Inspirational Quotes to Stay SoberAnna Ciulla
Motivational quotes are an excellent tool for those on the long and perilous road to recovery. Unlike longer pieces of literature, they lend themselves to easy memorization and application, activating emotional triggers and providing courage, hope, and support. Like famous poems and song lyrics, quotes contain universal wisdom in a condensed format. They enable us to maintain a positive frame of mind and anchor our spirits during challenging times. Above all, quotes remind us that our struggles—no matter how severe or seemingly insurmountable—are part of the collective human condition.
BEGINNING THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
“Addiction: the disease that makes you too selfish to see the havoc you created or care about the people whose lives you have shattered.” –Anonymous
Addiction is generally considered a chronic, relapsing disease, and an abundance of empirical research supports this notion. More than just a troubling habit or genetic tendency that affects certain people while sparing others, addiction is part of a highly complex labyrinth created by pain, isolation, and avoidance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opiate overdoses kill approximately 115 people daily in the United States, and the socioeconomic burden of other drugs—including alcohol—is overwhelming. Addiction destroys lives, wrecks families, and makes prisoners, not only of those caught in its grips, but of their friends and family as well. Friends and family of those struggling with addiction often describe themselves as victims or hostages—forced against their will to witness the ongoing self-destruction of those they love most.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” –Anonymous
Inevitably, at some point in the process of addiction everyone hits rock bottom. Rock bottom varies from person to person and can be as simple as a legal problem or relationship difficulty created by continued substance abuse, or as intricate as a complete deterioration of health, financial stability, and reputation. Whatever the case may be—rock bottom is a harsh revelator that lays one’s character deficiencies and dysfunctional behaviors bare. For many people struggling with addiction, destructive behaviors continue unabated until they spiral completely out of control. It is not uncommon for those exhibiting the advanced stages of addictive behavior to suddenly find themselves in an emergency room (ER), experiencing an unexpected overdose, in jail, served divorce papers, or fired— and frequently all of the above in a relatively short window of time.
Fortunately, those whose addiction has resulted in a descent to rock bottom also find that it can be a powerful motivator and catalyst. Once someone actually hits rock bottom, they literally cannot go any lower (except for death from overdose). From the vantage point of one who has recently crashed, rock bottom can be a truly effective call-to-action.
Humans are naturally driven by the instinct to survive, and self-preservation proves to be a motivator like no other. Many recovering addicts describe their time in the hospital, loss of their marital partner, or jail sentence as the single most important thing that ever happened to them— the impetus they needed to re-examine their priorities and re-evaluate their lives. Without that low, they may have never developed the humility and genuine strength necessary to appreciate life as they know it, or the integrity necessary to confront their addiction and atone for past mistakes.
THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY
“My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last.” –Anonymous
Although those healing from addiction may understand that recovery is a lifelong process, there will always be new challenges on the journey— trying moments where their initial passion for sobriety is eclipsed by anger, frustration, or despair. In such moments, willpower is tested and the temptation to use again as a coping mechanism surfaces. The invaluable stages of detox, inpatient treatment, continuing psychotherapy, and 12-step group involvement all provide a solid framework for relapse prevention. However, they cannot replace the spiritual and practical commitment of putting sobriety first.
Maintaining sobriety requires a certain degree of selfishness— putting your own immediate needs above the needs of others. Co-dependent habits and behaviors are a known enemy of sobriety, and infect people with the erroneous idea that putting another’s needs first is a way to ensure peace, happiness, or security. In the context of recovery, such behaviors are a major distraction and can easily lead to relapse. The simple fact remains that sobriety is a highly personal and individual commitment, and one that no external influence can ever replace. Just as it is true that continued addiction invariably leads to the loss of everything one loves in life, commitment to sobriety reopens new possibilities and inspires new horizons.
