Understanding the Needs of Someone in Recovery

Support of Friends and Family In Recovery

The recovery process can be arduous and draining, and while recovery is the journey of an individual, it’s often only possible through the combined efforts of an addict’s family and friends.

Supporting a loved one through the process of addiction recovery requires an understanding of their emotional needs as a recovering addict. Without the right support, the recovery process can be wrought with periods of pain and uncertainty. But with your help, your loved one’s journey through recovery can be made much smoother.


Emotional Support

Addiction and addiction recovery both affect a person’s mental health. Whether through fading feelings of self-worth, thoughts of guilt and shame, or anger and frustration at past mistakes and current challenges, the process of recovery can often be an overwhelming rollercoaster of moods and emotions, especially early on. Aside from the social consequences of addiction and the stigma attached to being an addict, addicts also face a very confusing and difficult brain chemistry that seeks to undermine their recovery at every step of the way. Only time can heal that wound, and it takes a lot of time. Any ounce of emotional support offered by close friends and loved ones, especially in the early days of recovery, can take a serious weight off a recovering addict’s shoulders.

Effective forms of emotional support include affirming a loved one’s positive qualities, supporting their efforts in recovery (whether it’s the decision to seek individual therapy or an attempt to start investing time and effort into a new hobby), or taking the time to help them separate their anxious and fear-related thoughts and statements from reality.


Availability and Listening Skills

Just being there can make a significant difference in some cases. Addiction is very lonely business, and it’s the fear and feeling of loneliness that often fuels relapses and drives recovering addicts to seek out old habits. Understanding that they have a purpose in life and mean something to someone else can often help a recovering addict make a proper commitment to sobriety.

You don’t have to be constantly available to make a difference. While having a support system can greatly help a recovering addict sidestep relapses and prevent major setbacks during recovery brought on by temporary emotional upheaval, it can be very demanding and emotionally overwhelming to be a person’s singular outlet. Work with your loved one’s relatives, best friends, and mental health care providers to figure out the best way to help them always have somewhere to turn, without putting all the burden on yourself.


An Understanding of Recovery

The recovery process is often misunderstood, and addiction itself is not always very clearly defined in the minds of many people trying to help their loved one. Addiction is a chronic illness, in the sense that it is recurring and can has a high chance of relapse within the first few years of recovery. Continued long-term sobriety lessens the chance of relapse over time, but an addiction is never really “cured”. It takes a continuous commitment to thoroughly place it in the past and keep it there.

That is why the recovery process is not a matter of weeks or months, but a journey that will span a recovering addict’s entire lifetime. The first few phases of recovery often involve recovery programs because these help recovering addicts organize themselves and prepare themselves for the changes they have to make in the wake of their addiction. Being sober is easy for most people, but after an addiction, staying continuously sober is very difficult. Recovering addicts struggle with pent-up emotions left hidden for years, cravings that come and go, temptations and sudden urges triggered by smells, sounds, and memories, as well as a rollercoaster of emotions as the brain continues to struggle to right itself, with a host of accompanying and highly uncomfortable withdrawal issues.

For most addictions, there is no pharmacological cure to speed up this entire process. Addiction recovery is still a branch of medicine centered mostly around helping patients abstain from drug use and helping them psychologically and physically cope with the transition into a sober life. It’s not always a successful process, and it can take several tries before the changes really begin to stick. Being aware of all this can be the difference between losing hope in your loved one and knowing that it’s all just part of the process.


Encouragement Vs. Enabling

A recovering addict needs someone around them to bring out the best of them and help them overcome the worst. Whereas encouragement would mean doing your best to convince your friend or loved one to make small changes every day to further bring them closer to their ideal sober living conditions, enabling would be giving their old habits even just an inch on which to grow and fester again.

Enabling behavior includes lying to others about your loved one’s condition, keeping secrets for them in order to keep the peace and keep things quiet, or protecting your loved one from the consequences that should follow a slip-up or a relapse. Yes, relapses are quite common, but the only way to reduce their likelihood is to immediately address them when they happen, rather than sweeping it under the rug as a “last mistake”.

Be an encouraging force for positive change and a form of accountability that your loved one can rely on, rather than helping them find ways to escape the consequences of their actions, thus undermining the help they could be getting.


Making Healthier Choices Together

One last need that many addicts struggle to fulfill is working towards a healthier and stronger body. Exercise and diet are two very beneficial and effective ways to work on sobriety, as they both help the body and mind recover from the effects of long-term addiction, while making the mind more resilient to falling back into old habits. But it’s much harder to make an effective healthy change in your life when you’re the only one bothering to make it. Join your loved one and observe new dietary changes and exercise regimens together.

A lot of recovery is a joint process, rather than a journey for an individual. Once you find the best way to accompany and help your loved one make the progress they need to make, you will begin to see major changes happen.

Building Community

Building Community - Transcend Recovery Community

I spent this past weekend with someone very near and dear to me at what I can only describe as a summer camp for adults. And I want to share my learnings from this incredible experience.

For one of the activities, each of us was required to climb a 40-foot pole and walk across a tight rope. We held onto nothing but ropes spaced approximately 10 feet apart. And, no, overcoming any fear of heights was not the most incredible part of this event. There were four other people in our group- women who neither of us had ever met. The most incredible part was the degree of camaraderie between us and our investment in each other.

We cheered with such sincerity and hope as, one by one, we took that uncertain walk. As though we were watching our kid ride a bike for the first time. Nobody was here for competition, all we gave was support and encouragement. What mattered was our collective success.

