Get help today 888-319-2606 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Rewriting the Story of My Addiction

What if we came into this world knowing that everything would all work out in our favor?

Imagine if we were born knowing that every single life event, even those we might judge as bad or traumatic, was really an opportunity to expand our consciousness and increase our capacity to love ourselves and others? What if we had a guarantee that our lives – just like our favorite fairy tales – would end “happily ever after?”

I believe we all once knew these truths, but some of us have forgotten them along the way. We get so consumed with avoiding pain, isolation and failure that we often unknowingly invite in the same negativity we try so hard to avoid. Rather than focus on what we want to see happen, we tend to concentrate our thoughts on what we don’t want, then we get angry when the law of attraction proves true time and time again.

The Story We Tell…

For a long time, the story I told around my addiction was dark and messy and suffocating. And the truth is it caused me (and a lot of other people) an intense amount of pain. Back then I didn’t know that what we resist persists, and the more I fought against the pain, the more I experienced.

For too long I tried to forget, numb out and leave behind the scary, ugly truth of what people in excruciating pain can be capable of. Just think about the cute and sweet cat that purrs and cuddles up on your lap – if that cat were to get injured and you went to pick it up, it would claw, scratch and hiss at anyone who tried to help. I was in a lot of pain; I was a perfect example that hurt people, hurt people.

Even now I’m reminded of the shame I used to feel every second of every day. A constant cycle of “Why do you drink?” Because I’m sad. “Why are you sad?” Because I drink…and around and around it went.-Jo Harvey

To interrupt the pattern of addiction is nothing short of a miracle, but true healing only happens when we surrender our shame and return to loving ourselves without condition. When Michelangelo was asked how he created the beautiful statue of David, he replied “it was easy, I simply chipped away the pieces that weren’t angel.”

As practitioners, this is our mission: to assist others in the process of removing whatever it is that doesn’t work. Our task is not to “fix,” as that implies something is broken. We don’t need to “create” a beautiful life, we just need to return to the one we have forgotten.

Loving Ourselves Sober

Since our thoughts truly determine our quality of life, how we talk about addiction can have a significant impact on recovery. I’m not at all suggesting we glamorize substance abuse, but there is a significant difference between condoning and condemning behavior. As Dr. Gabor Mate has said, rather than focus on the negative aspects of drug use, we should be asking what’s positive about it. When we identify what the drug does for someone, we can explore alternative safer ways to help them get the same experience.

As practitioners, we can do our best to help our clients avoid relapse, or we can put energy into helping our clients love themselves sober. Rather than dwell in the misery of the past, or drown in constant fear of it repeating in the future, we can find whatever speck of hope is left and stay there with absolute conviction.

This is not to imply we should avoid pain. On the contrary, when we are ready, I believe we should go directly to the source of it and feel it completely. Only through conscious contact with our deepest wounds can we experience true freedom and find the beauty even in the ugliest of situations. It has been said you’ve got to feel it to heal it, but the numbing effect of addiction interrupts the process and we find ourselves in limbo, trying to escape feeling the pain but only adding to it.

Finding Power in Facing Our Fears

The desire to face the parts of ourselves we fear the most, is a powerful catalyst for change. Once we admit it all and forgive the best we can, we rise above our fear and take away its power until there is nothing left to medicate.

Holding on to shame, anger and resentment is what kept me sick, but through the process of healing I let go, was carried and rewrote my story.-Jo HarveyHolding on to shame, anger and resentment is what kept me sick, but through the process of healing I let go, was carried and rewrote my story. The truth is while addiction almost killed me, it simultaneously saved my life. If I hadn’t had some way to numb out during the darkest times, I’m not sure how long I would have stuck around.

I’ve even come to see how trauma can be such a gift, because once we move through it, we have the opportunity to recognize even that couldn’t destroy me. The unfortunate reality is that most of us don’t grow when things are going well because we get comfortable and complacent.

It isn’t until we face the loss of job, illness or death, or some other version of chaos that we step out of the external world and come back into ourselves, and accept the fact nothing outside of ourselves can save us. Through suffering we come to understand the essence of freedom, which we experience when we can truly say “no matter what happens to me, I know I will always be okay.”

I have learned we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can choose who we are in those moments of duress, and whether we act from fear or from love.

Image courtesy of iStock

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.