Conquering Obstacles in Recovery

Posted on November 23rd, 2012

man climbing rock“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, scientist, philosopher, printer, writer and inventor (1706-1790)

When we’re traveling along a road and come upon a roadblock, what do we do? It may be that we failed to exercise sufficient planning to learn whether or not there was any construction going on along our route of travel. It could also be that there was some unforeseen circumstance that resulted in the road being closed. There could have been an accident, a flood due to a freak downpour, a landslide that brought mud and/or boulders toppling into the roadway. Whatever happened, we’re not going to be able to continue this path right now. Some different strategy needs to be employed.

We could wait it out, hoping that help will come or that the road will be cleared in the near future. But that requires additional information that we may not yet have or be able to obtain. It could be that we’re on a deadline to get somewhere, so sticking around and hoping things will change in the meantime isn’t going to work for us. We’re probably going to need to check a map, plug in our destination on our GPS navigation system and find an alternate route.

We could retreat and go back the way we came, abandoning our journey altogether. But what does that tell us about our desire to get where we intended to go in the first place?

Let’s turn this to a discussion about overcoming obstacles in recovery. Like the blockage on the roadway, when we encounter a problem, a challenge, or an obstacle in recovery, we have several options. We can sit around and do nothing, in which case nothing will get done and we’ll remain where we are – going no further but not backsliding either (hopefully, although there are no guarantees on this front). We could analyze our situation, strategize a different approach, and get to work trying to overcome the obstacle. We could consult our advisors – our sponsor and fellow 12-step group members, our supportive spouse or partner and family members, our therapist – before we attempt to take an alternate route.

We could also forge blindly ahead and try to bulldoze our way through the problem. Like that will produce any satisfying results.

Maybe a more prudent approach is to think carefully about our situation, consider various alternatives to overcoming it, weighing and balancing one versus another, and then select one approach and commit our energies to it.

That’s right. We need energy in order to overcome obstacles in recovery. If we’re listless and half-hearted in our approach, our results are likely going to be less than stellar. Certainly they will be less than we want them to be. So we may as well get going with as much determination and energy as we can marshal, and be willing to persevere in order to move past or around the obstacle.

Let’s face it. Some obstacles and challenges we encounter in recovery are truly formidable. While it may be easy to adopt an alternative approach to minor problems, when we come face to face with an issue or difficulty that threatens to jeopardize our recovery if we fail to choose wisely, it demands that we utilize all of the tools in our recovery toolkit in order to make the right choice for us at that time.

We cannot do that without guidance. None of us is so capable as to have all the answers to all possible threatening situations right out of the gate. When we are new to recovery is the time when we are most vulnerable and need the most support and encouragement. But each person in recovery, no matter at what stage they’re in (newly sober, in recovery successfully for a year or two, or in recovery for decades), will come upon obstacles that cause them to pause. It isn’t that they lack the tools and fortitude to overcome them. They may have become complacent, thinking that whatever the obstacle, they had the wherewithal and the tools to effectively deal with it.

Many times they do, but there are some times when even the most stalwart and admired individual in recovery will face a roadblock that appears to have no way around it.

The answer, however, is always the same. Use your energy and persistence to help see you through. That is, after carefully looking at all the options, analyzing the best approach to take, and then getting into action.

Will we always be successful at overcoming or conquering obstacles? Here’s where knowing our strengths comes in handy. It may well turn out that we experience an obstacle during the course of trying to attempt something for which we are ill-prepared, one that we may not have fully committed to or don’t really want in the long run. In this case, all the energy and persistence in the world is likely to end in disappointment. We do, after all, have to be true to ourselves, to only go after that which is truly meaningful to us.

And that means being willing to go the distance when it counts. We can’t afford to give up mid-way, telling ourselves that the problem was too much for us or that we are too tired to continue. Acquiring the wisdom to know when we have to sacrifice some short-term satisfaction to achieve a long-term goal – and overcome obstacles in the process – takes time. We do learn by doing, however, so every action that we take to help further our recovery will pay off handsomely. We may not be able to see the results right away, but we will be able to over time.

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