When you live authentically, your behaviors align with your values. Often in active addiction, this is difficult to do, because the thing that matters most is drugs or alcohol. You also may not know what your values are when you’ve spent so much time and energy using substances.
Sobriety is a great opportunity to both identify your values and learn to live in alignment with them. Feeling true to who you are can be a catalyst for continued sobriety, as secrecy and shame are often part of the cycle of addiction.
SMART Recovery—a set of support groups for substance and behavioral addictions—has a toolbox for clarifying your values. It lists dozens of core values, and asks you to pick several that most resonate with you in the moment; “in the moment” is important, because values change as we grow.
The SMART toolbox also gives examples of goals you can set related to your values and ways to achieve them. For instance, if one of your values is “being emotionally stable,” it suggests a goal of controlling your temper and a method of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to meet that goal.
When I was a kid, until I hit mid-teenage years and started drinking, learning and reading were some of the most important parts of my life. I lost track of those parts of myself as a teenager and in my twenties as drinking overtook them. Writing this at five and a half years sober, I did the SMART toolbox and picked learning as one of my values. This feels like getting back to a core part of myself that has always been there, but got buried underneath addiction.
Living in a way that fits your values will feel true and good, but there’s another aspect to authenticity in recovery. Many people find that they can only embrace—or even discover—parts of themselves once they get sober. The writer Tawny Lara has talked about only being able to accept the term bisexual for herself after three years sober. With acceptance of that part of herself came a new community of people, which has opened up her life.
That’s another gift of authenticity: finding (or getting closer to) your people. When you are true to who you are, the people you attract will want to be close to you because of your true self, not a front. They are more likely to have similar interests and values, and to support you in continuing to become your full self.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you figure out who you are in sobriety. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.