I never thought of myself as an addict before I entered recovery, but since I got clean and sober it’s something I acknowledge on a daily basis, whether that’s just to myself, to a room full of alcoholics and addicts, or to my Higher Power. But, like most people in recovery, I’ve also had my doubts. Am I really an addict? I’ve wondered. Or would things be different if I tried again? There’s no sure way to know what my life would look like if I started using—and I definitely don’t want to find out!—but there are some tools I use to refocus my thinking and remind me of why I’m doing this in the first place.
What was it like?
In my 12 step program, I was taught to share my story in the format of what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Thinking about my drinking and using, going over all the people I hurt and the damage I did to myself and others, I can see very clearly that it’s in my best interest to stay clean and sober.
Who would I hurt?
Friends and family of people in recovery may be shocked to learn that they sometimes entertain doubts about their addiction—after all, those are the people who saw the addict at their absolute worst. I know I would deeply injure my family and loved ones if I started using again; one of the greatest gifts of my sobriety has been rebuilding those relationships.
What if it was just my physical pain?
In an earlier blog post, I detailed dealing with an autoimmune disease that I also contend with daily. It's an inflammatory condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis. I can wonder if my physical pain is what drove me to drinking and drugging in the first place—but I know that my condition is under much better control when I’m not using. In fact, getting sober gave me the motivation to deal with my AS head on and in the most thoughtful and intelligent way possible - by consulting trained clinicians and following a regimented program of recovery, and that has benefited me by getting me my life back.
Do I need all those meetings?
My recovery involves, among many other things, regular 12 step meetings. Sometimes it can feel like a drag to go to meeting after meeting, day after day, when there are more immediately pleasurable things I might like to do. But I have to remind myself that it’s only through the meetings that I get the guarantee (or the best guarantee possible, anyway) of sobriety—and no matter how many meetings I go to, I always, always hear something new. Plus, meetings connect me to a community of sober addicts and alcoholics, and that community is another one of the things I value most about being clean and sober.
Could I just have one?
In a whole lifetime of drinking and drugging, I never, ever just had one drink or one drug. Like most addicts and alcoholics, I sometimes convinced myself that I’d just have one, or just have a couple, and then have the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, until I was off to the races again. The idea that I might be able to have one now, after years of sobriety, is nothing more than an alcoholic fantasy.
What would I gain?
Nothing. As a recovering addict, with my feet firmly planted in 12 step work, an exercise routine, prayer and meditation, and close relationships with my sponsor, sober network, family and friends, I can go anywhere and do anything that a non-addict can do. I also get the benefit of an amazing community, better health, and a spiritual connection. There isn’t anything that I’d trade for that.
At the end of the day, when I have doubts, I have to remind myself that those are just feelings—they don’t mean anything about me, my sobriety, or what I should or shouldn’t do. And of course I have doubts sometimes: I’m an addict, and that’s the nature of my disease. It wants me to use. But if I really think about the answers to the above questions, it’s very easy for me to see that all of this is worth it: that my life is truly so much better without drugs and alcohol in it, that my health has improved, that my relationships are more successful, that my day-to-day is that much more engaging and dynamic and joyful. And if I still have doubts, I can use other tools, like doing service, calling a friend, meditating, exercising, or going to a meeting. Doubts are natural—but sobriety is worth it.