Life After Addiction – Regaining a Sense of Self-Worth

It wasn’t until many years into my recovery that I began to understand already the simplest truth of what a sense of self-worth meant, and I began to see myself as a worthy person. Throughout my life before, during, and for some years after my active alcohol and drug addiction, I had no sense of either ‘self’ or ‘worthiness’ and consequently I had little understanding of boundaries.

already years into recovery my perception of my own self-worth was completely based on external factors – the acceptance of others, working hard, and playing hard. My sense of self worthiness was fully dependent upon whether others liked me and/or gave me recognition for doing what I thought they wanted me to do to get their approval. As a consequence I had absolutely no sense of who I was at my chief – my authentic self. At that time of my life I would have crawled over crushed glass for this external recognition. I was a people pleaser, a phony, and a fraud, and much of the time I didn’t already know it. This was as cunning, baffling, and powerful as was the alcohol and drug addiction. In the final years that this played out, my life was truly “restless, irritable, and discontent.” I so desperately wanted to belong, to be accepted, and to be loved and appreciated.

Today life has come complete course of action for me. I live most of my days “happy, joyous, and free” – the exact opposite of how I used to live. Today I understand, respect, and honour the boundaries of others, in addition as my own. This transformation was the consequence of consciously working to apply spiritual principles to my life.

In my specialized life working with addicts, I learned to deeply respect the wisdom of the original writings and practices of 12 Step programs, and the recognition of alcoholism as both an illness, in addition as a spiritual or moral dilemma. The writers knew from personal experience that the illness of chemical addiction is a spiritual malady that requires a complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs, and a spiritual path of recovery. In their writings they referred to the need to establish the practice of integrating a set of spiritual principles into the addict’s daily living.

Deflation of ego was necessary – not elimination, but deflation of the destructive, needy ego of the addict. This course of action of surrender and letting go of self-will allows for the acceptance of a strength greater than oneself and the formation of a sense of self worthiness. This is done by working on aspects of our selves such as honesty, faith, courage, and integrity, in order to heal one’s spirit.

These spiritual principles are so basic to the addicts’ complete recovery that Bill Wilson, one of the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, referred to them many times in his various writings. On page 42, in the chapter three titled “More About Alcoholism,” in the basic text of AA, often called the Big Book, Bill writes: “Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems.”

Why did Bill calls these spiritual principles and not refer to them as “virtues or values” like the rest of the world does? I believe it was because he fully understood that their absence, shared to all alcoholics, injures the presence of spirit within. Addiction is the only progressive, dynamic, incurable, and terminal illness that has this capacity to so negatively impact the human spirit. So Bill called them spiritual principles for he knew that complete recovery was not possible without the formation or reestablishment of these virtues and values in the life of the addict, and in addition as each of their family members. Without that there is no deepening sense of self worthiness, surrender, acceptance, and healing of the spirit. Indeed, I believe this is one of the most profound insights into the successful treatment of all alcohol and drug addictions.

Over the years, I have done my best to incorporate spiritual principles in my daily life and I describe that journey in my book, An Act of Surrender. already with 38 years of recovery I continue to consciously work with spiritual principles-perhaps more now than ever before because I have come to appreciate the tremendous value that practice holds. As I have learned to honour and respect myself, my life truly has become more happy, joyous, and free!

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