Addiction recovery is a complicated journey for many of us, one that lasts long after we’ve finished treatment and continues for the rest of our lives. We find, especially after relapsing, that we have to stay diligent with ourselves about staying on track with our sobriety. It’s not something we can become complacent about. We can’t ease up on ourselves just because we’re doing well or having a good month or even a good year. Why is recovery a lifelong process?
We have to remain committed to our sobriety and stay on top of ourselves because for many of us, the urge that causes us to relapse, or the trigger that makes us pick up our drug of choice, is only an arm’s length away, and we’re vulnerable to relapse at any time, regardless of how strong we might be feeling. Many of us come to discover that our addictions are never fully cured. We might have periods where we feel we’re in remission. We might not even find our drug of choice to be tempting to us anymore. Oftentimes, though, our addictive urges can come back, sometimes without warning.
The pain that is at the root of our addictions might very well still be there, especially if we haven’t done the work to address it. We might get a flashback or a reminder of past trauma. We might start having recurring nightmares again, or an argument with a loved one might set us off. We might feel our mental health issues resurfacing. We might feel a depressive episode coming on, or a spike in our anxiety and obsessive thinking. Just because we’ve achieved sobriety doesn’t mean we might not instinctively return to our drug of choice for comfort, solace, and relief. Our addictions were our default coping mechanisms for many years, and we programmed that information into our minds, hearts, and bodies repeatedly until it became second nature for us. We didn’t have to tell ourselves to pour a drink if we were stressed out, we just did it. Now that we’re sober, some of those same reflexes and instincts are still present within us, and it can take us years, sometimes the rest of our lives, to change our internal programming to shed those behaviors and pick new ones, and to find healthier ways of managing our difficult thoughts and feelings.
The thought that we’ll be struggling with addiction for the rest of our lives can be disheartening and can cause us to feel totally defeated and afraid of the future. While our addictions are in fact a difficult part of our lives we’ll have to continue to work on, we can take heart from the fact that our sobriety is a journey of self-love and self-care. Our recovery from addiction is one of our greatest spiritual tests, and we can choose to see it as a lifelong challenge to look forward to, to learn and grow from in order to expand ourselves and become the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves, rather than a source of fear, dread and overwhelm.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops, and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.