Is Addiction A Life Sentence?

"Once an addict, always an addict."

If you have been in recovery for any amount of time, you have heard this statement. Which is why my last blog, Reflections probably had some of you reeling. This is one of the more damning renowned recovery statements.

I use the word 'damning' to describe it because I feel that way when I hear it. Like my entire recovery is being funneled into this life sentence telling me repeatedly that eventually, I will relapse. That seems like a bum rap from the jumpstart if you ask me.

Am I the only one who feels like this system is setting me up for the mindset that I will inevitably fail, rather than that I will undoubtedly succeed? (As it turns out, I am not the only one)

That's a pretty heavy burden for someone to carry who is putting all their rocks in the "NOT relapse" basket. My gut instinct was, "that's a crock", but I'm a former addict, so surely that is due to my obvious bias, right?

WRONG!

In fact, a recent article in Psychology Today (full article here) suggest this statement in the recovery world that everyone has been holding to the as steadfast truth, is anything but.

By assessing the factors involved, some studies have concluded that three things are the biggest contributing factors in a successful recovery.

  • risk factors (contributing factors)
  • coping mechanisms
  • support systems

It seems apparent that long-term successful recovery is very real and achievable.

Especially when looking at the recent stats reported by CNN (full article here) that boasts an extremely high success rate for alcoholics who don't seek treatment; up to 75%. The article describes addiction as, "a spectral disorder, like depression," and therefore has no reason to believe people can't recover from, and in some cases walk away from addictions they have had.

Easy as that.

Life sentence reversed.

Right?

-not entirely.

Almost every former or recovering addict will tell you that in place of their destructive addiction, they adopted a healthier habit (a more elaborate article about how addictions can directly effect other aspects of our behaior, here). 'Habit' being the operative word in that statement.

  • fitness
  • yoga
  • diet (Breaking Bread With Dawn explains one healthy addiction here)
  • being outdoors

While these are all arguably better "addictions" to have, for most people the last thing they want to do is bounce around from addiction to addiction. Really, the key to anything is real moderation.

-this is why I used the word 'habit' because addictions can become obsessions and can be just as detrimental. Moderation will be your new best friend, much to your chagrin.

I suppose if we didn't have some sort of problem with moderation, we wouldn't all have been addicted to something at some point.

Personally,

  1. I refuse to let this addiction define the rest of my life.
  2. I refuse to let it define the person that I am.
  3. I refuse to let that stigma (read more about addiction & stigma) cloud me in shame.

For those reasons, I completely reject the notion that I or anyone else will always be an addict. Yet for the above-mentioned reasons, I feel we will always be addicted to something.

  • making our loved ones proud
  • making ourselves proud
  • bettering ourselves
  • helping others

There are a lot of things in life that are cut and dry, but few of those things involve human emotions and human behavior. With as much as we have left to learn about and can't study with addiction and people's mentality, clearly, addiction isn't the clear-cut exception to any rule.

I say that because nothing about addiction/recovery is clear, concise or linear.

In life, you are only guaranteed the point A and the point B, but the path between to the two;

THAT IS WHAT LIFE IS.

So, you've had a little bit of car trouble at this point in the journey, that doesn't really mean the rest of your journey has to be about the flat tires and empty gas tank. You get back out, on your feet at first, until you begin to fix some issues. Then soon before you know it you are back doing 65mph down the highway of life.

I like to believe that the flat tires and empty gas tank (probably dry oil reservoir and thirsty radiator) are the addiction (the problems) in this metaphor.

My addiction isn't the vehicle, and it surely isn't the road I'm on. Therefore my addiction must be the engine trouble? So what do we do when your realize your car needs fixing?

repairing a car

We fix the issues!

Call a mechanic.

Ask for a tow.

Little by little start working on the car ourselves, all simultaneously, so that next time it starts to break we see the signs. Then, we get back out on that road of life with the windows down and the volume up.

We could look at this addiction as a life sentence, or we can accept recovery and move along down the road of life with a finely tuned mentality.

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