Sorry, It’s Good for Addicts to Suffer


     Addicts must absolutely suffer in sobriety to see of they are truly committed to getting better. This the true test of an addict’s fortitude and resolve, the true test of his guts and quality of character, the true test of his heart, mind and soul. This is the great spiritual test that propels us into freedom from addiction.

     It’s one thing to get sober, do a little work and fly around on a pink cloud for a while in our cushy treatment centers. But what happens when we come home and are faced with a little reality? What happens when we become human again like everybody else? What happens when the world smacks us square in the face and we are challenged personally, professionally and financially? What then? It’s no fun anymore, is it? Right, that’s called human life. Get used to it.

     Addicts are so hyper-focused on themselves and how they feel, so dependent on physical pleasure and feeling good 24/7 that we demand sobriety must also consist of this habitual comfort. We desperately try to find things to do to feel good and boost us back up. I was guilty of it too. Lit up from the spiritual catharsis after taking the first 7 Steps, I would meditate, write inventory and even help others with the sole intention of feeling better.

      Then one day the tools stopped giving me that buzz. Sure writing inventory is more healthy than speedballing, but it’s still part of the same old preoccupation with feeling good – the old addict self. It was all starting to pile up and I suddenly felt insecure and a little depressed. But soon I realized that a) it’s okay to suffer; I don’t have to freak out just because I’m a little uncomfortable now sometimes, and b) that this was the last threshold I had to cross to become recovered – suffering and continuing to push through. I had to suffer and take Steps anyway, just because it’s the right thing to do, just because it keeps me sane. I had to suffer and still give of myself. I had to suffer and still do things I don’t want to do but that I needed to do, that I’m responsible to do.

     By the way, if this sounds like a foreign language to addicts, I understand, but most people simply call this growing up.

     But this is the great spiritual test for us. This is what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. This is what separates the recovering from the recovered. This is what separates those of us who share a common problem (many) from those of us who share a common solution (few). Sorry, but most addicts and alcoholics succumb to fear. They would rather live a life of cowardice. They would rather blame everything and everyone except for themselves. They would rather believe they are victims and deserve to do anything it takes for them to feel better because no one suffers as they do. Right.

     So this is the test we must pass. Are we going to do this work only when we feel good, when it suits us, when the novelty of being freshly sober gives us a false and fleeting buzz, or are we going to do this work when it all wears off, when life smacks us back in the face, when we become human again and begin to suffer? Are we going to work, grow, love, serve and clean mom’s basement when we’re “in the mood” or are we going to push ourselves to grow regardless of how we feel? Recovery is not convenient, and like any religious tradition worth its salt, it’s not meant to be comfortable. It’s meant to stretch us. It’s meant to challenge us. It’s meant to push us to elevate the quality of our character and to become willing to take more action. Right action.

     Real recovery is not for the faint of heart. If we want fake recovery, we shouldn’t bother with applying the Steps thoroughly, rigorously and fearlessly for the rest of our lives. And we definitely shouldn’t bother with turning our will and our entire life over to God and all that that entails. If we want fake recovery, I’m sure there is a publicly funded methadone clinic and an open speaker meeting nearby (kidding, kidding… relax;).

     Anyway, please do your mom a favor and ask yourself if you are willing to suffer a little bit in sobriety and still do the right thing. If you are not, then you should let her know that you are planning to break her heart everyday for the rest of her (or more likely the rest of your) life.

4 thoughts on “Sorry, It’s Good for Addicts to Suffer

  1. It's great that you wrote about this. I felt great for a long time after I got sober, but during the second year, life started creeping in and things weren't all rosy anymore. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, felt like I was missing something. But then I realized it's just life. Days are going to be hard. This is how so-called normal people do it, every day. It's reality. But then comes the realization that I'm living a REAL life, and I'm doing it sober! And no matter what happens, I have the tools to make it through, without drinking. That's a great feeling.

  2. Hi Charlie, I stumbled onto your blog after googling recovering addict giving blanket apology. I just divorced my husband of 16 years one week ago. He's sitting in jail for committing fraud. He also drank very heavily, claims he was drinking again and is wanting into the RzdAP program ( addiction program in federal prison- sounds like only a small percentage get accepted) ..but I never saw anything like what I did years ago when he drank heavily. He has turned back to having affairs, two (that I know of)in past 18 months and one 6 years ago. Best part is he takes his kids into the affairs thinking they r too young to tell me.
    Now I'm hearing he attends the AA meetings in prison and he's sorry for everything (feels very very vague) and now it's turning into him thinking/telling me he's just all praying for me, our kids rtc

    Why does he keep lying or sticking to the stupid storie (ie lied) he's told me. Is this normal at this early stage?

  3. Hey thanks so much for reading and sharing so honestly here.

    Needless to say, there could be different reasons for his story – perhaps he is somewhat humbled by his incarceration, but the bottom line is that what differentiates the sick person from the well person is that recovered people stop talking and simply act. They simply engage in authentic change and show their “apology” through real action in the form of help, love, understanding, willingness, sacrifice, etc. I'm no example of this, but I do put my family first, the people who have given unconditionally and whom I took so much from (first after God, that is).

    As far as early stages, there is certainly a great deal of guilt, but who knows if it is guilt associated with genuine change or manipulative guilt that, as you stated, we've so often used to restore trust, faith, relationships, bridges, COMFORT or to get people off of our back so we can then go and use the way we want again and pull the whole thing down all over. I'll pray hard for him and your family today.

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