Recovery can change your life, for the better
The beginning stages of addiction are full of smoke and mirrors. With both alcohol and some drugs, it can seem like an avenue to make more friends, feel more at ease in social situations, and form stronger bonds with those around you. Alcohol can be particularly sneaky when it comes to tricking those who imbibe into thinking they’re being more social—and in the early stages of addiction, that can be somewhat true. However, as addiction takes hold, it changes courses.
Those in rehabilitation and recovery often struggle with the feeling of a loss akin to grieving. In fact, it is a loss and working through the grief process with a skilled professional can be an important part of recovery. In addition to the chemical dependency that goes along with drug and alcohol addiction, recovery requires letting go of crutches and walls that help make an addict feel safe. There’s a thin line between feeling safe and feeling trapped.
In the anonymous autobiography The Incest Diaries, the author likens her response to continually return to her abuser as that of a mouse in an experiment. It’s cited that, in various studies, a mouse in a comfortable nest that’s warm, with plenty of food, and where it feels safe, when that mouse ventures out into the world and gets scared, it will quickly return home. A mouse in an uncomfortable nest that’s cold and where there’s no food will also return “home” when it ventures out into the world and gets scared. Familiarity trumps everything else when animals get scared, and the familiarity of addiction and everything that goes with it is incredibly tempting for addicts.
With the support of skilled professionals, addicts can begin to see how recovery can positively change the direction in their life. This knowledge, and getting tastes of it, can help coax a person our of a dangerous, uncomfortable “nest.” However, it can be tough to see what those positive directions are when addiction has its claws in deep. Here are a few examples that many addicts have experienced on the path to recovery:
- You build or re-build relationship bonds. Part of recovery is pinpointing who the positive and negative influences in your life are. Since addiction causes the addict to isolate themselves, it’s not uncommon to enter a rehabilitation program with no friends, family, or support. This in itself makes asking for and getting help a challenge. One fantastic benefit of recovery is creating or re-building positive relationships in order to design a support network.
- A deeper spiritual connection. Recovery doesn’t require a person to abide by any certain faith, or any religion at all, but many addicts report a deeper sense of knowing the self. An awareness of something greater than yourself is both humbling and comforting. This comfort can be a positive tool in fighting future temptations and provide peace of mind for life.
- Foster holistic well-being in a new light. A big part of recovery is learning to respect your body, which includes the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. As an added benefit, exercise creates endorphins which is a safe and natural high. Honing mental prowess can help addicts form a healthy distraction from negative habits in the early stages of addiction and encourages lifelong learning. A truly healthy person is constantly bettering themselves, but aware that there will be slips. Addiction halts self-awareness and the desire to learn.
- Gain responsibility as an ally, advocate, and model. Nobody can spot the signs of an addict like another addict. For some in recovery, they go on to help others face the challenges of recovery. They might be able to help a family member, friend, or even a stranger. Many medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment have personal experience (either themselves or with a loved one). There’s no telling who in an addict’s life might need similar help in the future. This kind of responsibility breeds ambition and drive to succeed.
- Create an innate strength. The “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying is very true when it comes to recovery and addiction. Humans are resilient, and there’s no better teacher than experience. Addicts are addicts for life, but some develop the strength necessary to manage it. Strength and resiliency require tumbles, failures, and hard lessons. For addicts, strength is critical for making positive changes in their life.
Recovery takes a lifetime, and it’s non-linear. There are plenty of loops, and a few wrong turns along the way. However, knowing that the process of recovery has the ability to positively change a person’s life in so many ways can help encourage forward movement. Still, one of the most important factors is a person’s network. A supportive environment where there are always reminders of the goodness to come is a key element in recovery. For help with that environment, check out this article about couples therapy and mental health recovery to see if it makes sense for you.
Guest post by Trevor McDonald