My personal experience with spirituality and discovering purpose as a recovering addict


My name is Josh. I am writing this today, the day after celebrating 6 months of sobriety, in hopes of being able to relate to someone in active addiction and share some thoughts I think a lot of us identify with.

I don't generally like to share this information about myself, but in the year 2018 I was enrolled at an Ivy League University and homeless. I had an idea of "success" so ingrained in my head I was more or less willing to die for it. I thought if I could finish my Master's Degree in Cognitive Science I would be able to prove to myself, the world, and my family I could "beat" this thing. Man was I wrong. So wrong. I justified the idea that I was doing ok because I wasn't doing my drug of choice, but I was doing every other drug. I was also hell-bent on telling people I was "sober" and very combative when someone would call me out on the fact I was blatantly obviously using. I guess what I'm trying to say here is I was delusional to how indoctrinated I was into this belief I was ok, and if you didn't believe me, I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle the truth about how absolutely mad I was, and the truth often upset me. I have been to 5 rehabs, 3 psych wards, and 7 hospitals for detox and other drug induced medical isses. I would tell my employers and my professors I had a disability because it was so obvious something was wrong with me and I couldn't bear telling them the truth.

Enough of my "story," though, that's not why I have decided to write this. I decided to write this because the memory of what it was like to be still using and suddenly checkmated, in a roundabout way, into treatment is still so fresh in my mind. That is the subject I want to try and relate to someone through.

I had serious problems with treatment programs - this archetypal blanket approach where counselors say the same thing to everyone, working for me?! No way - I'm an artist, I'm special, I'm unique, I'm interesting, etc.. yet my legs were swollen from speedball induced vascular malfunction and I could barely walk. Yet my body is covered in wounds that will leave permanent scars.. and I still can't shake the belief that I'm "better" than this. Then the detox began to sink in, jarring me to the core. I could barely move for 2 weeks, and didn't sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time for about a month. At night time I would lay down in my bed and cry. I would think about my Mom and Sister. I would even think about my Dad who harassed me for being a junkie for years. Everything would make me cry. My body felt like it was decomposing from the inside out. After about 2 weeks of this I finally gave up, I reached the end of the road. I ran out of time. Who I thought I was disintegrated and I gave up. At that moment I considered myself to have two options - death or surrender. I was hallucinating, crying, and disasocciating, completely out of my mind. The two words "help me" popped into my mind and I had a vision of myself in third person as a lifeless marionette doll, the ones attached to the strings, lifeless on the floor. The strings were cut, I was no longer puppeteering myself for the first time in my life. I later went on to tell someone I would rather die than ever live a non-authentic life and be true to myself. That road paved with lies is no longer an option. I told my counselor I don't have it in me to be the actor anymore. I couldn't lie to myself anymore. Truth was the only way out.

I hated the concept of "God" - and quite frankly I still don't necessarily like it, because I think it is erroneous to put a label on an ineffable thing, causing people to latch onto an idea and corrupt it. Then I heard someone say to me you don't have to believe in "God" to pray - prayer is nothing more than an act of humility. How could I argue with a secular, universal concept such as humility, or honesty? Those ideas belong to no one, not even to A.A.. I began to consider this as an option. For months my only thoughts while "praying" were something along the lines of "please help" - I kept it simple. Then after awhile, and having been exposed to a considerable amount of truth about myself, I began "praying" for others. Still to this day I refuse to ever pray for anything selfish. That defeats the purpose of it. That is a prayer from the Ego and not the soul. I began to remember that I had a soul, an essence, and I was an individual. Strange - I begin remembering I am an individual while being pressured into conforming to an archetypal treatment approach? Bizarre. I love anything interesting though, and I was being taken for a psychological ride. Really, it can be boiled down to this. I started soul searching. I broke through the shallow threshold of ideas and I was no longer parroting concepts I heard to make others happy. I began to grasp the depth and weight behind some of the things I was being exposed to. They were powerful. They belonged to nobody.

Fast forward a month - my hair has begun falling out from severe withdrawal induced anxiety. I don't look like "myself" anymore. I have no idea who or what I am, my mind tells me I am not human, I do not deserve love, and that the world would be better off without me. I consider the alternative constantly - the escape button. You know what I'm talking about. I am so insecure I can't look another human in the eyes. All I do is stare down. Yet for some reason, I am not depressed. Something deep inside of me was aware that there was something going on inside of me, and if I rode it out there's no telling what could happen. So I just started letting things happen. I took my hands off the world and simply let it be. I started to realize how weird this world is, and how interesting it is, despite how mundane it so often is. Things began seeming and feeling enchanted. Perhaps this was the pink cloud we so often hear about, perhaps it wasn't, because I still feel the same way despite numerous obstacles and challenges. During this time I met a man by "chance" - I say chance in quotation marks because I don't believe in coincidence, but I also don't believe in "God shots." What I do believe in, however, is synchronicities. I define a synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence. This way it doesn't matter if it was a coincidence or a God shot, it doesn't matter what it is. It simply matters that I perceived something as meaningful. The ability to perceive meaning is partial evidence of the psychic change I have experienced we so often hear about. It is a symptom of purpose. The kind of purpose that is built into our DNA and that life is bleak and miserable without.

The thing about purpose I believe is that we can't find out without exposure to the truth. And if we do find it before that, it's the wrong purpose. The kind of purpose that will strip you of who you are and leave you wanting to die. The kind of purpose that drives you mad and doesn't want you to find a way out. This is what recovery is about, for me at least. Discovering who I actually am and finding a way to live a life that supports that. It's about being authentic, original, and sincere. And more importantly it's about showing others, especially those still in the grips of active addiction, you don't have to live a cookie cutter life to be sober. Quite frankly it's punk rock, if you ask me, but I know that sounds cheezy.

What are these obscure, alien feelings, I often wonder. A new dimension has been added to my existence. The world went from 2 a dimensional cartoon to a movie you watch with 3D glasses because I participated. I engaged. Something was happening, and something still is.

How to find your purpose as a recovering drug addict

Something we often struggle with in the earlier stages of recovery is trying to understand what our individual purpose is. The reason one doesn't often see people with many years of sobriety time struggling with this issue is because those who never find it often relapse and continue the cycle of addiction until they come to such an understanding.

Where do we begin with finding our purpose as recovering addicts?

Finding one's purpose begins with a few simple things: honesty, awareness, and sincerity. We must come to a deep understanding of who we are, not of our "ego" self, but of our essence, of the truth about our "soul." By recognizing "the part" we play in the world, and all the different masks we take on and off on a daily basis, we can begin to see the patterns of "the actor" we all embody, often without conscious realization we are even doing so.

Coming to the realization we are playing a role in this world often leads us to a deeper understanding of our inner world and what parts of that role take a toll on us and what parts of it we truly love. This realization is a byproduct of raw, unadulterated honesty with the self, which is more or less the gateway into knowing the truth about who we are. We must first understand who we are on a spiritual level in order to be lucid about knowing the activities and behaviors that bring us meaning in life. Without it, we often operate under the guise of very powerful illusions and external validation that we confuse for inner sanction and peace.

When we find the perfect symbiosis between who we are and what we do, and not only find meaning and value in our lives, but also provide the same for others, we have begun walking the road of purpose. Too often than not we identify with a purpose in the external world, leading us to a disillusionment with life and for addicts, especially, an overall dissatisfaction with the world. That is not to say that there is nothing to be said about finding fulfillment from the world beyond us, but simply that when there is a dissonance between the two worlds we often seek gratification from things like substances and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Purpose is an act of balance, and of finding harmony between yourself and the world. When we discover this harmony we find meaning and become passionate about our every day lives and contributing to the lives of others. Since we are less affected by the outside world and discover a sense of equanamity as well, we also begin to radiate unconditional love and see the world with less judgment, becoming a beacon of light and hope for others struggling with the pain of an enslaved existence.

"The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself and whatever science or art or course of action he engages in reacts upon and illuminates the recesses of his own mind. Thus friends seem to be only mirrors to draw out and explain to us ourselves; and that which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another, - that we find we have (a common Nature) - one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine." - Ralph Waldo Emerson