Addiction: How to Make Better Choices and Live a Happier Life

By Carol Bettino

Live a Happier Life

Live a Happier Life: Addiction is a disease. It is defined by the excessive and continued use of a specific psycho- active substance, despite physical, psychological or social harm. The increased tolerance creates occupational, social, legal and relationship problems. For an alcoholic or addict, one drink or one time is not enough, yet one drink or one time is too many. You are out of control and everyone including you knows it. While you may not have control once you take that first drink or take that drug, you do have control over the choice not to drink or use. For many alcoholics and addicts, it is a cycle of bad choices, shame, and addiction.

Addiction and shame is a vicious cycle. Shame will also keep you trapped in your addiction. Shame is an inner feeling of not being good enough, worthless, and a sense of being defective and damaged as a human being. The message is, “You don’t make a mistake, you are a mistake.” It can be debilitating. We learn about shame in childhood. If you grew up in an abusive or neglected home, you learned very young that your needs and wants are not important and the person you are has no value. It is not uncommon for these children to blame themselves for the bad things that happen to them. Unfortunately, many of these children go through life feeling unloved and unwanted. As adults, they do what they can to avoid those unwanted painful feelings of not being good enough. Many choose a chemical to drown those feelings. This is not about blame and excuses. However, it helps to explain the impact and consequences of carrying shame. Recovery is about stopping cycles and making better choices. Shame is a choice that keeps you stuck in the cycle of addiction.

Hiding underneath addiction is shame. When you feel guilty about your bad behavior, you feel ashamed and look to hide and avoid the pain. No surprise you engage in your addiction; unfortunately, this behavior makes you feel worse. You remain stuck in the cycle even though you want to stop. Your shame and addiction are out of control and so are you. You use to avoid feeling the emotional pain, then you feel guilty and ashamed for losing control, so you use again; hating yourself for not being able to stop. The cycle continues. In order to break an addiction cycle, you must first acknowledge the problem and recognize the pain the problem causes. Then, you must admit you are powerless over the addiction and seek help to stop the cycle.

No one ever said that stopping alcohol or drugs would be easy. Rarely is something especially important in life easy. Recovery is difficult. Don’t do it alone. Become responsible for your recovery. Stop using, stay away from the people who use, seek counseling, attend AA meetings, affiliate with people who are sober and straight, who work the program, and find a sponsor. Don’t get stuck in the cycle. Shame has no healthy place in recovery. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you and your recovery. If you have God in your life, this is a good time to get on your knees and pray for guidance. Make a conscious choice to change the direction your life is headed.

I have created a simple acronym that will help as you begin your journey of recovery.

Remember, if you make better choices you will live a better life. Make a decision to change the direction your life has been going. Think of this acronym “CHOICE”

C – Choice: Life is about choices. Choose a goal of living a sober and straight life. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of you achieving your goal. Choose the road of recovery. Don’t do it alone. Put the right people in your path. Choose the right counselor and sponsor for you.

H – Honesty: Be honest with yourself and others. Avoid the pitfalls of denial. Eliminate the shame that sabotages recovery. Be aware the journey is a difficult one and you need help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

O – Openness: Be open about your problems. Don’t let shame keep your addiction a secret. Be selective who you tell. Tell people that you know will be supportive. Be open-minded to advice. Avoid shortcuts; they are usually dead-ends.

I – “I am valuable and worthy.” “I have made mistakes, but I am not a mistake.” “I will not let bad past experiences dictate my life.” Repeat affirmations daily that keep you on the right path. Take ownership of your life. Find the new you and don’t let go of your new life.

C – Control: Admit you have no control over your addiction or your life when you are using. Remind yourself you do have control over the choices you make. Take charge of your choices and your recovery, by taking advice from those who will help direct you on your journey.

E – Eliminate: Get rid of the old dysfunctional messages, tapes and faulty beliefs that keeps shame alive. Stay away from those who use or those who are not supportive. Don’t go to former haunts. Eradicate the unhealthy attitude and bad behaviors that got you addicted in the first place.

A healthy attitude can turn your life around. Changing bad behavior and making better choices will help you live a better life. Changing your behavior begins with changing your attitude. I recommend following what I call “The ABC’s of Life”. They are the directions and foundation of good choices.


Attitude: This reflects how you think, feel, interpret and perceive things around you. If you believe recovery is possible, then it is. If you believe it is too hard and you won’t make it, then you’ll give up. Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, either way you are right.” Look at what you need to change in your attitude that will guide your recovery process.

Behavior: This is how you respond, react, and interact in situations. When things become overwhelming or stressful you choose how to respond. Your attitude will have a major impact on how you react. If you feel overwhelmed, or think recovery is too hard, let shame rear its ugly head, then you’ll probably engage in a bad behavior. You must change any negative thinking or feelings in order to respond in a healthier way. Choice and

Consequence: It is the ultimate decision you make in how to handle a situation or a problem. Whatever choice you make, whether positive or negative, will have a consequence. When it comes to your recovery, your choice can lead you to a path of happiness or one of misery. Think before you react. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry, or hurt, your reaction and choice will reflect those emotions. Seek the help of your counselor, sponsor or a friend from the program before you make a choice you will regret.

Article by: Carol Bettino, MA, LPC Therapist and author of “Better Choices, Better Life” and Directions: Your Roadmap to Happiness.”

Please check out and join her blog at: