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Making Positive Choices in Addiction Recovery

by Jeffrey Juergens ❘  

Making the Right Choice

I like the word “choose.” Each day, we all wake up and will have hundreds of choices to make. For instance, you can be driving and someone cuts you off. You have a choice of how to respond. You can scream at them or you can ignore it and take a deep breath.

Or maybe you run into an old using buddy and he invites you to stop by his place. You can choose to go and risk your recovery or you can choose to say “no thanks” and walk toward your own goals and health.

You can be the master of your emotions, if you choose.

We’ve all had situations that didn’t go well and later on we’ll think about how we could have handled them better. This is choice at work.

With addiction, you will have many choices. Will you choose to avoid people, places and things that are risky for you? Or will you choose to risk it and possibly relapse?

You can choose to respond with dignity.

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How to Choose Dignity

Dignity is defined as “a way of appearing or behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control; the quality of being worthy of honor or respect.”

When faced with tough choices, you can choose dignity over addiction by remaining on the path to recovery. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this choice put me at risk of relapse, jail, a relationship break, or even death?
  • Will this choice allow me to live with respect and honor myself?
  • Will this choice cause me to lose self-control?

Smile in the Face of Addiction

For twenty-five years, I have worked with people suffering with addictions and mental illness. Notice how the word “people” comes before addiction and mental illness. It is important to stress that each person is, first and foremost, just that—a person.

On many occasions, people asked me why I smiled so much. They wondered how I could be so happy and thought I had no problems in life because I smiled a lot. But I smiled on purpose. I smiled on days when I didn’t feel like smiling. I smiled when I had a lot of problems on my mind. I even smiled when I was feeling grief from the death of a friend or family member.

I made the choice to smile.

Why did I smile? I smiled because I believed that each person I counseled deserved to be smiled upon—they were a person of dignity. No matter what they had done in their past, they were still a human being who had the potential to make better choices today than yesterday.

One of the biggest compliments I ever got was from a patient who told me:

You know, Brian, I come in here feeling rotten about myself. I’ve let down my friends and family. I’ve lied to them, told them I would change my ways, and then I’d use drugs again and let them down. People look down on me everywhere I go. But when I see you, you smile at me and I feel good about myself, like there is hope for me. And I feel better about myself when I leave because someone believes in me, and now maybe I can believe in myself.

Believe Your Own Self-Worth

Maybe you will make the choice to enter rehab, go to a support group or apply for a job. You can choose to go back to school, eat healthier or be a better family member. The beauty of it is that even if you slip up, your next good choice is right in front of you.


  • The past is gone – You can’t go back into it, but you can learn from it and make a better choice today.
  • The future is not here yet – Your future is a result of the choices you make in the present, so focus on your choices today.
  • The present is your power – It is where you can make powerful choices that create the rest of your life.

It is very easy to get into the habit of calling yourself an addict. For some, that may be okay and work for them. But for me, I think it is a limiting term.

When you call yourself an addict, that tends to define who you are. But, you are much more than your addiction.

Do you remember a time when you had dreams? Perhaps you dropped your dreams because you thought, “Addicts can’t do that. It’s out of reach.” I would like to tell you that your dreams are not out of reach, they are very possible. Today truly is a new day, a new beginning. No matter what you’ve done, there is hope for you. You can find your dignity again. But nobody can make you do it—it’s up to you to choose.


About the Author: Brian Carberg, LPC, NCC, BCPC

Brian Carberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private counseling practice in Connecticut. He is a National Certified Counselor, a Board Certified Professional Counselor in the American Psychotherapy Association, and holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He has been assisting people in their healing journeys since 1990, serving as a counselor and supervisor in various Mental Health and Addiction programs. For ten years he worked as a Substance Abuse Counselor and Supervisor in an outpatient treatment program for people addicted to heroin and other opiates. In his current private counseling practice, he thoroughly enjoys assisting clients in all stages of recovery from various addictions. He believes today can be the start of the life you want, if you are willing to do the work.

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