When you are struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, it can consume you and your identity. The things you once loved are gone, and your “hobbies” are now wrapped up in getting more substances. Now that you are in recovery, it’s time to reclaim your identity or create a new one to be the best version of yourself.
STRIPPING AWAY YOUR IDENTITY AS AN “ADDICT”
Sometimes when I ask clients, “What do you enjoy doing?” or, “What are your hobbies?” they don’t know how to answer or never even thought about it before. They may have had an addiction for so long, they can’t remember what it is they used to enjoy before their addiction, or if they were young when they started using, never had the chance to develop a sense of identity. It can be challenging to get and stay sober if you don’t have a sense of self or identity. If you strip away the identity of an “addict”, you may end up stripping away your entire identity, especially if you’ve been using a long time. You’re a whole new person and you may not know or recognize yourself. What is the genuine sense of self that’s left when you are no longer solely an addict? I have wonderful news for you – you get to decide who you are! It’s your time to reinvent yourself and discover new healthy things that you love doing. Through recovery, you can now begin to learn, love, and accept yourself as a sober person. You get to decide who you are and who you want to be.
Now that you are in recovery, you have more opportunities in life because you’ve gotten rid of the prison sentence of addiction. Now you have the freedom and more money to move forward, try new, healthy things that align with your values, and be your best self. Ask yourself, “What kind of legacy to I want to leave behind?, What do I want to be remembered for?” Being generous? Compassionate? Loving? Engage in behaviors that reflect that and it can help you define your identity.
CREATING YOUR NEW IDENTITY
Not only does having a hobby or interest help form your identity, it gives you something to look forward to during recovery. This can fill your time now that you’re not using, and can also help you meet new friends who share your new interests. If you remember things that you used to love before you started using, revisit those old hobbies, interests, and values. If you can’t remember anything you used to love to do before you started using, try new hobbies or activities until you find something that you really enjoy doing. It can be a sport, arts or crafts, baking, watching movies, going to church, volunteering, or anything else that is positive, you enjoy doing in the moment, and makes you feel good. In addition to hobbies, you’ll need to reassess your job or career. Does it align with sobriety and your new identity? If you have to take a paycut, so be it. Find the balance in your life so you can be the person you want to be and don’t let negative activities, including your job, get in the way of being happy and finding inner peace.
In addition to finding new hobbies and activities, associate with people who allow you to be the person you want to be and who support your sobriety. They may be people who already exist in your life, or they may be new friends you have made during sobriety. Now that using is not the focal point of your life or how you meet people, you may need to find new friends that have shared interests. If you make acquaintances through your new hobby or activity, you may meet people who drink alcohol or use drugs. Remember the root of your relationship is not drugs or alcohol, it’s the activity, so set boundaries and tell them you don’t drink or use. If you get invited to a happy hour or other drinking event, decline and propose another activity or social event at another time where there isn’t alcohol. If you find that either old acquaintances or newly made friends are judgmental of your choice not to drink or use, those are the people whom you shouldn’t be friends with anyway. This isn’t a reflection of you doing anything right or wrong, it’s their decision and you have the power to choose who is in your life and who isn’t. The people you surround yourself with, and the things you do with them, help shape your identity.
The way you carry yourself, the way you dress, and your image all contribute to your new identity. Be genuine to yourself, but remember your look or outward appearance is part of your persona and identity. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin and accepting yourself for who you are and learn to love yourself.
PREVENTING YOURSELF FROM SLIDING BACK
As with anyone in recovery, it’s important that you actively take steps to prevent yourself from drinking or using again. Clearly identify your priorities and set boundaries that enforce them. Identify hobbies and activities that help you cope with problems and maintain sobriety.
Your expectations for fun will now differ from what it was while you were addicted. You don’t have to constantly be entertained and can take things slow. Don’t look for a rush or expect everything to be an extreme activity. Practice mindfulness and enjoy your experiences and the company of the people you are with. Boredom is a perception – don’t let idle time be a slide back into using. While being mindful, taking a time out, or relaxing, you might find yourself becoming emotional. Allow yourself to sit in the emotional discomfort – you’ll be ok.
This is your moment, a gift you have been given, to decide and define who you are. There is no judge telling you who you can or cannot be, and you are in control of your life, your actions, and your identity.
If you need one-on-one support, Dr. Heather Violante offers counseling for people struggling with addiction and recovery, as well as their loved ones. Contact her today and find out how Serenity Lane can help you stay on the path to sobriety and wellness.