Is Addiction An Opportunity?

Plant growing in desert

Years ago, I studied “The Hero’s Journey” because I wanted to write the hero’s story. Back in the day, we girls didn’t think of ourselves as taking that hero’s journey ourselves. We weren’t brave. We were just girls. But I thought if I ever had the opportunity, I could write about it. I could write a column for a newspaper, or a bestselling novel, maybe win an academy award, if I ever wrote a movie.

But it was just a dream to keep me going. In those days, I had no way of knowing that girls would be soldiers, would win Nobel prizes, and not just work at high level jobs, they would run companies, even countries. It was unthinkable. But it happened in one generation.

Recovery Begins As A Way To Survive

Addiction recovery is a little like the evolution of the female in the 20th Century. And it might be helpful to think about it that way. Recovery begins as just a way to survive, like my dream to write. But the empowerment recovery brings often takes people beyond any goal they could possible set for themselves. Recovery can relieve the pain of family traumas and bring peace. That’s a positive feature of addiction that hasn’t been examined or talked about much. Even if we lose the battle for someone we love, recovery and a new desire to help others restores us.

Advantage Over Other Diseases: The Doc is Not In Control of the Treatment

Surprisingly, there is an upside to having addiction as opposed to some other deadly disease. Addiction is not the only progressive disease that can kill you if you don’t get treatment for it, but it is the only disease for which only the patient can decide the outcome. The doctor is not in charge. The patient is in charge. The patient can say, yes. Or no. When the patient says yes, and begins to let go, a real change occurs.

Change Happens Because Of Personal Choice

This change can’t be court- or parent- ordered. It can’t be therapied away. Or rehab mandated. The change comes about almost entirely by embracing the illness. A totally weird concept so counter-intuitive not everyone can do it. It’s very scary. Imagine embracing cancer, and then getting well. Imagine embracing depression and getting well. It’s a different kind of embrace, of course, from the “I love you embrace” that originally feeds the addiction. It’s more like “yeah, that was me. I did it. It worked for a while, but now I’m done.” And that idea has to take root and be embraced every day. Just think for a minute how hard that is to do.

Care-givers have a specially difficult journey that’s also not talked about enough. To give up what you love the most, whether it’s a drug, or a loved one, is the bravest thing a person can do and it makes heroes of us all. Can you think of the addiction in your life as an opportunity?