Those people who are trapped in addiction may have plenty of justifications for their behavior. To other people these explanations are likely to sound illogical, but to the addict such ideas make perfect sense. Even if the individual accepts that their current life is far from perfect they will still argue that it is better than a life in recovery. This is because they associate sober living with deprivation and boredom. It is this misunderstanding about the reality of recovery that encourages them to stay trapped in their misery.
Deprivation can be defined as an act or instance of depriving or loss. Relative depravation occurs when people are not allowed something that they believe they are entitled to. For example, if somebody who likes to drink alcohol is not allowed to they are likely to feel deprived of it.
When people are caught up in the midst of addiction they may view life without alcohol or drugs as a type of deprivation. In their view it is substance abuse that provides pleasure and makes life worth living. If they no longer have their drug of choice it may appear to them that life will have no meaning. They will often view life in recovery as being similar to serving a prison sentence where the sober person always feels like they are being deprived of the one thing they want. This view of sobriety is a myth but the addict is able to use cognitive dissonance and delusional thinking to justify it.
The reason why the addict is able to hold onto the idea that life in recovery is all about deprivation is by adopting logical fallacies. One of the main reasons why they do this is cognitive dissonance. If people believe one thing but behave in a way contrary to this it creates tension in their mind. The individual can respond to this cognitive dissonance by adopting different strategies such as:
* They can change their behavior so that it better reflects their thoughts.
* They can change their thoughts to better suit their behavior.
* They can adapt new thoughts that will explain away the cognitive dissonance.
The addict may be aware that there is plenty of evidence for the self destructiveness of their behavior, and that they should give up the substance abuse. They deal with this cognitive dissonance by either:
* Changing their behavior so that they no longer abuse alcohol or drugs – they enter recovery.
* They convince themselves that life in recovery is not better than the life of the addict.
* They might adopt the idea that substance abuse is bad for most people but that they are a special case and will not suffer the same consequences.
The individual can bolters their negative opinions about recovery by believing such things as:
* Alcohol and drugs make people more creative.
* Those people who do not use alcohol or drugs are miserable most of the time.
* Life is completely meaningless so people might as well enjoy themselves with alcohol or drugs.
* The professionals who work in the addiction recovery industry are just charlatans.
* Those people who try to give up an addiction will relapse eventually because they are so miserable.
* Sober living is boring and lacks meaning – it is like a prison sentence with no chance of parole.
* Those people who are in recovery spend all their time missing alcohol or drugs.
* If people give up substance abuse they will never laugh again or feel happy. Alcohol and drugs means that life is always unpredictable and it encourages people to behave spontaneously.
* Substance abuse is a form of rebellion that is to be admired.
* All the interesting people in the world use alcohol and drugs.
* Those people who suggest giving up alcohol and drug use are just killjoys. They are miserable people who do not like to see anyone else happy.
* The problem is not substance abuse but society’s attitude to such behavior. The individual is just trying to enjoy life and it is nobody else’s business.
* The dangers of alcohol and drug abuse are grossly exaggerated so that people in the recovery movement can make money.
* Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are nothing more than a cult.
Getting sober can be like waking up from a nightmare. The individual should notice improvements in their life within the first few weeks, and by the time they become established in sobriety their life is often unrecognizable compared with how it was before. Rather than feeling deprived the individual feels like they have been released from hell. They may be shocked to realize just how deluded there were in the midst of their addiction.
When people first become sober they are likely to have times when they miss alcohol or drugs. It is usually easy for them to dismiss such thoughts because the individual will remember how much addiction has destroyed their life. Over time these thoughts about the addictive substance occur less frequently. Once people have been sober for a couple of years they may go months without even thinking about alcohol or drugs. In no way do they feel that they are living a deprived life because the complete opposite is true.
The idea that life in recovery is about deprivation is a complete myth created to justify a miserable existence. The reality is that recovery can introduce people to a level of happiness they have never experienced before. The joys of recovery can include:
* The individual is sober and has the time to explore new hobbies and interests. These can bring a great deal of satisfaction and reward.
* When people are sober for a bit of time they realize that the happiness they experienced in addiction wasn’t really happiness at all. It was a dim imitation of the pure joy they get to experience in sobriety.
* People can become far more creative when they are sober than when in the midst of addiction. A classic example of this would be Jackson Pollock who created almost all his notable work during a two year sober period – when he relapsed back to addiction he lost his talent.
* When people are sober they can develop deep and meaningful relationships that just do not occur between addicts.
* Sober people find it easier to do the right thing in life. Not only does that mean that they tend to get better results but they also feel less guilt.
* Sober living tends to be anything but boring – it is common for people in recovery to complain that there is not enough hours in the day to do all the things they want to do.
* Many of those who become sober will embark on a spiritual path. This gives their life new meaning and purpose that is far more rewarding than anything they found in addiction.
* People in recovery get to enjoy better physical and mental health. Some of them are able to almost completely undo the previous damage to their bodies and become examples of the benefits of clean living.
* One joy of recovery is that the individual gets to achieve their dreams. The tools that they acquired to beat addiction can also be used to help them find more success in life.
* Many addicts manage to win back the respect of their family and friends. They may even become highly respected in their community.
* Once people become sober they can begin rebuilding their career or try something different – many go on to be successful in their line of work.
* Probably the most important joy of recovery is peace of mind. Those who have developed emotional sobriety enjoy an inner peace much of the time.
* When people are sober they can be of great benefit to other people. This type of selfless action can also bring great joy and inner peace.
* Those who have built a strong sobriety no longer have a nagging feeling that they have wasted their life. They can look back and feel proud about their achievements in life.
* The individual in recovery can look other people in the eye and not feel the slightest shame. This is not something that most addicts can do.