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.