How Stoicism Can Help Recovery

Most people think of stoicism as a kind of stony-faced endurance of life’s slings and arrows. In fact, stoicism is a subtle philosophical system and unlike most philosophical systems, stoicism is practical. While you shouldn’t rely on stoicism alone to stay in recovery, reading a little Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, or Seneca might give you a broader perspective on life in recovery.

The crux of stoicism is simple: you can’t always control what happens but you can control how you react to it. Everyone endures pain and loss, but how much you suffer from it depends on how you think about what happened. The stoics devised a variety of ways to reframe life’s challenges and setbacks to minimize suffering.

The first thing to do, according to Epictetus, is divide the world into things you can control and things you can’t control. Then do what you can about the things you can control and learn to let go of what you can’t control. For example, we mostly have control over our own actions, but we have little control over others’ actions or opinions. This may sound familiar because it is similar to the AA serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Distinguishing between what you can control and what you can’t is easier said than done. Much of what we used to think of as free will has evaporated as we have learned more about how the brain works. To Epictetus, one’s attitude toward drugs or alcohol might have seemed a matter of choice, but now we know that’s not how addiction works. Addiction is one of those maddening things inside your head but outside your control.

Once you acknowledge addiction is outside your control, however, you can focus on the things you can control. You can go to meetings, you can meet with a therapist, you can start to make healthy lifestyle changes. Even when you feel too depressed to get out of bed, you can at least sit up. Then, eventually, you can stand up. In this way, you gradually increase the number of things you have control over. You may never have control over your addiction, but if you focus on doing what you can control, you have a good chance of staying in recovery.

Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.