Addiction Recovery Is Giving Up One Thing to Gain Everything Else
If you had told me ten years ago that to get everything I wanted out of life, I had to give up the one thing I thought I couldn’t live without; I don’t think I would have believed you. This time ten years ago, I was in one of the darkest parts of my addiction. I was working a dead-end job I hated, living back at home with my parents as a grown adult, blowing each paycheck on drugs and alcohol, and living a life of full-blown addiction. I wasn’t the stereotypical image people think of when it comes to addiction, but I was far enough down the rabbit hole that I had no idea how to get out or if I even really wanted to.
The tricky thing about addiction is that it is very often a war between what we need and what we think we want. This idea may not make sense at first, so I will break it down for you if you are unsure what I mean. On some level, I believe that we all want to have an extraordinary life. People want to have security and know where they will get their next meal. It’s nice to have the necessities of food, clothes, and shelter. We all have a deep need for meaningful relationships and can only thrive when our basic needs are met. Addiction takes something that a person wants, be it alcohol or drugs, and makes them think it is something they need. When this change occurs, a person will begin to sacrifice the things they need and want to fulfill the lie of obtaining their addiction needs.
The first things to go in addiction are usually pretty simple. Time and money are quickly wasted on drinking and using drugs. These are things that seem of little consequence but add up quickly. It may seem harmless to lose a morning here and there to a hangover, but those mornings rapidly add up and can soon turn into a lifestyle. When I look back now and think of the accumulation of time and money I wasted throughout my addiction, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.
The next level of sacrifice usually gets a little steeper. Addiction will cause people to miss out on opportunities and keep them stuck in less than ideal situations. It may not seem like a big deal at the time, but after a few years of missed promotions or new life experiences, this loss will begin to take its toll. I stayed at jobs with no room to grow because they didn’t require drug tests; I missed out on opportunities to gain new experiences because I would have rather stayed home and got high. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but it hurts to think about what I missed out on now.
The longer an addiction continues, the more likely it will be that relationships will get ruined and bridges will be burned. Broken relationships are unavoidable when it comes to addiction; a person may skate by for a time, but sooner or later, addiction will do harm. Addiction causes people to become unreliable. It often leads to dishonesty. It can create unintentionally abusive situations. It makes people feel like they are less of a priority because the very nature of addiction causes maintaining that addiction to become a person’s highest priority. All of these things break down relationships, and the longer they continue, the more damage that addiction will do. Loving an addict is one of the hardest things a person can do because the authentic person often gets buried in all of the adverse side effects of the condition.
The worst thing I lost during the course of my addiction was my sense of self-respect and my will to live. I stopped caring about my own well-being altogether. I gave up on my health and my future; I didn’t really care if I made it tough to live another day. The only thing that mattered to me when I was at my worst was that I had enough drugs and alcohol to make it through the night. Once I reached this point, I knew deep down that I was pretty far gone and that something needed to change; I just didn’t know if I could actually do what was required to make that happen.
When my family finally had enough with my self-destructive behaviors and decided to do an intervention, I knew deep down in my heart that if I wanted to have a good life, the time to change was now. I didn’t want to look back on my life in another ten years and still be stuck in the same spot or even worse off than I already was. The thought of getting sober terrified me in a way that only someone who has been through addiction can understand, but part of me was ready to give it at least a shot because I couldn’t go on living the way I had been anymore.
I will be reaching my tenth year of sobriety in about another five months. The first years were the most difficult and required the most change; I am at a point now, though, where living sober has become my new normal, and I love living this way. I no longer have to fight through the urges to go out and drink because I no longer want to drink. I don’t have to decide between eating dinner and getting drunk because I have become financially responsible. Best of all, I no longer have to try and drink away my loneliness because I have a life full of meaning and love.
Throughout the course of my recovery, I have had the opportunity to marry my best friend, travel to new parts of the world, become a mother, buy a home, pay off my debt, achieve my dreams of being a professional artist, stay home to take care of my children, and live a life I wouldn’t have thought possible ten years ago. I regularly reflect on everything that it took to get me to the point where I am now and to say that I am grateful would be an understatement. The life I have now is the life I prayed for all those years ago and was unsure I could ever really achieve.
Part of me wishes I could go back in time to that scared 25-year-old version of myself and give her a hug and tell her that getting sober wasn’t going to be easy but that it would be the best decision she ever made. I think she might doubt me a little bit, but I also think she would be happy to know that she made the right choice to get help and make a change. To many people, what I have now may not be considered a fancy or exciting life, but to me, it’s precisely the life that I wanted, and the one that would still be out of reach had I never gathered up the courage to overcome my addiction.