Author: Carolyn Rennie, Foothills Centre for Change

Recognizing and believing in our strengths is what can help set us apart from those who relapse and those who recover. Now that we have identified our strengths in the first part (last week’s Blog) we will now look for ways to maximize our strengths. Below is a reminder of those strengths we discussed:  

Strengths: Creativity, Curiosity, Open-mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective, Bravery, Persistence, Integrity, Vitality, Love, Kindness, Social Intelligence, Citizenship, Fairness, Leadership, Forgiveness and mercy, Humility / Modesty, Prudence, Self-regulation, Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, and Spirituality.  

We reviewed the list to notice what strengths we have and which strengths we want to work on. From a book called “Now, Discover Your Strengths” written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton they define a strength as a consistent near perfect performance in an activity. How then are we to maximize our personal strengths?  

How to maximize your personal strengths? 

  1. Focus on your strengths not weaknesses 
  2. An ability is a strength only if you can fathom yourself doing it repeatedly, happily and successfully 
  3. Organize your life around your strengths 
  4. There are three raw materials of strengths: talents, knowledge, and skills 
    • Talents are naturally recurring patterns of though, feeling, or behaviour 
    • Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned 
    • Skills are the steps of an activity 
  5. The most important of the three raw materials are talents. Talents are move important because they are innate whereas skills and knowledge can be acquired through learning and practice.  
  6. Your talents are enduring because they are somehow “hardwired” into your brain 
  7. There are two kinds of knowledge: factual and experiential  
    • Factual knowledge is content. 
    • Experiential knowledge is knowledge that can only be acquired through experiences – it teaches you what works and what doesn’t  
  8. Skills bring structure to experiential knowledge 
  9. The key to building your strength is to identify your dominant talents and then refine them with knowledge and skills 
  10. Practice doesn’t (necessarily) make you prefect 
  11. A sure way to identify your talents is stepping back and watching yourself for a while  

There are some strengths than are inherent to drug addicts as they are used in the getting, finding, and using. Below is a list of strengths addicts develop while in addiction:  

  1. Selling drugs – trust, perseverance, dependability, negotiation, confidence, communication 
  2. Finding drugs – motivation, patience, planning, goal setting, mission orientation, eagerness, focus 
  3. Buying drugs – motivation, courage, perseverance, honesty, dependability, flexibility, patience, planning, networking, scheduling, persistence, credibility, integrity, responsibility 
  4. Ways to use – creativity, intelligence, ingenuity  
  5. Staying out of trouble – creativity, manipulation, instinct, intuition 
  6. Covering up drug use – creativity, ingenuity, knowledge, reading, people, resilience 

All the strengths above are honed to great sharpness by addicts as they are used to survive rather than to thrive. Your job in recovery is to use these same strengths in a positive way not a negative way. If you do this with the same enthusiasm that you did to use, your chances of staying clean are boundless! 


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