5 Paths To Finding Your Purpose in Recovery

Sober life can be daunting, uncertain — and exhilarating. Make the most of this opportunity

August 31, 2022
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People undertake recovery for many different reasons, but at some point in the process, almost all face the same question: What next? Sometimes the question takes the form of promise and possibility: What do I want my life to be? Sometimes, it feels more ambivalent: Why am I doing this at all?

To achieve and maintain sobriety, you must gain a clear sense of your goals — at least some of them — and of why you are recovering. Living with a substance use disorder (SUD) can be incredibly isolating and aimless, so finding meaning and purpose in life outside of addiction is essential. Your goals may change, your “why” may evolve, but when you have a strong sense of purpose, you will be more motivated to stay sober and move forward with a healthy, rich life.

In recovery, meaning and purpose are central. They’re also, perhaps, not what you’re used to. In active addiction, addiction itself takes over, and you can easily lose sight of what matters. People neglect their relationships, put their health at risk and disengage from activities they once enjoyed. By understanding what gives your life meaning and purpose, you can build momentum for your sobriety and build a fulfilling, satisfying life along the way. But where to start?

1) Be Present

Meaningful recovery, as you’ll often hear, requires more than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. A half-hearted, unexamined attempt at recovery would likely amount to an endless cycle of abstinence and relapse without much progress or purpose. So once the physical detox is completed, it’s time to start searching for what will motivate you to create a life you don’t want to escape.

When you find something that brings a measure of happiness or a feeling of accomplishment, you have something new to focus on. This can be anything from spending time with family and friends to volunteering or starting a new hobby. Whatever it is, it should be something you’re passionate about that gives you a sense of fulfillment.

Once you begin to get a sense of how meaning and purpose feel to you, recovery becomes much easier, in part because you have something to strive for. Becoming present in your life and increasing self-awareness are excellent paths to meaning.

2) Uncover What Brings You Joy

Once you have developed a greater self-awareness, you can begin to identify things that bring you joy. In early recovery, focusing on the negative aspects of your life and addiction is common. However, it is essential to remember the things you love, or loved, and be open to loving new things.

This can be a difficult task, but it is worth reflecting on the positive in your life. For example, think about the things you enjoyed before using substances. What were your hobbies? What did you like about them? What are your goals and dreams? What do you enjoy doing now? How can you incorporate more of these activities into your life? Taking the time to focus on the things you love can help with defining meaning, but it can also help reduce stress, improve your mood and promote a sense of well-being. Answering these questions is a crucial step toward shaping and solidifying your “why.”

3) Find What Makes You Feel Fulfilled

What does fulfillment mean to you? This is an important question to consider in recovery, as living authentically — in line with your purpose — is essential to long-term wellness. Many people structure their lives around dysfunctional messages of what success should look like, based on societal and familial expectations. But in recovery, you get to write your own story.

To live a truly fulfilling life, it is crucial to have the courage to examine all areas of your life and make changes accordingly. This may require making tough decisions, but they are your decisions. Recovery gives you the chance to define fulfillment and success on your terms. Take advantage of this opportunity to live authentically and in line with your deepest values.

4) Discover What You Value

Your values guide you through life and help you make choices that align with your goals.

But what are your values? When was the last time you asked yourself that? Losing sight of your values, or neglecting to develop them in the first place, can be easy when you struggle with substance use. So it’s essential to remember that recovery is a process of discovering your beliefs and how to live according to what is important to you. When in recovery, taking steps that nourish what matters most to you, whether personal or professional goals, relationship or family commitments, or something else entirely, is crucial.

5) Outline Your Goals

The most successful recovery plans are founded upon values and goals particular to the individual. Dreaming and having goals you want to accomplish in your life, both in the long and short term, are key. Sometimes, when you are bogged down by everyday tasks and what seems like the never-ending to-do list, it’s easy to forget what you want your life to look like. What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? These are tough questions to answer, but they are worth asking yourself.

Having dreams and goals provides a sense of hope. It gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you to keep going, even on the most challenging days. Once you discover your goals, write them down, tell a friend, and take the first steps toward making your dreams a reality. You just might be surprised at what you’re capable of accomplishing.

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