Building Community - Transcend Recovery CommunityMy recent travels and this weekend experience have led me to reflect deeply on community. And the need to make our bonds real, tangible, and felt.

So often we become consumed with the “self” – our own wants, needs, and concerns – that our lives become a single player game. At best, we suffer from a bit more anxiety. At worst, we pit the world against us when times get hard, believing that our suffering is due to the neglect and wrong-doing of others. Trapping ourselves in a cycle of despair.

Though the rejection of community or connection is the worst thing we can do for ourselves, I admit my own tendency to do this. When things go wrong, it’s easier for me to be the victim and count the obstacles I’m up against. It keeps me from admitting any personal error.

But whatever fleeting comfort being alone gives me is nothing compared to the sense of love and security a community provides. When I recognize all those who support and accept me, when I admit my fears, faults, and flaws to them, I emerge from the hard times stronger. And, more importantly, I am better able to love and support them.

This week, I want you to build the bonds of your community in a real way. It doesn’t matter how old we are or whether we’re spending a weekend at camp or a getting through a tough day. We all need someone to cheer us on when we feel like we’re barely holding on, 40 feet above the ground. Verbalize your goals to someone else and ask them to do the same. And affirm that by working together, we are far greater than when we work alone.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

How To Make New Friends During And After Recovery

Making Friends After Recovery

Making friends can either be very daunting or it may come naturally to a person, but because we are generally out of our element when dealing with the early days of recovery, it’s unlikely for most recovering addicts that the thought of making friends will come ‘easy’. As transformative as it can be, early recovery is still often mired with a rollercoaster of severe emotions and challenging thoughts. Some addicts struggle with trusting themselves, let alone someone else. They may still feel a sense of guilt about their past that keeps them from truly opening to others, let alone creating lasting bonds of friendship.

Like any relationship, it takes a committed effort from both parties for a friendship to blossom and truly flourish. Making a commitment to sobriety is often effort enough, so the thought of opening to someone and creating a window for the potential of emotional pain can be overwhelming to say the least. But learning to overcome that be open to the idea of starting brand new friendships in recovery is a sign of big progress. It may take some time and some patience, but you can create lifelong bonds during and after early recovery. It’s all about your approach and your intentions.


Do You Remember What It’s Like to Make Friends?

The numbers seem to show that we make friends more easily the younger we are, out of combination of a greater amount of free time and a greater sense of honesty. Children can be quite blunt and upfront and are not very prone to subtle maneuvering or manipulation. It’s only with age that we become jaded, or manipulative, or both.

Compound that with the fact that adults have responsibilities, schedules, financial restrictions, and no longer spend a significant portion of their waking day among peers that are likely to share similar interests with them, and it seems obvious that it’s much harder to make friends later in life. Over time, we also sort of lose the practice we once had.

But it’s by no means impossible. You’ll just have to dust off old habits and approach or be approachable.


Don’t Stick to the Sobriety Crowd

The first mistake many are prone to make is trying to make a friend solely from the sober community. While it’s obvious that you shouldn’t be on the lookout for a drinking buddy or someone who is likely to enable your behavior, the primary objective shouldn’t be to find a sober friend, but to find a friend. Friends either compliment or contrast us and share a social dynamic with us – a form of chemistry – that makes them fun to be around, and vice versa.

That often begins with shared interests and passionate discourse. Begin looking for friends in places you go to for fun. It might be a local sports club, the gym, an online art club, or any number of different places where people gather both physically and virtually to discuss and engage in their favorite topics and hobbies. These aren’t the only places you can make friends, of course.


Go for the Friends, Stay for the Healing

Going to sober meetings is one way to meet new sober people, if you’re looking to guarantee finding someone who is as engaged and committed as you are to long-term sobriety. Picking a friend solely for their sobriety is a poor way to go but picking among sober people is effective as well. The key is to go to several meetings, and not just hang around one of them.

More than just a spot to meet new people, however, it’s also important to point out that there is a lot to be gained from spending time at different recovery meetups. Hearing people speak about their experiences with addiction might not necessarily sound like the most effective way to make progress in your own unique journey, but you would be surprised how much knowledge and wisdom you can take away from someone else’s mistakes and successes, and how entirely different lives can genuinely speak to you on a level that no one else can, outside of addiction treatment and recovery community circles.


Head Online

The internet is a remarkable place, not least because of its capacity to connect individuals from all over the planet. Not all friends have to be people you can meet with for a drink – sometimes, having a pen pal over the internet works too.

You don’t have to meet people in this day and age to form a bond of friendship with them. All it takes is a stable internet connection and regular contact, through instant messaging, online forums, webcam, or smartphone calls, and much more.

Alternatively, make use of the internet’s ability to act as an endless directory, and get yourself a bigger and more accurate picture of the sober scene in your town or city. You may be amazed to discover how many people in your city are recovering addicts, working together or on their own to maintain their commitment to sobriety.


Focus on Nurturing Habits

You don’t really have to put the onus on finding friends. Early recovery is as much about learning to reconnect with others in new and meaningful ways as it is about learning to rediscover your own interests and figure out what exactly it is that you feel passionate about, and what motivates you to do more in life than just survive to live to the next day.

By spending time on your hobbies and passions, you’re bound to stretch out and look for others with similar interests and come across groups dedicated to the thing you love.


