The biggest problem with addiction recovery is the recovery part.
Recovery isn’t a word with a firm definition. It isn’t a switch that goes off if you’ve lived long enough. That there was an addiction serves to constantly remind you that problems start and injuries occur.
Learning to be healthy requires embracing recovery as an identity. Each day you get a little better until you stop thinking reflexively and start acting proactively.
Everyone recovers at their own pace and faces their own challenges. The best way to move forward is not to repeat the past or make mistakes that impede your progress.
Addiction Recovery Mistakes
In the final days of a Detox Program, facilitators will encourage you to consider how you will progress outside. This isn’t just aspirational but a way to get you processing the struggles of sobriety and the many pitfalls, internal and external, you’ll face.
Overconfidence comes in a lot of forms after treatment and rehabilitation. Recovery isn’t a one-and-done process and it takes a lot of upkeep.
Much like the days after an illness, the feeling of normalcy and even-keeled senses feels amazing. Too often that amazing feeling gets spun into a sense of over-reaching, unending accomplishment.
In this period it’s easy to feel like you can take on the world or do anything. The problem with this isn’t the attempt, but the crash that follows.
Recovery is best considered in steps and plateaus. You need to get used to ‘being’ in each stage and place before challenging the next ordeal. This both avoids overloading yourself and setting yourself up for failure and creates a greater appreciation for what you have in the here and now.
New You, New Problems
The newest version of you isn’t a version of you immune to struggle and strife.
Recovery is a continuum that you travel along, not a way-stop you achieve.
The hardest part of recovery is the day-by-day sorting of who you were and how you are becoming. You can’t do all new things with all new people and places, because that’s an artificial construct. You also can’t return to where you were, that was the place that led to your initial problems.
Sorting the impulse to cut ties or to slide into the old requires a strong rubric that often feels tiring.
One of the most common mistakes made by recovering addicts is returning to the circle of friends. Old friends tend to be supportive but not necessarily hold the line on your progress and recovery.
They are quick to excuse your behavior because it feels natural and to lure you into returning to addiction through either the strife and drama they add to life or by offering convenient excuses and access to substances.
Old friends also have a habit of reminding you of who you were and not embracing who you are. This leads to misconceptions about your road to recovery.
Old friends can be part of a beneficial, necessary support structure, but they need to help you engage with the process, not avoid it.
Returning to hold habits works along the same lines. The environments and activities you once frequented serve as both reminders of where you were and grant access to your addiction.
Many habits formed in the late stages of addiction as covers for unhealthy behaviors. Returning to these habits makes returning to substances feel natural, or in some cases necessary to enjoy the habit.
Recidivism happens but it happens far more often to those who don’t seek and participate in treatment. Old habits are a form of anti-treatment, slowly undoing what you’ve learned until you return to where you started.
Hiding when Struggling
Recovery isn’t easy and it takes only a few setbacks and temptations to feel as if all the work that’s gone before was pointless. Shame and fear come in waves. Reaching out for help starts to feel like admitting defeat or surrendering.
Rather than turning to support structures, many recovering addicts hide away and let the hurt and shame fester until it becomes a relapse.
If anything, the instinct to retreat is a sign that you need to reach out. It’s also important to take each day in context with other days. Everyone has a bad day and feeling like everything’s coming apart happens.
Something as simple as venting about the struggles makes others feel safe to speak and reminds you that your problems aren’t insurmountable or exaggerated.
Of the mistakes listed here, this one hurts the most. After participating in an optimal health plan and embracing sobriety, you want to be seen in a new, positive light.
It hurts when people remind you of past mistakes instead of seeing the gains you’ve made. That said, you can’t expect everyone to forgive and forget the past.
You can no more expect people to trust you than you should trust them. Trust is a two-way street that is built carefully and is easier to wreck than forge.
Trust, too easily given, is even easier to break. If both parties practice patience, you’ll be less prone to having every action questioned and spend less time explaining yourself, which feels like a betrayal of thought and deed.
Calling it “Done”
The process of addiction recovery takes time. It isn’t an unending process but it is a long one.
Each day is a new challenge and can feel like the hardest work you’ve encountered. Each plateau feels like the end of a marathon. Deciding that you’re done and ‘cured’ chops down your progress.
You can’t go forward with a mindset that you’ll ‘always’ be an addict. You also can’t assume that your new life is the only life you’ll have going forward.
There aren’t the mistakes you’ll want to avoid in your addiction recovery, but they are the most prevalent.
Working with your support structures and keeping to personal accountability helps a lot. At the end of the day, you only answer to yourself and you want to be as kind in that assessment as you would be to someone else
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