The Will to Recover from Addiction


In recognition of July’s status as Independence Day month, our next several posts will focus on the theme of freedom and the will to recover.

Like all major life changes, freedom from addiction is easier to dream of than to achieve. Anyone can wish for a better life; relatively few are willing to work for it.

It’s Not Just Laziness

One under-credited reason people have difficulty summoning the will to recover or work: they fail to see much point in the effort. Find an office worker who struggles out of bed and slouches to work with a gray expression, grumbling all the way; ask why he or she bothers with the job; and the answer is likely to be, “I need the money to live on.” Isn’t anyone getting more benefit than that? “Yeah, the higher-ups are making more money than they can spend.” Can you think of anyone who’s getting something besides money from all this? “Not really.” Do you even know what the larger corporation does? “I think it’s got something to do with technology.”

The typical school kid sees, if anything, less purpose in going to “work” five days a week. Why do they go? Grown-ups say they have to. What do they do there? Work on dumb projects and answer dumb questions. What do they get from it? If they’re lucky, occasional passing congratulations. What’s the point of it all? “You tell me.”

Society looks down its nose at people who show obvious disdain for work, but really, what attraction is there in work that amounts to nothing?

The Problem with Recovery

Much substance addiction has its roots in the very fact of life’s feeling purposeless. And why would anyone want to go through all the misery of withdrawal, just to return to the misery of day-to-day drudgery?

But even a clear vision of a purposeful, fulfilling life beyond addiction may not be enough. Typically, that vision is something that’s lain dormant for years—something that the person once felt in her heart that she was made for, only to be beaten down by family’s and society’s expectations: “Be practical; you’ll never make a living that way. It’s too uncertain, too unconventional, too dangerous.” (Ironically, the “drudge life” we so despise—the one where we spend the better part of our weeks doing humdrum work for no higher reason than to pay the bills—is tacitly accepted as the only realistic way to live.) If you’re already convinced you haven’t a chance of making it to your dream—and that trying will only mean hardship, discouragement, and the scorn of others—what’s the point in trying? Or even in living?

If you really want to be free from addiction, and have the will to recover and believe that a better life—a truly purposeful life—a life where doing what you were made to do is the rule—is possible. Believe that it is even inevitable, if you focus your mind on it and work constantly for it.

Keep up the Will to Recover with Hard Work

That “work constantly” winds up tripping a lot of people who start off with enthusiasm for their will to recover. We all know that time perception slows to a crawl when we’re doing something we hate, and particularly when we’re thinking about where we’d like to be instead. It gets worse with things that may take months or years to achieve, and that have a vague timeline to begin with. We get impatient for results and, when they’re slow in coming, start to wonder if perhaps the whole idea is hopeless after all. Suddenly the bad old days don’t look that miserable in retrospect; at least they offered regular certainty, a measure of security, periodic rushes of comfort. Relapse temptation surges. (Bible readers may recognize “return to Egypt” syndrome here; the problem is as old as ancient history.)

Whatever major life vision a person is working toward, the will to recover for an addict must include the concept of “every day” being fulfilling (or at least tolerable and hopeful) without the need to reach for a chemical boost. Actually, without even thinking about a chemical boost. When our thoughts are dominated by the idea that we’re being deprived of something we could get easily enough, temptation has the upper hand. When we think in terms of expecting something better—long hard path or not—it’s easier to do the right thing moment by moment. (The same “live and work in today, for tomorrow” principle is essential during the adjustment-to-recovery period and especially during post-acute withdrawal; it’s less overwhelming to think in terms of “get through today” than of “never again.”)

The Well-Tried Soul

As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day on Monday, we who are fighting our own battle for independence can remember that the founding patriots also struggled with “give up this hopeless fight and return to the old ways” temptations. Life in the army was no pleasure the December after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Winter hardships were pummeling troops in the field; odds of winning seemed overwhelmingly stacked against them (remember that they were less than six months into a war that would last over five years); and the majority could hardly wait until their time in the army expired and they could return to the old life. It was against this backdrop that Thomas Paine wrote:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Not long after, victory at the Battle of Trenton gave George Washington’s troops a powerful morale boost and a major step toward ultimate victory.

Recovery with Kemah Palms

Can you find the will to recover with a tired soul? It can be tough, but Kemah Palms can help. Our addiction therapy services provide a holistic approach to recovery that ensures each individual walks away with the tools and coping skills necessary to achieve lasting sobriety. Call us at 855-568-0218 to learn more about addiction recovery today.