We live in a society where most anything is available almost instantly. Dinner is made in minutes in the microwave. We have instant mashed potatoes, instant messenger, and instant payday loans. Most addicts, whether or not they are in recovery or addiction, are acquainted with instant gratification. In recovery, we often transfer the instant gratification mindset to destination addiction. Recovery has taught many of us we actually have to work for something. Work? Yes, work. A four-letter word to some of us. Recovery is hard work. While the pros of recovery far outweigh the cons, the reality is that recovery is a life-long commitment. Setting goals are positive assets to recovery as long as we don’t get caught up in destination addiction along with our aspirations.
What is destination addiction? Best-selling author Robert Holden, Ph.D., defines it as “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is someplace else, it will never be where you are.” While in addiction, we saw happiness as the next high, the next drink, the next shot, the next line, the next bet, the next 10-pound weight loss. As an addict, that is how I perceived happiness. In the long run, using became the only “happiness” I felt, and then it would be gone again. For those already prone to addictive thought patterns and behaviors, destination addiction becomes the perfect setup for a major catastrophe. We can relate, right? We get stuck in the “I’ll be happy when” mindset instead of living in the present. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. I’ve been trapped in the mindset of “if I could just have that job” or “if I could just be with him”. If my counselors in rehab said it once, they said it one hundred times… “Stay in today, Candace! Stay in today!” After almost 15 months of being in recovery, I am not just responsible for taking one day at a time to stay clean. I am also taking my future, my education, my recovery, and life, in general, one day at a time. I had to retrain my brain to think this way.
All of our lives, we are taught to plan for the future. While there is nothing wrong with planning for the future, we cannot get so consumed chasing our dreams that we forget about what is right in front of us. Setting goals we’d like to obtain are great incentives to help us along in our trudge of the happy
road of destiny, but we should make sure they are healthy, reasonable, and attainable ones. Getting an education has been one of my goals since I first got into recovery. I waited almost one year before I enrolled in college. I was so excited to start, and everything was great. Then, I realized there was a lot of work involved in it. There’s that four-letter word again. My goal to get an education isn’t just about improving my quality of life for myself and my children. It is also about being able to eventually get a job I enjoy. I have to remind myself getting that degree or that job isn’t a guarantee for happiness. Am I going to be happy when I finally get my degree? Absolutely! But true happiness will not be found in that specific destination, it will be found in the fulfillment of the accomplishment itself.
Happiness is a choice we have to make. Sometimes we have to choose it every day, more than once a day, no matter what we are going to be happy right where we are in life. Happiness is an inside job and comes from maintaining attitudes of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Making a gratitude list is often one of the ways I combat a funky mood. I will assure there are some days it is easier to make a gratitude list than others. Some days I am not feeling very grateful. But if I look hard enough, I can find something to be grateful for in every day and every situation. I can be grateful, even in negative circumstances, and use it as a learning experience.
When was the last time you felt content and at peace? Think back to a moment when there was no place you’d rather be, nothing else you’d rather be doing. At that moment, you were not consumed with somewhere else you needed to be or something you needed to be doing. We can look forward to the future, but it is important to cherish each moment in the present. We are not promised tomorrow. The only thing we can really be certain of is this moment, this day, this time. So, make the moment count. Cherish the small things. See each moment of your life as an opportunity to learn, right where you are, and seize as many opportunities as you can to grow.
We don’t want to become complacent and stagnant. Learning produces growth. Sometimes growth can be painful and uncomfortable. In order to grow in recovery and other areas of our lives, we have to step outside our little bubble. Scary, I know. Well, maybe not for you, but it is for me. Sometimes that means tossing out all those ideals and traditions that have been ingrained in our brains since birth. We adopted some of our ideas from our using days. I became an addict because I wanted to escape reality (the present), but I had to change that need for escape in order to recover. Be open to change. If you change nothing, nothing changes. Start by changing your attitude and outlook on your situation(s). I am not saying these things are easy, but I am saying they are possible. Never underestimate the power and strength we gain from asking our Higher Power for help. Many of my
old mindset changes have come through prayer and meditation. With God, all things are possible.
The job I currently have requires me to get up very early in the morning (4:00 am). I work long days, drive an hour commute, and I am exhausted on a regular basis. About six months ago, I became consumed with finding a new job. My mindset turned into “if I could just find a new job, I would be happier”. I looked for one but was unsuccessful. My negative attitude probably showed, though none of my co-workers ever mentioned it. After a few months of living in misery, I decided I would try to make the best out of my situation and be grateful I had a job at all. When I finally made up my mind to be content with the one God gave me, He began opening doors for me. I recently found a new job that turned out to be a perfect fit for me as well as my kids and my class schedule!
Recovery really is all about change. We should be surrounding ourselves with people that will support and encourage us, not only in recovery but also keeping us grounded in the present. Surround yourself with people that “get it”. That greener grass on the other side usually turns out to be astroturf. We work
to get to the other side. Then what?
We are in recovery, present tense. No one has arrived. True happiness is not found in a person, place, or thing, neither is recovery. Just as happiness is an inside job, recovery is also. It’s work. Remember? We can plant seeds for our future without being consumed with the end result. We plant, water, and weed the garden of life and wait for results. We often find the fruits of our labor will bring contentment, peace, and even happiness, but we can also find happiness in the labor process. So, give up the idea happiness is someplace else, and find it right where you are.
My name is Candace, and I am a recovered addict since 6.17.14.