Being in recovery – aren’t those words wonderful-sounding to your ears? For some, this may be true. But what about for the others who are struggling just to make it through each day? What about those of you who are feeling pretty beat up about the whole process? What can you do to stop taking it on the chin – and get on with your life in recovery? Here are some thoughts that may prove useful in doing just that.
Take Time to Reflect
Before you go off on a tangent, worrying about all the negatives in your life that you feel you have absolutely no control over, take some time to reflect on what you have accomplished thus far. For one thing, you’re now on the path of recovery, and that’s a tremendous accomplishment that you should feel very good about. Sure, it’s been tough. No doubt it may have been at times fairly close to agonizingly painful, filled with uncertainty and misgivings, along with a great deal of physical, emotional and psychological discomfort. But you did make it. You are newly clean and sober. While it’s common to feel beat up in recovery, especially early in recovery, the fact is that you should not ever discredit the incredible accomplishment you have already achieved. Once you do yourself a solid and give yourself credit where credit is due, you’re still left with the issue of how to get past feeling like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck.
Figure Out What’s Really Bothering You
It’s all too common to lump everything that you feel is wrong into the same pile of worries and wind up feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what you’re facing – or believe that you have to deal with. But, in truth, have you really sat down and tried to analyze just what it is that is really bothering you? Do you have even a faint idea of a particularly troublesome problem or issue that keeps you up at night and gnaws at the pit of your stomach during every waking hour? For that’s what it comes right down to: you need to pinpoint the source of your distress. Only then can you work on creating a plan of action to move past it – and only then with the help of others in your trusted circles of support, such as your sponsor and fellow group members in the 12-Step rooms of recovery, your therapist, and loving family members and close friends. How do you discern what’s really a problem and what you mistakenly believe is one? This will take some time to unravel, but you can begin by making a list of whatever immediately comes to mind as a problem or unresolved issue in your life at this time. You’ll likely come up with two or three right off the bat, as these are the issues you not only find yourself feeling like a miserable failure over but you also don’t want to deal with them at all. It could be that you haven’t been able to find a job following rehab, or that your family has disowned you and you haven’t a clue how to win them back, or that you hate looking at yourself in the mirror because what you see reminds you of just how far you’ve fallen as a result of your addiction. For now, it doesn’t matter what the problems are, write them down. If they concern you enough to put them down on paper, there must be something to it. You can sort it all out later. Right now, the important thing is identifying the things that most trouble you and result in you feeling beat up and miserable.
Feeling Hurt and Learning How to Deal with It
Let’s face it. Rehab wasn’t a picnic, no matter how short or long a time it took. Your entire life was overhauled in a relatively short period of time. No matter that you voluntarily entered treatment so that you could overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol or gambling or some other process addiction. It still was an ordeal. Now that you’re sober, supposedly able to see life in a whole new light, to get on with the business of living, you may very well still feel emotionally raw. It’s probably not stretching the truth to say that when you’re in recovery you anguish more over what’s happened in the past than most people you know or meet (that is, the ones who’ve never gone through rehab or recovery). It may also be true that for you, this is the first time in a very long time that you’re able to walk around without being clouded by alcohol or drugs. Now, this can be a profound shock, especially when you begin to face the truths about yourself and your behavior in the past. While you may have just arrived at sobriety, staying clean and sober is going to take a lot of hard work. It may be this very realization that’s causing you ongoing anguish. You find yourself wondering if the hurt will ever go away. Will you ever be able to move past such rawness, such vulnerability, such emotional chaos? The answer, from those who have been in effective recovery for many years, is that it does indeed hurt for a while, but that it can and will get better. This may sound pretty empty when you’re trying to deal with hurt in the here and now, but just knowing that there is hope out there for you should be encouraging. In the meantime, try to deal with hurt by reconnecting with family, going to regular 12-step meetings, making a list of your hurts and the amends you’re going to want to make, keeping busy and meeting new people, and, in general, beginning to construct a new life – the one you want for yourself in recovery.
Dealing with Stress
There’s not a person alive that doesn’t have to deal with stress. It seems that stress is a universal condition. The truth is that some people just deal better with stress than others, including some of the very people you sit next to in the rooms of recovery. What’s their secret? How do they get past stress and avoid succumbing to its potentially deadly effects? This is actually a tremendous opportunity for you. Take it upon yourself to ask fellow 12-step group members how they are able to combat stress. Talk it over with your sponsor as well. Be sure to talk about everyday stressors as well as major life stresses that occur to everyone at some point. You’re likely to hear a lot of recommendations, techniques that have worked well for one or another of your fellow group members. What should you do with what you hear? The best advice is to take what sounds good to you and use it. If it works to reduce or eliminate stress, by all means, use it some more. Some of what you hear may be adaptable to your personal situation, so that it better suits your circumstances. What you’ll find is that, over time, you will develop a pretty solid toolkit of techniques and strategies to effectively deal with stress.
Fear of Relapse – Don’t Let It Consume You
Remember that list of what’s really bothering you? If the fear of relapse is on it – and it quite likely is – how are you supposed to get past that? Everyone knows that the first year is the big hurdle to overcome in maintaining sobriety. But the reality is that it’s the first 90 days that are the real deal-killers for a majority of newcomers to sobriety. Right off, let’s talk about the worst that could happen if you relapse in a major way – meaning, you go completely downhill to the worst point you’ve ever been in with addiction. After all, that’s what’s worrying you, right? Ticking them off, in order:
- You could die.
