Seeking the Meaning of Addiction
Humans have a need to find meaning in life. If such purpose is not present the individual can feel a bit aimless and unsatisfied. Those people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are able to ignore this yearning for meaning. Getting drunk or high becomes their main purpose and there is no time for any other considerations. Once they escape addiction though, the urge for life to have a deeper meaning will once again resurface. Traditionally people have turned to religion or spirituality to find meaning, but there are also more secular approaches which achieve the same aim.
As well as looking for meaning in the present there can also be a desire to find meaning to explain the past. It is normal for people in recovery to ponder the possible reasons that drove them into addiction in the first place. The hope is that by finding meaning in the past it will allow them to live a better life in the future. Different theories of addiction have developed and each of these provides clues as to why people get trapped in substance abuse. Probably the most influential theory of addiction is the one developed by twelve step groups such as alcoholics anonymous.
Twelve Steps and the Meaning of Addiction
The philosophy of twelve step groups is based on the assumption that addiction is a spiritual, mental, and physical disease. A lot of emphasis is based on the spiritual aspect because of the conviction that the addict cannot escape their problems without the help of a higher power. Groups like AA tend not to focus too much on the exact reasons why some people develop an addiction. The emphasis is more on the notion that it is a spiritual disease that requires a spiritual remedy.
Members of these groups use the twelve steps as their spiritual recovery program. These steps give meaning and purpose to the life of the committed member. It is not a matter of just completing the twelve steps and being fully cured from addiction. Recovery is an ongoing process because there is no cure but only a daily reprieve. The individual needs to keep working the steps or they are at risk of relapsing.
Social Support and Meaning Seeking
People are highly influenced by their family and peers. A social network will have an impact on how the individual sees the world. The addict’s view of addiction and recovery can be greatly impacted by their social network. If people in this network are negative about life in recovery, then they can have a negative influence on others seeking meaning in sobriety. This is why it is advised that newly sober individuals surround themselves with others who support a life free of alcohol or drugs. A recovery community can support the development of a positive attitude towards sobriety.
Finding Meaning in Recovery
It is important that the individual finds meaning in recovery because it will help keep them committed to this path. If a life free from intoxication does not appear to have much value it will be unlikely that the individual will put much effort into staying sober. Once the initial novelty of sobriety wears off there will be a high risk of relapse. There are many ways that the individual can find meaning in recovery such as:
* Joining a recovery support group. This will allow the individual to spend time with people who share similar goals and have the same worldview.
* Attending counseling sessions is a way for people to get to understand themselves a lot better and find new ways of living. This type of therapy can be a great help for those hoping to find more meaning in life.
* Membership of a religious organization is a tried and trusted way for people to find meaning.
* Finding new interests or rekindling old ones. People who give up alcohol or drugs will usually find that they have a lot of spare time. Filling these extra hours with enjoyable activities can give life new meaning and purpose.
* Helping others is a wonderful way to find meaning in life. Volunteer work can be very rewarding for those who can do it.
Meaning Seeking and Relapse
If the individual fails to find meaning and value in recovery they are likely to relapse. Staying free of intoxicants can become almost like a prison sentence. The individual begins to resent everything about recovery and may find solace in memories of the good times they had drinking or using drugs. This unsatisfying life in recovery is often referred to as dry drunk syndrome. It is usually only a matter of time before such people return to their old addiction or they find new ways to escape the sober life.