Choice and Change in Addiction Recovery

There is a common belief in many cultures that human beings have been given free will in determining their lives. On one hand, being able to make our own decisions and choose our own fate is what has allowed our world to become what it is, for better or for worse. On the other hand, free will is like the proverbial double-edged sword. Sometimes, too much freedom may not be such a good thing.

The Compulsive Nature of Addiction

When it comes to addiction, we have no choice. Many, if not most, of our actions are governed by the desire to find that next fix, next drink, or next behavior which is the only thing that can satisfy the insatiable craving we have.

In my active addiction, I did many things that demonstrated that my actions were guided by selfishness and impulsivity. I did not think. I just acted. Looking back on those days, I simply have to shake my head and say, “What was I thinking?” But then again, I wasn’t. Once in addiction recovery, I was filled with grief and remorse over my misdeeds. Fortunately, with the guidance of a 12-Step sponsor and professional counseling, I was able to come to terms with my past.

Making the Right Choice in Recovery

The beautiful thing is that once I began to work a recovery program, I came to realize that I had a choice. It’s called a conscience. By having a sense of clarity and healthy perspective, I can now make decisions that are based on clean, sober thinking.

All this is not to say that I do not “take my will back” from time to time. The main difference is that when I do this, I know it. And boy do I. It is through this inner self-knowing that I am able to refrain from acting out in ways that can be detrimental to me or someone else.

Now don’t get me wrong. Having free will can be a beautiful thing. I rejoice in the knowledge that I have a choice today. It is truly liberating. It is also a pleasure to know that I do not have to go around looking over my shoulder all the time. I don’t have to lie to cover up for the wrongs I have done. When I mess up, I can admit it.

So, yes. I have a choice. And so do you. Once you are able to clear yourself of all the baggage that has weighed you down, you will experience a phenomenal sense of freedom. Freedom of choice.

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, May 21). Choice and Change in Addiction Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Alison Smela
May, 23 2012 at 6:41 am

I couldn't agree more with what you've shared here. I've been sober from alcohol for over ten years and recovered from anorexia for almost four. When asked what is one word I'd use to describe my recovery I respond by saying, FREEDOM. I'm free from the obsessive thinking. I'm free from the insidious cycle of lies, fear, shame, guilt, remorse and pain (emotional as well as physical). I'm free to make better choices on how to live my life today because of a much deeper connection to my conscience. It is, quite simply, a gift I get to unwrap every day. (

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 27 2012 at 2:43 pm

That's amazing Alison. Recovery is the best gift one can receive and which can never truly be repaid.

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