Try Out New Things

Aside from rediscovery, it’s also important to discover new things. Never stop trying new things out – who knows, maybe you’re yet to discover the thing that really drives you and makes you tick. Recovery should be a time of self-discovery, spending time to try and understand who you are without the addiction, who you want to be without the addiction, and how to reconcile the two in the best way possible.

The Trick to Staying Committed to Your Recovery Goals

Comitting To Sobriety Goals

Commitment to recovery is crucial for long-term sobriety. As part of a lifelong journey, it’s important to be regularly reminded of what that commitment entails. If the plan is to never drink or use again, an addict should be prepared for the fact that as time wears on, the motivation to stay sober can wear off. It wears off particularly fast in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and inordinate stress.

Recovery programs and the encouraging words of addiction specialists help us confront our demons and deal with the challenges of early, short-term recovery. But what about a year after going clean? Two years? Five? Goal setting is an important part of long-term recovery because it keeps recovering addicts focused on the goal – maintaining a lifelong commitment to sobriety and avoiding not just relapses themselves, but the factors that lead up to a relapse.

But goal setting is much more than an arbitrary practice. More than simply writing out a yearly resolution, it’s crucial to engage the goal-setting process with a clear plan and structure in mind – one that applies solely to you, your aspirations, and your interests. Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to observe a single tenet. Be specific. Vagueness makes goals irrelevant – try and specify what exactly you need to do to fulfill a goal.

Instead of striving to do more for your body over the year, set a goal of losing a small amount of weight (2-5lbs) within the next month (or gaining said weight, if you struggle with a smaller frame). Instead of hoping for a raise or promotion, set a goal related to factors you can control, such as improving your skills, learning a new language, picking up an activity related to your line or work, or something entirely different. Specificity is important, because it gives you a clear indication of where to go, rather than a vague cardinal direction.


Don’t Make Goals Purely Recovery-Related

There aren’t many goals related to drug addiction recovery past “maintain sobriety for a month/half a year/a year”. But besides that, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to center your goals around not using drugs.

Recovery goals should largely be goals of self-improvement, because these are reliant on factors you are more likely to be in control of, and because making progress while working on yourself is critical to improving your self-worth and feeling better after an arduous addiction period. Many addicts feel shame about what they did and how they struggled with drugs – having reasons to be proud of the progress they’ve made since those days is important.

You can also create goals built around doing something for others. You could make it a goal to interact positively with a different stranger each day, make new friends outside of sober circles, or do something nice and thoughtful for your friends and/or family once a week.


Make Smaller Goals

Smaller goals are far more digestible, achievable, and most importantly, they are much less intimidating. Many people set goals for themselves with a vague idea of who they want to be in the future, rather than focusing on who they are now, and how they might improve on themselves in smaller, yet much more realistic ways. It’s not a good idea to challenge yourself to read a hundred books in a single year when you’re not much of a reader to begin with.

Smaller goals can often be more challenging that we might realize, but because they’re more achievable, we are more likely to fulfill them. Fulfilling a goal also makes you more likely to pick up a new goal, as the feeling of fulfilling a goal is often enough motivation to keep going and set your sights on higher aspirations. Larger, more vague plans are more likely to lead to incompletion and frustration. But by stringing together shorter goals, you’re making consistent progress and you’re feeling excited by it – even months after recovery has begun.


Create a Long-Term Plan

Bigger goals are harder to fulfill, describe, and stay motivated for, but having an overarching plan is still important. You should strive to learn a new language or be well-read – but that plan should come in the form of many smaller goals related to it.

Pick a long-term, 1-5-year goal that excites you, and then create much smaller, month-to-month goals you can fulfill on the road to achieving that first overarching dream. Examples may include: reading 100 books, or finishing your first written book, learning to speak a foreign language, traveling once around the globe, mastering a series of dishes, finishing school, and competing at a sporting event or pageant.


Account for Mistakes & Delays

Life rarely goes according to plan – and we should plan accordingly. While sticking to your goals is important, you also have to recognize when a goal can’t be completed because you were putting it off for too long, and when it can’t be completed due to uncontrollable circumstances. Sometimes, life throws a curveball at us and many of our plans and aspirations are put on hold. It’s moments like that when you should remember to pick up where you left off, however, and keep trying.

This goes for relapses too. One of the central goals to recovery is to stay sober forever – or at least, beat the addiction and never relapse. But it’s important to remember that the majority of recovering addicts relapse at least once in the year after completing their first recovery program. That rate drops year after year, the longer a person stays sober, but the first year is the hardest.

Many addicts feel that relapses are signs that an attempt at recovery has failed, either due to personal weakness or unexpected challenges faced during recovery. However, relapses are simply part of the chronic nature of addiction. Overcoming them is an important step in treating addiction in the long-term – and that means recognizing them as part of the process, and finding ways to turn them into learning experiences, rather than examples of failure.


Track Your Progress

It cannot be understated how important it is to keep track of your progress in recovery. The trick to staying committed – the reason why goal-setting is so important – is consistently finding new ways to motivate yourself to stay sober. Seeking that motivation out consistently over many years can be exhausting, and difficult.

At some point, sobriety does become the norm – but it’s crucial to never take it for granted, lest you lose it. By tracking your progress, you’re keeping a record of the progress you’ve made over the years to reflect on, as a way to realize how far you’ve come and how much has changed in little time. As time goes on, this becomes your main motivator – to continuously strive to improve and lead a better life and move onwards in spite of your past.

