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Addiction to Recovery: Fight Fire with Awareness

June 27, 2016

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– By Captain Michael Morse

In the midst of addiction, overwhelming feelings of helplessness seem to come from nowhere.

The cravings are just there, the need for escape impossible to deny. As part of addiction, these urges can rule someone’s life. People give in to addictions, not because they are weak of will or genetically destined to be forever burdened, rather, they simply lack the training to talk themselves out of it.

What Do Training and Learning Have to Do with It?

As a firefighter I often found myself in life-and-death situations. Had I lacked proper training, those moments would have been my undoing. Instead, I used the tools that came with the training to keep things in perspective. Knowing when a room was about to flash gave me the luxury of going in deeper without the debilitating fear of death. That fear is always ready to take up residence in the absence of knowledge – which may be a good thing for survival when you don’t know your fire. However, the ability to understand the origins, behavior, chemical reactions and predictability of fires is not innate; it needs to be learned. Bringing a mind full of learned facts – and as time progresses, experience – into a firefight makes the outcome far more desirable than throwing water on a blaze from a distance, hoping it goes out.

Fortunately, few lay folks in their right minds would charge into a burning building expecting to put the fire out and come out alive. Firefighters do it all the time. We trust our instinct most of the time, depend on our training all of the time, and maybe we have an extra dose of belief that we will overcome whatever faces us down. We do this knowing that fire still plays a lot of wild cards – forces beyond our control that act irrationally, with disaster following right behind.
Someone caught up in an addiction might do well to take the firefighter approach against their substances. Like fire, addiction can be unpredictable to the uninitiated. But it has known patterns that someone can learn. To struggle against the power of addiction, a person should learn all they can about themselves, the nature of addiction, and the insidious chemistry of what it is they are addicted to. Forearmed, they can better engage that behavior and develop a good battle plan. They’re going to need it.

Having a Good Battle Plan

Happy therapist talking with a rehab group at therapy sessionThe first hundred times I attempted recovery were failures. My simple plan was “stop drinking alcoholic beverages.” With that plan, I didn’t have a chance. The best plans are, first, based on fact, and they use all information pertinent to the struggle ahead.

The sobriety attempt that stuck did so because I first admitted the enormity of the task, and perhaps more importantly, I recognized I probably needed help. Based on these two new acknowledgments, I created a three-pronged attack:


  1. Seek professional help. American Addiction Centers is a phone call away.
  2. Call Alcoholics Anonymous, find an AA meeting and go to it – that day.
  3. Admit to those closest to me the exact nature of my problem, candidly, honestly, and fearlessly.


The last part of the plan was the most difficult. No longer could I downplay my drinking, claim I was “tired,” or just merge into what everybody else was doing and hide. By letting the proverbial cat out of the bag, I closed the door to my own self-deception. Now, when I lied to myself, I had to lie to the people I trusted as well. They were not as easy to fool.
Not that having a plan makes it easy. The white knuckled journey into sobriety is far more difficult than generating a plan. It’s more about attacking the beast with all available weapons – it’s really the only way to give yourself a fighting chance.

Getting the Job Done

Consulting With Expert.Once we become more aware of how addiction has locked onto our weaknesses, not to mention our chemistries, we are armed to fight the proverbial fire. Feeling helpless, fearful, or intimidated by obstacles, such as a fully involved occupied house fire, is no way to overcome the problem. An emotional reaction to an undesirable situation seldom ends well.

By contrast, a clear head can have a profound effect on our thinking, and as a result, our feelings. Fear, hopelessness and failure are replaced with optimism, eagerness, and confidence. Armed with that, our chance of overcoming our biggest fears becomes simply a job that needs to be done. As firefighters seeking treatment, we often get sidetracked when we equate treatment with disempowerment, as if maybe the bottle or substance were our superpower. The many firefighters who have gone in and come out of treatment successfully have looked at it as having a job to do. They see themselves as finding the knowledge and the tools to do it. And this approach works.

It was definitely useful for me to think of my path to sobriety as  “getting the job done.” So for those who want put out the fires of addiction and get on with a substance-free life, it’s time to get to work!

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