“The goal isn’t to be sober. The goal is to love yourself so much that you don’t need to drink.” –Anonymous
Self-hatred and other esteem-related issues are known instigators of addiction. When people fall victim to these negative, shame-based thoughts and emotions, anesthetizing the resulting pain with self-intoxication is tempting. A healthy sense of self-love is critical to reversing this tendency, and can only be developed by refraining from self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Naturally, the more one refrains from abusing substances and punishing themselves with destructive emotions, the easier it becomes to maintain sobriety. Eventually, those committed to self-love and recovery reach a point where they love themselves so much, that they no longer need the temporary escape of drugs or alcohol in order to numb their underlying pain.
“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” –Anonymous
Whenever things are going wrong in recovery or life, and you find yourself stuck in a proverbial hole, the very first thing you should do is to stop. Although the natural, fear-based human tendency is to keep digging, doing so is problematic. A simple, honest assessment of your situation can provide the insight necessary to recognize your plight and stop exacerbating matters. People grappling with addiction often find themselves stuck in a hole only to pretend that everything is fine, or acknowledging that there is a problem, but downplaying its importance. Addiction, being pathological in nature, leads to a variety of maladaptive behavioral strategies and coping mechanisms— denial and minimization being two of the most common. The key to overcoming this tendency is to practice rigorous self-honesty, a tradition extolled by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and critical to successful long-term recovery outcomes.
“Recovery is about progression, not perfection.” –Anonymous
Perfection is an illusion which many people chase to no avail. Like co-dependence and a long list of other crippling behaviors and compulsions, the desire to seek perfection is a contributing factor in the development of addiction. Not only is attaining perfection impossible on the road to recovery, it is equally unattainable in life. The quest for perfection distorts cognition, blurs moral boundaries, and acts as a mirage that vanishes just as quickly as it is imagined. When it comes to recovery, imperfection is the engine that motivates and inspires, and without it, there would be no basis for progress.
Contrary to popular belief in sober circles, relapse does not constitute failure in recovery. In fact, for many people in recovery, relapses are major motivating factors. Like all worthy challenges in life, progress in recovery is often not a linear movement, but rather a relative motion. If you are like millions of people, taking two steps forward and one step back is a perfectly natural, healthy progression.
THE FINAL CHOICE
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Victor Frankl
People often react unconsciously without exercising sufficient judgment, choosing toxic behaviors over healthy, rational actions and logical thought processes. However, there is always a space in which they can choose more consciously. Every decision in life includes a stimulus, in other words, an energetic prompt eliciting a response. And in every decision, there is always a choice between an automatic reaction based upon past habits and conditioning and a thoughtful, well-reasoned response. Regardless of the presenting issue or life situation, choosing a thoughtful response based upon greater self-awareness is what ultimately leads to freedom and growth. Nowhere is this decision-making capacity more critical than in recovery, where social and environmental triggers collide with internal urges, unexpectedly and with maximum intensity.
Simply put, sobriety requires making a lifelong habit of practicing discernment through moment-to-moment decision-making. No matter how traumatized, impatient, distracted, anxious or depressed you may be, you always have the power to choose— the gift of free will. In decades past, sobriety was often conceptualized in sweeping terms, as a one-time commitment that, if made in earnest, would last a lifetime. In reality, there is no single decision, but rather a succession of decisions that goes on indefinitely. Viewed in this more realistic frame of reference, sobriety becomes a choice every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every year of our lives. And every time you choose sobriety, you edge closer to lasting freedom.
For more about addiction, recovery and spirituality, check out these related articles:
- “How Mindfulness Exercises Aid Recovery”
- “Why Medication Alone Will Never Be the Only Answer to Addiction”
- “How Spirituality Improves Rates of Recovery”
- “What is Holistic Rehab?”
- Alcohol Treatment Quarterly. The Role of Social Supports, Spirituality, Religiousness, Life Meaning and Affiliation with 12-Step Fellowships in Quality of Life Satisfaction Among Individuals in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Problems. August, 2006.
- Substance Use Misuse. A focus-group study on spirituality and substance abuse. September, 2010.
- Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to substance abuse treatment. October, 2007.
- Journal of Addiction Medicine. Spirituality-Based Recovery from Drug Addiction in the Twelve Step Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. May, 2013.