Recovery and a Life of Purpose

Live as if you were living a second time, and as though
you had acted wrongly the first time.
~ Viktor E. Frankl

Human beings have a deep need to be productive,
to feel fulfilled and have lives which are meaningful
to them. Often, the values that drove our lives before
getting sober no longer apply. For many, sobriety is the
first time values begin to matter. Basing a life on values
and a powerful purpose is exhilarating and can increase
self-esteem, confidence and lasting motivation.
Studies published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol
and Drugs and the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly
have shown that there is a connection between life
purpose and happiness as well as the ability to cope
with life’s ups and downs. Many alcoholics and addicts
who come into recovery have never known what it’s
like to have a purpose in their lives, either because they
began drinking and/or using at a very young age, or
they just never had a chance to think about it before
their addiction took hold. If they have, it might not be
something that still matters to them once they get
Research further indicates that steps eleven and twelve
from the book Alcoholics Anonymous in particular
have been shown to provide a sense of purpose, which
can increase length of sobriety as well as positivity
about life in general.
When I first got sober, I suddenly found myself with
a very different moral compass; my values became
paramount in my life, whereas I really hadn’t given
them much credence before that time. My life looked
different to me through new eyes. My purpose became
finding a Higher Power and learning how to live without
drinking. That was huge for me. It was the beginning
of my spiritual connection, which has grown over
the years and stood me in good stead.
As we continue on our path after the obsession to
drink or use “has been removed,” we might remember

that there was a rudimentary idea of a goal or purpose
prior to getting sober. Often this sense of purpose had
been inhibited because of our emotional growth being
stunted during drinking and/or using or because of
our lifestyle during that time. At this point, through the
principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s probable that
we’ve obtained a strong sense of personal values.
Once we have worked the 12 steps and been sober for
awhile, it’s possible that we might be feeling stuck. We
might feel the need to look also at our lives beyond
the rooms of AA, such as
work or career, family, and
friends. Using our values,
it’s possible to redefine
what matters most at this
point in our recovery.
Feeling stuck is one of
the most aggravating,
unnerving feelings. Even
worse than feeling stuck
is feeling unproductive
and confused about what
we’re really supposed to
be doing with our lives. It’s
a miserable feeling, this
place of uncertainty; yet it
is truly precious because
of the profound message
it brings with it. It’s telling
us that we need something
more, something different,
or something that points us
in one direction or another.
It’s telling us, quite simply,
to find our purpose.

I’ve come to believe that
each of us has a personal
calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint—and that
the best way to succeed is to discover what you love
and then find a way to offer it to others in the
form of service, working hard, and also allowing the
energy of the universe to lead you.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Every person has a purpose. There are certain fundamental
questions that we ask ourselves at some point
in our lives: What is life about anyway? What am I
supposed to be doing? Why am I here? These questions
are, you might say, what the universe asks of each of us.
It’s up to us to find our answers.
What is purpose, exactly? Purpose has been referred to
as “a calling.” It’s an overview of the vision we have of
our best self—of living our best life yet. Our purpose
gives life meaning, and it gives us a context for our
The search for purpose is a
search for deep meaning.
It helps us get in touch
with a part of us that has
been there from the beginning,
waiting for us to
notice. This is movement
toward our most authentic
self. What could be better
than that?
Becoming clear about our
purpose will help us make
sense of our lives. It will
make daily living easier to
handle, because it provides
an outline for the
smaller decisions we need
to make every day. Purpose
helps us find or create
meaning in all aspects
of our lives—work, play,
family, community, relationships,
and self-care.
To understand our purpose,
we start with our
values, like service, family,
friends, compassion, productivity or honesty, and we
build a personal mission statement for this chapter of
our lives.
Below is an example of a statement of purpose:

My purpose is to be the very best teacher
I can be, to teach using all my creativity in
order to help young minds develop, and to
bring out the muse in each of my students.
I am a painter, and I will always paint; I will
find a way to use my gift to help others in
and out of the classroom. I will bring creativity
into all aspects of my life: my family,
my community, my friends, and my home.
I will be generous with this creativity. My
life will be a giving and receiving of love in
many different ways.