Addiction and Identity Crisis
Getting out from under our addiction takes more than just getting rid of the drugs and alcohol. As addicts and alcoholics we also have to give up a large part of our identity. For so many years our lives have revolved around everything having to do with drugs and alcohol. The drugs and alcohol impacted the way we saw the world and also how we carried ourselves. When we give this up, we are left with a big hole in our identity. We will inevitably have to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?” In a lot of ways we are left with a real identity crisis. One of the most interesting yet hardest challenges for those of us new to recovery is to find a new identity for ourselves. Not the identity that our parents or friends want but an identity that is true to who we are deep down inside.
So what exactly is an identity?
In psychology the word identity literally refers to our self-image. This self-image or identity is constantly changing and adapting to our environment. There are multiple types of identities including:
- National Identity
- Gender Identity
- Social Identity
- Religious Identity
- Peer group Identity
- Class Identity
- Cultural Identity
- Professional Identity
Most of us incorporate multiple identities into our daily life. For instance we have our identity as an employee, a spouse and a friend. Identity is never a fixed self-image. Just think about your self-image as a teen and what it is now. Is it vastly different? How about now that your sober compared to when you were using?
The addict identity…
When we start using drugs we begin building an addict identity. This new identity is influenced usually by what kind of lifestyle we are living while using and drinking and also by the people we are using and drinking with. The addict identity involves different ideas, beliefs, motivations and behaviors such as:
- The idea that sober people are dull
- The priority is to get high or drunk
- A high tolerance for sexual promiscuity
- The belief that drug use makes us more creative
- Distrust of addiction professionals
- The belief that celebration should include getting drunk and high
- An us against them bond among groups of addicts
- An addict type of humor
- The belief that nonconformity and criminal activities are respectable
These are just a few of the ideas and beliefs of a generalized addict identity. So how do you gain a new identity and avoid an identity crisis now that you are in sobriety and no longer relate to your addict identity? Here are some ways to move past the addiction and identity crisis:
- Avoid hanging out with people who use and drink.
- Decide on the kind of person you want to be. Take the actions to develop that person.
- Learn new coping mechanisms and use them!
- Be honest and transparent. If you want to build a new identity you have to be honest with the one you have now.
- Help others. Helping others can impact your self-image. It is a great way to strengthen sobriety too.
- Experiment and try new things. These experiences will help develop and create your new identity because you are learning what you like.
- Work your steps and get a sponsor. Hang out with sober people and gain a new more positive self-image through surround yourself with positivity.
If your loved one is in need of alcohol or drug addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.