“Before you can live, a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others. From this point, you will finally be free.” ― Shannon L. Alder
You Have Admitted to Yourself That You Need Help
You Have Started to Establish a Sober Support Network
You Have Established and Are Committed to Treatment Goals
Denial is arguably the most powerful tool used by addicts. The moment that an addict recognizes and admits they have a problem, there are openings. Exhibiting an attitude of surrender is a tremendous first step and typically an indicator that a substance abuser will no longer be fighting against the recovery process.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
The shame and secrecy experienced by drug and alcohol abusers often prevents them from reaching out to loved ones or treatment professionals. Addicts tend to gravitate toward other addicts for several reasons. One, being around other substance abusers ensures that drugs and alcohol will be readily available. And two, by creating a peer group that enables the addiction, it’s easier to remain in denial that there is a healthier lifestyle to pursue. The seemingly simple act of disclosing an addiction to another trusted individual is, in fact, a huge step in the recovery process. It can lead to a domino-effect that ultimately connects the addict with supportive, sober communities.
“If things go wrong, don’t go with them.”
– Roger Babson
One of the first steps in both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings is the creation of a treatment plan. Trained professionals help addicts to pinpoint measurable and achievable goals that incorporate the individual needs and progress of the patient. Social, emotional, and physical wellness will all be incorporated. A sample treatment plan might read:
- I will attend at least one sobriety group meeting each day for the next 30 days.
- I will respond to triggers and cravings by contacting one of my trusted supports.
- I will engage in at least one substance free group activity each week.
- I will meet with my addiction counselor two times per week for the remainder of the month.
- I will rate my emotions on a scale of 1-10 in my journal on a daily basis.
- I will employ at least one mindfulness technique daily (meditation, writing, walking).
- I will attend a minimum of three yoga classes each week.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway
You Have Addressed Physical Withdrawals
The severity and duration of physical withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the substance being abused. In more severe cases of addiction, these withdrawals require monitoring by a trained medical professional. Withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, sweating, extreme restlessness, and even seizures. Once an addict successfully works through these physical challenges, the emotional aspects of recovery can more readily be navigated.
“When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.”
You Are Exploring the Benefits of Mindfulness
One of the greatest challenges of recovery can be the flood of regrets stemming from past behaviors. Whether the casualties of an addiction were emotional or material, they can often lead to relapse. Mindfulness centered treatment approaches are growing to be more and more common. Essentially, an emphasis is placed on living in the present and accepting circumstances as they are. Mindfulness routines can be personalized, but often incorporate elements of meditation, journaling, and yoga.
A man’s true state of power and riches is to be in himself.
-Henry Ward Beecher
You Are Exploring the Roots of Your Addiction
Addiction does not occur overnight, nor does anyone set out to become reliant on substances. There are many factors that lead to drug and alcohol abuse and pinpointing the underlying sources can prove liberating. Whether an addiction stems from a genetic predisposition, childhood trauma, or attempts to self-medicate a mental or physical illness, defining the source opens up the door to new ways of healing. There are countless scientifically-based treatment approaches designed to address these underlying issues. When an addict willingly embraces these modalities in treatment, the prospects of long-term sobriety increase.
It’s the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance, sweeps away all obstacles.
-Claude M. Bristol
You Have Begun to Redefine Your Perception of “Fun” and “Rewards”
As substance abuse progresses, an addict’s focus narrows. Eventually, events that don’t involve alcohol or drugs are eliminated and securing the next “fix” is at the forefront of all decisions made. Participation in sober gatherings is no longer viewed as “fun” and can cause significant levels of anxiety on the part of the addict. An addict’s thought patterns grow distorted as she begins to think that drugs and alcohol are the only way to feel happy.
In recovery, an addict begins to reclaim healthier thought patterns. Previous misconceptions like, “drugs are the only way to have fun”, are replaced with more productive statements like, “I have always enjoyed hiking and I’m ready to revisit that hobby.” While these healthier outlets can feel forced or unsatisfying in early recovery, they eventually lead to a more substantive and fulfilling lifestyle.
Do not think that what your thoughts dwell on does not matter. Your thoughts are making you.
You Are Reconnecting With Life
In the throes of addiction, hobbies and interests take a backseat. When an addict is actively engaged in recovery, those once close-held passions begin to reemerge. It can be tempting to dive back into everything all at once, yet taking small steps is a more realistic recovery approach. Many treatment programs incorporate exercise, art, journaling, and outdoor recreation into the recovery process.
In addition to rekindling old passions, recovering addicts can also expect a deepening connection with the world and people around them. As the social and emotional isolation so closely linked with addiction is addressed, more meaningful social interactions and a heightened awareness of the natural world begin to take form. Days that were once marked by a lonely haze are suddenly experienced in high definition.
As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves.
You Are Establishing New Coping Skills
Day-to-day life is full of challenges and curveballs. For an addict, the “go-to” solution is drugs or alcohol. This pattern of numbing away the stressors of everyday life becomes a nightmarish cycle. In recovery, an addict identifies productive coping strategies like breathing exercises, physical fitness, and communication with sober supports. Initially, these skills feel foreign and require a great deal of practice and conscious effort. Over time, however, the benefits of coping in healthy ways become quite evident, more second-nature, and provide far more relief than the “quick fix” once afforded by substances.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier-not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
For the First Time in a Long Time, You Have Hope
Hope can be quite elusive for addicts. As the abuse of substances progresses, the prospect of wellness can feel out of reach. With each step in recovery, an addict begins to see more light at the end of the tunnel. Glimmers of the happier and more fulfilled person they once were begin to peek through. Personal and professional goals begin to take on new shape. And ultimately, the challenges and losses associated with the addiction serve as fuel to becoming whole once again.
The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Sobriety Coach, and former alcohol enthusiast living in Florida with her husband and son.