We use descriptors every day to define ourselves in the world and to describe who we are in relation to others. Many of the words we use speak to identities, relationships, and commitments that we have, and a lot of the time, it’s easy to share about these parts of ourselves. But for those of us in recovery, knowing how to define ourselves in our journey, and knowing what to share or what not to share, can be a little bit more complicated.
Two prominent viewpoints have emerged:
Once an Addict, Always an Addict
- For those using this label for themselves, it serves as a guiding force to remind them that no matter how much progress they have made, no matter what happens, and no matter how much time has passed, they could still be one drink or instance of drug use away from going back to the way they were. This serves as a humbling reality check.
- By constantly seeing and knowing themselves as addicts, they are working to eliminate any chance of confusion, or dangerous reasoning that could lead them to manipulate a situation and justify using.
- There is a sense of pride that comes from using this label. By keeping their understanding of themselves as addicts, folks can orient their position in the world, and keep the framework of recovery front and center. There can be increased self-acceptance, tremendous pride in identity, and an opportunity for greater self-ownership with this label. It can also inform how their lives continue, what work they do in the world, what decisions are made, and what actions are taken as a person in recovery. It can be empowering to reflect and say, “That’s me, I did the healing work. I saved myself. I’m an addict, but I am also committed to recovery.”
Free of Addiction, Free of That Label
- Other folks believe that once they get clean and sober, they are no longer an addict, and are ready to close the chapter on that part of their lives. The word addict doesn’t apply to them because it isn’t part of their life anymore and, instead, they want to find new ways to define themselves.
- People might not want the constant reminder from their past or want to remember who they used to be.Reflecting on actions, behaviors, grief, and pain from that time might cause them to feel stuck in the past, or might drag them down, so after doing the necessary healing work, they are leaving it behind. And in order to fully realize a fresh start, this label needs to be put aside.
- Some might share part of their addiction and recovery journey with a select few, and not with others, and that’s okay. Not everyone needs to know everything, nor might it be safe to share completely. Additionally, someone could live in an area of the country where
addiction is stigmatized and recovery resources are limited, so it is best to keep that part of their lives private while they seek support online, or through telehealth or other healing collectives.
Reflect on What Fits Best for You
What is the most supportive way for you to define yourself?
Moving forward, would keeping your history with addiction and recovery journey as a focal point be best for you, as you navigate your life moving forward? Or, do you want to close the door on your addiction, and keep it as a part of your past that you have learned from, and let go?
It is entirely possible, too, that at different points in your life, you define yourself in different ways. Your story is always part of your experience and will always be with you. How you define yourself in sobriety is up to you, no one else can put a label on you.
Focus on Other Identities
Regardless of how you define yourself, focusing on other identities can strengthen your recovery.
Are you a supportive sibling? Are you a proud daughter or son?
Are you a good friend, an ally, a champion of people you love?
Are you an artist, healer, a hard worker, a creator, a leader, a teacher?
Because of your experience, are you an advocate, peer, a more compassionate person?
What are your passions, talents, abilities? What are you wanting to learn?
How do you want to be known in the world, and what do you want the world to know about you?
Strive to embolden these other beautiful parts of yourself. Your recovery journey is only part of who you are.
Remember, it is okay if you don’t know how you want to define yourself. The most important thing is that your recovery is supported and maintained, whether you outwardly acknowledge your experience with addiction or not.
Are you ready to set a new course for your life, and put an end to substance use?
Are you wanting to find new ways to define your identity, and reconnect with people or passions that used to bring you joy? Contact us at Ashley Addiction Treatment, a residential treatment center located in Northern Maryland. We provide life skills classes, individual and family therapy, recreational supports, and many other therapeutic modalities to support you in getting yourself back. Our committed staff will walk the path of recovery by your side and will create specialized care plans that have your well-being, health, and happiness as the focus. An empowered, sustained, and hopeful future is possible. For more information, or to take the next steps, contact us at 800-799-4673.