If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
When we’re in recovery, many of us are finally starting to gain clarity and insight on our addictions. We’re starting to see things clearly for the first time. We have a much deeper understanding of who we are and why our addictions developed. We’re starting to see the big picture of how our addictions have manifested in our lives and how they’ve impacted us. It can be incredibly helpful to our recovery, and to preventing relapse, to think about how our addictions have held us back, how they’ve limited and constrained us, and how they’ve disempowered us.
One of the most difficult ways in which our addictions hold us back is in how dependent we become on our drugs of choice. We form not only physical dependences but also mental and emotional attachments, causing us to feel as though we can’t live without them, as though we need them in order to cope and to survive. We stop believing in ourselves and our natural ability to handle life’s challenges. We start to think we’re not capable of managing our painful thoughts and emotions without self-medicating with addictive substances and behaviors. We suppress and resist our pain. We convince ourselves we’re not strong enough, not good enough, not worthy enough, not lovable enough. We grow more and more insecure, self-hating and self-deprecating. Our self-esteem plummets, and our sense of self-worth deteriorates. We feel as though we don’t know ourselves. We feel distant, removed and disconnected from our inner selves. Our attachment to a drug or addictive behavior has caused us to lose sight of who we are and the connection we have with ourselves. We lose ourselves, and this loss of self is a painful reality that so many of us struggle to come back from.
Another way in which we’re impaired by our addictions is in how they overtake our lives. Our addictions ruin our finances, causing us to use up all our savings in order to buy drugs, and making us lose our jobs because we’re too high and struggling too much to be dependable.
They create huge rifts in our relationships, causing irreparable damage and conflicts we often can’t resolve. We let people down and disappoint them. We’re unable to meet our expectations and those other people have for us. We end up losing people who are dear to us and important to us. Our addictions cause our loved ones to worry about us and to fear for our safety. They live on edge, constantly afraid that today will be the day we overdose or get killed in an accident or commit suicide. They see how much pain we’re in but don’t know how to help us. They can become increasingly sad and anxious, suffering from depression and other mental health issues that develop in part because of our addictions. Our addictions, therefore, can hold our loved ones back as much as they hold us back.
When we’re struggling with addiction, we lose the motivation, the hopefulness and the drive to make our lives what we want them to be. We stop feeling inspired by the things we used to love, things that helped us define who we were and that gave us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. We sacrifice our immense gifts, our talents and passions, to the disease of addiction. We miss out on opportunities. We disconnect from the people who can help us move forward with our ambitions. We stop believing in our dreams. The more we abandon ourselves and all the things we once loved, the more depressed we become. We use our drugs of choice to numb the pain we feel from our lack of fulfillment. We would rather distract ourselves from the disappointment and emptiness we feel. Our addictions rob us of our joy. We lose the meaning we found in the things that made us happy. When we don’t heal ourselves, the trajectory of our lives, whether or not we can be happy and follow our dreams, is totally altered, and for many of us, we’re sadly never able to get back on track with our goals and follow the path we had set for ourselves. We feel mounting shame and sadness from having given up on ourselves and from having lost the will to pursue our passions. Our mental health issues are exacerbated, and many of us contemplate suicide.
Our recovery work entails looking at what we’ve been through to help us find ways to move forward. Many of us want to skip this important step of reflection and introspection altogether. We don’t want to feel the pain that can come with self-exploration, the unearthed memories we’ve been suppressing, the confusion and shame we still feel around our trauma, the difficult things we’ve been trying to avoid looking at. We want to be healed and happy, but we don’t necessarily want to do the work to get there. We can try to remember that the recovery process can actually make us really happy as we’re doing the work, because we’re clearing old hurts and coming to terms with unresolved issues. Our pain is a part of who we are. Instead of resisting looking at it and all the ways our addictions have held us back, we can see just how much it can strengthen and empower us, to move forward, to make critical changes, and to manifest lives that we love and feel fulfilled living.