No matter how much mileage we have in our recovery, there will be those period in which we might feel stuck. No matter how strong our recovery may be and no matter how many right things we do to protect that asset, we will have those moments where we feel we aren’t moving as far along as we need to.
If you are experiencing those meh moments, it is quite normal and can signal that you need to change up your recovery game. However, if you stay stuck in the funk and allow the stresses and triggers to take up residence in your head you could eventually put your recovery at risk. While feeling stuck in recovery ruts are a normal part of the recovery process, relapse is unfortunately a common landmark on the recovery landscape.
It is estimated that 90 percent of recovering addicts will relapse within the first year of being clean and sober. While the prospect of backsliding into relapse is always a possibility, an excellent way to minimize the chances of that occurring is to learn to identify the common recovery ruts you can find ourselves in. Once you can identify those moments, you can face them head-on in a healthy manner and move on.
The following are some of the most common mindsets that occur within these ruts and ways you can break free.
Recovery Rut #1: Catastrophizing
A common recovery rut that you can find yourself in is the phenomenon of catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is simply defined as having irrational thoughts in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. When you engage in catastrophizing, you are making the proverbial mountain out of a mole hill. In terms of recovery, this can obviously occur if you have thoughts about using substances.
No matter how long we have clean and sober, the thoughts of using drugs and alcohol can occur without warning. Instead of jumping from point A to point Z and assuming that the worst will happen, honor the feelings that you have in the here and now and realize don’t obsess about predicting the future. Take some time and really think about where your recovery is at in the present time and think about things.
Are you going to enough meetings?
Are you working with your sponsor?
Are you doing everything necessary to properly take care of yourself?
Be candid with yourself and address any shortcomings you may have in your plan of recovery and set realistic goals in regards to implementing any tweaks to your plan that will provide the spark you need to get the engine firing again.
Recovery Rut #2: Having Unrealistic Expectations
If you think about it, the zest and zeal we can have in recovery can be extremely motivating. When you rise from the ashes of addiction, your goal is to distance yourself as far away from your old self and by any means necessary. While having this mindset can be freeing and exhilarating, it can also set you up to be disappointed.
As we know recovery isn’t a race, it is a journey that unfolds over a lifetime. You certainly may realize this, but your brain may want to hit the home run right now and you may formulate unrealistic expectations and impose upon yourself strict rules that will be next to impossible to maintain. That mindset will also set you up for a possible relapse down the road.
Mistakes will happen and there will be times that you may fall short, and that ultimately is OK. Let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on today. Be flexible with yourself, and above all learn to forgive yourself–you are human.
Recovery Rut #3: Filtering
We all know people who always seem to dwell on the negative. No matter how many things are right in their lives, they have an uncanny knack to find the bad in every situation. Once they identify those negative things, they blow it up and soon their lives become one big pity parade.
This type of attitude won’t get you very far in recovery. The gains that you make in recovery are subtle and won’t be fully noticeable right away. Focusing on why you aren’t “recovering fast enough” often leads to extended periods of the dreaded stinkin’ thinkin’ and before you know it you could be back at square one with your recovery wondering what in hell happened to you.
How do you break free of this recovery rut? You can start by stepping back and truly examining those negative thoughts, understanding where they can from, and learning to let them go. Mindful meditation practice is an excellent tool that can help you calm your mind, become fully aware of your feelings and senses and keep you focused on the present. If you don’t have meditation in your recovery toolkit, add it.
Recovery Rut #4: Reasoning with Emotion
It has been alluded to earlier, but it bears repeating–we aren’t perfect.
Don’t mean to be Captain Obvious, but despite you knowing this is may not stop you from totally beating yourself up when things don’t go as planned. When things go wrong–especially in recovery, it can be easy for your emotions to take the wheel and you may end up saying things like the following:
“Man, I suck at this.”
“Recovery is horrible… I will never get better.”
Our emotions can be very visceral, and it is easy to adopt a sense of tunnel vision in regards to pouring all of your focus into what you are feeling. By all means, go ahead and feel–but you must understand that what you are feeling is something that is temporary. Once you understand your emotions for what they are, you can work through them, let go and keep moving forward.
These are just a few of the recovery ruts you can experience in recovery–and in reality there are many. If you find yourself stuck in the quicksand of these ruts, you must reach out for help if things begin to feel overwhelming. Lean on your support system, go to a meeting, work with your sponsor. You must do anything and everything necessary to work through these obstacles to keep your recovery (and sanity) intact.