Is it possible to find hope when you live with an addiction?
I’m focusing today on addiction and hope. The powerful disease of addictions comes in many forms including drug and alcohol, gambling and sexual compulsive behaviours. It is my hope in sharing this article that someone reading it will see the light of hope in their own life and find a way out of addiction.
Addiction is often viewed as a lack of willpower or a character flaw. It’s often approached with punishment and cruel words rather than compassion and care in many communities here in Ireland and around the world. This cruelty brings with it shame and stigma and an ultimately lack of service provision for people managing addictions. Hope can get lost along the way or perhaps it was never there to begin with and for many people this brings an overwhelming sense of loneliness, emptiness and ultimately suicide.
Sometimes to find hope we need to hear stories about how other people have found hope, particularly when another person’s story is like ours. Managing an addiction can be a very lonely journey and hearing stories of hope and recovery can help us to feel connected and worthy again. The following story is written by Dave, a recovering alcoholic. He talks about his journey to finding hope and discovering that his addiction has been a “gift of awareness”. Thank you for sharing your story with me.
A Personal Story
What addiction means to me: If you abuse something for long enough it will eventually become the death of you if you don’t find a way to give it up when dealing with substances. Anybody can become addicted to substances and almost everybody is addicted to something. Drinking or drugs are fatal though. The reasons why someone chooses drinking or drugs can vary but are often that you perhaps didn’t conform in society or the world as perhaps you were expected or wanted to. Somewhere in life you made decisions and went down some dark paths. The progression varies for everybody. Some people start out mild and gradually become addicts while living very normal lives and some others plunge straight into full-blown addiction from a very early age. The root of the problem ultimately is fear, loneliness and compulsive thinking that escalates over time.
How it shapes you: It shapes you very badly if you cannot stop. Society doesn’t want to know you and you are a nuisance and the worse it gets the more you begin to realize that you might well be better off dead. Over-coming this period is definitely the hardest part but there is always hope. Only you can make the necessary changes but you can’t do it on your own.
How it shapes you in recovery: It shapes you very well. You accept spirituality as a base for simple living in your life. It opens you up to a new simple way of life where you see things differently and positively and you begin to understand why you became an addict in the first place. It shapes you because you know yourself better than ever before and better than most people know themselves. You come to realize that the suffering was a very necessary process to get you to where you are and is also a lesson to you that if you don’t keep moving forward in life on a twelve step program then you could be in trouble. Awareness and acceptance of the fact that you are an addict shapes you positively, makes you stronger and keeps you conscious on a daily basis. You have been given a gift of awareness that the whole world needs to a large extent.
It doesn’t shape you well if you are around other people drinking because then you are just a misfit. It’s best to avoid that or toxic people in general entirely and after time you come to realize that you no-longer want to have anything to do with that society of people anyway. Does that mean you’re isolating from society? Yes. Society was never really any addict’s best friend anyway so stay with like-minded people. Try to respect society and those around you but don’t follow its formulas.
Being an addict absolutely does define you. If you deny it then it will haunt you and you will never be free from it. It can define you for all the negative reasons if you spend your life living in regret or shame or trying to conform to the wants of people that offer you nothing.
You have to embrace it as a gift. It is a great gift to be ultrasensitive and creative in the ways that pretty much every addict is. You just have to work harder on well-being and simplifying your decisions and actions than most “normal” people do. But if you do the simple things required of you to maintain your well-being etc. life is fantastic in recovery from addiction.
You absolutely have to embrace it and connect with lots of like-minded people. There are plenty of them out there! Most of the greatest most creative people that ever lived were addicts. Everyone has some darkness in their lives and to face up to it with humility can be truly defining in all the positive ways.
How do you find hope living with an addiction?
- Start talking about it with a safe person. Remind yourself of your support system. Use it. Join a support group and learn from those in recovery. Check out a link to AA here. Shame breathes in secrecy, if you can share your story you’re letting go of some of the shame that might be consuming you. There’s a list of support services here.
-If you know someone with an addiction, listen to them, advocate for them, show empathy. Talk about what gives them hope. Ask them directly.
- Practice self-soothing: nurturing yourself and showing compassion is one of the truest forms of honoring you and your needs. Do something that makes you feel good. Take a few breaths and practice noticing where you’re holding pain in your body. Listen to that. Let someone else know about this.
- Think of your recovery journey, remind yourself of the things you’ve achieved and the skills you’ve gained along the way. If you’re facing a blip in the road, remind yourself that this too shall pass. You could write down your thoughts in your journal. Focus on something you’re grateful for in this moment. Think about something you enjoy doing that makes you smile, think about the people in your life who make you smile. Where do you feel gratefulness in your body?
Michelle Murray is a Mental Health Occupational Therapist and Trauma Sensitive Yoga Facilitator. If you’re interested in learning more about how Occupational Therapy support might be able to help you find hope and live a more meaningful life reach out to Michelle Murray at Anchor Therapy www.anchortherapy.ie. Michelle can also be found on Facebook and Instagram as the_wellness_anchor where she posts regular tips and tricks to support your mental health.