The Importance of Removing Negative Influences in Recovery

Removing Negative Influences in Recovery

The recovery process is, for all intents and purposes, a lifelong journey. It begins the moment you commit to staying sober, and it ends with life itself. But rather than being a sentence or a curse, it’s simply a way of life. Recovery is about more than just being sober again – it’s about preventing relapses and ensuring that addiction will no longer have any hold over you.

This process will take the rest of your life, but in the same sense that we as humans ideally never stop learning, never stop growing, and never stop gaining wisdom and understanding with age. But in that sense, it’s also important to remember that sometimes, less is more. There are certain things that shouldn’t be grown or increased when going into recovery – negativity is one of them. While it’s impossible to remove all negativity in life, we should strive to mitigate it – especially in the early recovery days.


Negative Influences in Recovery

Negativity in recovery can develop in a wide variety of ways. It might be a personality, or just something someone says. It might be a job, or just a current project. It might be someone you love, or a stranger living next door. It might be something as influential and complex as the very neighborhood you’ve called home for years, or it might just be a matter of completely refreshing your wardrobe and giving away any and all items that remind you of a much more dangerous and unhealthy past life.

Negativity in this sense is anything that brings you distress, brings you back to the days you wished you were using, and makes you feel overwhelmingly anxious. The minor inconveniences and the rudeness of some individuals are facts of life, but when going into recovery, you must set standards and boundaries to maintain your sanity and protect your mental health. Especially in early recovery, where people often go through emotional rollercoasters, and avoiding a mental breakdown is key.


More Than Just A Program

When people think addiction recovery, they might be thinking of addiction recovery programs. Inpatient (rehab) and outpatient facilities help addicts get back on their feet and prepare them for the challenges that lay ahead, by giving them a better understanding of their own condition and the means with which to better cope with sober living. It’s that first month or two after the withdrawal symptoms finally end during which most of the confusion and emotional mayhem occurs – but it’s much more important to tackle negativity throughout the recovery process, rather than working hard to maintain a mentally supportive and healthy lifestyle during early recovery, only to slip back into old habits over time.

The commitment to recovery begins with wanting to stay sober, but there is a lot attached to that. To stay sober, you have to find ways to deal with the reasons you began using drugs to begin with, cope with the aftermath of your time spent as an addict and find ways (more than one) to continue enjoying life without drugs. A healthy lifestyle, emotionally as well as physically, is a critical step in that grand plan. Where a physical lifestyle change might involve dietary changes and more time spent walking or moving around, emotional changes are critical as well. Perhaps most important is who you spend your time with, and how they are helping you through this part of your life.


The Importance of a Support Network

A support network is composed of the people you spend the most time with, and who genuinely support your recovery. Not everyone has the privilege to live life with people who are compassionate and understanding about the challenges that addiction poses, and the difficulty of recovery. Many still see addiction as a moral failure and consider addicts untrustworthy to the core. Overcoming this stigma in your inner circle of friends and relatives is important to maintaining what is most critical throughout the recovery process: the belief that you have the strength, the means, and the ability to stay sober.

Without that belief in yourself, recovery easily crumbles. Addiction can often eat away at a person’s self-esteem, and it takes years to rebuild a solid and secure sense of self. Throughout those years, it doesn’t take much to make someone think that it’s really all for naught, even when it isn’t. A support network is what keeps you sane throughout those crucial years, and for many years to come.

It goes both ways. While seeking help from friends and family is one thing, spending time helping others is important too. Research shows that we genuinely feel good when we help others, and that there seems to be some psychological drive or internal incentive in the human mind to be helpful and necessary to others. Through a support network, you don’t only find the words and the thoughts you need to stay sober in times of self-doubt, you find the opportunities to help others and affirm to yourself that you can do good as well. Sober living communities can serve as an excellent support network with like minded individuals seeking solidarity in sobriety.


Approaching and Cutting Toxic Ties

Toxic ties are worse than a lack of support, because they actively undermine your efforts to stay sober. Whether it’s someone who believes you deserve pain for your addiction, someone who is malicious towards you for another reason, or someone who is trying desperately to pull you back into a cycle of addiction and refuses to respect your sobriety and your decision to stay clean, it’s important to draw clear boundaries and prioritize your own mental health, before you start thinking about others.

Yes, the friend who refuses to go sober may need help as well. But until your recovery has reached a certain point – and until they make the first move to choose to try and get sober – you can’t do anything to help them, and their presence in your life will hurt you both more than it would do any good. Negativity is a part of life, but mitigating negativity is a part of the recovery process. You shouldn’t feel like being miserable is a normal state.


How Can You Best Support A Loved One During Recovery?

Support A Loved One In Recovery

Being with a loved one while they go through recovery can be a very scary time. It’s natural to want to support the person you love, but it’s much harder do so when you can’t completely understand what they’re going through – or worse yet, how to help them. It’s normal to be worried about what you should say or how you should act, and whether anything you do will even benefit them.

To begin, keep in mind that you are important to your loved one’s recovery. They’re going to need all the help they can get to stay on the path to sobriety. More importantly, you will need to help them get back up if anything happens to knock them down.

Chances are that you know what it’s like to live a sober life, but that “baseline” is something that addiction takes away from a person, replacing it with a nagging inner voice offering an “easy solution” to every problem. It takes time to block that voice out, and some days are easier than others. With your help, your loved one can make it to the point where they no longer hear that voice (or choose not to listen to it), but they will need your help. Here are a few ways you can support your loved one while they go through the recovery process.


