Want or Need—Is There a Difference?

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“The average person, over time, has a tendency to stop pursuing new goals. We believe that dreaming, creativity, and inspiration are for the young, forgetting that we always have life ahead of us. We feel that if we were going to arrive, we should have done so already. At some point, there is a stage in our lives where we accept the situation, believing that no matter where we are, this is as good as it gets. Very little time is spent cultivating new skill sets, tools, or data. If we are to achieve lasting sobriety, we need to be willing to learn and apply new information. We can’t want something new and then expect it to just appear. That is not going to happen.

If we do decide we want to learn something new, a vehicle will show up to get us moving in that direction. The solution doesn’t simply appear. What appears is a tool to help us achieve the solution. For addicts, this is not great news. We want it, and we want it now. We have little tolerance for waiting. We typically want to put the minimum amount of effort into acquiring something new, and we certainly don’t want to have to be uncomfortable, at least not for long. We have spent most of our time going for what’s easy and comfortable, for what we think we want rather than what we actually need. Our efforts have been half-hearted at best and completely shallow and self-seeking at worst.

Unless we can sustain some discomfort, we are destined for a life of unhealthy dependency. Not just dependency on drugs. All manner of addiction falls into this category. Addiction is the unhealthy need to rely on something outside of us to make us feel right on the inside. We imagine we will be free if we can just have the drink, but it never produces the freedom we want. More often than not, it produces unwanted outcomes.

There are two paths that lie in front of us. Path One is familiar. It is more of the same, getting high for a few moments of delusional freedom. Path Two is unfamiliar. It involves deciding to do things differently. This requires actual time spent consciously working on yourself. When we work on ourself from the inside out, we acquire a lifetime of freedom. Seems like an easy choice, doesn’t it?

But it’s not for an addict. The problem is that we are petrified. We’re scared of who is living inside us without our alcohol and drugs. Who would we be? We feel our body would explode into a million pieces if we didn’t get our fix. It’s this belief (limiting as it is) that is real for us. We believe it, and so it is! It will continue to be this way until we acquire a measure of trust. Until we make the shift at a subconscious level, we will hold steadfast to this perceived belief. We don’t know how to live in the real world. We never look at what we have the opportunity to do, to be, or to say—so that we can start to achieve our dreams.

Let’s assume we are feeling stuck in our sobriety. Maybe a little bored or overly frustrated. Whatever it is, there is a way to see and solve it, but only if we want. The answer will arrive. It might not be the answer we prefer, but nonetheless, it’s the answer. We know it’s the answer because it’s what has shown up. Here is what often happens. The answer arrives, and we don’t like it, so somehow we think this is an excuse to not do anything except complain and blame. The answer is the answer! Just because we don’t like it has nothing to do with it. We had a question. We got an answer—one we didn’t like—and somehow we decided that we never got an answer or that the answer we got was wrong.

Can we give the answer a try? No, we don’t want to, because then we might be out of our comfort zone. We don’t want that; we can’t bear that. Even the thought of being in discomfort makes us want to drink. And still, the answer remains the answer. We want the universe to give us a green light to behave any way we choose, with no repercussions for our actions. The universe simply does not work this way. The imbalance would be too great. So the universe gives us what we need to keep life balanced, not what we want so we can go on destroying.

The goal is to see the point at which we consistently give up on achieving our sobriety. It is generally the same threshold. When we get there, we quit every time. Where have we cut our vision short because we were not willing to endure some discomfort? Was it the drive past the liquor store, judgment of a twelve-step program, or contempt for a therapist? Was the solution as simple as making a phone call to a trusted friend and asking for help? Whatever the conditions were, we will repeat the scenario until we become aware of where we consistently quit when we choose what we want instead of what we need.”

(Excerpt pages 38-39) Sober Identity: Tools for Reprogramming the Addictive Mind

Lisa Neumann is a certified recovery life skills coach, author, and recovered addict.

No Responses to “Want or Need—Is There a Difference?

  • Beautiful. This is me 100%. Just what i needed to read. I need things right now, not later, not in a few months or years, but now. I need to keep working harder because sometimes I feel like i’m not doing enough and life is passing me by. Thank you, dearest friend, you talk to me in every post.

    • I, too, “get” to remember these principles for myself. My subconscious is quick to bring me back to old thought patterns that do not serve me. It is nice we journey together.

  • WOW – this statement hit home with me: “We don’t know how to live in the real world. We never look at what we have the opportunity to do, to be, or to say—so that we can start to achieve our dreams.” Thank you. It is very helpful to have someone with so much experience, not to mention being a recovered addict yourself. You’re walking the walk and talking the talk. I read your blog a lot but need to really take a closer look each time because it speaks to me. Thank you.

    • Mystery Girl, Thank you for commenting. And especially thanks for reading. I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. I tend to attract thinkers and doers to my site. There is nothing quick fix happening here. Sadly many to not stick around because they are looking for an easier way to function in life. Before we can change any behavior we get to entertain the idea that another way is possible. I spent many years re-programming my approach to life. I had to really. If I didn’t I was going to drink again. This I could not—would not—let happen. Do the work MG and I promise you, your life will change. You have a friend in me. You made my day. with love, Lisa

  • Just read this post after I wrote today’s, and there are some similar themes, I love when we are in sync! I remember reading this when I read Sober Identity, loved it then, love it now!

  • Cuts me right to the core!

  • This is great, Lisa, especially the part about not liking the answers that come along–like that old joke about the man trapped in his house by a flood, refusing all offers of help because he’s waiting for God to save him. A good lesson for me to hear just now!

    • My goodness, I read this stuff and actually forget I wrote the book. I too can manage to conveniently overlook my principles. Seems I am a student for life and I’m okay with that. Thanks for coming by. Lisa

  • bobmireau
    12 years ago

    Thank you Lisa for the reminder that in the early years of my life ideas like this kept me drinking Many times the answers are not what I want but are what I need Again thanks or the reminder

    • It is so fun having you over here. I love when my world gets bigger. You have been a great sober buddy for me. Thank you!

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