“Do not be afraid; our fate/Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift” –Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Although recognition of drug addiction as a social issue was way ahead of Dante’s time, these words unveil the belief of individualism and the right to ownership of life. Reading closer into this quote, “fate” would be closely related to “path” or a course in life controlled by individual thinking and action.
It is on the part of the individual to not only become residents, but active participants in his/her path of life. This mindset may be harder for some to fathom, especially those who are battling or have recently battled addiction, and are still learning to readjust to daily living without the dependency on substances.
In this blogpost, I will attempt to answer any concerns that such individuals who are in fear of relapse or have recently relapsed may face:
Just Because Someone Relapsed, Does it Mean I Will Too?
This is a guaranteed, no. A note to remember: relapse is just a roadblock, not a spiral in the wrong direction. If you have relapsed, do not be afraid to get back on the path to recovery. Just because someone else relapsed or has recently overdosed, it does not mean that you will. However, learning from others’ experiences may help you try and find ways to increase mindfulness.
On Sunday, it was reported that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed, and he joins an unfortunate list of talents who died too soon from drug-related addiction. He had previously been addicted to drugs and was clean for twenty-three years before his relapse earlier this year. During the long period of sobriety, Mr. Hoffman was able to lead a life filled with many professional accomplishments, including an Academy Award win for Capote and roles in other profitable box office favorites such as Boogie Nights, Charlie Wilson’s War, and The Hunger Games trilogy.
Although his story ended in tragedy, Mr. Hoffman’s case in particular reopened talks on the complex and overpowering nature of addiction on the brain. Particularly the interviews with addiction specialists the last few days allow the public an attempt to understand the problem of addiction as a whole.
Individuals who are in danger of or have relapsed need to realize that there is no such thing as “once a substance abuser, always a substance abuser.” I know former addicts who cannot stand the sight or smell at the former object of his/her craving and those who can control urges just by simply using methods learned or alternative ways of thinking while getting clean. Dante’s words and Mr. Hoffman’s death both show the importance of always keeping control in addiction recovery, and to always manage addiction no matter how hard the struggle.
Is There Such a Thing as Complete Abstinence from Drugs and Alcohol?
Let’s be honest- deconstructing or examining this question in an objective manner would result in lumping all individuals into a collective robot that has the ability to respond to a one-size-fits-all treatment. It is also difficult to give a complete yes in general, as it would imply that there is a cure to addiction, which is idealistic in recovery.
But while it is difficult to ensure complete abstinence, the strongest guarantee of continuing to live a sober lifestyle is mindfulness and active recovery, both aspects highly advocated and encouraged by Spiritual River.
It is ultimately up to the individual to increase his/her chances for long-term sobriety by continuing to stay strong. This becomes very possible by continuing to improve in recovery and having a backup plan ready in case of relapse. It is important to use cognitive behavioral techniques, and breathing and relaxation exercises as well as reaching out to peers in recovery, family, friends, sponsors, counselors, etc, whatever has thus far been working to stay sober.
While active participation recovery from addiction may require extra effort, the control can make all the difference and can help individuals who are on the brink of relapse get back on track. Constantly being mindful of the fact that we are on this earth continuing to breathe is a “gift” indeed.