Why Choosing a Normal Life After Addiction Could Be the Wrong Choice

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by Paul Garrigan

“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
Morpheus – The Matrix

Why Can’t I Just Be Normal?

A question that would usually pop into my mind when remorseful due to stupid stuff I’d done while drunk was – ‘why can’t I just be normal like everyone else?’ As my situation deteriorated, due to my insatiable enthusiasm for alcohol, the life of a ‘normal person’ began to seem increasingly attractive.

So, I started to make serious attempts at living what I considered to be a normal life – I quit drinking, bought a microwave, bought a futon, exercised every day, got a nice girlfriend, went to college, and got a good job. Acting normal seemed to work for a while until the nagging question ‘what is the point?’ caused that normal world to implode.

I now see that the reason I couldn’t live a ‘normal life’ was I’d already realised, even before I started drinking, the things society told me should be enough to satisfy me weren’t going to be enough to satisfy me. There was never anything actually wrong with this realisation – in fact, it is the same realisation that drove people like the Buddha to discover a path to true happiness. It was not my disillusionment with ‘normal living’ that was the problem – it was what I did with this disillusionment that was the problem.

Do You Really Want to Be Normal?

Some people are perfectly happy to embrace a conventional life. For them, a secure job, a retirement plan, a nice home, and friends coming around for dinner occasionally is enough. There is nothing wrong with this being enough, the problem is when you have already decided this is not going to be enough and you try to make it enough.

It is often our dissatisfaction with ‘normal living’ that makes alcohol or drugs such an attractive proposition. It can create an urge to escape reality which then leads to a great deal of suffering. Once we have made the decision to escape the substance abuse, it can be tempting to view our sense of dissatisfaction with life as the enemy –a quirk in our brain that is preventing us from ‘getting with the program’. But is this really true? Is it possible this sense of dissatisfaction is pointing us towards the only thing that will allow us to feel fully fulfilled and happy?

The Life You Were Meant to Live

The Life You Were Meant to Live

The Unusual Life You Are Meant to Live

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
Abraham Maslow

So what could it be that this sense of dissatisfaction is telling us?

In my own case, this inner disquiet was due to not feeling like I knew who I was – I was living a lie. I felt like a stranger to myself, and when I tried to make my life fit in with my thoughts about how ‘I should be’, it only made me feel worse.

None of us are special, but we are all unique. There will never be anyone exactly like you born again in this universe – you are a one off. It is only through allowing yourself to blossom that you will begin to feel fulfilled. For this process to begin, you need to be willing to let go of any thoughts you have about who you are.

The problem with allowing thoughts dictate who we are is that they are always going to be at least partially wrong. Thoughts are just stories we use to help us make sense of the world – living our life from these stories is mistaking the map for the territory. You are part of reality, so you need to drop the stories about yourself to discover your true self.

The thoughts we have about ourselves can prevent us from blossoming – we end up putting limits on ourselves that don’t exist in reality (e.g. ‘I’m too old for that’, ‘I’m not clever enough’, ‘I’m not very adventurous’, ‘I’m lazy’, or ‘it sounds too risky’). These thoughts can mean we end up settling for a life where we feel dissatisfied until we end up saying ‘what is the point?’

“Your own self is your ultimate teacher. The outer teacher is merely a milestone. It is only your inner teacher, that will walk with you to the goal, for he/she is the goal.”

Further reading – How to Find Your Life Purpose