There’s a reason you often hear, “Recovery is a lifelong journey.” After you leave addiction treatment, your work is not over – in fact, some would say it has just started. When you return home, you’ll need to draw upon the tools you learned to cope with stress and negative emotions. You also may decide to set boundaries with your family and friends to protect yourself. You might have to remove yourself from triggering social situations and say “no” more than usual. While this all might seem selfish, the most important thing is to focus on healing and putting your sobriety first.
Now, this doesn’t mean all your conversations and thoughts need to revolve around recovery. But it does mean that your day-to-day routine will change as you figure out what you need to be successful in recovery. This is because your well-being, and maybe even your life, depends on staying sober. But it takes work and patience. Jacqueline Stevens LMSW shares three things to encourage yourself to put your sobriety and well-being first each day.
1. You are worth it
As simple as this might sound, the truth is some of us won’t ever obtain our goals, be it recovery related or not, simply because we don’t believe we are worth them. When our self-worth is low, we begin to self-sabotage our goals before we even begin. With addiction, self-sabotage might look like neglecting much-needed support systems – the people, sober communities, sponsors, etc. – that are aiding in developing your self-confidence. When you embark on any journey, your self-confidence can be rocky. Of course, starting any new endeavor is scary and uncertain.
To put your sobriety first, spend time with people who positively feed into your self-worth. Tell yourself you are worthy regardless of where you come from or what you have done in the past. Leave post-it notes around your house that shower you with love. And until you believe in your worthiness, be very careful of who you allow in your space. Think of it like this: the company you keep is like riding an elevator – they will either bring you up or take you down. So, keep good company around, who continuously builds your self-confidence and your ability to believe you’re worth living a sober life. And implement strict boundaries with anyone who brings you down – in any way. Why? Because you’re worth it!
2. You are not alone
The stigma associated with addiction and substance use might lead many to falsely believe they’re alone on this journey. However, according to the National Institute of Health, 10 percent of the U.S. population has struggled with addiction at some point in their lives, but 75 percent report ever receiving treatment. Furthermore, Alcohol and substance use addictions are considered maladaptive coping behaviors. Do you know what else is present in the same category? Such behaviors include gambling, overworking, overeating, overplaying video games, and over-exercising. What this should show you is that you’re normal. We’re all battling our own independent struggles, and just because yours is alcohol or substance addiction shouldn’t make you feel any less than anyone else.
When you’re struggling not to have a drink, or use other substances, be open about it with someone you can trust. You can also join a local support or AA group in your area with other individuals who are going through similar struggles. You can expect a lot of patience and understanding from others who have walked the same road as you.
3. You are more than your addiction
Sometimes in our quest for sobriety, the addiction becomes our identity. But say it with me for a moment – “I am more than my addiction.” Some of the most talented people in the world – Doctors, lawyers, wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, students, executives, creatives, etc., once found themselves battling this disease. And, while it will always be a part of your story, remember it’s only a tiny part. Your life is made up of so many other exceptional components. Focus on those areas of your life and let them be a reminder of how much you’ve already accomplished. Frequently, we use our addictions as proof that we’re somehow incapable, weak, and undeserving of living fulfilling lives. When it’s just the opposite. If we stop and look around, we’d realize our lives are already fulfilled, and we have much to be grateful for. It’s simply a blessing to still be alive and able to show up in these other capacities.
So, may I encourage you to stop and take a life audit? List three things that you are, aside from your addiction. Then think of how much each of these means to you. I bet after doing this exercise, you experience a bout of gratitude. And rightfully so. The practice of gratitude helps us remember the small things in our life that we often overlook. And life really is about those seemingly small things that we often forget but invoke positive emotions and experiences.
Recovery can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Brandon Novak, a former professional skateboarder, TV stuntman, and recovery advocate shares his addiction story in a fantastic YouTube series called Addiction: Tomorrow Is Going to Be Better. I often play his documentary in groups with my clients because he brilliantly orates his struggles with addiction and how he finally decided to become sober. He ends the documentary by saying, “When you put the person back together, their world falls into place.” If you’re considering starting the new year with intentions that include continued sobriety, stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, or anything else concerning your well-being, set yourself up for success by making sure you begin internally. According to Novak, your entire world will follow once you do.