Sobriety is abstaining from the object of your addiction; recovery is building a new way to live that you actually love. That requires a broad and deep understanding of what happened to you. We were all born happy, innocent, and sweet. Then we had a childhood, in which we were given some combination of three things: love (getting the good stuff), neglect (not getting the good stuff), and abuse (getting the bad stuff). If the mix we get isn’t good enough, we run into trouble later. What we got felt bad, so we felt like we were bad. Then we grew up believing it and, for a while, addiction helped with the pain.
Depression and addiction usually come from trauma. My own clinical perspective is that addiction is not a disease or a character defect; it’s a response to what happened to you. Your conscious mind might know that already, but if you still feel bad about yourself, then the message hasn’t gotten down deep enough yet. Therapy deepens it, until there’s a shift from depression to sadness. The difference is: unlike sadness, depression includes feelings of worthlessness—which come from the persistent belief that your very self is a bad person. The sad person no longer believes this, so the self-hatred is over. The fog of numbness and the smoke of pain are cleared by the new breeze of forgiveness, so you can see clearly enough to mourn what has been lost, find what’s really wrong, and locate new sources of love and joy. The question is not, why can’t I stop using? It’s what am I avoiding? As an addiction therapist, I help people to find it, face it, and replace it.
A person coping with an addiction can’t be expected to just quit, without having plenty of new sources of enjoyment—and meaning—to put where the cycle of addiction used to be. Nobody wants to get sober just to return to the same old difficult life, minus the thing that used to make it seem bearable. Those familiar stressors, wounds, and problems have to be addressed directly, one by one, and new good things have to be installed, deliberately and sustainably. I’ve seen this process work for person after person. My approach is compatible with 12 Step, but differs from and supports it in important ways. See if it’s right for you.