The truth about overcoming addiction is that it’s not quite as simple as sticking to self-discipline. However, the ability to control yourself is still integral in the long-term journey of recovery. It’s not a black and white issue – there’s just more to it than relying entirely on your own ability to battle your temptations, or giving yourself entirely to the mercy of your supporters and sponsors.
In other words – yes, when you’re addicted, you’re fighting a physiological and psychological issue that drastically affects your capacity to make sound decisions and end the addiction. But, that doesn’t mean willpower doesn’t matter at all, or that you’re simply at the mercy of others.
As you progress along the road to a better you, you’ll notice that a lot. There is no absolute truth to addiction, and not everything that applies to many will apply to you. There may be guides and steps and tips and countless troves of helpful content, but the best way is one you’ll have to discover and formulate on your own, for your needs. You’ll have to try, try, and try some more – there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds of ways to tackle addiction in the long-run.
In the Beginning
At first, the early hurdles of addiction are indeed quite simple and require similar solutions. Detoxification and proper physical rehabilitation are necessary to a good start. You’ll need medical professional help to ensure that cutting off your addiction won’t land you in dire trouble. Keeping hydrated, slowly exercising, and getting as much healthy food into your system as possible will drastically improve your ability to physically rebound from the challenges of quitting.
It’s the psychological aspect of solving addiction where things can get vastly more complicated. The typical way in which someone begins the act of fighting their addiction is the realization that they’re putting themselves, their loved ones, or their future in harm’s way. There’s a spark that goes off in a person’s mind when they realize that their behavior feels uncontrollable, and they’re overwhelmed by feelings of shame, anger, and helplessness. They want to stop. They want it all to stop.
In other cases, the intervention begins from the outside, but the realization that you’re an addict and you must change is always the beginning of any successful transition to sobriety. Without your own conscience on board, you just won’t be successful. That alone is a testament to the fact that it’s not just a physical issue or a simple treatable disease – will is involved.
Turning Negatives into Positives
For the average addict, a substantial portion of the trouble with addiction isn’t just the fact that they’re hooked, and it’s hard to get off the drug – it’s that they’re emotionally fragile, either because of the addiction or since before the addiction even began. Oftentimes, an addiction can cover up a deeper issue within – at other times, being an addict and realizing it can turn into feelings of deep shame, guilt, and self-loathing at the inability to stop.
It’s important to realize that all that won’t ever help. You can’t yell at yourself to improve and hope that’ll do the trick. Beating yourself up for your addiction will only lead to one end result, and that’s to send you further down the hole.
Willpower begins to play a role in beating addiction when you come to realize that, instead of shame and guilt, you should use responsibility and accountability. That’s what makes support groups and sober living homes such a great tool for early recovering addicts – you get to be around others who are empowered by one another to become better, to strive towards a life of clarity and sobriety, and they source their strength to do so through powerful commitments to what matters most to them. Addicts are people – they’re brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They’re teachers and students, workers and artists.
Once you begin to turn away from the negative emotions and depressive thoughts that come to be an extension of addiction, you begin to truly cut yourself off from the shackles of whatever drug ensnared you, to begin with. That’s when the struggle really begins.
Find Your Motivation
Willpower isn’t some magical ability. The most stubborn people do as they do out of principle, because of a deeply-ingrained belief that they are defined by their actions, and to contradict them would be to unravel themselves. It would be like undoing your identity, betraying who you are. But you don’t need to stick simply to principle when applying your will. Instead, utilize something else as your motivation.
For some, the motivation to be the best parent they can be is powerful enough to keep away from the stuff. Perhaps you discover a new sport and become obsessed with pursuing an athletic future. Or maybe it’s the need to help your spouse or parents and be an important cornerstone of a family. Values are one thing, but priorities are where the real power lies – find out what truly matters most to you, something substantial enough to overcome your wants and temptations, something you’d really do anything for.
This is one reason why sober living facilities are a wonderful way to improve your chances at recovery – right after rehab, entering a sober living environment gives you the chance to focus entirely on formulating a long-term plan, free from the distractions and stressors of life. You get to develop the skills and self-discipline to deal with emotional issues without resorting to a relapse. You build a suite of tools against addiction.
From there, it’s really a case of “your mileage may vary”. There are dozens of ways to seek productive stress management, from meditation and yoga to weight lifting, journal writing, and long walks through the forest. Some people love time management and following a strict schedule to improve their life’s efficiency – others do best by tackling their addiction with a long physical journey through the world, to be more content with life. Perhaps you don’t have the means to join a sports club or go to the gym or cook your own meals, so you’ll have to find alternatives to living a healthy lifestyle and adopting habits that promote happiness.