What do our values have to do with recovery from addiction? Turns out, quite a bit. Our values help to define our approach to recovery, so it makes sense to consider what they are and how they might be changing.
Values left over from addiction
When I was still using drugs and alcohol, I had a different set of values than what I have today.
What are values?
Values are whatever we hold to be good. We might value our health, or our family, or money.
When I was using drugs and alcohol, I had a screwed up value system. I placed a very high value on self-medicating and getting wasted. That became my life purpose. Other things that I normally would have valued, such as family, friendships, education, and other experiences (such as a family vacation) became less important to me as the drugs and alcohol took center stage in my life.
This is of course normal for any addict or alcoholic who gets caught up in the grip of addiction. What’s important is to realize that your values will change in recovery. This is important and I never believed it when I was still using drugs: I thought if I were to get clean and sober, that I would continue to be bored with “normal” things that people valued, and that my value system would still be based on the need to get high, even if I was no longer getting high. I could not see past this obstacle, and thought I would be miserable forever if I ever got off the drugs and alcohol.
Of course this wasn’t true as our values change in recovery. We eventually stop valuing the idea of getting wasted and the good things in life start to become important to us again. Specifically, take a quick look at how the 3 basic creative strategies support these new values in recovery:
1) Caring for self – this first strategy obviously places a high value on self and on physical health and emotional balance and so on. This is better known as self esteem – the idea that you can value your self and your own life. In the creative theory this becomes the number one priority and is a foundation for recovery. With every decision we can ask ourselves: “Is this really the best thing for me?” Thus we can guide ourselves to healthier living.
2) Networking with others – of course we value relationships and people in the creative life, because that’s what is truly important. The strategy of reaching out to others in recovery reinforces this value system and shifts the focus away from self-obsession. We shift from valuing drugs and getting high to valuing people – both ourselves and others.
3) Push for personal growth – this boost in self esteem and our journey in recovery shifts our value system to place more importance on growth and learning than we did in the past. Why? Because we see that as our solution for recovery. We see the successful people in recovery who are staying clean and we notice that they stay on a path of growth. We also notice that our own growth experiences boost our self esteem. And so we come to value progress in recovery, and we thrive on the idea of incremental growth as a journey towards a better life.
If you want to see what direction your recovery is headed, take a look at what you really value – what do you hold to be important? If it’s health, growth, and networking then you have much better odds of staying clean in the long run.
The only way to shift your value system is to give these strategies a try and see how they work for you. If they produce good results in your life then you will keep them. If not, you will revert back to your old value system.
What do you value today?