As an opioid epidemic rages across the country and throughout the Western world, more people than ever may find themselves needing to seek the assistance of a recovery program. While there are certainly some tried and true methodologies, recovery is not actually a one-size-fits-all process. Some of this has to do with the fact that at its heart, addiction is a form of pain management and the type of pain we are in or the cause of the pain will vary from person to person. No matter what type of help you need, here are 6 things to keep in mind about recovery.
You are not alone
Addiction is often viewed as simply a lack of willpower or self control. This is absolutely not true, but it is how society often views it. This shrouds addiction in shame and that shame creates isolation. This can make people who struggle with addiction feel as if they are the worst person in the world or all alone in their addiction. It isn’t true. Most people struggle with an addiction or addictive issue of some kind, but don’t reach out for help until things become overwhelming. Generally when they finally reach out for help, they find they are not alone. This is not a one-time revelation, however, but something you need to keep reminding yourself of over and over.
Help is always available
When you are in recovery, you generally start to build and develop some kind of support system. This is a good and healthy thing, but you also have to remember your support system is also dealing with issues of their own. There may come a time when you need help and someone in your support system is not available. It can be scary reaching outside of the known and familiar for help, but it can also be empowering. As you learn that help is all around you, you stop being quite so dependent on the few people in your direct support system. The more you reach outside of your system, the larger your system becomes.
Recovery is a life long process
People often think of rehab as something you go through and come out the other side “cured.” In one sense, there is no “cure” for addiction, it is often a lifelong battle. Some people even jump from addiction to addiction. Alcoholics can be sober for years before a devastating event sends them crawling right back into the bottom of a bottle. Addiction is tied to the rewards center of our brain, which is directly tied to our deepest survival mechanisms. Recovery happens one step at a time, day after day after day after day.
Failure is not final
No one “succeeds” at recovery every day. There will be good days and bad days, stunning victories and painful defeats. Everyone will fall off the wagon at some time, which feels like a failure. The more you beat yourself up for failure, the harder it is to climb back on the wagon. Failure doesn’t have to be final unless you allow it to be. Tomorrow is another day and every day brings another opportunity to turn failure into victory.
Feelings are not facts
In many cases, individuals struggling with addiction have a distorted view of the world and how other people view them. People who are wealthy and/ or famous can often feel they are only “loved” for their money or fame, which can leave them feeling isolated and alone. People who come from an abusive background can have difficulties separating “love” or acceptance and belonging from abuse. One of the key aims of recovery is separating out how an addicted individual “feels” from how things really are. It is a sad fact that whatever we think is true dictates behavior. If we think people don’t like us, we will often treat them as if they don’t like us, which will often lead to them not liking us. When you stop operating as if your feelings are true, you stop creating the very reality you fear most.
Recovery is not linear
In recovery, you will have good days and bad days. You will have days you forget you even struggle with an addiction and days you crave the substance of your addiction so badly, you can’t concentrate or focus on anything else. The greatest victories are often immediately followed by stunning defeats. You may actually be more susceptible to relapse when everything is going well rather than when things are falling apart. Recovery is sometimes one step forward, then three steps back and sometimes several steps to the left or right. Sometimes, you may even feel stuck in the same place forever or like you are just walking in one giant circle without making any progress. None of this is abnormal.