“Change is hard.” It’s something that we’ve all heard many times. I used to push back on that statement and say, “Change isn’t necessarily hard, it’s just different.”
For many people who struggle with addiction – alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, or other addictions – their addiction becomes a way of life. In therapy we often talk about “the addict within” as the driving force that keeps the addiction alive. The addict within creates a life style that supports the addiction. Missing work, spending money that one doesn’t have, living a double life, keeping secrets, acting on impulse; all these and more become part of a lifestyle, a way of life.
This way of life starts with a one-time activity (first time drinking or using drugs) and eventually repeats itself until it becomes habit. Habit then becomes routine and a way of life is born.
Recovery, or any kind of change for that matter, must be the same. Try something new, something healthy as a one-time activity. A strong focus is needed to do it again and again. soon, something new becomes a habit and, if done routinely, a new lifestyle is born. People who exercise regularly make it part of their lifestyle. They socialize with their biking or running buddies, they read magazines and books about healthy activities and lifestyles, they make many small changes that create a new way of life. And they do it every day.
With recovery from addiction, it often helps an addict to imagine their recovery as a new way of life. In the past your way of life included lies, cover-ups, lost time in your addiction, isolation or only socializing around your addiction, shame and despair after acting out (or sobering up), etc. A new way of life will have to include truth-telling, scheduling your time, healthy socialization with family and real friends, taking pride in accomplishments, etc.
If you want change – any change – consider your current way of life and begin to imagine it differently. If you’re struggling to imagine Recovery as a Way of Life, consider engaging a counselor or coach to help design your future and make the changes that will take you where you want to go.