It’s a sad fact that the majority of individuals addicted to drugs will never get clean. Sure they may have various episodes of sobriety, but most go back to their drug of choice, usually sooner than later. Why does this happen?
Well, it happens for a number of reasons:
- Biochemistry – They don’t feel “comfortable in their own skin” without substances
- Stress – Poor coping skills
- Boredom – No hobbies or interests other than getting high
- Having friends, family members or intimate partners that still use – It’s very hard to stay clean in close proximity to their drug of choice
These are all factors determining whether or not an addict will stay clean. However, I believe the number one reason most substance abusers don’t stay clean long-term is because they haven’t changed their identity.
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The Importance of Identity
There is a common belief that many addicts have about themselves that is detrimental to recovery. The belief is “I am a drug addict that is trying to stay clean”. Or another version is “I am an addict in recovery”. Words and beliefs are influential, but the need to stay consistent with our identity is the strongest force in the human personality.
Therefore, if addicts continue to view themselves as addicts (even ones that are trying to stay clean), they most likely will fall back into the behaviors associated with that identity.
How we see ourselves matters, and what we choose to place after the words “I am” has a significant impact on our lives.
Think about it like this – who do you think has a harder time trying to stay clean off of drugs?
- Individuals who view themselves as addicts in recovery
- Individuals who view themselves as people who would never even consider using drugs
Imagine how hard it would be to stay clean with the first identity, an addict that is not currently using drugs. But that’s what addicts do! They use drugs! It’s like going against your nature, your self concept of who you are, and this can create conflict inside of you. At 12-Step meetings you even have to say “Hi, my name is ___ and I’m an addict”.
There’s always a high percentage of people who even shorten the phrase. When it’s their turn they simply say “___ addict”, so it sounds like their last name is addict. Do you see how both of these statements can reinforce the strength of the addict identity?
Fortunately, it’s possible to be a former drug addict with the second identity, a person who would never use drugs. This is no easy task, but it’s entirely possible if you put some work into it. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the following steps can help you begin the inward journey towards creating a new and empowering identity, one that is in alignment with your goals for living a drug-free and fulfilling life.
1. Stop saying “I am an Addict”
Delete the word “addict” from your vocabulary. Instead, say “in my past I used to abuse substances”.
2. Stop Believing “I am an Addict”
If you continue to have the same beliefs, you will continue to create the same life. Changing your life starts with changing your perceptions.
3. Write and Speak Affirmations
Get a journal or piece of paper and write the following affirmations:
“I am free of addiction”
“I am confident and happy”
“I am a peaceful warrior”
“I no longer need drugs to live life”
“I am at peace with myself”
“I have healthy relationships with everyone in my life”
“I am free of my past”
“I forgive myself for who I used to be”
“I forgive those that have hurt me”
After you’ve written these down, say them out loud at least once daily. Say these affirmations with emotion. The more intense and passionate you are when you say them, the more they will be conditioned into your nervous system. Once you have a new identity, it won’t be a struggle to stay clean.
This new identity will guide all of your beliefs, decisions, behaviors, and thoughts. It will guide you away from drugs and towards fulfillment.