Thoughts on Winning the War Against Your Addiction
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general, military strategist, philosopher, author of he Art of War (born c. 500 B.C.)
Many of us view addiction as the enemy, and our struggles against addiction amount to nothing less than all-out war. In a way, this isn’t a bad way to look at addiction, since it can occur to anyone at any time without discrimination and can be so devastating to the individual as well as to others in close contact with the person such as family and friends. Addiction, like war, can lay waste to a person’s health, family and other relationships, finances, social stature, mental health and more.
If addiction is something to fight against, how can we win the war against it? Taking a cue from the philosophy of Sun Tzu is wholly appropriate here. A masterful strategist in the military arena, Sun Tzu knew that soldiers who marched off into battle completely unprepared but hoping to win were doomed to defeat. He also taught that the belief that one can win is critical to actually winning – before going into battle.
We can use the same principle when we view our efforts to overcome addiction. While it’s true that we need to understand the disease process of addiction and learn how to recognize triggers and cravings and build up a toolkit of strategies to employ to keep ourselves from falling back into our addictive behaviors, we will be more likely to succeed if we tell ourselves – and believe it – that we can, indeed, win the war against addiction.
No, we won’t ever be cured. There is no cure for addiction. But this doesn’t mean that we will lose the war against addiction. On the contrary, as long as we continue to do the work that’s required for effective recovery, we have already won. But we must keep on doing the work in order for our victorious efforts to continue.
How does believing that we’ll win the fight against our addiction help in our daily struggles to overcome the disease? It’s a simple matter, really. Envisioning success in our goal of abstinence is the key to actually being able to achieve sobriety milestones – and long-lasting, effective recovery. It isn’t wishing makes it so but working to make it so. That’s the bottom line.
Why, then, do so many of us have such a hard time believing what others tell us that we can overcome our addiction, that we have it within our power to do so? It all stems from a core of diminished self-beliefs that we’ve likely carried with us for some time, or have begun to believe over the course of our addictive past. It doesn’t however, mean that, lacking the belief that we can win the war against our addiction that we can’t learn how to believe in our strengths and ability to do so. We can. We learn this by talking things over with our counselor, with our sponsor, with our fellow 12-step group members, and by enlisting the support of our loved ones and friends.
We do need to give ourselves time to start believing in ourselves again. But every day that we work our recovery with all that we have, is another day that we move just that much closer to realizing that we are winners – we can win the war against our addiction.