Advice for People With Addiction – From People in Recovery
Here are their words of wisdom:
“There’s nothing you’ve messed up so badly that it can’t be fixed with recovery.”
With all of the wreckage addiction leaves in its wake, people sometimes think they’re “too far gone” to have hope of rebuilding their lives. But there are mechanisms built into the recovery process that are designed to start repairing the damage. For example, people build sober social support systems in drug rehab, and steps eight and nine of the 12-step program call on people to make amends wherever possible. Steven describes recovery as “the ultimate second chance.”
“Keep an open mind.”
This was the advice a close friend in recovery gave Tim when he was first considering addiction treatment. Now, three years into his recovery, it’s the advice he gives everyone he meets who wants to move beyond addiction. “Yes, some things will seem strange. You may feel things you don’t want to feel. Your first instinct may be to judge people and think they aren’t like you,” he says. “But if you stay open and willing, your life can change.”
“You don’t have to do this alone. Help is out there.”
Nicole thought no one understood. She was the only one in her circles who used drugs the way she did. Until she made her first phone call to a treatment center, she had no idea there was a whole world of support out there, from drug rehabs and sober living homes to detox centers and support groups. After making that call, “each next step was laid out before me,” she says.
“Rehab isn’t the end of your life. It’s beginning of a new life.”
Michael spent 12 years putting off drug rehab. He had inklings early on that he had a problem, but was terrified to admit he didn’t have it all together and ask for help. When his wife gave him an ultimatum after losing his job, he finally reached out for help. Looking back, he says, “I wish I could’ve known how much better life would get in recovery. I would’ve done it sooner.”
“You can find courage you don’t think you have, and your life can change into something that’s so much more than what you know now.”
When you’re in the depths of addiction, recovery is a big unknown. It can be scary to imagine life without your number-one coping mechanism – using drugs – knowing that every aspect of your life will need to change. “It’s okay to be afraid,” says James, “but know that you can do something about it.”
“Go to a meeting and start meditating.”
When Max was trying to quit using marijuana and pills, he suffered from anxiety and insomnia. He found that going to 12-step meetings and meditating helped him get through the hardest times without relapsing. “It just takes time,” he says. “Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens.”
“It’s okay to ask for help.”
Deb’s world had become so small. She had isolated herself from everyone and everything she cared about until she was surrounded by other addicts. When she asked for a leave of absence from work, she discovered that her boss, her boss’s boss and several coworkers had also struggled with addiction or a mental health issue like depression and anxiety. And those who hadn’t knew someone who had. “I got more compassion and support than I ever expected,” she says. “All that time I thought I was alone, but there are so many people with addictions and mental health issues.”
“Don’t be afraid of a spiritual solution.”
Although Anthony doesn’t describe himself as “religious,” he has found that spirituality is a critical part of his recovery. “Spirituality is a big hang-up for people,” he says, “but God is just a placeholder term for an entity we can’t define. It’s about embracing a spiritual way of life.”
“Find people who are doing the same thing you want to be doing, and then shut up and listen.”
What Sara was doing wasn’t getting her where she wanted to be, so she decided to go “all in” with recovery. She listened to sober people, she followed the rules in rehab, she told the truth even when it was hard and she absorbed as much wisdom as she could during treatment and in support group meetings.
“Be gentle with yourself.”
There’s a great deal of shame and guilt associated with addiction, but beating yourself up is counterproductive and leads to more substance abuse. Since getting sober, Gina has embraced the practice of self-compassion. It’s a lifelong learning process, but she accepts imperfection and learns from her mistakes. “I give myself the space to have a bad day, knowing I’m a good person who has a terrible disease,” she says.