When we’re in recovery, our emotional journey with addiction is far from over. We’ve started doing the emotional work we need to do to heal, but we still have a lot of work to do. For many of us, beginning the recovery process means we’ve just barely begun to scratch the surface of our deeply rooted issues, our fears, wounds and traumas. One of our emotional challenges in recovery is the feeling of resistance we can experience. Why do we resist recovery, even when we’ve already made great headway in our healing process? We can be inclined to think we’ll feel only eagerness and optimism in our recovery, but the truth is we experience a whole host of complicated emotions, including resistance.
Our resistance is usually in response to our fear. We fear having to do the hard work it entails to stay sober. We can feel dread at having to keep up with regular therapy. We can feel discomfort at having to go inward into the complex issues contributing to our addictions and mental health issues. We can feel desperately afraid of relapsing and watching our lives fall apart again after we’ve worked so hard to piece them back together. We often aren’t mindful of our fears. They operate on a subconscious level, meaning we aren’t consciously aware of them yet. When we aren’t mindful of our emotions, they have a way of overtaking us and blinding us to the solutions available to us. The same is true with our fears. When we are consumed with fear, we don’t think clearly. We don’t make healthy choices for ourselves. We self-destruct and continue our downward spiral of toxic patterns and behaviors. We’re less likely to take advantage of supportive people and resources. We’re more inclined to isolate, to retreat into our depression, to relapse, and to succumb to the overwhelming pressures of sobriety.
Our fears tell us all kinds of lies. Our fearful thoughts become our narrative, telling us that we aren’t strong enough to stay sober, that we’re not good enough, that our inadequacy is proof of our inability to succeed. We think our past struggles are predictions of the future. We don’t realize our immense capacity for healing and transformation. We don’t see our own potential, our resilience, and our strength. Our fears cause us to resist sobriety and run in the other direction, taking the “path of least resistance” in order to find the easy way out. We feel an internal pressure to start using again, to return to that toxic relationship, to pick up that self-destructive behavior again. We lose our forward momentum and can feel as though all hope is lost. Resistance can make us run towards our demons rather than staying strong in our forward progress. We pick up that drink or drug, even when we’ve been maintaining our sobriety for a considerable amount of time. We fall back in with the partners who enabled and perpetuated our addiction, who struggle with addiction themselves. We give in to our addictive compulsions and start self-destructing all over again. The thought patterns that accompanied our addictions, and the ensuing mental health issues, can return in full force. Our resistance to sobriety can cause us to do things we regret, relapsing being one of them. We can hurt ourselves and the people we care about.
An important thing to remember is that resistance is a natural part of the recovery process. Feeling resistance is a common part of the whole experience. Our instinct when we feel a fear-based emotion such as resistance is to be afraid of it, to panic, and to want to avoid it. We think it’s not a suitable emotion to be feeling in recovery. We feel our resistance is an inappropriate response to our sobriety, especially when we’ve given so much time to our healing work. When we practice mindfulness, we learn to treat our resistance the same way we would any other difficult emotion, with acceptance rather than rejection. We can walk ourselves through the emotional process and change the narrative from panic to reassurance. We can face our resistance head on, directly, rather than trying to use denial, avoidance or escapism, emotional coping mechanisms we’ve come to rely on through our addictions.
The recovery process is as much about changing our emotional responses and the accompanying behavioral and thought patterns, as much as it is about abstaining from our drug of choice. Where we might have retreated into fear and isolation, and other patterns that aren’t helpful to us, we can be mindful of our emotional responses and establish new patterns that better serve us. When we’re feeling fear in the form of resistance, we can modify our self-talk to reflect self-assurance rather than giving into our fear and letting it overtake us. We can tell ourselves things such as, “I’m feeling fear in this moment. I’m feeling resistance, but I can ride it out and let it pass. Resistance is a normal part of the process, just like any other difficult emotion. I can be mindful of it and not let it overtake me. I can let the energy of resistance move through me without overreacting to it. I can choose to respond with calm rather than panic. I can choose faith over fear. I can choose to believe in my own capacity for healing. I choose to believe in my strength and courage. I have faith in myself. I believe in myself. I will get through this. I will come out on the other side, happy, healthy and whole.”
At Riverside Recovery, addiction and recovery are personal for us. Seventy five percent of our staff has gone through the recovery process. Our firsthand experience can make us a helpful resource to you in your recovery. Call (800) 871-5440 today.