True Callings: Why Finding a Purpose Is So Important in Addiction Recovery
The first step into sobriety is a big one, but addiction recovery is a lot more than abstaining from drug or alcohol use. The personal healing process that follows is just as important when it comes to making your journey sustainable.
Starting out in a recovery program is a unique time – emotional sharpness rushes back, and we start to regain our feelings of control. With this comes a new question – “what am I going to make out of this new me?”
Realizing you’ve been handed a blank slate is a motivating and energizing experience, but it can also leave us impatient or even anxious when we aren’t sure how we’d like to fill it. Finding a purpose is one way you can set about rewriting your story.
Purpose in Recovery: Why Am I Doing This?
Determining a purpose can help give perspective to every area of your life – this is extremely true in addiction recovery.
Conceptualizing your aspirations and goals will help give your life a sense of direction. Internalizing these aspirations can be a key aspect of your personal journey and a powerful motivator to help you to stay on track. This stays with you after treatment and has also been shown to help us deal healthily with life’s stresses and challenges as they arise, preventing relapse long term.
Your plan can be on any scale – it is simply about the kind of change you want to bring into your world. You may want to make your career your life’s work, be a better parent, or achieve a spiritual goal. An example could be, “I will support others in getting help with addiction.”
Entering recovery has the potential to change the course of your life. As people gain experience, it also positions them to help others in their community and friends and loved ones who struggle with the same disorder. Expand that outwards, and suddenly one recovery journey is reframed in a new and inspiring way.
Finding Your Inspiration
If you’re wrestling with the questions “who do I want to be?” and “what’s my purpose in life?” you’re not alone. For most of us, our true calling doesn’t drop into our lap the moment we start thinking about it. This is a long process of discovery, so don’t beat yourself up for not having all the answers or realizing that your sense of purpose has changed with time and circumstances.
If you want to structure this thought process, ask yourself the following questions when you have a quiet moment to reflect:
1. What do you value most?
Take some time to think about what matters to you. Work, home life, art, connection, knowledge, or something else entirely? Many people’s purpose starts with wanting to support, pursue, or make a difference in something they care deeply about.
2. What do you love doing?
While it’s not strictly necessary, ambition is much easier to execute when it involves doing something you love! A bonus here is that there’s already a lot of joy to be had in recovery in reconnecting to old passions and hobbies. Experimenting with these things can help you find creative and enjoyable ways to approach the question of purpose.
3. What is fulfillment to you?
A life led by intents and purposes is fulfilling, so it is useful to start there and work backwards. Answering the question of what satisfies you most in life can help you define goals that lead you there.
4. What is your dream?
Think about how you’d visualize (or have visualized) your ideal future self. What would the road to living that life look like, and how could you organize the steps to get you there? Dreams are not always perfectly achievable, of course, so you may want to think about characteristics of that ideal self you admire most. Are they doing something they love? Are they a role model? Thinking about our dreams can help us answer the earlier questions.
While purpose is a powerful agent in recovery – it is also a lifelong project. If the idea of defining your singular goal in life has you sweating and poring over blog posts anxiously trying to define your future, rest easy with the knowledge that purpose is flexible, and it will change with you. Keep what inspires you in mind and your short-term goals at the forefront. And remember, recovery in itself is already full of purpose on its own.