In the fall of 2016, I was on a steep decline towards being homeless, or worse, dead. With the help of the only people still willing to even speak with me, I was able to find accommodations in a men’s sober living house.
The year leading up to this moment hadn’t been all bad. Although I was still drinking alcohol regularly and my life was chaotic, I had managed to fight off a daily heroin habit.
I would occasionally use, and I wasn’t honest with myself and others about where I was at mentally. As you might expect, this eventually brought me firmly back to full-blown addiction.
It was here that I found myself confronted with the choice of either accepting help and entering into a sober living home or likely being homeless, jobless, and friendless.
Living in a sober house with accountability, rules, and structure, seemed like a harsh punishment that I didn’t deserve. My ego couldn’t bear the thought of other people knowing that I had reduced myself to this position at 28 years old. I had spent the last decade of my life trying to convince everyone else that I was successful, and living in a sober house just didn’t fit the perception that I had of myself.
My disease didn’t care that I didn’t want to have it
I spent a decade refusing to accept the fact that I had a substance use disorder because that is not what I wanted for myself. I didn’t want the stigma associated with drug use, or as someone who was morally bankrupt.
Maybe most of all I didn’t want to give up my right to drink and use drugs recreationally. I wanted to be like my friends who could drink and occasionally use drugs without fear of ruining their lives. They could somehow manage to easily stop, something that I didn’t understand, but desperately wanted for myself.
I previously wrote about acceptance and how before recovering from my addiction to drugs, I needed to fully accept it. I want to clarify that acceptance isn’t passive. Acceptance is the first step that is taken towards bettering yourself.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said: “He was sent to prison. But the observation ‘he has suffered evil,’ is an addition coming from you.”
Epictetus is reminding us that the events in our lives are objective. A prison sentence is not bad in of itself. It’s not until we add our description and perspective to it that it becomes unbearable. By accepting that my addiction didn’t care how I felt about it or whether or not I wanted it, I could start to move forward with the process of recovery.
I had to change the way I looked at my circumstances. Being afforded the opportunity to live in a sober house and seek recovery was an amazing gift that I was poisoning with my negative perspective.
Admittingly, I never fully accepted my circumstances during my short stay, and I didn’t fully appreciate the experience. I regularly fought back against the rules and moved out after only a few short months.
Your circumstances do not define you
I’m not a drug addict.
I am a person who experienced drug addiction.
It’s important to understand that difference. Your circumstances do not define you as a person and your actions during active addiction don’t have to define you either.
If you find yourself in circumstances that are beyond your immediate control, try changing your perspective. Choose to make the experience a good one because your circumstances don’t care how you feel about them. The only way to change them is through action, not wanting.