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Essential Elements in Overcoming Drug Addiction

I understand that overcoming drug addiction is an incredibly difficult thing to do, so I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I’ve been there. A drug addiction can destroy your life on every conceivable level, so to turn things around takes a heck of a lot of commitment and effort.

The fact is, many addicts don’t make it. And it bothers me. Why is that? So before I talk about more specifics steps involved in overcoming an addiction, I think we should look at what are some of the things that separates those that make it from those that don’t.

Naturally there are certain variables to consider that can massively impact on whether one does/doesn’t beat a drug addiction. Access to proper treatment. Opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge and skills required. But assuming those are in place, it still seems far too many people are staying stuck in a life of addiction, instead of using the help available out there to turn their lives around.

So when I think of all the people I’ve met or know of that have managed to overcome a drug addiction vs. those that keep relapsing or tragically end up losing their lives to their addiction – there are a few qualities that seem to appear often (in my mind anyway) in those addicts that manage to successfully leave a life of addiction behind them.

You might have different labels for them, but I recognise them as the following ...

Fundamental Ingredients in Overcoming Drug Addiction: Desire, Focus and Humility

I have yet to meet a drug addict with loads of clean time who hasn’t had an overwhelming desire to overcome their drug addiction. It might not be clear or all that strong initially, but at some point you realise a life of sobriety and the potential that offers is what you want, and so start working towards that.

What feeds that desire? Usually pain. When things get painful or bad enough for you (which is totally different for each person) – you open yourself to the possibility of change. When I was wishing I was rather dead than alive, I knew I couldn’t keep living like that and had to make a decision – either start making an effort to get help and change, or keep going as I was and ultimately kill myself.

So instead of resisting and avoiding the pain and bad a life of addiction creates – perhaps we should embrace and really feel those things? Because if something is painful enough, we’ll do everything we can to stop it. Try put your hand on a hot stove to test that theory. Feel the self-loathing, hatred, disgust, disappointment, anger, shame and guilt (instead of trying to avoid them) – and you’ll reach your bottom and turning point sooner.

Have you ever noticed how those people that tend to get good at a particular skill, hobby or vocation – tend to be those people that go that extra mile and with real focus, sometimes even bordering on obsession, make rapid progress quickly. I had a friend who became really good at golf in no time at all because he bought all the books, went for special lessons, bought the instruction DVD’s, watched on TV whenever he could, and played regularly. No wonder he became good so quickly.

With us addicts also tending to have obsessive natures – that can be a good quality to have if directed properly. Those guys (and gals) that make rapid progress in their recovery from drug addiction are the one’s who go to a meeting almost every day, get a sponsor ASAP and work the 12 steps as thoroughly and quickly as possible. It’s not magic. Do the work and results will follow.

That takes me onto the last point ... having the humility to do what you’re instructed and taught. I see a lot of people what I refer to as trying to ‘negotiate’ their way to a life of sobriety. “I’ll stop using my drug of choice, but I’ll still use X (often alcohol) occasionally.“ They don’t do half of what they’re taught in their treatment and recovery programs, and wonder why they keep on relapsing.

If you’re desperate enough to change, you’ll do whatever is suggested. No ‘ifs and ‘buts.’ Eventually you’ll reach a point in your sobriety where you can be more selective in what you do/don’t do, but initially having the humility to accept others know what works best and want to help you, is critical in overcoming drug addiction.

Will-Power: Friend or Foe?

Sheer bloody-mindedness or will-power isn’t enough on its own when it comes to beating an addiction so trying it that way will do more harm than good. Healing and change needs to happen on a variety of levels to achieve this. So getting professional treatment for drug addiction and having a proper drug addiction recovery program to follow facilitates this.

Where will-power does however become an ally ... is in using it to force yourself to follow the advice and guidelines provided in whatever treatment and recovery program you’ve used. It’s not a question of ‘feeling like it’ ... but a question of forcing yourself to not pick up for today, attend a meeting, call a friend, or work one of the steps – even when you don’t. Feelings have nothing to do with it.

So especially initially and in the early stages of recovery and attempts at overcoming drug addiction, you’ve got to force and will yourself to keep doing what you’ve got to do, until that desire to pick and use leaves you. Which it will, if you keep doing the right things.

The point to all this is that there is no magic formula for overcoming drug addiction. Get help, go for treatment, work the 12 steps or another recovery program ... and your life will change. And by applying some of the principles I’ve shared with you, hopefully that process of change will be somewhat easier.

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