When you were an active drug addict or alcoholic, the life you lived was far from normal. You may have cut ties with people and activities that were important to you so that you could continue to obsessively pursue your drug of choice. You may have stolen money or possessions from people you cared about. You may have had legal problems or been unable to hold a job. Much of what you did was done in secrecy, hiding from others and lying to them. In recovery from substance use you have put a lot of the craziness behind you. It’s a brand new life. Yet on some level, you still feel like you are different than other people. You have to continually make sobriety a priority in your life and you may wish you could just be normal.
How the Past Affects Today
Choosing to get sober is a huge step in the right direction, but there is probably some work to be done to put your life in some kind of order. There may be many ways in which things you did in the past seem to be hanging over your head. Family members or acquaintances may still think of you as an addict or a criminal or a failure in spite of the efforts you are making to make better choices. Reminders of the past may be everywhere. On the way home from work you may pass a bar you used to frequent. You may randomly run into drug dealers that you habitually mingled with in the past. Even though you’re trying to live a normal, sober life, you are still often reminded of where you came from and what you could easily go back to. That life of active addiction is far from normal.
Danger of Comparisons
You may look at the lives other people lead and compare yourself to them. In particular, you envy people who never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, and you may feel that somehow your life always comes up short. You know that a lot of the problems you currently have may have been caused by addiction, such as job or money problems. You compare your life to people who never suffered from addiction and wish you could be normal. The problem is that you are comparing your insides with other people’s outsides. You look at people who have good jobs, a lot of fancy possessions and a seemingly happy marriage and you think they have perfect, normal lives. Things aren’t always as they appear. People often pretend to be something they are not, and sooner or later everyone has problems. Someone who has a big house and fancy cars may have major health problems, an unhappy marriage or be on the verge of bankruptcy. If you compare the superficial success of others with your life, you are missing the point that no one has a perfect life and that there really is no such thing as normal.
Progress and Acceptance
It would be great if putting down drugs and alcohol meant that life would easily fall into place now and you would get whatever you wanted going forward. Life doesn’t work that way and it isn’t always fair. Recovery is an ongoing journey. You won’t be able to completely walk away from the past, and having a “normal” life may never come as easily for you as it seems to for other people. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a rich, fulfilling life. However you define a “normal” life, there may be no such thing. Trust that you are making progress toward a much better life than you ever would have had if you had continued to use and abuse alcohol and drugs. Practice acceptance of people, places and things that you can’t change. You deserve credit for the efforts you are making toward making better choices. You are exactly where you are supposed to be today and you are getting better at handling anything that might happen. That may be as close to normal as it ever gets for anyone, not just those in recovery.