Talk About Treatment

A good way to help out is to let your loved one know that they’re not alone – you are there with them. Talk to them about their treatment and ask how they are doing. Keeping an open line of communication is critical. The best way to show your loved one that you genuinely care is by being around, and by wanting to know how they are.


Offer Your Help

Sometimes, it helps just to tell your loved one that they can ask you for help anytime they might need it. Knowing they have someone in their corner can reduce the fear and anxiety of being alone after rehab. It can be scary to have so much at stake after treatment and to be able to throw it all away if the urge grows too strong. Help them remind themselves that relapsing doesn’t mean throwing all their progress away, and that if they feel close to losing control, that they can ask for help.


Be There for Them

It’s not a bad idea to either live with your loved one or help them find a roommate to stay with while they are going through the first few months of recovery. Be sure to give them a way to contact you but be realistic about how available you can be. This is where it helps tremendously to coordinate with friends and family. Discuss how you might all be able to pitch in to help your loved one and ensure that they always have someone to turn to if things get tough.


Learn More About Their Addiction & Recovery

It seems simple but it is so important: The more you know about your loved one’s situation, the more you might be able to understand what they’re going through and why they’re acting the way they are. There’s a difference between intellectually understanding something and having lived through it on a personal and visceral level. However, it’s still better to learn about their addiction and their recovery process than be in the dark about what might be going through their head.


Speak with Their Therapist or Doctor

With your loved one’s permission, consider going to a few meetings or sessions and learning more about what their therapist is doing to help your loved one, or engage in therapy together. While information online can help you have a better grasp of the “big picture” of addiction in general, it’s best to talk to a professional directly regarding the mental health of your friend or family member specifically. Their therapist or doctor may be able to give you suggestions about what you can do to help them make progress in recovery.


Be Honest About Their Progress

There are very few saints, and the recovery process isn’t hallmarked by cheerful moments and rainbows. There will be times of frustration, and while you should never be mean or hurtful, you should always be honest. Think of it this way – although the truth can cut like a blade, it’s far worse to be dishonest, deceitful or insincere. Instead of diminishing your loved one’s progress, highlight how far they’ve come. Acknowledge that they still have progress to make, and that there is behavior they will have to curb. Criticism is important, but so is praise.


Help Them Make Healthier Life Choices

Healthier life choices can be tremendously helpful with maintaining sobriety. A big part of staying sober is staving off negative emotions and excessive stress. Getting enough rest, getting some exercise, and eating good food are all healthy ways to help minimize stress and to have a greater quality of life. Help your loved one by embarking on a life journey together.


Take Care of Your Own Needs as Well

It’s easy to get lost in the mindset that you’re there to help, and that your needs are secondary to those of your loved one. After all, what they’re going through is incomparable to whatever stress you might have piled up, right? Wrong. If you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. Work with your family and friends to create a support system for your loved one, a support system you can be a part of but that doesn’t completely rest on you. Don’t take their entire burden onto yourself, and don’t make it your sole responsibility for them to succeed.

There’s no specific timeline for recovery. Everyone works through their addiction treatment at their own pace. While programs like rehab or inpatient treatment are often a smart first step in the right direction, the meat and potatoes of “recovery” comes from years of sobriety, and a fulfilling life that makes staying sober worthwhile.

Most relapses happen within the first year, with the bulk of those happening in the first six months. After that, relapses become increasingly rare. Surviving past that year mark is a big milestone for many – but it’s ultimately up to your loved one to know when they feel like they’ve reached a comfortable distance from their addiction, to the point where they no longer truly fear a relapse could happen anytime soon.

You Have A Responsibility To Yourself To Stay Sober

Responsibility To Stay Sober | Transcend Recovery Community

Addiction is a long fight – for many, it takes years of trying to stay sober to find the point in life where you feel like you can put it all behind you. Staying motivated throughout that fight can sometimes feel like an impossible task. However, thousands of Americans do it every year, tackling their addiction, and living day after day as a sober person.

While there is nothing wrong with sourcing your motivation externally, there comes a point in life when you must be the source of your own motivation – because if you do not truly want to stay sober, then no amount of support will help carry you through the time it takes to grow beyond an addiction.

Motivation is a central part of addiction. It helps to understand that the disease itself attacks your brain’s reward center, corrupting your sense of what is motivating – in a way, at its peak, nothing is more rewarding and motivating than the high, and getting past that to stay sober takes incredible willpower and lots of help.

That is why addiction treatment centers work hard to keep you sober and remove any temptation for the duration of the program. That does not make staying sober much easier – especially with a painful withdrawal – but it makes is much more doable.

Beyond the initial recovery and treatment, staying sober is something you must work at – and with the right tools, you have a solid fighting chance. But learning how to stay motivated after addiction means relearning what it means to be motivated.


What Drives You To Stay Sober?

Is there anything you are passionate about? Addiction is as much a physical disease of the brain as it is an emotional battle – severing the tie between yourself and the emotions you feel when you are high can take a long time, and a powerful substitute. While no one should go exchanging one addiction for another, it is a good idea to find an alternate coping mechanism – something you can focus on when times get tough, to relieve stress without resorting to addiction.

Because of its sheer variability and efficacy as a tool for self-improvement and better focus, exercise can be a powerful passion. The hard part is figuring out what form of exercise suits you best. Running, cycling, swimming, climbing, lifting, fighting – the only way to find out is to try.

