When it comes to addiction and recovery, I have a great deal of experience with both.
I am a recovering addict with over 27 years clean, after actively using drugs for 14 years. Since addiction and recovery are two separate things, I would like to start this article out by addressing them separately.
Most of our society today does not view addiction the same way as the recovering community does. Most people see addiction from only a physical standpoint. Though physical addiction is on the rise today, with our ever-growing opioid addiction crisis, it is still only part of it.
The disease of addiction is physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Therefore, it goes beyond just drug use. Some of these ways are more commonly known such as food, gambling and sex addictions. Others are less prominent, like an addiction to money, power, a person and/or excitement.
Addiction is about obsession and compulsion.
It’s a fixed idea that a person cannot let go of, and the compulsion to act on it. It then becomes a cyclic thought process. Using drugs as a coping method that gives them a temporary illusion of relief, only to come down from the high to realize that their problems are still there, and are now amplified by their drug use. So, to deal with the guilt and shame that comes from the above example, they will end up spending their whole paycheck getting high to seek relief again. So, begins a vicious cycle and round and round they go.
This part of addiction is the hardest part for the non-addict to understand; someone becoming addicted to drugs that aren’t physically addictive. It is one of the things that the recovering community finds difficult to explain, yet understands that it’s just a “you had to have been there,” type of situation.
What does that have to do with the recovery process?
The simplest explanation is that recovery is not just the stopping of using drugs, but rather, it is abstinence. Recovery is what comes after abstinence. It is the work done to change one’s attitude, thought processes, behaviors, and reactions. Recovery fellowships have tools to help with that change. One of the best and most important tools they offer are the 12 Steps. Some fellowships deem them so important, that they have produced workbooks to guide members through the process of working the 12 Steps.
Recovery fellowships also produce literature that members can use individually to study addiction and recovery. This does not replace recovery meetings or working with experienced members of a recovery fellowship, but available to supplement those things.
I’ve been told that the only wrong way to work on your recovery is to do it by yourself. There is a saying that goes, “if you rely on yourself for your recovery, you are relying on the last person you used drugs with.”
Everything that I know about recovery, someone has taught me.
I like to tell new people to recovery that I arrived here the smartest, homeless, penniless, and jobless addict you would ever want to meet. The old-timers in recovery told me that I better get dumb, real fast. I was taught three words in the beginning that helped me a great deal, “I don’t know.” They told me that was the mindset I needed to recover. It still works for me today.
I hope that I have been able to paint a clearer picture of addiction and recovery for those seeking to understand it.
As a disclaimer, I would like to say that this is my personal experience and opinion on these issues and not that of any fellowship or recovery organization.