Like most addicts, I never expected to become addicted in the first place. You don’t actively seek out drugs and alcohol just to become an addict. Rather, you use them to escape from emotions and circumstances or fill a void. For me, I got high and drank to the point of blacking out because I hated who I was. I never made an effort to change the qualities that bothered me, and, honestly, pretending reality didn’t exist was a lot easier than actually living in it.
Growing up, I was shy, awkward and painfully insecure. Making friends was excruciating because socializing with others never came naturally to me. When I discovered drugs and alcohol as a teenager, that was when my life took a turn for the worst. When I was intoxicated and high, I became a completely different person: loud, outspoken, and confident. I was ecstatic to be anyone other than myself. However, I was still avoiding a truth that always made me feel hollow inside: drugs and alcohol could never change me, no matter how many times I lied to myself.
After a suicidal episode years later, I ended up in the hospital. Immediately afterward, I checked myself into rehab.
I have been sober for two years – and proudly going strong. In the time I was recovering, I came to learn a lot of things about myself and life, in general. Therefore, I’m incredibly grateful to share them with you today.
1. You need to trust and take care of yourself
The moment I got out of rehab, I was overwhelmed with a sickening fear of falling back into a relapse. Despite all the psychiatric help, group therapy sessions, and medications that equipped me to take on life and live soberly, it was terrifying to realize that I was the one solely responsible for the quality of my life every single day. As someone who used drugs and alcohol to escape problems, the concept of taking care of myself without them seemed impossible. However, I had to believe I could take care of myself and survive on my own. Otherwise, I would end up right back at square one: doing drugs and drinking again.
We are much stronger and more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Unfortunately, most of the time, we tend to convince ourselves – and believe – we’re the opposite. Doubt can build upon itself, and our insecurities are its platform.
Regardless of the challenges life puts against us, there is always a way to survive them, and, then, learn from them so we can combat the next obstacle. At the end of the day, you need to tell yourself things get better. Consequently, the positive actions you take now will make the future more rewarding.
2. You should never seek validation for your identity in external factors and other people
When you’re an addict, you don’t live for anything else other than the next hit or another drink. You never stop to think about yourself or your well-being. For years, I believed my identity came from the persona I had when on drugs and alcohol. I also validated my actions with the approval of people who encouraged my self-destructive behavior.
The truth of the matter is: you cannot define yourself by external factors or by others. What truly defines your identity is feeling a genuine a sense of self, in all that you do and naturally are. This comes from the choices you make, your personality, passions and interests, the love for other people, and everything else that is important to you. When you’re unquestionably happy with where you are and what you are doing, that is your identity. External factors are just extensions of yourself.
3. Victimizing yourself to the mistakes and regrets of the past will prevent you from moving forward
Frankly, I pitied myself for developing an addiction for months after rehab until I gathered the self-respect to stop. There’s nothing wrong with feeling regret. Yet, when you start using regret as an excuse to not live your life, or not do the things you need to do, that’s when it becomes a problem.
4. Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are two of the hardest practices in life, but they are necessary to personal growth
It’s easy to feel and stay miserable. It’s a lot more difficult to accept and embrace your sources of emotional distress and move on with them.
It’s been two years since I was discharged from rehab, and I still struggle to confront uncomfortable emotions to this day. I’ve always been an extremely self-critical individual growing up. Hence, the idea of being kind and loving to myself frankly seemed silly.
After some time, I came to realize I feared self-compassion and forgiveness because I had no idea how to give them to myself. Further, I did not feel I deserved them. What I learned is that things happen, you make terrible choices – we all do. But you don’t need to beat yourself up for being human.
About the Author
Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over two years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
This article (4 Lessons I Learned When I Stopped Drinking and Doing Drugs) is copyrighted by Awareness Junkie, 2017. Furthermore, you may not copy, reproduce, publish or distribute any content therein without written permission. You may contact us here.
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