People tend to think that the problem with addicts is that they lack discipline and willpower. But it is not as simple as that. Addiction is actually a disease, which means that it needs treatment in order for the addict to be able to overcome it. This is why most people who attempt to quit drugs or alcohol on their own usually fail. If this has been your case, you shouldn’t feel like you’re not strong enough. In fact, up to 60 percent of addicts face at least one relapse during their recovery process. With the right type of help, you’ll be able to overcome your addiction soon.
But even if willpower isn’t enough on its own to combat addiction, it is completely fundamental to have it throughout your recovery process. Willpower can be defined as the ability to control your impulses and not give into temptation. This involves being able to control your thoughts and your feelings, overriding negative emotions and focusing on your goals. It is a skill that can be developed and strengthened.
Willpower is important in many areas of your life. If you don’t have any self-control, you will probably engage in reckless behaviors that give you instant pleasure, even though you know it’s bad for you in the long run. For example, overspending in things you might not really need, eating too much junk food, play video games all day instead of going to work, etc. It will also be important throughout your recovery process. I was an addict myself for many years, and I learned -sometimes the hard way- how to strengthen my willpower in order to make recovery easier. I have been sober for almost ten years now, and I would like to share with you 3 reasons why having strong willpower can improve your addiction recovery.
It Helps You Focus on Your Health
Addiction recovery isn’t just about quitting drugs or alcohol. It’s about adopting new, healthy habits that will help your body and mind recover from all the damage these substances caused. This includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, attending therapy, etc. Even though adopting these new habits was difficult at first, at one point I realized that the most important thing, and the reason why I decided to go to rehab in the first place, was my health. Once I started focusing on how these things were improving my health, I was able to embrace them. Little by little I started strengthening my willpower, and what at the beginning felt impossible to do -like meditating or having a strict diet- became much easier.
It’s important that you find a recovery center that includes integral health improving activities in their program. I attended a rehab center in Bellevue where this was the main focus of the program, and it certainly made a big difference in my recovery process.
Turning Negatives Into Positives
Most people who struggle with addiction are dealing with other mental health and self-esteem problems as well. They tend to be emotionally fragile, either because of the addiction or since before the addiction started. In my case, I started suffering from anxiety and depression when I was a teenager, and I began using drugs as a way to deal with those emotions. Addiction, paired with emotional instability, can generate feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing, among many others. But it’s important to realize that these feelings won’t help you overcome your addiction. In fact, they can actually make things worse.
Willpower plays an important role in beating addiction since it helps you realize that instead of guilt and shame you should responsibility and accountability to be able to move on. Once you start turning away from negative emotions and self-pity, you will be able to start taking real steps towards a life of clarity and sobriety.
Long-term Rewards vs. Immediate Rewards
Getting an immediate reward (a hit or a buzz) was what hooked me into drugs in the first place. I liked the feeling of euphoria they gave me, even if it lasted a few hours at most. But there’s another type of reward, one that I found was way more significant and felt better than the immediate reward I got from drugs.
When I finished my rehab treatment, the real challenge began: staying sober on my own. I knew it was going to be hard, so I established a reward system to help me stay motivated. For example, after one week sober I treated myself to my favorite dinner. On my first anniversary of sobriety, I went on a short vacation that I was able to afford with the money I had been saving from not buying drugs and alcohol for that whole year. Long-term rewards can help you strengthen your willpower and keep you motivated through the hardest times.
Remember that willpower alone will most likely not help you quit your addiction, but it will be really helpful during your treatment and recovery process. Improving your health, focusing on positive thoughts and emotions and learning to value long-term rewards over immediate rewards are only 3 of the few benefits that having strong willpower can bring you. And it definitely makes the difference in how successful you will be at sobriety, in addition to making this path a lot easier.
What are other ways willpower can improve addiction recovery? Please let us know in the comments below!