Changing our perspective on addiction recovery setbacks.
Recovery from addiction is a transformative, sometimes unpredictable, emotional process.
For those that have started on their way towards a life free from substances and alcohol, the benefits and achievements can be reason for major celebration.
But what about the moments when things decline a bit, or a lot?
How do we handle setbacks or bumps in our journey through recovery?
Here are three things to remember:
1) Recovery means addiction is successfully managed, not cured
One of the things we’ve learned in the modern study of alcohol and substance use disorders is that they are akin to chronic diseases.
The changes rooted deep in the brain are not a source of moral failing nor can they be fixed with a single approach.
Though it can be a difficult truth to acknowledge, addiction is not seen as a curable illness. That is to say, recovery is not a magical state in which no urges arise or no mistakes are made. No expectation surrounds the idea that addiction is gone once you’ve received treatment.
Recovery is a full-time job and the most important one. It takes consistent effort. At times it feels amazing and fulfilling and other times it feels exhausting or pointless. When knocked off course or stuck in negative thoughts, remind yourself that the goal is not perfection. The result of recovery is not a cured state. The best you can manage your symptoms and stay free from the use of substances or alcohol is what counts.
If things are becoming harder to manage, whether it’s been two months or ten years, know that it is okay to ask for help. Just as a company might hire extra help to stay afloat during busy times, you may need some additional support and tools to maintain your mental and physical health.
2) Treatment isn’t a final destination, it is a pit-stop
On the road of recovery, we encounter any number of sharp turns, tricky roadblocks, or glorious straightaways. The path looks different for each person and there isn’t a clear map.
Some may assume that treatment is the start and end of the process. Meaning, once you’ve detoxed and become generally stable, learned a few skills and taken the time to focus on recovery, that you’ve finished and now exit back into the world entirely fixed.
In reality, treatment isn’t often a one-stop-shop. While some people will find success after one stay and maintain through outpatient care, others utilize the many levels of care off and on to get the help they need.
At times, you need a tune-up, a check-in, a crew to help you get your wheels on straight and driving in a healthy direction. Coming back to a center for an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or day treatment or trying a new approach at the residential level when stabilization is necessary is one of the bravest and life-saving things you can do.
Treatment is designed to provide support and resources when you need it, whether that means a longer intensive stay or several visits for tune-ups.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you “should” be better, or “shouldn’t” need help again. Know that you worthy of care at any stage of your journey. It is also courageous to be honest about your struggles and allow others to help you get back on your feet.
Don’t be afraid to pull over, take a breath, and check-in with a pit crew so you can return to the road ready to roll.
3) Recovery isn’t linear, but it is an upward slope
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a slip or relapse is sometimes part of the process, so while prevention is key to avoid serious consequences, it isn’t a sign that treatment has failed. It can be seen as a sign that a new approach, different tools, or other changes are necessary.
While a depression-driven or anxiety-laden thought might ping – “You’ve ruined it, it’s hopeless. How can you keep going?” – use your mindfulness strength to allow that thought to exist but pass without attachment.
If you’ve spent time in recovery before, you can do it again. It may seem hard to return to the path but remember the motivation you’ve called on before.
It is discouraging when a hurdle appears to take away hard-fought success, but consider this:
You are not where you started, even if it feels that way. If you were to graph a line of your journey, you’re still closer to recovery with the skills and work you’ve done in the past.
You may find you can stand up faster, tap into resilience and quicker note when triggers or decline in mental health threaten your progress. The ability to get back up or do one small thing that is more adaptive is worthy of great celebration. It is meaningful.
Continuing to return to recovery time and time again means the climb continues upward, the trend is positive, the goal is still attainable.
Has the road of recovery become bumpy or does the path ahead appear foggy? You can keep moving forward and you don’t have to do it alone. No matter where you are along the journey, Steps Recovery Centers in Utah are here to extend a helping hand. Call us today at 385-250-1369 to check-in with a trained clinician and get the support you deserve to keep driving towards a fulfilled and healthy life.