Most people who first get clean and sober are lacking real purpose in their life. This is because their passion for drugs and alcohol essentially was their purpose, and staying high or intoxicated had become their ultimate goal in life. Depending on how many years they stayed in this mindset before getting sober, this can have a big impact on the whole “lack of purpose” issue.
So when we are getting clean and sober we might feel like life has no purpose for a while. This is to be expected, and a big part of it is the emotional loss that we feel from giving up our trusted drug of choice. It is natural for us to feel that our life has become meaningless at this point.
But of course we get over this hump, and anyone who sticks it out and stays clean and sober for a certain length of time will start to recover their human emotions again, and start to establish some healthier patterns of living. This is recovery. We recover that which we had before our drug of choice entered our life. In essence, we build a new life for ourselves, one layer at a time.
How important is it to have a purpose?
Of course many people in early recovery end up relapsing. A handful of others are successful and find this awesome new life. Could “finding purpose in life” be the factor that separates these two groups of people?
It would be easy to look at people who have achieved, say, 5 or more years of continuous sobriety, and interview them all and find out that they all have purpose in their life. Some of them might be more specific than others, saying something like “my purpose in life is to help battered women who suffer from substance abuse problems.” Others might still have purpose but be much less specific, saying something like “my purpose is to help recovering alcoholics.” Either one of these would be fine. It would be rare to find someone with this much sobriety who said “I don’t really have a purpose in life. I just sort of float along here and do my own thing.” People who have struggled through to achieve long term sobriety are not likely to give that as an answer.
Does this mean that you have to have a life purpose by the time you reach a certain point in your recovery? No, it does not. When we get clean and sober we generally have no purpose in life. Eventually, over time, we start finding that purpose. I don’t think we necessarily have to seek it out. It will find us if we stay sober and keep pushing ourselves to grow in recovery.
Every program of recovery encourages us to help others. If you do this on a regular basis then your life will have purpose, even if you do not recognize this at first. Keep going through the motions and reaching out to help others and one day you can look back and realize that you are making a difference in your life.
It is not critical that we find our ultimate life purpose. What is critical is that we live purposefully and try to help others when we can.
It is not about having some specific goal or label that we put on ourselves. What is important is our actions, and how we reach out to others. Don’t worry about finding your purpose today. Instead, just try to help someone.