What kind of picture does your mind paint when someone tells you to picture an addict? Chances are it’s something closely related to what we see in movies or in the media. Maybe a skinny looking individual in some obscure, dark house surrounded by other druggies.

What about a drug addict? Maybe it’s a father figure abusing his family. Those are the stereotypes we see and hear about every day. The reality is that there is no true image of an addict. What stays true in all cases, however, is the price they pay for the choices they make. Some find their way back out of the hole. Others continue paying with their lives.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and what most people don’t realize is that it doesn’t always happen by choice. In fact, it is estimated that around 50% of addiction cases are hereditary. That means that almost half the time, the affected person didn’t decide to get into the habit of abusing substances. Instead, they were born more susceptible than others.

Furthermore, addiction doesn’t have a cure. It can only be treated. The term “cure” is widely misused when referring to recovery. The key is learning how to control your impulses.

In my recovery from drug addiction, there were many trials and tribulations. I learned many things about myself, and in a way, it was a journey of self-discovery. Every case is unique, but I believe that some of the tips I applied in my situation can be applied to all. Here are 5 things I learned on my path to recovery:

  1. Talk To Yourself

Before you write me off as crazy, just hear me out. When you go through drug addiction rehab, you hear a lot about the term triggers. Those are the situations, people or things that make you want to relapse and get high again. Believe me, there are lots. Stress and anxiety were two of my biggest triggers. Because stress affects the body in such a broad range of ways, it is considered to be one of the leading causes for relapse. I learned to control my stress and anxiety by literally talking to myself.

Any time I was challenged by negative emotions, I would go home and talk to myself. I would voice out my thoughts, saying everything that was going on in my head. By doing that, I was able to sort out my issues with a much clearer state of mind, instead of keeping them bottled up. They always say you shouldn’t keep anything bottled up, but they never said who you should express yourself to. I chose myself. I’ve turned it into a morning routine now. Every day I repeat to myself what I’m thankful for, what I’ve accomplished, and the great things I have in my life.

  1. Connect With Others, Or Rebuild Connections

Addiction is not a social disease, it’s a very lonely one. I became isolated from everyone I knew, and everything I was fond of. It was only after questions to ask those in recovery that I realized how much I missed the ones I had forgotten about. I needed to rebuild my relationships.

I wrote letters to old friends and family members, thanking them for being there for me. That show of appreciation motivated them to get back in touch with me. Not only that, but it made them understand that there was a new me. Someone who had become devoted to appreciating friends and family.

  1. Help The Cause

The concept of rehab only exists because we allow ourselves to be completely vulnerable in the hands of specialists. These professionals are the hand that reaches down underwater and pulls you up for a breath of fresh air. In support groups, one of the goals is to become a sponsor. As such, you help others that are going through the same tough times.

When I participated in these programs, I felt immense joy and fulfillment through giving back. It gave me a purpose and a calling, and made me feel like I was destined for something great. Volunteer programs are available everywhere, and they helped me in many ways.

  1. Exercising Is A Necessity

The recommendation to exercise for recovery is all over the internet. That’s because it’s an extremely beneficial tool to leaving addiction behind. You can use exercise to keep your mind busy, to gain self confidence, and battle stress.

Yet, that’s not the main reason why it helped me. The main reason is that I used exercise to replace my craving for artificial highs with natural ones. By natural highs, I’m referring to the effects of endorphins by exercising.

  1. Make It Fun

If someone spends too much time in a dark place, sometimes all they want to do is to be able to have fun again. Remembering the good times before addiction took hold, and how the smiles were natural instead of influenced by drugs or booze.

I never realized how much time I had wasted getting high until I removed the habit from my life. All of a sudden I was a blank slate with tons of free time. What I did, was that I invested energy in picking up new habits like yoga and meditation. I also joined book clubs and made basketball a passion in my life. Those are things I needed to be happy.

In the end, those are some of the most valuable tips I learned when coping with my addiction. My recovery has been one of the toughest moments in my life, but it has also been the most rewarding. People don’t often get second chances, and being able to take advantage of mine was something I will never forget.

What tips have you learned from your recovery? Please let me know in the comments!