- You could become infirmed or wind up with diminished capacity.
- You could lose your family or other significant relationships.
- You could lose your job or not be able to obtain employment.
- You could suffer financial ruin.
- You could find it impossible to deal with triggers.
- You could find yourself isolated – mostly because you’ve chosen addiction to life.
- You could believe that you’re a personal failure.
Okay, that’s the worst of what could happen. Is it likely to happen? For most people, the answer is most likely no. Recovery experts recommend that those in recovery look upon relapse as an opportunity to learn. That may sound ridiculous, since relapse is the last thing you’d equate with learning, but the only way to overcome relapse is to get something positive out of it. How? When relapse happens to you, if it does, look at what contributed to the relapse and learn from the situation. As they say in the rooms of recovery, each relapse can bring you one step closer to effective recovery – but only if you’ve learned from the experience. So, say that you’re consumed by the fear of relapse. What should you do? First of all, remember that you can come back, but you will have to forgive yourself first. That’s right. You need to forgive yourself for relapsing. After that, you’ll have to move on. You’ll need to develop or refine a crisis plan that you put into effect the next time you feel you’re in danger of relapsing, or actually do relapse again. Successful relapse prevention programs will help empower you to make choices in high-stress or risky situations (triggers) where relapse is a possibility – instead of reacting in unhealthy ways characteristic of your old bad habit. If you’re afraid of a relapse, or have one, you need to learn to identify and recognize your personal triggers, make use of positive strategies for dealing with stress, make and practice healthy lifestyle choices, involve others in your recovery efforts, and adopt a realistic attitude toward relapse.
How Routine Helps
Now that you’re in recovery, you most likely have heard about the importance of establishing and adhering to a routine. While this recommendation may have gone in one ear and out the other, there really is a sound basis for routine in recovery. Here are some of the ways routine can help you get over feeling beat up, now that you’re sober.
- Routine can help alleviate anxiety. – If you wake up each morning and don’t have a plan for the day, no matter how good your intentions, you may stray off into directions you hadn’t intended. Just drifting along adds to a sense of unease and anxiety is likely to increase. When you don’t know what you’re going to be doing any given hour – or even first thing in the morning – you’re stacking the deck against effective recovery.Instead, if you have a routine that you’ve established as productive and that fits within your overall recovery plan, stick to it. This is especially important in the early phase of recovery, during the first few weeks and months. This is the time when your body and mind are still in the healing stages from your addiction or dependence on substances or other addictive behavior. You need the predictability of knowing exactly what you’re going to do each day to help ease your transition into longer-lasting recovery. Being able to look at your daily routine helps allay some of the anxiety that comes when you’re unprepared for the day ahead.
- Routine helps to promote stability. – When you’re in recovery, one of the best things that can happen to you is that you begin to exhibit signs of stability. This covers all aspects of your life, from getting or keeping a job and going to it on a daily basis, to taking appropriate care of yourself and your family. When others can look on you as stable, it means they can rely on you to keep your word, to do what you say, to handle your responsibilities without being prodded or nagged into doing so.Here’s the tricky part. Stability isn’t something someone else can give you. It’s up to you to maintain your attendance at work, to complete assignments on time, to live up to your word. In other words, you have the opportunity to succeed – but you also have the choice to fail. How do you succeed? In the sense of promoting stability, success comes from the routine of being on time for work each day, doing what’s expected of you, looking for ways to be more efficient – without putting yourself at risk of being over-committed, and being a resourceful, productive employee.Routine also entails having a regular regimen that you do at home, such as preparing meals for the family and/or for yourself. It encompasses making sure you pay your bills consistently, having established a time when you take care of this obligation. Also included in routines you have at home is laundry, cleaning, restocking food items, taking care of or having necessary repairs done, and other household chores.While it’s you that establishes your routine, it isn’t only you that benefits. Your loved ones benefit from the increased stability that your routine helps promote. Your employer and fellow employees benefit from being able to count on you. Your friends benefit because they can see that you are indeed healing and progressing in recovery and this makes it easier for them to interact with you on a healthy basis.
- Routine adds to your self-confidence. – Day by day, stick to doing the things on your list. This routine may seem boring at times or even useless, but it is important to follow through on what you’ve got on your recovery to-do list. The secret to handling routines is to not overburden yourself with too much to begin with.Start off slow. During the first month or so of recovery, just tend to what’s absolutely necessary. This means taking good physical care of yourself by eating nutritious and well-balanced meals. Eat three meals a day – no skipping breakfast. Get some physical exercise daily, even if that means walking down the block and back or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Be sure to get a full 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This helps establish a rhythm in your body and gets your inner body clock attuned to the cyclical pattern.Every day that you adhere to your routine, you are helping to boost your self-confidence. This will go a long way toward healing the beat-up feeling you’ve been experiencing early in recovery. It’s also a huge benefit in effective long-term recovery.
Other ways routine helps in recovery is that it gives you somewhere to go in times of crisis. It also helps prepare you for accepting more responsibility, helps increase your reservoir of self-esteem and can add joy to your life – all things that you definitely need to move past the feeling of being beat up in recovery. Now, here’s the important question: Can you motivate yourself to keep on going? You do have it in you, as you’ve already proven by getting this far in your healing process. Now is the time to step up. Stop taking it on the chin. You really don’t have to feel beat up anymore, not today and not ever.