It is fairly easy to stay on track with our goals while we are feeling good, and easy to stay sober while life is going exactly how we’ve planned it. The thing about life, though, is that it rarely unfolds in a perfect way. Days and years are spent doing things we’d rather not do. Good people in our lives may leave us, and the ones who stay near us may not be as supportive as we’d like. Unexpected events can leave us hurt, confused, and frightened.
The goal of long term sobriety is to be able to weather the hard times while remaining dedicated to our resolution to stay clean. This doesn’t happen on accident. The ability to stay strong during difficult times depends on our utilization of the coping skills that we’ve developed during our initial stages of recovery. During hard times, remember these basic tips for staying healthy and focused.
Don’t Neglect Your Self Care
Our energy level works like the gasoline in a vehicle. If we don’t stop regularly to fill it up, our tank will run dry. We can lose the motivation to keep going forward, and can end up lost and stranded. Self-care practices are the opportunity to pull into a maintenance station. While in self care mode, we can make sure that our positive energy levels are good and our perspectives are balanced.
Once we have started the journey of sobriety, the temptation to use drugs and alcohol primarily arises when our energy levels are low. Work, school, and social obligations are all potential energy drainers. Unexpected events can also drain our tank. It is important that we learn to keep an eye on our own energy levels throughout the day. If our internal light starts blinking red, it is time to stop and do something healthy about it. Some warning signs include feeling easily irritated, losing the ability to think clearly, or beginning to cry easily.
The secret to good self care is finding out what it is that most effectively works for you. There are many suggestions available on the internet for how to go about it, but it is only effective if it is something that you can truly enjoy. If you haven’t yet identified what best fulfills this purpose in your life, spend some time exploring new activities and hobbies. Keep at it until you are able to clearly define what self care activities work best for you.
The goal of a self-care activity is to temporarily take your mind off of your problems and to replace any negative attitudes with peaceful ones. You will also need to make sure that others around you are respectful of your need to refill yourself with good energy. Be bold in letting them know that you need some regular self care time.
Get Outside Yourself
When times are tough, it is particularly easy to sink into a pit of rumination. We will go over and over the same scenarios within our minds, but with no new solutions to show for it. Eventually, running in that same circle can result in digging our way into a rut of depression.
While self care works by making the focus about our own needs, there are also times when we will find more benefit from turning our focus outward. A life that is spent too focused on only our own happiness is one that is out of balance. Examine yourself, and check to see whether you might benefit from thinking more about the other people in your life. Learn to find joy in the accomplishments of others, and learn to extend grace and forgiveness for their shortcomings. You are likely to find that your own load is lightened as you practice being a support for others.
Ask For Help
One of the first things that many of us learn in our sobriety is that we need the help of other people. Being a lone wolf may work for a time, but enlisting the support of the loving people around us makes going through hard times much easier. Not only does having a support network provide us with a safety net, it also provides us with accountability. Our allies in our quest of sobriety will both encourage us, and remind us of what we need to stay focused on.
If you have the benefit of belonging to a recovery support or sober living group, they will be standing ready for you to call upon them during times of struggle. The nature of these groups is to provide long-term support, and members are taught to expect that they will periodically need each other over the years.
Ideally, you will have also made some good friends by this time, as well. As we maintain our sobriety, we learn to discern between people who have our best interests in mind, and those who might threaten the security of our sobriety. The main hallmark of a good friend is that he or she is available to provide a listening ear or a helping hand during the worst of times. Make sure to reach out to these people when you need them. You will surely be returning the favor, in the future.
Whether you have the benefit of a support group and good friends, or not, you may also consider enlisting the help of a trained therapist. The outside perspective of a therapist may be what is needed to provide you with new ideas, techniques, plans, and goals. You don’t have to settle for the first therapist that you come across, either. Take some time to shop around, and find a therapist who is a good fit.
Remember How Far You’ve Come
While thinking about the past too much isn’t a good idea, thinking about it for the purpose of examining your options can be useful. Take some time to ponder the differences between your life in addiction, and your life, now. You have worked hard to get to this place of recovery, and throwing your progress away to addiction would mean having to start it all over. No matter how hard the life of sobriety gets, it is always better than the hell of addiction.