Let’s face it…we live in a society that loves to reduce people into labels. How many times have you ever asked someone to describe themselves only to have them respond with their occupation? We reduce ourselves into a singular noun that we’ve been conditioned to believe describe who we are as individuals.
You may be a lawyer, but that profession is not who you are. You may also be a parent, an art-lover, have a gluten-allergy, donate to charity, volunteer at your local church, and listen to country music… You may also be an alcoholic. You are a lot of things, but you aren’t defined by any single one of these things. You are an individual person comprised of many traits and characteristics. You have many likes and dislikes, beliefs and ideals, passions and interests. Who you are should never be reduced to a particular aspect of your life – no matter how strong of a hold that aspect may have.
But, for those who consider themselves addicts, the trap of defining yourself by your addiction is a dangerous one. By all means, recognize that part of yourself, address that part of yourself, be stronger than that part of yourself – but, that addiction does not define who you are as a person. The first of the twelve-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you are powerless over alcohol, and that your life has become unmanageable because of it. But that does not mean that you are powerless over your life and can’t regain control of your shortcomings.
Learn to look at your life as a whole. Learn to recognize your weaknesses, but more importantly, learn to value your strengths. Use the other aspects of your life as a constant reminder and motivation to overcome your addiction. The serenity prayer goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to accept the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You may never be able to change the fact that you are an alcoholic or are addicted to drugs; but you have an entire life outside of that which you can control.
Give your life new meaning by redefining your purpose. Take new classes, discover new hobbies, have fun, and challenge yourself. You’d be surprised at how something as simple as starting a new exercise routine can profoundly change your mood and improve the way you feel, both physically and mentally. Strongly consider giving back to the community. Many people who are recovering from addiction find great joy in being able to help others.
Build new relationships and rebuild old ones. Make it a point to have cut-out any negative relationships from your past. Keep it that way. You don’t need to surround yourself with temptation and enablers. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage your decision to get sober. Work on healing any damage you may have done in the past, and seek out new, like-minded people who bring positivity to your life. Often times, the friends you meet in treatment, or in group meetings, can be the best friends you ever have. This is where you create your support system, so make sure you put in to it everything you’ll need back.
You are a complex person; don’t be afraid of that – embrace it. You may have an addiction, but don’t let addiction be what labels you. You are more than an addict. You are a person with goals and dreams and aspirations. No one ever chooses to have an addiction, but the choices you make after that are what truly define you.