It’s not enough to just be sober. Sobriety isn’t meant to be a sentence carried out to answer for your sins. If anything, it’s meant to be a reprieve from the effects of addiction. A joyous, prosperous journey, if you get the chance to make the most of it. But to see that side of sobriety, you need to approach it with a hopeful and positive mindset.
Many recovery centers and sober living communities work hard to instill this sense of positivity in their clients, with group meetings, one-on-one therapy sessions, and world-class care designed to prepare you for the challenges of long-term sobriety and make you hopeful for a better, drug-free future. But maintaining this sense of positivity in the long-term after recovery can be very challenging. Early recovery is mired with emotional instability, new challenges, overwhelming responsibility, and new experiences making you acutely aware of the stigma still present against drug use and addiction. How does one stay hopeful and positive in the face of what might feel like constant difficulty and discouragement?
Finding Your Anchor
Why did you decide to become sober to begin with? While many factors might inform an individual’s decision to seriously commit to recovery, there is usually a central motivation that overpowers the rest. Maybe it’s a sense of responsibility towards others in your life, the sense that you should be better for them. Maybe it’s the fear of losing your life, and losing any semblance of a meaningful legacy, in the midst of an addiction. Maybe it’s the commitment to be a better partner, a better parent, a better friend.
Whatever motivates you, you need reminders in your life to keep you on track, and to remember why it is that you made that monumental decision that fateful day to change your life. It might be an entry on your phone, a voicemail, a quote, a song, a video. Something that reminds you strongly of that one moment.
Having an anchor and something to tie you to it isn’t a guarantee of a positive mindset, let alone a guaranteed way to avoid potential relapses, but it can help sometimes tip a bad day over into a good day, or give you that boost of determination necessary to power through a moment of temptation, and make it to the next day, meeting, or therapy session.
Having Fun During Recovery
Recovery definitely shouldn’t be doom and gloom, and just because you’re sober doesn’t mean your life needs to be ruled by boredom. Find things to do. Figure out what you enjoy doing the most. Start by visiting workshops, signing up for online classes, and picking up hobbies you abandoned a long time ago. Practice with an instrument, try your hand at cooking, learn how to fix things and solder. Take up coding, start working on a personal blog, or do some amateur photography.
There are countless things to do and doing something you enjoy is the perfect way to make new friends in recovery. By going to group meetups and online forums, you get to make new acquaintances and create new friendships, and work on being a sociable person without the alcohol or the drugs.
Learning from Others
Group meetings are the ideal way to instill a sense of positivity and hope when tackling addiction. When faced with stigma and the overwhelming sense of self-doubt, the best way to pick yourself up again and motivate yourself for the future is by hearing about how someone else faced similar challenges and managed to overcome them. We are social creatures, and inspiration is an incredibly powerful tool. Support groups are ultimately about getting together, discussing the challenges of recovery and long-term sobriety, listening to solutions to common problems, and engaging in the open sharing of fears, worries, successes, and aspirations.
Make it a habit to continue visiting sober groups even long after you feel your early recovery process has concluded. It’s important to remind yourself of the early challenges you once faced and help talk about how you eventually overcame them. It’s also important to fight back against the stigma and remind yourself that you’re not alone, that your past as a drug user doesn’t make you a bad person, and that there is a hopeful and prosperous future for you and others like you.
It’s Not Only Your Burden
As important as personal responsibility is, we can’t forget the power and purpose of community. Between families and friends, there exists the innate need to help one another and seek out help. We survived as tribes, not as individuals, and it’s important not to forget that.
Your recovery often hinges on the help you can receive, whether through professionals and loved ones. And likewise, there will be many opportunities in your life to give back to those who helped you and continue to show your gratitude to the world by helping others. Not only is that a moral good, but it also helps make you feel better.
To maintain a positive mindset, practice gratitude for the good things in life and figure out ways to overcome the bad. Remind yourself of the times you were helped and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. And reap the rewards of giving back.
Positivity Is Hard Work
Ultimately, a positive mindset is not something gifted through a genetic lottery. It might be easier for some people to stay positive than it might be for others, but it’s still a state of mind that needs to be worked towards. That doesn’t mean you need to work at it alone. Whether it’s through the help of your friends and family, the loving companionship of a pet you love, the fulfilling qualities of your daily occupation, or the joy and bliss you feel when attaining a personal goal or breaking a personal record, a positive mindset is fueled by countless individual experiences of positivity.
And finally, it’s okay to rely on professional help to maintain a positive outlook. Whether you achieve yours through carefully-prescribed antidepressants, regular therapy sessions, or daily assisted meditation, there are countless ways to work towards your own positive, pragmatic outlook – but only you will know which work, and which are worthless to you.