After a significant part of your life has been spent either exceptionally high, falling-over drunk, or just plain comatose, and often in extremely high-risk situations, too, most people who have finally made it into recovery from serious substance addiction are pretty much just happy to be alive. They’re just grateful they made it through all that manic madness without losing their mind.
Throw the question “What is your purpose now?” or “Do you mind meaning in your life now?” at any one of those grateful souls, particularly early on in their addiction recovery, and they’ll probably just smile at you, and honestly say, ”Does it matter?” or “Do I need one? Because I’m not sure I do. I’m just happy to be here at all.”
Happy to be here at all…
However, take my word for it, that sense of relief? It doesn’t stay for long. After a while (it could be months, or it could be years), that feeling is long-gone, with perhaps the odd reminder, but no more. Yes, after a while, you do sit down one day, take a deep, deep breath, and say quietly to yourself, “What’s next?”
“Can I Help Someone Else Now?”
Now that you have a clear, conscious mind, with real clarity of thought and a real sense of hope for the future, and definitely more energy and focus than you think you’ve ever had, ever, in your entire life, you will start to finally look around you, at your life now, and you will be hit with a strong urge to do something positive and pure with your sobriety.
Virtually every recovering addict or alcoholic has a moment when they look at their past experiences, their life in addiction, and say to themselves, “If I shared these in some way, they really could help someone else, and maybe even stop them going down the dark road I went down. Maybe, just maybe, I could help someone.”
If you attend addiction support groups, like AA or NA 12-Step meetings, you’ll know exactly what I mean here, as you see this dynamic working every time you hear another person’s story.
Many of those people go on to “give back” to the recovery community – to share, to help, and to advise others who are in the kind of situation or position an ex-addict knows only too well, where everything in life is tinged with just a little desperation.
However, there are others in long-term, sustainable addiction recoveries who look beyond substance addiction, and find something else, somewhere else that will enable them to help others – to “give back.
And that’s where their new and real purpose lies, that’s where their true meaning will be found.
As a former substance addict, with over 6 years of true sobriety behind me, I have experienced this very process first-hand. The journey from early sobriety (which, in my case, began thanks to an off-duty cop’s intervention, and then a spell at an excellent rehab center in Arizona), to finding real purpose and true meaning is just as valid and important as the journey to addiction recovery itself.
Today, this other journey is why I sit down in front of my computer every single morning, and write about the “chronic, relapsing brain disorder” [part of addiction’s clinical definition] that took complete control over my life for many years, led me to some very dark and dangerous places, and so nearly took my meager, meaningless life – on more than one occasion.
This article – “Finding Real Purpose & True Meaning in Addiction Recovery” – will hopefully help spur you to find your purpose and meaning, as your own addiction recovery continues day-by-day, growing stronger and stronger. Trust me – you’ll know when it’s time…
Knowing & Understanding the “Sober You”
During the early months of addiction recovery, it’s all about one foot in front of the other – to keep moving forward. Your mind is literally consumed with being substance-free, and if that’s to the detriment of other aspects in your life, so be it. Nothing should be as important, as critical to you as remaining in recovery.
Your purpose is a simple one, if it’s a conscious thought at all. Do not use – do not drink. Remember what they taught you, it gets better.
It’s not surprising either. Prolonged substance use can cause a condition known as “emotional blunting” – to struggle to feel strong emotions as a sober person. The dopamine and serotonin receptors in your brain have, to an extent, been damaged, and this condition will normally take a few months to cure itself.
However, once you have established healthy routines, and become more secure in your recovery, you should start asking yourself who you really are now: What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Your values? What inspires you now? What doesn’t? Ask yourself these questions, and it will lead you to think seriously about your future. What happens now?
You may decide to “give back” to the recovery community in some way. For example, many ex-addicts and ex-alcoholics actually become qualified and work in addiction treatment, as therapists and counselors, many others are content to become 12-Step sponsors while resuming previous careers or starting new ones, and there are those that work with charities through volunteering or in other capacities.
Whatever you decide to do, which particular path to take, it will bring you a great sense of real purpose – it will give true meaning to your recovery.
Finding Purpose & Meaning: Through Being Proactive
Here are a few ideas about becoming more proactive in your recovery – this proactivity will help you to know and understand yourself more, but it will also help you to find your purpose from now on (believe me, they really work, too):
- Daily Gratitude List: Every day, write a list of those things that you are thankful for. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it will remind you constantly of how good your life is now.
- Listen to Your Intuition: Your intuition is your “inner voice.” Listen to it. Follow your gut and your instincts.
- Keep an Open Mind: Being in addiction recovery is an excellent reminder that you do not know everything. Learn to stop being resistant by keeping an open mind. Not everything is what you think it is.
- Live In The Present, In The Moment: Learn mindfulness – the art of “being present” and “living in the moment.” Take classes, learn the techniques, and practice daily. You will be surprised the effect these moments of calm have on you.
- Don’t Please Others – Please Yourself: Your addiction recovery is yours, and yours alone. Don’t do it for others – for family or friends. Do it for yourself. To find your purpose in life, you will need to be willing to go your own way.
- Help Others: Spend time helping others. It can be anything – assisting at an animal adoption center or helping out at an old people’s home. You will learn first-hand one of life’s greatest truths – the more you focus yourself on the needs of others, the happier you will naturally become.
Author Bio: A member of the American Medical Writers Association, Gerard Bullen has been writing on the subject of substance addiction treatment and finding recovery for several years. He lives quietly and happily in Maryland, U.S.