Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 10: Staying clean is not enough. We must also develop a personally meaningful life

Staying clean is not enough. We must also develop a personally meaningful life

When you are thoroughly caught up in addiction, your priorities are clear; the drug comes first. Everything is done or not done in service of the drug. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning, the last thing you think about at night. It is the one thing that determines and organizes everything.

When you abstain, that organizing element is gone. The drug no longer governs your mind; it no longer dictates your activities. You are at loose ends. Your life lacks meaning, direction, and purpose.

The drug may not have been a worthy thing to organize your life around. Snorting coke is not like curing cancer. Raising a glass is not raising kids. Shooting dope may give you temporary peace, but it’s not world peace. It’s easy to be critical of the choice you made to serve your addiction, but you did it for a reason. One of the reasons is because you need meaning and purpose in life.

Why is that important?

When I play any kind of a sport, I tend to really get into it. I’m very competitive when I play it, although, when the game is done, it may not matter who won. You don’t have to be as competitive as me to know that the goal of almost every game is to win. Yeah, I know we’re out to have a good time, but come on, you throw that curveball so the batter can’t hit it and he swings the bat to try to score. The fielders aren’t chasing the balls because they don’t like them littering up the field, they’re playing defense; and the catcher is not blocking home plate for his health, he’s trying to get in the runner’s way. Winning is the organizing principle. It governs what the players do. It is the meaning of the game. Without trying to win, they really aren’t even fully playing.

When you find the meaning of any activity, whether it be sports, or life, itself, it’s important not to scrutinize it too much. No meaning holds up very well under inspection. Winning may be the meaning of playing a game and it may make us play better, but, really, what does it matter? If one team wins and the other loses, how does it change anything?

We might just as well ask, why is it important to cure cancer? Everyone is just going to die of something else, anyway. When we have world peace, then what? What’s the point of raising your kids? So they can raise theirs? Where does it end?

The truth is, we don’t know what the point of all this is, and, when people try to tell us, we don’t know if they’re right. Maybe we never will know the meaning of life.

We do know this: in order to live fully, we have to find meaning in what we do, just as, in order to play a sport, we have to try to win. When we are without meaning, we will use drugs to provide it.

Click here to see other posts I’ve written about addiction.

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