I’ve heard addiction described as (in part) the desire to be somewhere else—whether that’s literally a different place or a different emotional state.
This passage from the book Boundaries and Protection by Pixie Lighthouse really stuck with me: “The desire to be somewhere else is the phenomenon of craving that addicts report feeling beholden to…Perhaps we think that in an altered state we have the ability to cope with the impossible obstacles. Unfortunately, the opposite usually becomes true. This is because not wanting to be here weakens our relationship to reality and to our spirits.”
I’m over six years sober and have built a beautiful life. There are many things I love and care about, and that I’m happy doing. Still, contending with the feeling that I need to be somewhere else is an ongoing process for me. This doesn’t mean I’m doomed. It means that part of my healing in recovery is to practice presence. Everything in recovery takes time; our task is not to beat ourselves up for not being perfect, but to find joy in the process.
For me, a huge part of learning to be present has been meditation. When I’m doing so regularly, I notice when my attention is elsewhere much more quickly. Becoming aware that you’re not being present is a huge step, because it allows you to bring yourself back to the moment. You can’t change something if you don’t notice it’s happening.
My therapist once pointed out that once I get the thing I want, the target changes; the thing I thought would bring me ultimate happiness is just something I have now, so I strive for a new thing I think will bring ultimate happiness. She mentioned that there are benefits to this. It’s unlikely I’ll grow complacent, because I’m always reaching for new goals. Goals are a great place to put energy in recovery.
But it’s also important to pause sometimes and celebrate your progress—and to realize that feelings are always changing. No one thing will bring you happiness forever, and nothing external controls your emotions.
Of course, circumstances and relationships have an impact on our moods, but ultimately we are responsible for our own feelings. This can be terrifying to realize, but it’s also empowering.
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 find peace and internal strength in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.