Many people who begin their journey to recovery have preconceived ideas of their “identity”. Most often, these identities are centralized around their addiction, as people label may themselves as “an addict” or “an alcoholic”. The truth is that these labels do not adequately capture a person’s essence of who they truly are; addiction is something that a person has but is not destined to have forever, and it does not define them as a human being. The way we perceive ourselves says a lot about our self-esteem and the goal is that through recovery, you’ll change your perception to identify yourself as a whole – a wonderful person with dreams, talents, skills, wishes, hopes, fears, and much more. All in all, you are more than your addiction.
A 2015 study published in Clinical and Health Psychology sought to understand social identities and how they take place in addiction recovery. Researchers conducted interviews with 21 participants in a drug and alcohol therapeutic community; 2 themes emerged that described the process of social identity both leading into and out of addiction. The first one was the fact that many participants held positive social identities before their substance use occurred – they described the positive aspects of their identity to become lost after they engaged further in their use, labeled a “spoiled identity”. Secondly, many participants described negative early events that occurred in childhood that led them to social isolation due to a lack of positive social connections and identities. With this, participants found that substance use gave them a positive social identity – one that came with a sense of belonging and acceptance within the substance use social network.
Identity plays a significant role in both addiction and recovery, because substance use masks our true self as it alters the chemicals and structures in the brain. When this occurs, our true “self” is actually submerged beneath symptoms perpetuated by a substance; in this instance, it can be difficult to tell if the current social networks we uphold truly love and value us for who we really are. Recovery brings our true self to light and makes us comfortable enough to embrace who we really are and find others who appreciate this as well. You are not your addiction. You are a human being who is working on uncovering your true identity so that you may live happier and healthier.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.