Of course, physical activity is not the only thing you can be passionate about after addiction. Just like getting active, exploring your own creativity, and expressing yourself on paper, on canvas or on a recorder can go a long way towards making you feel better, reducing stress, and improving at something.

There are greater nuances to feeling motivated. Some people enjoy exercise, but only with the additional motivator of competition. Being passionate about being the best is a great way to hone your focus and develop a drive entirely separate from your addiction. Others prefer to collaborate, seeking to work with others on creative endeavors, in order to make something truly unique for everyone to be proud of.

If you want to stay motivated, then sobriety alone cannot be your sole motivator. You need something else – a passion that pulls you towards it, something that you cannot risk giving up for addiction, no matter how strong the temptation becomes. It needs to be something you can turn towards when times are tough, but also something you enjoy on a regular basis even when your day is going perfectly.

Once you have found your passion, you are one big step closer to stay sober and build a life that is not easily given up.


The Importance Of Support

The people who support you throughout your addiction treatment are more than just your support – they are people, with lives and dreams and goals and wishes. Often, they may be close friend and family, or they could the people you have bonded with while getting sober.

Seeing them as friends to care about can create an interdependent relationship where one supports the other – focus on giving, and you may find that you will receive more in the long run. Doing good for others also naturally elicits a positive response in us – we want to do good things for others, and feel good about doing good things, even if we do not receive anything in return.

Building strong bonds with the people who care for you, and for whom you care, can create a greater sense of responsibility towards not just yourself, but others. This accountability to stay sober for their sake will build upon you and give you another sense of purpose beyond your interests, passions, and dreams.

Your responsibility to yourself deepens – to stay true to the person you are becoming, and the tomorrow you envisage for yourself, you must keep on resisting any urge to go back to the addiction.


Staying Motivated During Sobriety

Beyond passion and support, another important aspect of staying sober is finding a way to support yourself financially, without taking on too much stress to bear. If you are in a line of work that is financially stable, but find yourself stressed beyond belief, then leave. Find support, ask for help, and do your best to get into a line of work you truly care about – it can save your life.

There is more to finding a job than really wanting it, and there is more to finding the right job than simply wanting to work in that industry. However, an important goal for anyone on the road to sobriety is living a healthy life. That includes finding work to sustain yourself and help support your family as you stay sober, while enjoying the work you do.


This Is Your Fight

Every step in the right direction can be incredibly fulfilling – but you have to make each step yourself. While others can help support you, you must progress on your own and reach the conclusions you need to reach to find an emotionally stable place away from addiction, in a sober life built around your responsibilities to yourself, your passions, your dreams, your hopes, and the people you care about.

This is your fight – and waking up day after day, it’s your decision to stay sober and live in defiance of your past and the mistakes you once made.


What Can a Sober Mentor Do for You?

Sober Mentor | Transcend Recovery Community

Sobriety is an individual state – it’s something you have to trigger on your own, maintain of your own volition, and pursue with your own agency. If someone pushes you to get sober, it won’t last. If someone gives you an emotional ultimatum to get sober, it won’t last. Even life itself cannot force you to get sober – until death takes you. And even then, you wouldn’t be sober. You’d just be gone. It’s on you to get sober and stay sober – but there’s more to sobriety than taking step for step on a lonely road. You have to do the lifting and make the decisions, but you can do so with a sober mentor or someone by your side, encouraging you, reminding you, helping you do the things you need to do the most in order to stay true to your own promises and live out the sober life you might have longed for.

That is what a sober mentor initially represents – the person in your life who helps you stay sober. But the keyword here is help. Help is always important. We need help, and support – not just as recipients, but as senders. Helping and supporting others can be extremely fulfilling – and in much the same way as you might need the help of a sober mentor to get through the toughest times of your recovery, someone will one day need you. Or maybe they already do.


What Is A Sober Mentor?

A sober mentor is a professional. They begin with the experience and the passion to help others – and then they follow that up with training. Sober mentoring programs exist for individuals who have gone through life facing their own hardships and challenges to meet and help people struggling through many similar challenges on their own road to wellbeing.

Sober mentoring is more than a sponsorship program, and it differs from many other programs. In a sense, it’s a one-on-one relationship with a transitional goal in mind – moving from a healing environment like a recovery community back into real life without losing hope or falling out of established sober habits.

Sobriety is not necessarily difficult to achieve. Many people stop using or drinking, and the motivations for doing so do not have to be particularly powerful. The struggle begins when a person has to actually keep up that sobriety, for days and weeks and months. Life is not streamlined, simple or idyllic – it’s messy and harsh, more so for some than for others. Withstanding life on your own two feet is hard enough but doing so while staying sober after months or years of substance use can be gut wrenchingly difficult, and seemingly impossible.

Sober mentors work to open your eyes to the possibilities of a prolonged and permanent sober life, one that makes you strong enough to face all of life’s challenges, including even the most tragic setbacks.

The sober mentor has multiple responsibilities, including keeping schedules for their clients, helping them emotionally and psychologically, collaborating with the client’s other treatment options and with their friends and family, and being skilled in crisis management, interventions, and more.


The Mentor/Mentee Relationship

If you don’t like your therapist, you’re not going to get much out of therapy.

This holds true for sober mentorship, as well. A sober mentor is a qualified professional doing their job – but that does not mean that they have to be cold or unfriendly while doing so. It’s important to find a mentor you’re comfortable with, someone with whom you share chemistry.

