CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Starting anything new is difficult, and the same is true with recovery.
Many addicts and alcoholics have a difference of opinion about which period of drug or alcohol recovery is the hardest; however, early recovery tends to be the most difficult by far. Getting clean is the easy part, but doing the work to maintain it is where most addicts find themselves struggling. There is quite a difference between the dangers of active substance use and the monotony of being a responsible adult – almost as if you’re leaving one world and entering another.
A whole new approach to live is required to successfully make it as an individual practicing active recovery. There are new habits to form and actions to take to build the foundation required. It is not enough to prevent relapse but also to build a life worth staying clean for.
The rediscovery of self is both an exciting and unnerving part of recovery.
Without a substance within arms reach, the emotions of life will seem to be at max. As if almost reliving teenage years, emotions feel extra powerful and often undisciplined. Simple tasks become infuriating, and good moments seem to be the workings of destiny.
The roller coaster of the usual human emotions is steeper than ever. Learning to pause and let emotions play out is one of the most difficult lessons in early recovery. In the past, substances and impulsivity were the two main drivers of action. Now that you know neither serves the right purpose in life, taking time with difficult decisions becomes another new practice to add to the foundation of early recovery.
The habit of regulating feelings is something that comes over time and is not an easy thing to master. While moving through the phases of treatment from inpatient to intensive outpatient and so on, the knowledge and strategies learned are put into real-life practice.
Rediscovery of self
Identity is often closely tied to the lifestyle and decision-making around substance use. Without substances, an individual can be left with emptiness about who they are. Many of the behaviors and even interests surrounding their substance use may now be unhealthy pursuits in recovery. Who is the person if they are not using or drinking? Healthy hobbies and interests are extremely important in early recovery.
There is plenty of work to do, some of which will include rediscovering key activities that can become new passions to look forward to. Enjoying the outdoors, athletics, arts and cinema are all examples of new pursuits and activities to experience while living a life in recovery. We would never want to “replace” our addiction, because that suggests that we would fill the void in our lives with something equally unhealthy. Instead, we “grow into” who we are meant to become, and that process is a rediscovery of self.
Time takes time
From first glance, this may seem obvious; however, time is a real thing that many struggle with in recovery. The substance-use lifestyle is one of instant gratifications and lingering, damaging and long-term consequences. Those consequences may not come to full fruition until an individual is well along in recovery. Ranging from personal troubles to legal matters, the damage done by substance use takes time to repair.
The damage of years of using substances cannot be fixed by days or weeks of time in recovery. It is the little actions every day that slowly rebuild relationships, mend credit scores and achieve legal emancipation. Take time with decisions, goals and even dreams. Much more is possible in a life of recovery if the willingness for patience and the discipline of hard work are executed.
You deserve recovery
Early recovery has as many challenges as it does opportunities, and the road of recovery has many gifts to offer. As anyone follows the path of freedom that recovery brings, they will be rewarded. It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed when things start to change for the better. Many have said they don’t feel they are worthy of the rewards – and sometimes miracles – that recovery brings.
As small as getting a driver’s license back or graduating with honors, you are worthy. The good fortune that recovery brings is created by those willing and honest to dedicate themselves to a better way of life. They are the miracle, and miracles are the way life should be.
Written by SHANE P. CURRIN, Lion’s Gate Recovery.
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