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How to Learn from Addiction


It may sound like a strange thing to say, but addiction can be a valuable learning experience. This is not to justify this condition in any way or to romanticise it, but what this means is that all those years spent addicted to alcohol or drugs do not need to have been completely wasted. So long as the person is able to walk away from addiction for good, and they are willing to learn from the experience, it will mean that there can be a great deal of good that comes out of this period.

Lessons from Addiction and Recovery

Here are some of the most important lessons that people can learn from their addiction:

It is Possible for People to Change

This is the most empowering lesson of all that people can take from addiction. It disproves the common notion that, “a leopard never changes its spots.” The sad thing is that most people really do believe that they are powerless to change, so they become willing to accept a mediocre life. Those people who fall into addiction are given a stark choice – they become willing to change or they die. Giving up an addiction is one of the most challenging life changes that a person will ever have to make, and it can be a huge boost to their self-esteem. It means that the individual becomes confident enough to make other major changes in their life so that they can begin really taking things in a direction that they want to go. This power to be able to break away from habits really gives people in recovery the edge over those who have never been addicted to alcohol or drugs.

The Availability of Second Chances

Another important lesson that the individual will learn is that they can have a second chance in life. Some of these people will have fallen very low in life and caused a great deal of suffering for themselves as well as other people. When they become sober the person will have the chance to make amends to all those who have been hurt including themselves. In the vast majority of cases, the person will be able to get a fresh start and go onto to live a productive and happy life.

The Lesson that Hiding from Problems is an Ineffective Solution

A common reason for why people fall into addiction is that they are trying to hide from their problems. Alcohol and drugs allows the individual to enjoy a temporary escape, but it comes with a heavy price. The individual risks falling into addiction. Their problems will not be dealt with, and they will just be acquiring further problems. The lesson that the person learns from addiction is that it is important to live life on life’s terms. This means not trying to hide from anything. The individual can also learn that by not hiding from their problems it makes them stronger. They begin to see the problems that come their way as tests for which they have the capability to overcome.

Challenges Are a Chance to Grow

When people are trapped in addiction, they will view the challenges that come their way in life as an excuse to drink or use drugs. As far as the person is concerned these challenges are the enemy, and it is unfair that they should be asked to face them. When people become sober, they will usually come to the startling conclusion that these challenges are actually their friend. This is because by facing them the individual is given the opportunity to grow. The metaphor of a toolbox is often used to describe this situation. When the person is faced with a unique challenge, they will need to develop an effective tool to overcome it. As the person faces more and more unique challenges, they will keep on increasing the number of tools in their toolbox. Eventually the individual reaches a stage where they have enough tools to face almost anything in life. This is when things become easy and not matter what is happening in the person’s life they will be able to enjoy a sense of inner peace. This stage is often referred to as serenity.

The Individual Learns That They Can Challenge Their Own Thoughts

In order to be able to break away from addiction, the individual has to be able to break away from his or her own addictive thinking. This can be particular important during the early days of recovery when cravings can be quite intense. The individual learns an important lesson that they do not just have to follow their thoughts but can choose which ones they want to entertain and which ones they do not. This is a very empowering idea and it may help the individual from avoiding other self-destructive thinking in the future.

Addiction Teaches Humility

Addiction teaches people a bit of humility, and this can be a positive thing. The individual understands that they can be completely fooled into thinking absurd things, and this makes them less arrogant about their current thinking. They understand that it is easy to get things wrong, and this makes them more understanding when other people seem to be trapped into illogical thinking.

How to Learn From Addiction

In order to learn from addiction, it is important that the individual:

  • Develops the willingness to look back on their addiction to see what lessons are there.
  • Completing a life history can be an excellent way of looking back on the years of addiction to see what lessons are there to be found. Those people who are a member of a 12 Step fellowship will to do this type of life history as part of that treatment program, but this is something that anyone can do.
  • It can be helpful if the individual talks about their experiences with a trained therapist. This other person can make it easier for the individual to understand what has happened to them and the lessons that are there to be learned.

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