The idea that addiction is a disease the addict will struggle with for the rest of his life means different things to different people. For some, it causes a sense of hopelessness that may prevent them from beginning their recovery process in the first place. For others, it’s a call to battle, motivating the addict to come out on top.
Experts have differing opinions about whether addiction is a lifelong disease, but most agree that it’s something you’ll have to be on the lookout for even after you feel you’ve put it in your past.
Addiction as a Crutch
The numbers don’t lie, and research shows that those who have fallen under the influence of addiction one time are exponentially more likely to become addicted again. Having an addictive personality is the result of strong genetic and environmental influences, which is what makes addiction a recurring disorder in many cases.
If you choose to view the chronic nature of addiction as an excuse to relapse, or to give in to your addiction time and time again, the disease becomes a crutch that you use so you don’t have to put in the work of getting healthy. Viewing addiction as your constant companion in this way is very dangerous, because it gives you a reason to continue to allow this disease to destroy your life.
Addiction as Motivation for Change
Many addicts say they experience cravings, even after 20 years of sobriety, and that addiction continues to plague them throughout their life. Others report that once they’ve put the disease behind them, they never again experience a desire to return to their former life.
Either way, addiction can be a great catalyst for change. Even if the effects of your addiction come back to haunt you from time to time, these momentary emotional relapses need not become a full-blown addiction, and can actually help you continue to grow as a person. Even the littlest snippets of addiction symptoms, felt years into the future, can be an opportunity for you to identify weaknesses left behind by the disease and turn them into strengths.
Those who are able to say their addiction has completely left them are usually those who have been able to find complete emotional sobriety, as well as packing away years of physical sobriety. Being emotionally sober means that you have come to a place where you no longer have any desire for drugs or alcohol. You no longer view this time in your life with any nostalgia or fondness, and you no longer harbor feelings of resentment or hurt for the people or situations during this time in your life.
Developing emotional sobriety is a process that takes time and effort, and is usually more difficult than the physical side of things. Addiction is a disease of the brain, and your emotional skills are damaged as much as any part of your body. Addressing past trauma, learning to forgive, and finding healthy outlets for stress and anger are just a few of the skills necessary for developing emotional sobriety.