Making the Choice to Live

Conceptual image of female and male hands together

Contributor: Lyle Fried, CAP, ICADC, CHC, CEO at The Shores Treatment and Recovery

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

No one ever wakes up and says, “I think I’ll bring myself to the edge of death today. I think today is the day I’ll begin a terrible, destructive habit that will suck the life out of my family, friends and hold me prisoner.” Our lives are a series of choices. Small ones. If we’re not intentional and aware of the impact of our decisions, we can find ourselves in places we never meant to be.

So, how and where does addiction connect to our choices?

Are Some More Susceptible?

Clinically speaking, some of us are more susceptible to addictive behaviors than others. We may have been raised in a household where drugs, alcohol or a high level of dysfunction was the norm.

Others have experienced personal trauma, abuse, or other situations that could lend themselves to addictive behaviors. Still others are lonely, sick or filled with anxiety about their current situation. There are hundreds of scenarios, but at the core, why do we really make the choice to begin —or to continue— in behaviors that have the potential to destroy our lives?

The Root of Our Choices

Doctor and patientAddiction comes in many forms. Drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex, shopping, video games, or even relationships can turn into addictive behavior. At the very root, we are seeking a temporary solution, or a way of escape, from a feeling or an emptiness that we desperately want to fill.

At the base of human nature is the desire to feel good. We all want to experience our own personal sense of wellbeing. Addiction is the result of doing something (or using something) enough times until it forms patterns in our brain. Over time we’ve literally trained ourselves (or been trained during childhood) to reach for “this thing” to soothe or satisfy us.

In the case of drugs or alcohol, there are also physical withdrawal symptoms that further entangle us.

How Do We Turn it Around?

If bad habits and addictions are formed by choosing a destructive pattern repeatedly (until we do so on autopilot), then choosing life begins with the awareness that something has to change. When our choices actually alter our mental state, this can be more difficult. We can live for years or decades in a fog of denial, minimizing the effects of our addiction.

Change is difficult. With many addictions, like drugs, alcohol and even food, we need the help and support of others. There is power in coming together with those who not only share your struggle, but also offer a real example of hope. This is why support groups can be successful.

The First Choice

father and son together near the seasideWhenever we desire to make a change in our lives, the first choice, “the choice to live” is the most important. It is the catalyst or spark that begins our journey in a new direction.

How do we make the choice to live?

I believe a mental decision strengthens when there is a corresponding action to back it up. The decision to change, the choice to live a better life and turn things around, can feel powerful for a few minutes or even hours, until temptation or cravings come knocking on our door again. Dur-ing that moment of “choosing life” go ahead and stack the odds in your favor by putting feet to your decision.

A corresponding action could look like:

  • Call your pastor.
  • Reach out to a mentor or trusted family member.
  • Attend a support group.
  • If physical withdrawal symptoms are in your future (due to drug or alcohol dependence) make plans to check into a treatment center.

Life Is a Series of Choices

Bottom line, your life is a series of choices strung together. You can choose a destructive, death-producing path, or you can begin to choose life. Is it difficult? Yes. Change is often painful. But the results you can achieve and the quality of life you can experience, just by taking that first step are worth the temporary pain of change.

Right now, if you are reading these words and feel like they are speaking to your situation, may-be it’s time for some new, positive choices in your own life. Regardless of who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, nothing can disqualify you from choosing a better life. Are you ready?

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What did making the choice for life look like in your recovery? What/who has had the biggest impact on you, helping you to turn your life to make positive choices?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 7th, 2015
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