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Why We Can Feel Stuck in Recovery

When we’re approaching the recovery process, many of us are excited and optimistic about the journey ahead. We’ve completed a treatment program, created a support system for ourselves, and maybe even formed a relapse prevention plan. We feel ready to undertake the challenging work of recovery, and we feel confident in our ability to get well. Why is it then, that we often feel stuck in our recovery, unmotivated and unable to move forward, after feeling so positive when we first started?

It’s perfectly normal for us to experience highs and lows, especially during the complex recovery process. When it comes to our motivation levels, we will likely experience times when we feel highly motivated, and other times when we feel less motivated, or even totally unmotivated. This is part of the process. The challenge is not to get disheartened or feel defeated when these things happen. The goal is to look inside of ourselves and see if there are any internal reasons for this decrease in motivation. Are you feeling anxious or depressed about something in particular? Are you worried about your recovery, and is the heightened stress you’re feeling contributing to your overall perspective on your recovery?

When we are filled with anxiety, a common response for many of us is to simply shut down. We feel overwhelmed and overloaded with fear, and our bodies can respond by shutting down. We might feel fatigue that makes it hard to keep up with our regular schedules and routines. The exhaustion we feel might be physical but also mental and emotional. We might struggle to express our feelings or be able to communicate. We might have a hard time focusing our thoughts and concentrating on tasks, making work and other duties feel impossible. Our thoughts might race uncontrollably. We can feel totally stuck and unable to function normally.  

For some of us, our anxiety can be so all-consuming that we don’t feel like ourselves. We can feel unable to relax. We might have a hard time sleeping. We might lose our appetite. We might lose interest in all of the activities we once found pleasurable, a common symptom of depression. We might start neglecting our obligations and responsibilities. We feel stuck and unable to manage even the most basic things that we normally were able to handle.

Sometimes we feel stuck in recovery because the people around us don’t understand that we have an issue. They might downplay our illness and negate that we have a problem. This can cause us to feel overwhelmed and even more stressed out. We feel like we have to defend ourselves and our truth. We can feel paralyzed by the anxiety we feel around having to explain ourselves to people.

When we feel stuck in our recovery, sometimes it’s because we’ve already relapsed and felt the disappointment and shame that come along with relapsing. We feel down on ourselves and filled with regret. We feel we’ve let ourselves down along with our loved ones. We had high hopes for our recovery. We set goals and intentions. We believed in ourselves, only to disappoint ourselves and go back on everything we planned for ourselves. This is a painful place to be, and it can cause us to feel stuck, hopeless and unmotivated. We don’t see any point in trying anymore. We feel our efforts have been in vain, and all of our hard work has been futile. We give up on ourselves and lose faith in our ability to recover.

It can feel impossible to push ourselves to keep trying when we’re feeling this unmotivated. We might not realize that taking small steps can actually yield great results. We might assume that we need a huge overhaul, some huge life transformation in order to get better, and while we will undergo this transformation, it often will happen in small increments. All of the positive choices we make, the small changes we implement to our routines, the small lifestyle changes we make all add up to this bigger transformation. To help ourselves get unstuck, we want to be mindful of how we can motivate ourselves and increase our progress in small ways. Perhaps you might want to add meditation, journaling or repeating affirmations to your daily routine. This will help bring more mindfulness into your daily life, helping you to feel calmer and more at peace as you rise to the many challenges of recovery. Maybe there’s someone in your life who’s always complaining, being pessimistic or thinking negatively. Giving yourself some space from this toxicity can help you remove some of what’s draining your energy and motivation.

Celebrating ourselves for every sign of progress, every incremental change we make, helps us regain our motivation to succeed. Learn to praise yourself for your successes. When you turn down an invitation to a party where you know you’ll be tempted to drink, congratulate yourself. Affirm to yourself how strong you are. If you opt to spend time with a friend who is also in recovery instead of an old friend who you know encourages you to fall back into old patterns, praise and celebrate yourself for the huge accomplishment. Give yourself the affirmation and validation within yourself that you often seek outside of yourself. Give yourself pep talks and cheer yourself on. The more we can motivate ourselves and encourage ourselves when we’re feeling down, the more easily we will move out of those times when we feel stuck in our recovery.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.