When I was in my ten-year addiction to pain pills, I would stay clean for a while and then end up relapsing. Although I had determined why I got hooked on pain medicine, besides my six-month medical condition that started it, I still couldn’t stop relapsing. I started because I enjoyed escaping from the emotional pain of my childhood. Yet even after forgiving my parents and learning how to stop those painful memories from taking over my life, I couldn’t move forward in life.

I finally got out of my relapse cycle when the doors opened for me to pursue my passion in life—to open my own crisis hotline. I already had four years of experience volunteering as a non-professional counselor on crisis hotlines. I knew my calling in life was to someday open my own hotline. When those doors opened in 1990, within four months my entire life turned around, and my addiction went away as a byproduct of doing what I love.

No more pity parties! My self-confidence grew. And the high from operating from my passion was better than any escape through pills.

Since then I have taught addicts how to find their passion in life and use it as an avenue to reach out to love and serve others. It’s not about willpower, but proper motivation. Most addicts have a motivation of not wanting to go back to their addiction because they don’t want to go back to that hell hole. However, even that isn’t a strong enough motivation. This is because, subconsciously, a person believes that since they survived rock bottom before, they can survive it again. However, many people end up overdosing and dying due to this kind of thinking.

When your motivation is that you don’t want to mess up this awesome future you have lined up, you become strong enough to remain headed in the right direction. Think about this: when you are operating within your passion, you have so much extra physical and emotional fuel to get you gets really excited about life. When you use your passion as an avenue to reach out to love and serve others, it overcomes a problem most addicts aren’t aware they have—being totally self-introspective from trying for so many years to figure out how they got into their addiction and how they can get out of it. By loving and serving others, you begin to shift away from this introspective focus.

Other areas to be managed in order to avoid relapse include:

  • Identify people who have hurt you and forgive them
  • Change your beliefs and negative thinking
  • Learn how to manage stress and anxieties (Check out Emotional Freedom Technique)
  • Have your vision/passion for your future planned out and take daily action
  • Learn how to develop healthy relationships
  • Shift your focus away from “not” giving into your addiction—focus on your awesome future

Does a person have to remain in support groups the rest of his or her life?

No. Once the underlying issue(s) are identified and dealt with, an awesome future is planned out, and certain life skills are learned, the person does not need to attend a recovery support group. Those groups can be replaced with attending meetings of like-minded people focused around your hobbies or your passion in life. In these groups, you will find emotionally-healthy people with whom to develop friendships.

Am I saying that once the underlying issue is resolved that an alcoholic can go back to drinking? Probably not. Alcohol and drugs do change the brain chemistry and repeated use of alcohol or drugs may bring back the physical addiction. One has to be aware of why he is drinking to be on the alert for any desire to escape any mental anxieties.

Although I have not relapsed since 1990, my medical condition continued until 2003. I took pain pills when my condition flared up, but as soon as the condition settled down, I ended up throwing away the pills to avoid my abusing them. I would even ask other people to be in possession of the pills to hold me accountable. During the 5-10 days of my medical condition flair up, I would stay focused on my vision for my future and make plans on what I would do once I was well again.

No matter how many times you have relapsed or how much you may feel like a failure in life, there is a way for you to overcome your addiction forever and live the life of your dreams. Everything is possible if you believe!