Where do we learn most of our behaviors? The obvious answers are family members, TV, and the people we surround ourselves with. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all influenced by our environment. From the moment we are born, we unconsciously learn about the world through our surroundings, from language to social norms, but it seems many never question the origins of their behaviors. Have you ever thought about why you love a certain food or why your favorite sports team is your favorite? Have you ever thought about why you drive a certain way to school or participate in family traditions? Think about music and movie influences, your hobbies, and your political views. These answers may seem trivial, but when it comes to prominent behaviors in our lives, such as drinking or using, questioning intention can mean the difference between a life of joy and a life of struggle. Intention is the reason for doing something. It’s the meaning behind our words and our actions. When it comes to addiction, acknowledging intention can reveal the reasons we use and drink to unlock the doorway to freedom. But what happens if someone struggles with substance abuse, and those behaviors are never called into question? Many people drink and think nothing of it. And many people use but don’t feel they use to excess. If we don’t take the time to analyze our behaviors, we have no way to gauge the good, the bad, and the dangerous intentions.
What’s My Intention?
The concept of intention can be tricky, especially from the perspective of the addict. They have worked hard to create a rationalization for their behaviors, so assessing true intention, especially before treatment, can be difficult. Let’s look at a few examples. LaShawn loves wine. She goes to wine tastings once a week and never has more than one glass with dinner on the weekends. She enjoys going to the events, meeting new people, and learning how to better identify the components of Reds. She genuinely loves the taste and the process of making wine from start to finish. CJ loves beer. When he’s had a bad day at work, which is 3-4 days a week, he comes home and cracks open a beer, any beer he can find in the fridge. He doesn’t care about IPAs versus Belgian Whites. He just wants a drink. When he gets home, he wants the day to melt away. Do LaShawn and CJ have the same intentions? It seems LaShawn wants to learn about wine and limits her intake. It seems CJ wants to drink to release his bad day. When looking at CJ’s life, it’s clear he wants to ignore his feelings and release the stress from his body, but when we use a substance to mask our feelings, we are, in fact, abusing the said substance. Their intentions are clearly different. These examples illustrate why honesty about intention is integral to health and healing. If we are using a substance for the sole purpose to change our mood, we need to dig deeper into our intention and ask why. The next step may be asking for help.
The Road to Hell After Recovery
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but when it comes to our lives, good intentions may not be enough. Even after treatment, we aren’t in the clear. A recovering alcoholic can head to the bar for a birthday party with no intention of drinking, but is this action matching their recovery plan? A recovering addict can intend to stay clean around friends who use, but is that the right move to remain on their path of staying clean? It’s easy to rationalize behavior, but it’s hard to acknowledge those behaviors through the lens of intention. Why would a recovering alcoholic need to go to a bar? If they wanted to see friends, friends that support their sober lifestyle, surely they could meet at another location. The alcoholic could also choose to see their friend another time instead of putting themselves in that atmosphere. How about the addicts that fought so hard to get clean, setting themselves up to fail by being in a situation where drugs are available? Should the addict be around the group they used with for so long?
Stop and Ask “Why?”
Analyzing intention forces a person to stop and ask, “why am I doing this thing? An alcoholic knows to stay away from the bar, just as the addict knows to stay away from drugs. They know what they should and shouldn’t do, but sometimes there is more emotional work that needs attention And that’s the key–when it comes to intention, only the one suffering knows their reasons. But if those intentions start leading back to addictive behaviors, it’s time to reach out for help. Questioning why we do things is an integral component to self-actualization and essential to recovery. If you can’t trust the voice inside your head to make the right choice and is leading you to use or drink, reach out to someone who can help. If you are unwilling to call those behaviors into question, or are struggling to make healthy choices, it may be time for external support.
Leaning into honesty when it comes to intention can be difficult, even painful. If you or an adolescent you know is struggling with addiction of any kind, call Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today. We will find the treatment options that fit your specific struggles and give you the freedom and support you need to get back on track. Don’t rationalize yourself out of help. Call today: (662) 478-9463.