The Art of Finding Meaning in Life after Addiction

During my years as a drunk there was a struggle to find a meaning to life; this search intensified as alcohol turned from a friend into a captor. I looked everywhere convinced that that some magical answer could sort me out; a few words found in a book or song that would make things better. It wasn’t until years later that I found that the meaning of life was about doing and not about words.

A Monk Points to the Meaning of Life after Addiction

It was a Buddhist monk called Hans who eventually pointed me towards my path in life. He explained that the reason for my alcohol abuse was that I had no direction; he saw that my life had no meaning for me. He amazed me by claiming that it was hardly surprising that I had fallen into the trap of abusing alcohol. When life has no real meaning then of course I’ll take my comforts where I can. There did not seem to be any other alternative and this is why I stuck with it long after it stopped working. Even though it was killing me I stayed with it because a life without meaning is so unrewarding. Phra Hans promised me that if I got sober I’d find my path and life would have meaning for me – he was right.

I got sober and my life was better, but for a while I continued to search for a path. I expected it to appear in my life with a huge bang; a ‘dah-dah’ moment that would be unmistakable. I fantacised that this spiritual journey was going to take me to all types of amazing realisations. I sort of expected life to become full of magical events; all very grandiose and self-important. I didn’t know that the path was to be found in the simple; it took me a while to realise that I was already on the path.

My life now has meaning and purpose but this doesn’t mean that it is perfect. It is so much better than how it once was but it is a process and the process is far from finished. I sometimes worry that things aren’t happening fast enough. I have to remind myself that being on the right path is enough; there is no need to rush. Life is always about the journey and never the destination.

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11 thoughts on “The Art of Finding Meaning in Life after Addiction

  1. Thank you Bob. I do think it is important because a lot of us feel completely lost when we get sober for the first time. In the past this feeling meant that my mind would begin thinking about the point of it all – dangerous thinking that would take me back to the bottle. I do believe that there is a path for us and we will find it if we stay sober. I found my path and now recovery is effortless.

    1. Hi Cat, one of the things that I admire about Asian culture is that they seem to be more focused on the process rather than the actual goal. I think in the west we are more goal orientated and this is our loss.

  2. Paul, ‘more focused on the process rather than the actual goal’… which reminds me… I MUST get back to trying out mindfulness meditation. I even brought a book on the subject for this week (my time away from BKK) as I want to continue on from your article at WLT. It’s one from Jon Kabat-Zinn. I have the audio on my iPhone. I have the book. I just need to get the lead out.

    Hmmm…. maybe I should rope you in to help? 😀

  3. Hi Cat, it isn’t always easy. I often find that the times when I could most benefit from mindfulness are the times when I’m least likely to use it. It is a bit frustrating because I’m 100% convinced that it works; I’ve seen it work in my life many times. I am getting better though and this is a lifetime practice.

    I think that it is good to have some type of formal daily meditation practice. This was once described to be as being like charging the battery that we can later use to be mindful. Meditation is like training and daily life is the actual event. I try to do about 40 minutes a day formal meditation but even ten minutes would be good – the important thing is to do this regularly.

  4. Good post Paul!

    Being on or off the right track are sometimes just millimeters apart from each other and one persons right track may not be the other persons.

    Keep it up, everybody seems to have some kind of addiction, good or bad, just make the most out of journey.

    1. You talk a lot of sense Camille. I also agree that most people have some form of addiction. Even if it is only addiction to our views and opinions these are things that can still make life less enjoyable.

  5. Thanks, Paul. In the US it feels like we don’t live in a culture where talking about life’s meaning is really welcome — we’re all advertising and ironic distance. It’s so refreshing to hear it talked about so directly and simply. Much appreciated.

  6. I am trying to change my life after addiction. I am currently starting over again rebuilding my life after addiction ruined my life. It took two years after I got sober, just last week, for me to be able to come to terms with everything I lost and be willing and able to make a commitment to rebuild from scratch. I don’t know how to do it yet, I am scared to be honest with you and not having any friends still doesn’t make it any easier. (If you want to read about how it is going, I am writing a blog about it at )

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