what’s the point? The joy in sobriety comes from the day-to-day, not from getting to a certain spot and staying there. You should treat every day constantly striving to move forward to a better version of you.

Addiction can be defeated through deliberate effort and focus on the present. Be conscious of every decision you make, weighing the good versus the bad. No matter how much time you have as an ex-addict, keeping your ethics in line and behaviors appropriate is a must. Do not let a bad day lead you astray, keep going and doing the right things and everything will work out.

James F.—Narconon Suncoast Graduate and Contributor

About the Author:

James is a musician, avid reader, and explorer. After traveling for most of his life, the most beautiful place he’s ever been has been recovery. He strives to show the beauty of life after addiction through self-love and healthy routine. His experience and love of others has provided hope for many of those still struggling.



Justin has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 1 year. Justin earned his Bachelors's Degree in Finance from Florida State University. Having been an addict himself, he brings real-world experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Justin is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions.