In addition to the classic emotional requirements of honesty, commitment, openness, and acceptance, recovery must also require the ability to be patient. Change happens over time. Positive transformation is a process, not a one-time occurrence.
Sobriety means a slow changing of all aspects of your life. To do this, there must be a concerted and conscious effort to change, and this can be tricky. The problem is that addiction isn’t just an addiction to a drug; it’s an addiction to a way of life. It’s an attachment to certain feelings, behaviors, and choices. It’s an addiction to certain chemicals in the brain or a high that happens when you experience the pleasure of a drug. On the whole, an addiction is the result of focusing your entire life toward drinking or drug use. Making an entire shift of attention and attitude is going to take time.
Just as developing an addiction was a process over time, undoing that is also a process. The path of recovery is, in a sense, walking with more and more conscious awareness. For instance, when you become sober you open yourself discovering those parts that led you to drink in the first place. It means uncovering parts of you that have held you down, those parts that feel wounded, and parts of yourself that keep you living life in a trance.
For this reason, recovery means investigating how you’re living now and how you’ve been living in the past. It means exploring your life for thinking patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that are self-harming. Perhaps it means seeing a therapist. The process of sober living is a process of becoming more and more aware of who you are beneath the addiction, and that means both the authentic parts of you as well as the wounded parts of you that yearn for healing and love.
Frequently, in recovery, men and women feel that painful feeling of self-doubt sink in. Memories of the past make many people feel guilty and keeps them lost in an internal struggle. There’s a belief that comes with self-doubt, which is somehow being internally flawed, or somehow lacking something essential and which only continues to contribute to the feeling of self doubt and even self hate. However, these feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing can be the largest obstacles to sobriety. Often, those feelings can lead to a return to drinking or using drugs, and it is frequently those feelings that began the cycle of addiction again.
However, on the flip side, the greatest catapults in recovery is healing those feelings of self-rejection. Of course, this too requires patience and the ability to accept yourself where you are. But in time, as you continue to focus on self-love, self-acceptance, and self-compassion, recovery skyrockets in your favor.
Lastly, in this long process of change, there will often be feelings of ambivalence. Meaning you might hold two points of view at the same time – yes, I want to stay sober because it’s healthy and brings happiness in the long run versus no, I want to drink because I feel good and I have so many friends who drink too and I like the companionship. It’s important to remember that a certain degree of ambivalence is healthy and normal. It’s whether you act out on your impulses to drink that might later become problematic.
According to Paula Durlofsky, author of the article “Dealing with Uncertainty: How to Cope with Ambivalence and Decision-Making”, those who are able to hold ambivalence tend to have the ability to know themselves and appreciate their lives. This indicates that a moderate amount of ambivalence can be healthy. Of course, too much ambivalence can be stifling and interfere with one’s ability to move forward. It’s common to see in someone who is frequently ambivalent and indecisive the move from one side of the fence to the other.
If you’re able to commit to your sobriety, regardless of what’s going on in your mind, you’ll find that patience with yourself will pay off. One day you’ll find yourself 10 years sober and thoroughly enjoying your life.
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