Defining Success After Addiction: What Does it Mean to You

success after addiction

I’ve been working in the addiction and rehabilitation community for many years now and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a bit if a misunderstanding about what it means to be “successful” in life after rehab.

When I was winning award after award from Chevrolet for bringing in highest ever car sales I was also abusing drugs and alcohol. I was one of the most decorated members of one of the biggest automotive magnates on the planet.

Sounds pretty successful, right?

But I was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol!

That doesn’t seem all that successful now does it?

My career was going great, though my addiction kept it teetering on a fine line with no stability or reliability at all.

I could lose everything and come crashing down in a heartbeat.

So with that in mind, what is the true definition of success?

My Thoughts on Success

I found a great definition for success that I’d like to share, quoted exactly as I found it:

Success (the opposite of failure) is the status of having achieved and accomplished an aim or objective.’”

What is often left out is that people tend to get a little shortsighted in their definition of success.  They feel that, as long as one aspect of their life is doing really well, then they are automatically successful. 

So from this perspective, one could think that because I was Chevrolet’s top salesperson that I was, “successful,” but I sure as heck didn’t feel successful. 

I felt on the verge of death half the time and too high or drunk to feel anything at all the other half of the time.

To truly be successful, one has to be successful in all different areas and aspects of life.  A human being has a lot of different parts to his or her life, including his or her own health and personal happiness.

But when they aren’t happy in a specific area—at work, home, or in their relationships with others—chances are they won’t feel very successful.

How Recovering Addicts Get a False Sense of Success

The reason why I put words to paper on this is because I wanted to clear the air on some false data that seems to be floating around on what it means to be successful when it comes to living in recovery from addiction. 

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Too often, people in recovery feel as though just the simple fact that they beat addiction makes them successful as individuals and in life.

This is crooked thinking at best.  True it is an absolutely monumental feat of greatness to beat addiction.

It is a victory. 

Not a lot of people achieve it. But that’s just what it is, a victory. 

There’s nothing I hate seeing more than an addict who goes through rehab, gets clean, beats addiction for good, then goes home and doesn’t really do anything with his or her life because he or she, “Beat addiction and that was successful enough.” 

Once you’re in recovery, it’s important to set new goals, without them your life may start to feel empty.

True success comes from being a powerhouse across all aspects of life, not just one or two. I have found that there is nothing that promotes a lifetime of sobriety more than working to be successful in all areas of life.  This is where true success and true happiness comes from.

Per Wickstrom
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One comment

  • John VanDerLaan

    Wow Per!

    What an awesome post!

    I love the fact that you are never satisfied with being successful at just one thing and you strive to be successful across all aspects of your life.

    Our readers can learn so much from you and I want to thank you for your awesome contribution!


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