Whenever you make the decision to enter into recovery, you are often asked why you made the decision to get clean. Answers come in various forms, such as for the kids, because I have to go or went to jail, I can’t afford it, etc. One answer most people shy away from is that they are doing it for his or her self.
I couldn’t tell you exactly why people avoid stating this reason. Maybe they think that people are expecting some deep, philosophical response or maybe they are afraid that they will look selfish. The thing is though – RECOVERY IS SELFISH.
For some reason, society has put the idea in our heads that being selfish is a bad thing. This is not always true. Sometimes we need to be selfish in order to actually move forward in our lives and to protect ourselves. Recovery is one of these examples.
You see, in recovery, you have to take care of YOUR needs first. You have to change so many things about your life, it can make your head spin. We all know the proverbial saying, ‘in order to get clean you need to change your persons, places, and things.’ Well, this is the truth.
Obviously, if you are recovering from being a heroin addict, you aren’t exactly going to go out and hang out with the people you used to get high with or your old dealers. I mean, that is a no brainer, correct? Why would you put yourself around people who could eventually drive you back down the path you are wanting to avoid?
I understand that it is somewhat scary to leave behind the familiarity of those that you have used with. It is a comfort thing. Getting clean can be scary enough on its own. Adding to it, leaving behind people you think are your friends can make it that much tougher. Just remember, usually these people really aren’t your friends.
Let me explain.
Addiction is selfish, too. You can know someone for half of your life and then you both end up being addicts. You are both different people, like it or not. When you become an addict, your addiction essentially hijacks your brain. You become a slave to your addiction. Whatever it is you are addicted to basically calls the shots. It tells you when you need to get your fix, when you need to get more, and whether or not you can get or do certain things.
Take heroin, for example. If you are dope sick, you are more apt to miss a birthday party for your kids or even going to work if you don’t have heroin. Why? Because your brain is telling you that you need to get more and your body is going to go through withdrawal until you give it exactly what it wants. Heroin. Do you think you can ask one of your ‘friends’ that you use with for dope to get off sick? Highly unlikely. Typically, if you have dope and your friend doesn’t, they are going to tell you they don’t have enough to share, or that they don’t have any at all. This works in reverse as well. If your friend is sick and you have dope, you are more likely to lie to them in order to avoid being sick later, or avoid having to chase the dope you need to function. Basically, you are willing to allow your ‘friend’ to be ill in order to be fine yourself. Self preservation at it’s finest.
Typically, addicts don’t share their dope and they don’t want to be around people who aren’t on their “level” because the individuals that are not high will kill their “buzz”. This is also an act of selfishness. If you and your friend were clean and one of you was hurting or in need, you might be more apt to help them out because you are in a sober frame of mind and don’t want to see the other person hurting. Addiction flips that switch.
This is why you should change the people around you. Those people who you called ‘friends’ in active addiction are more worried about getting their fix than about you getting clean. In fact, nine times out of ten, if they give you ‘free’ dope, it’s just so that they don’t have to be high alone and/or because just knowing that they are high and you’re not MIGHT kill their buzz. Funny how that works out, right? This, too, is an act of selfishness on an addict’s part.
You see, if someone is really a friend, they will care about your well-being. If they cared about your well-being they would not offer you free dope, especially when you’re clean. Period. Sure, you can say no, but nine times out of ten you don’t, ESPECIALLY early in recovery. Now you’re back to the spot you were working so hard to leave. Do you think your ‘friends’ are going to give you free dope now?
Okay, so, I hope you get the point of the benefit of changing your persons. If not, I’m sorry that I can’t beat that dead horse anymore. Just trust me on this, you need to get new friends, friends that have similar interests and the same lifestyle as you.
This means CLEAN FRIENDS.
Not only does it keep you out of and away from trouble, but you end up with a whole team of cheerleaders and people who really want to see you do good vs people who just want to keep you on their level. People will call you selfish for this, but don’t let it get to you. These people are not your friends either and are probably the same people you used with.
Moving on to changing places.
Now changing places falls under the category of triggers you can avoid. You may remember that I have previously discussed triggers, both avoidable and not. Well, places ARE avoidable triggers.
You see, going to certain places where you would meet your dealer might be a bad idea because it could bring back memories of getting high and make you crave the drug. This may or may not be considered selfish. Refusing to go to a gas station around the corner because you know that you may run into people you used to get high with or because you know drugs are being sold, might be considered selfish by some. Typically, it is by those that don’t understand what it means to quit using and enter into recovery.
Some may even call you selfish because you might ask a driver not to go to a location you are avoiding OR because you refuse to stop there with him or her. If someone calls you selfish because of this, they are not your friend either. I don’t say this trying to be mean, I am simply being honest. You can try to explain your reasoning in the hopes that you will change someone’s mind and views. If that is something you want to do than by all means do so, but realize you don’t have to and someone else just may not understand you regardless.
Here is another beautiful thing about being selfish in recovery, you don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t have to explain yourself, or your reasoning, whatsoever. If you don’t want to go to a certain gas station, and if they are really your friends, they will be okay with your decision. They might ask why, just out of curiosity or to make sure you’re okay, but that’s it. They aren’t complaining. If you don’t want to go to someone’s house because of the atmosphere or the company, people who really care about you will be okay with it. I promise. You only have to explain what you want to explain when you want to explain it. Freeing, right?
Now for the third part of changes, things.
Things is such a BROAD word, it can apply to anything. Typically, when I try to explain this, I say things applies to anything else not referenced in people or places. That’s the best way for me to explain it. As in the previous two explanations, you should change your things so that you don’t get triggered or so that you aren’t given those ugly reminders of when you were in active addiction. Again, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. Don’t try to look for hidden meanings in what I write either. I mean exactly what I am typing. Take it for what it is.
So, I touched on this for a second, but here is another point I want to make clear. STOP EXPLAINING YOURSELF. This is also selfishness. We, as humans, feel that we need to explain what is going on every time someone asks. We feel that all of our means need to be justified – they don’t. We can do or refuse to do, say NO, and leave it at that.
Seriously. Don’t do it. The only thing that matters is that you are choosing to change your life for YOU. You are entitled to do this, I swear. If this makes you selfish, then so be it. Be the biggest, most selfish person you have ever met because if you don’t, you will just end up back where you don’t want to be. If someone is truly in your corner, and really cares about you, they will be on board for this and won’t consider your behavior selfish. The only ones calling you selfish, inconsiderate, and all of those other negative words that are used by people, are the ones that want to try to discourage you from doing good or better than them.
I guess what this all boils down to is to stop allowing people the ability to dictate to you who you are and how you are acting. Who are these people to tell you that you are selfish for wanting a better life? I mean, if my wanting to be happy, to be a better parent, to be successful, and just being an all around badass is selfish – then buy me the shirt, mug, and bumper sticker. I will attach #selfish to everything I post for the rest of my life because I will be damned if I will ever go back to being the mindless zombie that I was when I allowed a substance to control me.
I have come to accept that my real family (the chosen, as well as the blood) and friends will accept me through this process. They will understand that I am not being selfish in a negative way and that I am simply turning my life around and relearning how to be human. The ones who aren’t on my team, are my haters as they are sitting on the sidelines, trying to discourage my comeback. Screw them. I don’t need people like that in my life and neither do you.
Yes, it is scary at first, but once you see how freeing and wonderful recovery really is, you won’t understand why you weren’t selfish from the get-go.
Stay Selfish Fam