Recovery is a “Selfish” Journey (as it should be)
If you are, in any way, part of a recovery community, you may have heard that “recovery is a selfish journey.” If you are not, or have not yet been a part of a recovery community, then hearing that “recovery is a selfish journey “ may have a negative ring to it.
It’s not negative. In fact, it is necessary that all addicted persons (and their loved ones) who want to find recovery understand that the first steps of recovery MUST be selfish.
As we have discussed in a previous blog, recovery is by definition (Meriam-Websters Dictionary 2019)
: The act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury.
: The act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty.
: The return of something that has been lost, stolen etc…
I believe that all three of these certainly apply to the recovery from addiction.
Selfish is by definition: lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.
Addiction is selfish and so is recovery. The difference, however, is that in recovery we do not lack consideration for others, we just have an extremely focused sense of what and who we need to be for ourselves to be healthy and happy. This, in return, will improve all relationships that are worth keeping.
The Act and Process of Recovery
Recovery is not a decision that is made and then quickly or easily achieved. Recovery is, by definition, a process. It will be a life-long, day-by-day journey for most people in recovery from addiction. Recovery is a new way of life, and that is no small undertaking. It requires a profound dedication and daily focus to successfully adopt a mindset and practice behaviours that are entirely new. It is a difficult and emotional process that will, for most people in recovery, end up being the most beautiful journey of their lives.
The First Steps of Recovery
In our treatment centre, we use the term “selfish journey” as a reminder to our clients that they are allowed, and deeply encouraged to focus on themselves and their recovery while in treatment. You see, the first few steps of finding recovery are some of the hardest steps to take and can only be taken by the person living with the addiction. Loved ones can support and encourage, but the one living with the addiction must make the choices.
- The choice that they want to stop using for themselves
- The choice to admit that they need help (rehab, counselling, meetings etc…)
- The choice to not use anymore, not even “just one more time”
All of these choices have to be made by the addicted person for himself, for herself, not for anyone else. If we decided to stop for someone else… a wife, a husband, a mother or father or in order to salvage something… a relationship, a job, or a status, then our recovery is at high risk of failing or being less than thriving and far from fulfilling. However, if we make the decision that we no longer want to live the life that we are currently or have been living, we no longer want to use drugs, or alcohol because it is ruining OUR OWN life and robbing us of the joy, love, and freedom we could be experiencing, then THAT is a good first step towards a healthy, long-lasting recovery.
“the pressure to feel ‘normal’ in society is tremendous. I’ve had to develop a certain, protective confidence to say “no.” ~Kira Lesley
What Does “Selfish” Look Like In Recovery?
Setting some clear boundaries for yourself as you start your recovery is of the utmost importance. Recovery will not and cannot look the same as your life prior to recovery. This will include new hobbies, new routines, new restaurants and even new friends… This will involve a task that may be very new, and very difficult for someone who has been living in addiction, and that task is saying “no.” As Kira Lesley puts it in one of her Debunking Addiction blogs on the same topic, “the pressure to feel ‘normal’ in society is tremendous. I’ve had to develop a certain, protective confidence to say ‘no’.”
The “pressure to feel ‘normal’.” That’s a big one isn’t it?
“Normal” for the addicted person so far has likely included some kind of substance in many aspects of their life. Hanging out with friends, watching sports, winding down after work, enjoying warm weather, celebrating birthdays, celebrating achievements, and then, if we’re being totally honest, just waking up is enough reason for some addicts to use.
These activities must change. It is absolutely acceptable, and admirable for a person in recovery to decline invitations to any and all events, activities and gatherings that they feel will trigger the urge to drink or use again. The event doesn’t even have to have alcohol or drugs present, just the simple act of gathering may be enough to trigger someone in recovery. So it is totally ok to politely decline these invitations. Some people in recovery prefer not to “use” their recovery as the reason they decline such invitations and develop a nice, long list of “excuses” they feel comfortable giving. There are others in recovery who are loud and proud about their decision to find recovery and are bold and firm with their reasons.
Both of these approaches are fine. Recovery is unique to each individual.
Supporting the Addicted
Loved ones must accept and encourage the addicted person to continue to think in a selfish manner. This can be a very hard thing to do, and will certainly seem unfair. Loved ones of addicted people have also experienced great loss and hardship and certainly deserve care and attention as well, and I hope that they seek a “selfish journey” of healing for themselves as well. In time, they will find many opportunities to share their feelings, hurt and pain with their addicted loved one and that is a very important step. But, until the addicted person is sober and clear-headed with some sort of grasp on the damage they have done to themselves and others, the focus must be inward to get traction in their first steps of recovery.