In active addiction, much of what we identify with is in direct relation to our addiction. In fact, many of us become quite known for our partying antics. Unfortunately, some of us have become less known as “the life of the party” and more associated with our legal issues due to our drinking.
While we’re in active addiction, our identity is easily defined by the drugs we do, alcohol we use, dealers we know, bars we frequent and friends (or enablers) we have. This leaves the majority of us who enter treatment grieving not only our substance of choice and the toxic connections we once had, but our very identity as well.
Since this idea can pose a very real and challenging threat to our longevity in recovery, we must find ways to discover who we are after addiction. Below are some steps to take in an effort to do just that.
1. Shift your perspective.
When we enter into recovery, it is vital to our success that we switch our perspective from one that sees a lost identity to one that gently reminds us we have gained a new one. Active recovery is now a new, positively-defining part of our identity. This fact does not negate our need to grieve, but it does give us a way to maintain gratitude and hope for a new normal within our experience of grief.
2. Get back to basics.
Entering treatment may threaten the identity we have unfortunately embraced throughout our active addiction, but it does not rob us of our basic identifiers. Our gender, race, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc., are still intact. Moreover, our role as daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, family member and friend are not lost to us either. Many of those aspects are potentially even strengthened in recovery. Returning back to basic identifying factors can help us stay grounded during times when we feel as though we have no anchor.
3. Embrace the new.
Change is not easy for anyone. It can be a terrifying experience, even when we are aware that the thing we are leaving behind was destroying us. It is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck and, as such, it is a common one that branches far beyond active addicts entering into recovery. However, if we merely embrace the new life that lies before us and the simple fact that we get another chance to actually live it, we have a better shot of not only discovering who we are after addiction, but falling in love with the newfound freedom to be whatever we’ve dreamed of being.
Though losing a sense of one’s identity is overwhelming, the aforementioned steps above can truly lessen the negative effects. Though our grief will always still be valid and certainly needs to be processed, the journey forward will be an easier one if we are open to the progress. A great recovery community, addiction specialists and counselors can also help you in this journey as well.