Active addiction is devastating to life. It takes. People range on the spectrum from those who’ve lost everything: Homes, businesses, financial security, family and friends, health and for some even life itself — to those who never had most of those things to begin with, who’ve never felt they had anything to lose.
When they get to recovery, they are often amazed at how their lives are transformed by sobriety. Often they are able to live a life they never imagined or thought possible. They have restored hope in themselves experiencing a feeling of peace and a strong connection with an amazing community.
At the same time, you’ll also hear that if given the choice, most would opt to not have been addicts in the first place. No one grows up wanting to be an addict. Why would anyone voluntarily hit such demoralizing lows? Why would anyone ever want to live that way, or have such horrible experiences? Yes, recovery brings gifts, but addiction is far and away from being a gift anyone would want to receive. Or is it?
What Are the Gifts of Addiction?
Yes, addiction is a disease that sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly robs you not only of anything of material value, but also of your spirit and your spark. It’s a greedy master; never satisfied and always wanting more from you. Not only that, it can and will kill you if left untreated, that is why treatment is so important. Early intervention in addiction is so important for long term sobriety. Addiction hurts and humiliates. So where is the gift?
In order to see it, you have to look past it. Past the constant craving for substances, past the behavior and past the stigma. You have to look at who the person really is without the addiction.
In truth, addicts are amazing, gifted, intelligent and sensitive individuals, who despite their struggles — or perhaps because of them, are survivors. For those who make it to recovery, the challenges, mistakes, obstacles and experiences they have, combined with working an active program of recovery, help to create compassionate, resilient people who have much to offer the world.
Let’s explore the potential gifts of addiction in further detail.
Compassion for Others
People who have never been down and out don’t always have the level of understanding needed to be truly compassionate. In fact, a naturally empathetic nature may be a contributing factor in addiction. There isn’t necessarily a scientific basis for this, however, people who struggle with addiction are highly sensitive people and may be more prone to substance abuse. It can be overwhelming to feel the pain of others so deeply, and some turn to drugs or alcohol to numb this pain. In recovery, they learn to keep an open heart, while still setting healthy boundaries to protect themselves.
A Strong Desire to Help Those Who are Down
While addiction can ultimately result in selfish, “every man for himself” behaviors, addicts are often surprisingly willing to help out. This is particularly true of those in recovery, but even in addiction, addicts tend to root for the underdog. This might explain why recovering addicts frequently find themselves working in the helping professions, pursuing careers in nursing, social work and addiction treatment. You’ll also find recovering addicts volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, as well as working with at-risk youth.
Creativity and Intelligence
There is strong evidence to suggest that people who abuse substances tend to be highly intelligent. And, it seems that creative and artistic people are drawn to substances as well. It’s certainly easy to draw that conclusion simply looking at the world of music and art. Some of the greatest poets, painters and musicians in history have been addicts. While people often think that substance use enhances creativity, it’s more likely that the creativity came first. Why do intelligent, creative people so often turn to drug and alcohol abuse? There are plenty of theories. Some research suggests that the link has to do with novelty-seeking. People who are highly intelligent are simply drawn to stimulation and new experiences. Some theorize it has to do with isolation and deficits in emotional/social intelligence.
In active addiction, we know all too well that people will go to any lengths to maintain their drug use. While this is a destructive use of the quality of perseverance, in recovery this trait is a positive force. Addicts may be a stubborn lot, but when that quality is channeled into a worthy cause, they are unstoppable!
Addicts are survivors, and often display an impressive reserve of resilience, ingenuity and improvisational skills. This also goes back to the fact that addicts have often experienced difficult situations not only while using but also during childhood they have been taught since an early age that they must survive. The thing is they are not always taught healthy coping mechanisms along the way.
An Open Mind
Addicts are frequently people on the fringes of society. They may have explored a variety of alternative lifestyles, and seen a lot of strange stuff. Some addicts are self-professed social misfits, a ragtag group of individuals who stick together and are accepting of others. In meetings, you’ll hear people share their experiences of never feeling like they quite “fit in” until they found other addicts. While dysfunctional to be sure, active addiction is a come as you are community that can be quite accepting and open minded. In recovery, you find the same. Twelve step meetings are one of the few places you can find a group of people from drastically different backgrounds that can come together and support each other no matter what.
A Good (if sometimes sick) Sense of Humor
Addicts are some of the wittiest folks you’ll ever meet. Just ask them, they’ll tell you. Some of the funniest comedians in history have been addicts. While there is certainly a dark side to this, as we’ve lost many of our comedic greats to the disease of addiction, laughter is a sound you’ll hear frequently if you have friends in recovery. Once clean, addicts don’t lose their sense of humor.
Is It Time To Change Your Perspective On Addiction?
Okay, so no one is disputing that active addiction isn’t a lifestyle that anyone would want for themselves. But, in recovery you have the opportunity for a new way of life. Looking at some of the traits above, you may find a sense of recognition. You’re a funny, smart, determined and compassionate individual — and you’re in recovery. You’re tapped into a community full of people just like you.
Too often, addicts are dismissed by society as having nothing to offer, and this simply isn’t true. And unfortunately, addicts have a habit of dismissing themselves, which is a shame. Not only that, but even in recovery many addicts still wish that they were “normal” people who never had to struggle with this disease. While it’s understandable, maybe it’s time to look at addiction from a different perspective?
> > > Meet the Author
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children, she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Rose is currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.