Beyond that, the mentor/mentee relationship may be one you have to prepare for. The first most important step is to establish within your own mind that you truly want this. A sober mentorship is voluntary – it isn’t a program that should be hoisted onto someone if they’re out of control, but rather it should be something a client decides to choose is best for their transition from a recovery community to regular living.

As such, prepare by considering how you want to incorporate your mentor into your life. Sober mentors are not sober companions – they usually do not get paid large sums of money to live with you and stand by your side 24/7. Instead, they may be available on a regular basis, meeting as often as you are comfortable with, and under certain emergency circumstances.

Decide when and how often you plan to meet, and what you want to accomplish with this relationship. Is your primary objective a smooth transition into a new job? Reconnecting with family? Staying sober for six months straight? Try and consider what matters most, and why.


Sober Mentorship In The Long-Term

Sober mentors can be both friends and professionals, yet speaking in concrete terms, sober mentoring is a service that is meant to be temporary. While some individuals might only need this sort of intense professional help for a few weeks, others can spend months or even years struggling with their addiction and various treatments.

The long-term view requires sober mentors to both focus on the now and provide tools that help clients deal with their own issues in the future, as well as working with close relatives and loved ones to help them understand what they might have to do to help the client prolong their sobriety and maintain it throughout recovery and beyond.

Choosing a sober mentor can help a person overcome the hardest, most challenging aspects of recovery – the early recovery period, when the cravings are the most powerful and the memories and emotions are at their strongest. But after a certain period of time passes, it is time for a client to move on towards a more independent stroll through recovery. While we all need support from those around us, seeking professional support forever is not a good sign of progress through recovery. The aim for sober mentors is ultimately to make their own existence in a client’s life obsolete, preferably as quickly as feasible depending on the client’s progress.

What Makes Staying Sober After Recovery So Difficult?

Staying Sober \ Transcend Recovery Community

Many people who have gone through the years and therapy needed to overcome an addiction will tell you that it can be horrendously difficult to admit your addiction, and then take the necessary steps to seek help, find support, forgive yourself and beat withdrawal. Many more will also tell you that, as hard as all that is, it’s just the beginning – and the biggest challenge will ultimately be staying sober long after the treatments are over.

In many people’s eyes, recovery is the period after addiction when someone decides to seek treatment, and undergoes at least an entire program getting their life together and going “back to normal”. But the thing is that this is a misconception. There is no such thing as normal, and there will never be a template life to go back to. When you go through an addiction, you can overcome it and change your life for the better by staying sober – but you won’t go back to living how you did in the past.

When treatment ends, life will be very different from how it used to be before the addiction. And no matter how much time passes, you still have to live with the memories of the feeling of addiction, and the things you did.

Coming to terms with that while staying sober and finding a way to live with and live past the temptation is the real key to beating an addiction in the long-term – and understanding why is important to explaining why staying sober is so difficult to maintain, even after treatment.


Staying Sober: Defining Sober

Sobriety is not abstinence – rather, it is having a clear state of mind. That means not just skipping out on your drugs of choice, but it also means skipping out on alcohol and every other drug, and for many people, it means skipping out on any medication that affects your mind unless medically necessary. To be sober, you have to not be using.

Maintaining your sobriety can be torture at first, which is why treatments and programs exist to make the journey a little easier, and help work you through the challenges as they arise.

But people make the mistake of thinking that once the treatment is over, the temptation and the cravings magically disappear. They don’t. Instead, you’re meant to use the time and resources given to you during treatment and recovery to amass a set of tools to work with in times of stress and need, to fend off temptation, fight off cravings, and work on staying sober.


The Temptation Of Addiction

The reason addiction has such a radical and long-term hold over the human mind has to do with both a set of psychological reasons, and a set of physiological reasons. These reasons are intertwined.

On the psychological side, an important part of recovery is seeing it not as a treatment for addiction to be excised out of your life, but more as a training for how to deal with addiction, and beat it into obscurity within your life. This takes several steps, the most noteworthy of which is self-love.

This has nothing to do with spirituality, self-motivation, or surrounding yourself with people who love and adore you. It’s not about amassing massive wealth, success, and fame. It’s not about becoming the perfect human.

It has to do with staring into yourself in front of a mirror, and making conscious decisions to turn into someone who is true to themselves, and likes it. Sometimes, you may have to make changes. Other times, you may have to learn to live with, and even love certain aspects of yourself.

Only then, when you’re independently okay with who you are as a person and don’t need to seek validation from others or from outside objects and titles, will you be able to completely embrace sobriety without a shade of doubt. This is because addiction feeds on doubt. It feeds on insecurity and fear. It feeds on worry and stress. If you can’t be happy with yourself, then you won’t be able to live a happier sober life – and the temptations will stay.

The physical reason why addiction is so difficult to overcome is that it warps the pleasure center of the brain, completely changing the way we perceive joy and euphoria. Things that used to bring people happiness – like their hobbies – fall out of favor, while the need for the drug takes over.

Rewriting that takes time, because the stimuli of drug use cannot be beaten. Overstimulation of the brain’s pleasure center is essentially why it gets warped, and recovering from the effects of drug use and staying sober can take years.


Losing The Routine

Every drug recovery treatment plan has a routine. Routines are helpful when fighting an emotional or mental battle – they help make life simple, give us something to do, and take away time that might otherwise be spent thinking about or doing something harmful.

