Barriers to Successful Long-Term Recovery
When thinking about giving up a substance, most people consider the difficulties of entering a rehabilitation center, withdrawal, and problems associated with the first few weeks and months.
Many don’t think down the road about how they will handle recovery in five or ten years. And yet, recovery is a life-long process.
We often talk about qualities of successful recovery, but what about qualities of failure stories? What makes a person in recovery trip, fall back into old habits, and give up? Knowing the possible weaknesses can help you be prepared so that you don’t become a person who got sober but didn’t stay sober.
It’s said that a marriage can be saved if a couple is angry at each other, but a marriage is truly doomed if the couples feel numb and nonchalant about problems. The same is true in recovery. A person who thinks their addiction “isn’t that bad” or “under control” is a person who most likely won’t stay sober for long.
Ambivalence means someone who both longs to be sober, but also doesn’t want to give up their substance abuse. They are torn between two desires. Ambivalence might be tricky to spot. It may look like a person outwardly saying they want to be sober, but fondly remembering the times they use to use, how a substance made them feel, or missing the people they used to hang out with.
Ways to help: Try to combat false memories that make using sound glamorous, wonderful, or nostalgic. Even better, create new memories with new friends that don’t revolve around using substances. Talk to counselors, good friends, and family about all the bad aspects of addiction. Remind yourself that this is a road you never want to go down again. Sobriety, like a good marriage, is something to fight for. Don’t feel nonchalant about it.
If you’re experiencing freedom from, say, heroin addiction, it might be easy to say, “Who cares if I’m overeating? At least it’s not as destructive as heroin.” This is true, but, still, overeating can be destructive. Plus, it’s a sign that there’s a deeper root problem.
It’s very common for individuals to replace one addiction with another. Here are some common substitutes:
- Caring too much about being successful
- Obsession with a spiritual path
Ultimately, the problem lies deeper than a single substance. The problem is using a substance or activity to escape from life. The problem doesn’t go away unless the greater problem, an addictive personality, is combated.
Ways to help: Community is a great way to keep yourself accountable and not turn to other addictions. Going to weekly or monthly meetings and building relationships with others who are struggling with addiction is the number one thing you can do to be successful in recovery.
Thinking “Recovery” Just Means Giving up a Substance
If you think the hardest part of recovery is giving up alcohol or drugs and then life will magically be perfect, then it will be very hard to be successful in long-term recovery. Recovery means also looking at deeper issues such as dual-diagnosis, trauma, depression, or other mental health issues. Recovery means learning to build healthier relationships. Recovery means changing your entire lifestyle and reevaluating priorities. Recovery is hard and a long process.
This may feel overwhelming, but remember, a lot of these difficulties are also difficulties in normal life. A person who doesn’t struggle with substance abuse might also have problems creating healthy relationships, finding balance in life, and dealing with emotional health. The advantage of being in recovery is that you know how bad it can get when you ignore these issues; because you’ve been through addiction, you may have a greater intention to live in mental, physical, and emotional health.
Ways to help: The most important thing is the ability to recognize when you’re stuck. It’s okay if you can’t fix the problem completely. Just recognizing that you’re stuck is half the battle. If you see that you are having difficulty in recovery, then you can turn to a mental health professional if you need mental help, or someone to help you with your relationships if your relationships look unhealthy, etc.
For more resources, here is a helpful article on the importance of balance in recovery, including a worksheet to check where your priorities in recovery lie.
If you are looking for a rehabilitation center, Victory Addiction Recovery Center’s licensed staff will be able to help you. They will also help you build coping skills so that you will successfully remain sober. If you or someone you know may struggle with substance abuse, contact Victory Addiction Recovery Center and ask about how to get help.
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