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Most people don’t know much about Friedrich Nietzsche aside from the fact that he had a glorious mustache or said the much-misunderstood phrase “God is dead” in reference to the growing secularity of modern society. As a philosopher and society-level thinker, he’s well worth engaging with, especially for those struggling with substance abuse or those who need a bit of life motivation to get up and seize the day. What exactly did Nietzsche have to say about a few recovery-adjacent topics and how do these apply to our everyday lives?

Life is a roller coaster

Nietzsche was no stranger to the concept of life’s ups and downs. His book Thus Spoke Zarathustra is essential in understanding how he viewed the trajectory of a man who chooses to overcome the struggles of his life. He’s called the overman and is the antithesis of the last man. The overman is essential in understanding what the vision of someone who uses their will to overcome looks like, but he’s an even more essential character of the book for showing us a common man that succeeds.

“I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?…What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal; what can be loved in man is that he is going-across and a down-going…He who cannot obey himself will be commanded.” – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Amor fati

Amor fati is the love of one’s fate. This means that you recognize all the things that made you who you are as essential and therefore worth living. Suffering and loss is regarded as necessary for you to achieve the maximum you can achieve. The acceptance of things you cannot change is also a key point in Alcoholics Anonymous’s serenity prayer.

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.” – Ecce Homo §10

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.” – The Gay Science §276

“Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit….I doubt that such pain makes us ‘better’; but I know that it makes us more profound.” – The Gay Science, Prologue §3

“For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.” – The Will to Power

Alcohol and drugs as dulling

For Friedrich Nietzsche, drugs that dulled the ability to live with full control over the senses and life were great social evils. He felt that the widespread use of alcohol as a social crutch had made Europe mindless. In the words of Alain de Botton’s The School of Life about NIetzsche’s ideas, “[alcohol saps] us of the will to change our lives for the better…growth and accomplishment have irrevocably painful aspects.”

“But what if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other—that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – The Gay Science §12

Personal growth as the affirmation of life

Despite everything that comes our way, we can be sure that life is beautiful and worth living. Why give up and give in? Friedrich Nietzsche inspires us to overcome the speedbumps of life and become the übermensch. Nihilism doesn’t have to be the final stop for the intellectual substance user. Recovery and the principles espoused by one of history’s greatest thinkers go hand-in-hand in showing us another way forward in life—one where we succeed in the end against our trials and tribulations.

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If you’re struggling with substance abuse and need to discuss treatment options with someone, give us a call at 888-448-0302 today to hear about what Landmark Recovery can do for you. A life lived substance-free is one that captures every bit of potential possible, just like Nietzsche says!

About the Author

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Dr. Sarah Johnson

Dr. Sarah Johnson is a psychiatrist and holds board certifications in Addiction Psychiatry and General Psychiatry. She completed her residency and fellowship at the University of Louisville, and remains on Gratis Faculty. She has over ten years of experience providing clinical care to individuals suffering from addictive and mental health disorders. In her spare time, Dr. Johnson loves being active, playing tennis, and spending time with her husband and son.

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