The structure that a routine can provide also gives people a daily pattern to adhere to, and return to when things go wrong. A big part of struggling with sobriety outside of the confines of a treatment center or sober living environment is the fact that the routine often eventually falls away, and with it, the sobriety can suffer.

You don’t have to have the same routine all the time, but be sure to bring structure to your life. When the stress begins to knock down your routine, don’t let it all fall into disarray. Adapt, accommodate, and stay strong.


Why People Struggle With Relapses

Relapses occur astonishingly often, at least in the eyes of some. Others might recognize that a relapse is nothing to fear, and may even be considered part of the early recovery process for most people.

Having a relapse can be damaging to your overall progress, especially as it resets your sobriety counter – but that does not make it the end of your chance at staying sober, or worse, spell out your doom. A relapse is not a failure. It is just another experience with addiction, and an opportunity to learn and do better.

Through relapses, you can mark periods and triggers in your life that bring you closer to addiction and the cravings, and find ways to be more vigilant of these factors and avoid them or work around them. No matter how large your setbacks are, the most important thing is to keep moving forward and continue on the path to lasting sobriety.


Is Addiction A Choice?

Dealing With Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

Life is all about choices. The people we choose to be with. The things we choose to do. The words we choose say. At the end of the day, our lives and what we did with them are our responsibility, and it is up to each of us to live a life well-spent, and well-lived.

At least, ideally, that would be the case. But we can’t always take responsibility. Sometimes we must accept that certain circumstances led to a bad outcome, and that we must move on past through those circumstances to make the best of things.

If something goes wrong, it’s not necessarily your fault. But it may not necessarily be someone else’s, either. Sometimes, when there is no one and nothing to blame, the hardest thing is to let it go. When it comes to addiction, in most cases, there is no single thing or person to blame. Addiction develops over time, and the factors that cause it likely developed over years.

But there’s a fine line between living a life free from meaningless grudges, and living a life free from accepting any responsibility or owning up to your own mistakes. Mistakes and failures are a part of life, and often enough when something does go wrong, it is our fault.

When it comes to addiction, one of the many questions people have is whether it is one or the other. Is addiction a matter of circumstance? Or is it a choice people make, their responsibility? It’s a tricky question – but anyone who tackles the issue on a personal level must find an answer to it.


What Choices Mean To An Addict

Choice is critical. To be able to choose, not just based upon some sort of biological programming, but out of your very own reasoning, is important. We all need to be able to choose our beliefs, our partners, our actions.

But true free will – and the ability to choose beyond some predestined way of thinking – is difficult. One thought leads to the next, and most “logical” conclusions are the result of inevitable, and uncontrollable circumstance. As such, these reactionary choices are still choices, but the one’s were forced to make.

This his how addiction works. Your brain compels you to think a certain way, and the choices you make are in favor of that way of thinking. But that doesn’t mean you’re really choosing anything. You’re forced to act a certain way.

Choosing outside of these cravings is exceptionally difficult – otherwise, addiction would not be a problem to begin with. It doesn’t have to do with willpower. Instead, it’s a matter of motivation.

Someone who struggles with addiction may not have the motivation to stay clean. They may find themselves constantly being doubted, by others and themselves. Sometimes, people lose hope in their own recovery. People in recovery need friends and loved ones to remind them what they’re fighting for, and to keep that motivation ignited and that passion burning.


No One Chooses The Pain Of Addiction

Regardless of whether you find that people are responsible for their own addiction, the fact remains that most people who struggle with a drug do not want the pain of their addiction. They don’t want to fear relapse, or overdose. No one needs that in their life.

In fact, no one should need drugs in their life. It’s only when something is missing, lost or stolen when drugs become a viable option to help us fill life’s voids. Unlearning that, and relearning how to live a sober life and be free to fill that void with real living can take months and years – but people go through those journeys all the time, putting one foot in front of the other best they can, despite their own cravings.

That’s the true power of choice in addiction – it’s the choices we make to become better people, and recover from addiction. Those are the choices that, in the end, count the most.


Choice Is Important For Recovery

While most would say that they didn’t choose to become addicted, choice is incredibly important for getting out of addiction. Overcoming addiction requires you to choose to get better, and commit to that choice completely. Unlike addiction, which can creep up on you, the road to long-term sobriety is long and its pain is very noticeable.

It starts with a simple and small commitment, such as wanting to get better. Then it becomes something more concrete, such as going to rehab, seeking the help of a known specialist, or joining a recovery community. Then it becomes a daily routine, a fight you must fight from sunrise to sunset, and beyond. Eventually, you’ll get past the painful stage, and you will begin to love live again.

Living life, the way it’s meant to be lived – without the cravings – can take some getting used to. But if you choose to get better on day one and commit to that choice – even through the failures and the hardships – there is always hope that one day you won’t feel like you need a fix when things get tough.


Blame And The Role It Plays In Addiction

Blame can be an incredibly destructive force in addiction. On one hand, blaming others will deflect the failure off yourself, and it will keep you from understanding the dangers of addiction, and learning how it can hurt others around you. On the other hand, blaming yourself too harshly will lead to another problem, wherein you may lack the confidence in yourself to stay sober, or even find a reason to.

Addiction is a terrible thing, and different people must struggle with completely different circumstances. But it’s always tough, and the last thing you need is to cast doubt on your ability to get better. While completely ignoring your failures is just as bad, being too hard on yourself can invite just as much trouble.

Try and find a way to continue believing in yourself, while acknowledging the work that must be done in recovery.