Why It's Really Possible to Live a Better Life After Addiction

If you’re in recovery from a battle with addiction, congratulations. Before we talk about anything else, let’s take a moment to celebrate your hard work, your strength, your perseverance, your friends or family, your support network… everything and everyone it took to get you to this point. Recovery, that elusive concept that gets thrown around whenever you read about addiction journeys, is finally yours. Do a little dance, or just take a deep breath. Use this moment to be proud of yourself.

What “Recovery” Really Is

You’ve fought for so long to get to this point, but what now? What’s so special about “recovery” that you got clean? Is life really going to be better from here on out? Read, watch, or listen to stories about the successful recovery of other addicts, and you’ll hear that recovery is hard, recovery is worth it, recovery saves lives, recovery is a journey, etc. But what exactly is it, really?

Technically, “recovery” is “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.” In the case of addiction recovery, the word is used because you’re getting back control over your life. The idea is that you must have had things under control at some point, but then lost it due to drugs, alcohol, pornography, binge eating, love addiction, or whatever your specific vice has been. Who, however, can really say we ever had things under control in the first place? Isn’t that why we turned to our addiction? To soothe or to numb the stress and pain that life was causing us?

What if we changed the word to “uncovery,” just for now?

When you’ve run to your addiction in the past, you’ve hidden, or covered, your pain, your anxiety, your fear, your heart, your mind, and your very self with the high of addictive substances and behaviors. Every time you’ve used or relapsed, it’s like you took a heaping shovel full of dirt and poured it on top of yourself, trying to block all your worries from view. In the process, though, you’ve ended up blocking out light, air, and even hope. You’ve blocked yourself from view until you don’t even know yourself anymore. It’s time to uncover who you are, who you can be, what life can be like, and what kind of life you want.

It’s impossible to know everything you might uncover within yourself, but if nothing else, you can be certain that as you practice your sobriety, you will uncover a healthier person than you were in the throes of addiction.

Uncover Your  Physical Health

Whether your addiction has to do with substance abuse, disordered eating, or sex and porn, it’s undoubtedly taken its toll on your physical health. The list of problems various addictions can cause to your body is long: blood pressure problems, digestive issues, heart problems, liver failure, kidney failure, weakened immune system, impaired breathing, sleep apnea, insomnia, eye complications, risk of cancer, malnutrition, blackouts, seizures, headaches, excessive sweating, and more! When you’ve gotten through detox, rehab, and started to imagine life in recovery, there is so much you have to uncover about your body’s needs and abilities:

  • Breathe. Stop and take a deep breath right now.  You may still feel tight in the chest or unable to comfortably climb a flight of stairs, depending on what your addiction is, but take note of how your breath changes as you continue to heal. Notice whether or not you uncover your body’s ability to breathe more deeply the longer you are in recovery.
  • Move. Most addictions lead to us restricting our movements, whether that’s because we’re stuck behind a computer screen for hours or too high to function. Start with a short five-minute walk today. If you used to enjoy a sport or riding your bike, try building that back into your life. Uncover whether the desire and ability to move are still inside of you, and allow yourself to explore that as you get healthier.
  • Taste. Whether substance abuse stopped you from choosing good foods or disordered eating led you to restricting/binging, you have probably been deprived of proper nutrition and the joys of cooking and tasting delicious meals. Make something you used to love. Try a recipe you’ve never had before. Uncover what feeding your body wisely makes you feel like over time.
  • Rest. Many addictions decimate our sleep hygiene, meaning we lose the ability to prioritize the amount of sleep our body actually needs. Start by practicing an 8-hour window of rest, whether you’re able to sleep or not. Eventually you may uncover what you’re capable of when you get enough sleep.

Uncover Your  Mental  Health

Addictions are ultimately a mental health issue. From impaired decision making to poor grooming and hygiene, most people who struggle with addiction have a long road ahead of them when it comes to rebuilding their mental health:

  • Reflect. Mental health is very personal, so you need to look within and ask yourself where you’d like to see your mental health improve. Start small–it may just be that you want to learn some coping skills for when you’re triggered for now. Eventually you may uncover that you feel you deserve to pursue bigger hopes and dreams.
  • Determine. Upon reflection, decide what you want to happen next in your journey toward mental health. For now, that may be seeking medical treatment for anxiety or making another appointment with your addiction counselor. In time, you may uncover that you’d like to pursue more education, a career, or a passion that you never thought you’d be able to before.
  • Share. Don’t hide! One of the most damaging symptoms of most addictions is the isolation we impose on ourselves. Talk to your friends, family, and counselor. Let them love you for who you are, and uncover whether their love and support can teach you to love yourself again.

Cycle through these steps over and over, weekly, daily, or even moment by moment. The more you reflect, determine what’s next, and share what you’re going through, the more opportunities you have to connect, grow, and build your self-esteem. Even for those who have never battled with addiction, mental health is a constant journey, but you now have the opportunity to reach higher than you ever could, experience life to the fullest, and allow yourself to be truly accepted.

There Will Still Be Hard Times

Uncovering who you are in the wake of your addiction will take time, and you may not always like what you find. You will still experience triggering events. You will still have hard moments. Your life will not magically be perfect because you beat addiction. So how is life “better” now? Well, now, you’re finally being honest. Now you’re finally experiencing life, connecting with your feelings, and allowing people who love you to see you instead of hiding, numbing, and abusing your mind and body. You’re finally free.

You were meant for more than the life addiction offers you. Your future is full of hope, full of abundance, and though He does not promise a life without pain, Christ’s love does offer rest for the weary, hope for the hopeless, and, perhaps best of all,  joy. The highs of addiction are nothing compared to the abiding love and peace of accepting who you are as a deeply cherished child of the divine. If you are struggling to see the point in staying clean and committed to your recovery, or if you want to know more about the hope we talk about, reach out to a Hope Coach today. We want you to know that you are never alone!

If you’re in addiction recovery, you’re probably haunted by one question over and over: will I relapse again? Experts suggest that these steps may help.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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