Pathways to Recovering: Replacing Addiction With Newfound Passions
But while addiction and alcoholism are real disorders that cannot simply be wished away, they are not really as in control as it seems. The fact is that tens of millions of people have recovered from their descent into the well of substance abuse, and these are ordinary men and women who do not possess special characteristics that somehow separate them from everyone else. The power of addiction is strong, but the human mind unleashed is stronger, and those who discover the secrets of sanity and good mental health are often able to win their battles against drugs and alcohol, even when they have been addicted for many, many years.
The Principle of Replacement
It is the transforming power of the mind that enables recovering addicts and alcoholics to escape from addiction’s prison. It is important to emphasize, however, that when we use the phrase “power of the mind,” we are not talking about willpower alone. Certainly, a deep-seated determination to overcome addiction is necessary for success, but the real magic of the mind comes from its ability to decisively shift its focus from that which corrupts to that which uplifts.
For the addicted woman, drugs and alcohol become the center of her existence, gradually but steadily pushing her into obsession. But there is still an element of choice to all of this that should never be denied, and that is something that addiction counselors and peers in support groups work very hard to help women fighting back from substance abuse come to understand. In defiance of the psychological and physical cravings associated with addiction, those who have decided to reject drugs and alcohol once and for all can in fact choose sobriety, one minute at a time, over and over again, and as long as they keep making the right choices, their obsession will no longer have total control over their lives.
While we have already spoken of the power of the secrets of sanity and good mental health, there is one important secret that can be enormously helpful for recovering substance abusers struggling to hold onto their sobriety. While many people believe we must resist the thoughts and feelings that lead us into trouble, we can actually be a lot more effective if we learn to replace them with new mental content that redirects our attention away from that which has been harming us.
If we give addicts the chance to concentrate on something other than their cravings for drugs and alcohol, it will gradually undermine the strength of those feelings by pushing them into the background where they can be managed more easily. And one of the great things about this principle of replacement, if we can call it that, is that it does not require the substance abuser in recovery to find new hobbies that are just as dominant and obsession-promoting as addiction—these new objects of attention can be the simplest of activities, as long as they are interesting, rewarding, involve a significant investment of time, and require focus and concentration to be performed successfully.
So lying on the couch and watching TV for hours would not do the trick, nor would passively surfing the Internet or visiting social media outlets to chat about nothing with casual acquaintances. But taking the time to learn how to play darts or chess and practicing these activities regularly, or reading a series of books on 19th century American history or ancient Greek philosophy, or taking online Spanish lessons and studying diligently every day, or volunteering three or four days a week at a local animal shelter, could all help the recovering addict find new and constructive ways to occupy her time and her mind. If a woman battling substance abuse can find something positive that involves and fascinates her, it will help her overcome her obsession with drugs and alcohol and give her the motivation she needs to escape her past and get on with the business of living a good life.
The Dreamer Never Dies
There is no doubt that those who stay in recovery or who bounce back quickly from relapse are able to do so because they have found something better than drugs and alcohol to look forward to. Being able to be there once again for loved ones of course provides some motivation for change, but recovering addicts must live for themselves too, and those who find new hobbies that are more fun and rewarding than drinking and drugging are far less likely to give in to the triggers that so often set off relapses, such as boredom, peer pressure from drug-using companions, or stress and anxiety on the job or in relationships.
Women who have passed through rehab and have finally found sobriety will have a much better chance of preserving their newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol if they can find new activities that will draw their attention from their past obsessions, which led them away from happiness and left them sick, broken and unable to function. Drugs and alcohol are masters at destroying dreams and ambitions, but from within the hearts and minds of women who refuse to live the rest of their lives as victims, new dreams and ambitions can arise that will sweep away even the most powerful addictions and scatter them into the wind.