We’ve created role models for ourselves since we were children, such as Disney princesses, athletes, singers, movie stars, and other famous characters and notable people. Sometimes our role models were people we knew, like our parents, older siblings, teachers, grandparents, and other important people in our lives. Though our role models may change as we get older, there are still perks to having role models as adults. Our parents can be our parenting role models or athletes can be our physical role models.
In terms of recovery, having someone as a recovery role model can be helpful. Not only does that person offer actionable advice from someone who’s been through addiction recovery, it also humanizes addiction. Addiction role models can help you to follow by example and offer hope that there is life outside of addiction.
Real Life Advice
When you have a role model who has been through addiction, you have someone to look up to who can offer some real life advice in terms of addiction. Not everyone can offer such first hand advice, so finding someone to do so is a real treasure. Anyone can look up to an actor for their charitable contributions or a teacher for their success in academics, but not everyone can relate to a person because of their struggles and ability to overcome. Even if your role model is someone you’ve never met, like a celebrity, you might still be able to gain advice from them. Celebrities like Russell Brand, Nikki Sixx, and Drew Barrymore have all lived with addiction and have written books about their journey. Either way, having a role model who has overcome addiction is a great way to gain an understanding of the disease and any advice on how to handle it.
Addiction Can Happen to Everyone
Having a role model in recovery is helpful because it shapes the idea that addiction can, and does, happen to all kinds of people. Drug and alcohol addiction is a public health crisis affecting people all over the globe. Yes, even people we look up to. No matter your age, region, socio economic standing, gender, race, background, etc., addiction doesn’t discriminate. For many addicts it’s helpful to see themselves in a different light and understand that they aren’t an addict because they are a bad person. When someone you look up to, who is successful in your eyes, and they have also struggled with addiction, that problem is normalized a bit. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone. If they can overcome, so can anyone else.
Addiction is often an ugly world. Those who struggle with it find themselves making decisions they’d never normally make. Any addict can tell you, guilt for those decisions is a process to overcome. Sometimes, that guilt and shame can push the cycle of relapse. Often the substance causing the addiction is a way to hide from that guilt, causing more guilt, and thus the cycle continues. However, sometimes there are things we can forgive in others that we can’t seem to forgive in ourselves. Having a role model who has dealt with addiction means seeing those flaws mirrored in someone we admire. If you can forgive them for bad decisions, relapse, and mistakes, you should be able to forgive yourself as well.
Following by Example
One of the defining characteristics of a role model is being able to follow their example. For a recovery role model, you can see their successes and follow that example. Many times a sponsor is given to you if you’re in a recovery program. That sponsor is there to provide support, mentorship, and to offer advice. They are also people who have experienced addiction and can offer real world advice. They prove that you can follow their example, and be successful in recovery. A role model can offer something similar. Even if that person isn’t someone you can have a close relationship with like you can a sponsor, you can still follow their example and look back at their journey when you need some extra motivation.
There is Life Outside of Addiction
Similarly, having a recovered addict as a role model in recovery can help to make recovery seem that much more attainable. Life in recovery isn’t always relapse, cravings, 12-step programs, and guilt. Life outside of addiction is also about making lasting relationships, finding happiness, learning how to cope, and realizing you always have to be on alert for triggers. Our role models show that you can obtain your one year, 10 year, or 25 year sobriety dates. They show that life outside of addiction can mean relapse, but that doesn’t mean you give up trying. Life may be different, you may seek alternatives to painkillers when you are sick, non-alcoholic beverages at social events, or the rush of exercise instead of drugs when you’re craving, but life is still livable and fulfilling. Sometimes it takes someone we admire living successfully outside of their addiction to believe it can be done.
Role models can be inspiring in so many different ways. For those who are recovering from an addiction of some kind, it can be helpful to find that person who inspires you with their path towards sobriety. You can gain advice from them, feel a sense of humanity in your addiction, forgive your flaws through theirs, follow by their example, and feel motivated in their success to live an amazing life outside of their addiction.