People who are trapped in addiction can suffer greatly. Their obsession with alcohol and drugs can lead to the destruction of everything they hold dear. It is usually obvious that their addictive behavior is the source of the misery, but the individual may still be unwilling to change. This is because there is comfort in familiarity and change takes a great deal of courage because it is a step into the unknown. Failure to summon up the motivation to walk away from addiction can mean a death sentence so it is vital that people summon up the necessary courage to move forward.
Mark Twain once described courage:
> Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Courage can be defined as the quality of mind that enables a person to face difficulty and pain. To say that someone has acted courageously means that they were willing to face and overcome an obstacle in their path.
Types of Courage
Courage can be broken down into four types which include:
* Bravery is the willingness to stand up for what is right even though there may be undesirable consequences for such an act.
* Honesty is the willingness to tell the truth no matter what.
* Zest means that the individual has enthusiasm for life. This means that they are less likely to try to hide when life gets difficult.
* Perseverance means that people are willing to keep moving along their chosen path even when they are faced by many challenges and disappointments.
Courage is not always about taking action. This point was noted by the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill with the memorable lines:
> Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
It has been suggested that some people fall into substance abuse due to a lack of courage. This is because they will often be using alcohol and drugs as a means to avoid dealing with the realities of being alive. The addict mistakenly believes that by becoming intoxicated they are escaping their problems, but they are just adding to them. Any reprieve that that substance abuser enjoys will only be temporary, and they will usually pay a heavy price for it. The misery of addiction makes life unbearable. In order for this individual to escape their suffering they will need to summon up some courage.
There is no doubt that entering recovery is a courageous move. Change is never easy – even when it means that people are leaving a miserable situation for a much better one. To embrace change takes courage and this mental attribute will also be required more in recovery because:
* Recovery is usually described as a process and not an event. Becoming sober is just the first step and there will be plenty more challenges ahead.
* Once people become sober they will be forced to face the wreckage of their past, and this takes courage. The inspirational martial artist Bruce Lee observed that, mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them – people can and do move on from the mistakes of the past all the time.
* The individual will need to develop the willingness to face life and not try to run away when things get hard. If people fail to do this they might relapse or fall into other maladaptive behaviors as a means to cope.
* Most of those who fall into substance abuse will have character traits which bring them into conflict with other people – for example, they may be prone to impulsive behavior. Once the person becomes sober they will need the courage to begin overcoming these character flaws.
* There will likely be days in early recovery when giving into the addiction seems appealing. It will take guts and determination to stay sober on such days.
* Admitting to the wrongs of the past takes courage. Emotional sobriety means always being willing to admit to being wrong.
* When people become sober they can begin to achieve their dreams, but they will have to work to make them a reality. Walt Disney once remarked that all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
Those individuals who are viewed as courageous will tend to share certain character traits such as:
* High self esteem
* An openness to new experiences
* Courageous people tend to have an internal locus of control. This means that they have a feeling of control when in difficult situations.
* Emotional stability
* A sense of duty towards themselves and other people.
* They seem to more easily bounce back from adversity – they are resilient.
* These people will tend to have an inner conviction that allows them to overcome their fears.
People can learn to be more courageous in life. It is a skill that people can develop by:
* Understanding that courage does not mean absence of fear. It means taking action despite the fear.
* If people develop a beginner’s mind it should mean that they are more open to new experience. Beginner’s mind means approaching new experiences without too many preconceived judgments and biases.
* Those individuals who are conscientious and willing to take on responsibility tend to show more courage when called upon to do so. The willingness to take on more responsibilities in recovery will therefore help the individual grow and become more courageous.
* Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people develop an internal locus of control. This means that they will feel more confident when faced by challenges.
* Practices like meditation are also good for developing confidence and a sense of mastery in life. Mindfulness meditation can mean that the individual becomes less of a slave to their thoughts and fears.
* Those who are newly sober tend to have low self esteem which in turn leads to low self efficacy – the self belief that the individual has in their ability to achieve things. The person can increase their own self esteem by setting themselves small challenges and achieving these until they are ready to face bigger challenges.